Everyone deserves to be treated at least once in their lives as well as passengers are treated on South Africa’s Blue Train [http://www.bluetrain.co.za] which trundles the 990 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town at a leisurely pace in 27 hours.
From the moment passengers are ushered on to the platform and then the train by the train-captain, all they need to do is ask.
My butler was called Herbert. He showed me the cabin, awash with armchairs and cushions, the marquetry panelling, the marble bathroom, the mobile phone to summon him at any time, the multiplicity of light-switches and lights, the TV zapper which also controlled the venetian blinds within the double-glazed window. You can even tune the TV to the camera on the front of the locomotive, a quarter of a mile ahead, so you can see where you’re going.
When you have a bath on a train, the water slops up to your head or down to your feet every time you go round a bend.
Everything you could possibly need was there, if sometimes not where you’d expect to find it, and each time I ventured into the corridor Herbert was invisibly in and out tidying the pencils and replacing the mineral water bottle.
Everything, including the postcards and the postage, is on the house. In the lounge car I asked the barman, a young man called Wesley, if people sometimes got out of control and he said, yes, it sometimes happened.
In the dining car Irene, my waitress, kept me stocked up with appropriate wines, tuning into my preference for cheese before dessert and proffering dessert wine at the appropriate moment. For lunch I had venison; for dinner ostrich. There was also afternoon tea, and pots of tea and coffee delivered to the cabin by Herbert.
Before dinner I sat on a bar-stool watching the sunset and drinking white wine, and returned to the bar afterwards with an English couple I’d met in the observation car, and we mulled over brandies which Wesley had expertly warmed. Very large double brandies.
When I eventually went back to my suite, transformed by Herbert into a bedroom, and opened the window-blinds, the sky was ablaze with stars as we crossed the Karoo desert.
For breakfast there was smoked-salmon omelette – and much, much else.
I was very fortunate to make the journey in 2000, when the Rand was falling through the floor. In 2020 the single fare from Pretoria to Cape Town or vice versa is just over £1,000. Seriously, there are far worse ways of spending that sort of money on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Or perhaps twice in a lifetime.