NEW RAILWAYS’ HUNGER FOR LAND TRIGGERS CONSERVATION CONCERNS
(Posted 10th February 2014)
Emerging news of gazette notices about compulsory acquisition of land for the construction of the new standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi, affecting land inside the Tsavo National Park to the tune of over 250 acres, has triggered the alarm bells among the conservation fraternity in Kenya.
Present law requires that any national park land intended for other purposes than conservation requires an elaborate process of degazetting by Kenya’s parliament, a fact overlooked even by the planners of Nairobi’s Southern Bypass who got slapped by an injunction when they tried to commandeer the land at the edge of the Nairobi National Park before a legal case was brought to stop them.
Conservationists have now written to this correspondent and asked to highlight their concerns that the new railway line, when reaching the outskirts of Nairobi, would equally…
Usually the easiest to get from Johannesburg to Durban is by air. 55 minutes and one lands at Shaka Intl. We decided to visit our friends in Durban, but thought “let’s make it a bit of a different adventure”. So, after some googeling, I decided to make a booking on the Shosholozo Premier Class train. A little bit aprehensive, as we did not know what to expect. Some mixed reviews on the internet, but we thought we will try it and make up our own minds.
Booking was relatively easy. We took the Gautrain from Midrand and 20 minutes later we were at Park Station. No traffic and only short walk from the Gautrain station at Park to the terminal. For some reason or the other we thought Park Station would be a dodgy place, but surprisingly it was not too bad. Many well known South African fast food outlets and most banks are in the terminal, as well as booking facilities for all the major busses and also car rental.
With great excitement we entered the Premier Class’s lounge and were served with high tea. Lovely refreshments, fruits, biscuits and cheeses, cake, crisps and biltong (what would any South African high tea be without biltong).
We lingered in the lounge until they called us to board the train. As soon as we were in the train, the train left the station. Lovely compartment, with two bunks, white fluffy towels, soft white gowns for use on the train, slippers and the usual bathroom condiments. We were invited to go to the lounge/bar car for complimentary champagne, juice and snacks. There is a cash bar on the train. After drinks, dinner was ready to be served in the dining car. Silver service. The food reminded me of the time when food was served on a regular basis on the train and is kind of “old fashion” fare. 5 Course dinner of soup, fish, a meat dish, desert and the cheese board. It was lovely though and just enough. After all this food, high tea and snacks we just about rolled to our compartment.
At each end of each wagon there is a toilet and shower to be shared by the guests on board. And it was very clean. I can imagine though if the train is full to capacity it could be a bit of a problem. But during our journey we had no problem. After a quick shower, it was back to the compartment, ready for bed. Our bunks were made with lovely white sheets and the pillows were just right. Blankets are provided as well. And into bed. Took a while to fall asleep, but when we did, it was great. To sleep on a moving train is always relaxing.
After a peaceful sleep with just waking up now and again when the train screeched to a brake, we were awake and ready for coffee, which gets served in your compartment, but which we chose to have in the lounge car, enjoying the scenery as we travelled through the misty Natal Midlands. Breakfast is served just after 7. And again we did not go hungry. Another leisurely coffee in the lounge and we arrived at the outskirts of Durban. Another half hour and our enjoyable journey came to an end at NMR station in Durban.
All I can say, I am ready for a journey on the train to Cape Town in the not so far distance, as not only is this a relaxing way to travel, but it is also a great experience. Our only regret is that we travelled through the night, so we could not enjoy the scenery. The journey from Park Station Johannesburg to Durban takes just over 12hrs and the journey to Cape Town takes 25 hours approximately. Arrangements can also be made to have your vehicle piggy ride in the back of the train.