Redemption on the Blue Train

2017-07-16 06:00 - Gareth Van Niekerk
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The dog box, you may or may not know, is a crude compartment in a railway carriage without a corridor that is used to transport dogs. It lent its name to the state of being out of favour with your partner in a relationship, which is an equally hard place to get out of. There are some hurdles in your love life that may be forgiven, but are actually not forgotten – not at all.

My partner, for instance, was most likely never going to forgive me for the time that I missed a connecting flight that would bring us together so we could board a private chartered plane to a secret luxury safari camp – booked just for the two of us – where we would spend the weekend riding elephants, being massaged and making out in the Jacuzzi. It was the sort of once-in-a-lifetime trip that would result in a once-in-a-lifetime, crying-at-the-airport, why-do-I-even-love-you sort of phone call.

A mistake I would not live down.

That was until the Blue Train called. The time of year had rolled around when an escape was desperately needed - both of us were strung out and slightly murderous - when a surprise offer to experience a three-day adventure aboard South Africa’s most luxurious choo-choo came knocking. Like a hallowed chance for atonement after years of trying to make up for the monumental mess I’d made in 2014, possible redemption was in sight.

SEE: SA’s Blue Train: 4 new plans to make it worldly superior

Departing from platform four at Pretoria’s grand old station, the two of us – suited, hatted and prepared for some serious spoiling – boarded that royal blue shuttle ’o love for three blissful days. With champagne in hand, we would leave all of our worries on the platform as we stepped into that sanctuary of time-worn wood panelling, which was gleaming in the afternoon light against the golden brass fittings.

Our destination was a small game farm in the Kruger National Park, where we would meet two elephants to feed, love and learn about. The pair are part of a sanctuary project housing 11 elephants on the grounds of Camp Jabulani – a luxury lodge tucked away in the heart of the Kruger.

Truly, I was knocking the ball out of the park at this stage.

SEE: Kruger sighting: Best five stays with great wildlife

But as amazing as the interaction and Camp Jabulani was, the real beauty of the Blue Train is the journey. Like a regular Indiana Jones, I sat back and watched the landscape roll past with only the sound of the train tracks and the occasional chink of crystal glasses to distract me. We would break our daydreaming only for bubble baths, five-course meals and whiskies in the bar – because you’re on a train, and that’s what you do. The peace we found, the kind you only get from the rumble of rail, is the most magical thing on earth.

Like any good luxury experience, the saying “what happens on the Blue Train stays on the Blue Train”, is, of course, the order of the day. So, without ruining the surprises for your trip aboard this incredible experience, I will tell you to prepare yourself for the tastiest food (accompanied by the best wine list in the country), the comfiest beds, the friendliest staff and hands down the most romantic weekend a person can pay for.

My mistake, my partner told me as we watched the sun come up over the Tugela River, was officially forgotten – we’d left it behind us on platform four.

If you go:

The Blue Train’s special Pretoria-Hoedspruit (Kruger Park) route happens four times a year. Deluxe suites are priced from R9 995 per person, with special deals for locals if you book at the right time.

Log on to to secure your cabin or see what other routes are available. 

*Disclaimer: Van Niekerk was a guest of the Blue Train and of Camp Jabulani (

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