3:52 p.m., aboard the Blue Train near Geelbek, South Africa
I noticed something odd the first time I left Suite 22 to explore the train. When I looked down the hallway, it seemed to go forever. I realized this is because at the end of the car there is not the usual door out to a platform between the cars, where you hear the clickety clack of the rails and you’re essentially outdoors. Instead, the space between cars on the Blue Train is covered over on the outside with what looks like a rubber tarp, fastened all around. So when you look down the hallway on a straightaway, you can see through several cars at once.
The hallways are very narrow, just wide enough for one person to pass. The passengers apparently always have the right of way, because I noticed staff ducking into an opening way ahead of my approach. The wooden walls are smooth to the touch, and there are shiny rails to hold onto if you need them, just beneath the windows. But compared with most trains I’ve been on, it’s not too tough to stay upright on the Blue Train. The ride is nearly lurch-free, except for an occasional banging, which seems to happen when one car gets ahead or behind of another slightly.
I’m not sure how many rooms are on this train, but it’s evident that many of them must be empty this trip. I checked out the club car at the end of the train, which was nearly empty, because it’s for smokers. The no-smoking lounge car, by comparison, was hopping just before lunch – nearly every seat taken. In either car, you sign for your drink but not to pay for it, since drinks are included. The chits help train management to keep track of inventory.
I got lost after lunch, heading to the front of the train from the dining car instead of the back. My error was easily rectified. There is a safe in my room, and I can lock my suite door with a key from the outside when I leave. I’m thinking these security measures are more than adequate against the risk of getting robbed on the Blue Train, but in the back of my mind are all those crimes that took place on the Orient Express in Agatha Christie’s mysteries, so I’m taking precautions.
The scenery just now looks a lot like the Rocky Mountain West, even down to the sagebrush, if I’ve got the plants right. We’re in mainly empty country now, so my Vodaphone wireless is slower than it was leaving Cape Town. This makes it frustrating to upload photos, so text will have to mainly carry the load for this post. I have some wonderful photos of lunch that I’ll try when the connection is better.
Meanwhile, I’m headed down the endless hallway to High Tea in the smoker’s Club Car. I’ve got my well-worn pack of Dunhills and will be smoking my weekly cigarette with plenty of private space, way back at the end of the train with the nicotine remnant. A Havana cigar apparently comes with my ticket, so I’ll check out the details on that bit of decadence, also. I hope my appetite will recover by the time dinner rolls around at 7.