Take a walk in one of...
Take a walk in one of Brooklyn's old streets when the jacaranda is at its full blossom. The jacarandas in Brooklyn are all very ancient... and you will find yourself in a tunnel of purple. When the breeze comes, purple rain will start to fall before you realize what really is happening. My favourite moment!
Voortrekker Monument: It is a...
Voortrekker Monument: It is a magnificent building. The reliefs on the wall sourrounding it portrays some of the stories of the Voortrekkers.
The monument is built so that every year, on December 16 (the anniversary of the battle at the Blood River, which is also my birthday!) at 12 noon the sunlight will fall onto the Shrine of Honour in the Heroes' Hall. There is inscription saying 'Ons vir jou, Zuid Afrika!' (We for you, South Africa!).
Blue Crane Wildlife Sanctuary...
Blue Crane Wildlife Sanctuary and Restaurant. Located in the Waterkloof/Brookline section of Pretoria, this is a small nature preserve in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The Blue Crane restaurant overlooks a small lake, where many native birds, including South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, make themselves at home.
Coin World - Coin World is the...
Coin World - Coin World is the retail outlet and museum at the SA Mint - see
for more info (half an hour by car) - ladies if gold jewellery is your thing, this is the place to go!!
Cullinan diamond mine - the...
Cullinan diamond mine - the biggest diamond mine that is still operational with a larger mine than the Big Hole in Kimberley (half an hour by car) - see www.mintek.ac.za/pubs/geobook/Premier.mine.htm for photo
Tswaing Crater, about 40 km...
Tswaing Crater, about 40 km north-northwest of Pretoria, is one of the world's most easily accessible and best-preserved meteorite impact craters - see www.mintek.ac.za/pubs/geobook/Tswaing.htm for more info and photo
The whoop of a steam train whistle
My friend, Keith, loves steam trains. He's loved them since his boyhood which is now over seven decades back. So for his 74th birthday I managed to join an international steam enthusiasts tour train. This is a specialist trip, although Friends of the Rail also offers similar trips. There are only fifteen steam train drivers left in South Africa. This is a heritage stream train.
We were to meet at the Friends of The Rail site in Capital Park (outside Pretoria) at 07:30 which meant that we had to leave Johannesburg very early on a freezing (literally) morning to beat the mad intercity traffic. When I started to dress before the crack of dawn Bugatti, my cat, assured me it was better in bed than out of doors and I landed up making the bed over him so that he had to find his own way from under the duvet.
When we arrived there as dawn was breaking we discovered that our driver already had plumes of smoke and steam streaming from our engine, Model 24, no 3664, or Jo-Anna. He'd been hard at work for hours before dawn. Frost lay thick on the winter grass and our breath condensed into a human variation of the steam on the engine. The driver invited us up onto the foot plate (the engine) to get warm, warning us that there were plenty of places to burn oneself. The fireman shovelled the coal into the furnace which gave off a lovely glow and for a moment I was tempted to take off my shoes and toast my toes. The talk on how a steam train operated kept me from this little indulgence. The engine moved the few hundred metres towards the gate so as to welcome the bus load of enthusiasts with a “show”. As they arrived the whistle whooped, and steam plumed up into the Highveld chill.
My friend and I disembarked and the enthusiasts hopped up, two at a time, to take turns on the foot plate as the train shunted coaches in preparation for the outing. Once we left the yard no-one but the designated drivers and fireman would be permitted in the engine. Both the driver and the fireman are drivers, and they take turns at driving and firing. Serving as fireman is hard labour.
The original plan was for us to head out to Cullinan Diamond Mine, but the wooden sleepers under the tracks had been stolen, either for fire wood, or more likely to be sold to be converted into highly fashionable furniture. Either way, the track was out of commission. New plans had us heading out via the beautiful Herbert Baker Pretoria Station to the Rooivaal Power Station where we would have lunch, a tour of the power station and lots of photo opportunities before heading back. Now the points at the Pretoria Station were out of commission as well. In Afrikaans we have a saying “A farmer makes a plan”. Well, the organisers of the journey also made a plan and soon we were moving along, becoming familiar with the sounds of the engine as she eased her way across the urban and industrial landscape north of Pretoria. We crossed the little stream that Winston Churchill described during his days as a war correspondence in the Second Anglo-Boer War as “the mighty Apies” (maybe he wasn't a good swimmer) and enjoyed the birds, the wildlife, the cattle and the horses who were all unconcerned about “the iron horse” as well as a host of workers who stopped the labours of their day for a moment or two to admire the rare sight of a steam train and to give a friendly wave to the passengers.
The cold, clear, crisp winter morning is warmed by the Highveld sun and layers of clothes gradually come off and we enjoy coffee and biscuits on board. The Americans whinge that these are “cookies” and “biscuits” are something else. The British protest. The Europeans and South Africans ignore the friendly argument, simply eating them with their coffee.
There is magic in a steam engine. The sounds and smells are unique. Each part of the engine moves distinctively, the engine breathes and pants, and occasionally shudders and sighs. The clickety-clack of the wheels spells out mantras. The air is filled with the smell of burning coal and the smell of the khakibos and other weeds (and there are huge quantities of ugly and even pretty noxious weeds – the Americans loved the lantana and even the prickly pears) on the side of the rails, the feed mills, farms, sewerage farms and factories we pass. The soot and oily grime form a satisfying kind of “clean dirt” and washing one's hands leaves a blob of grey soap on the basin to be rinsed away with the thought “There, washing really makes me feel clean”.
I listen with half an ear to the conversations about garrets, engines, and diesel and electric trains, about gauges and the Gautrain, but I'm lost in my own world where train travel was a part of my student days, with dining cars and sharing compartments with people one didn't know and who were often very strange. For a few moments I drift off into a fantasy world where trains are part of Victorian travel in England and the wild West of America and struggling pretty girls are bound with rope across the tracks or tracks are laid with dynamite so as to derail trains carrying loads of gold, and only the bravest heroes can and do prevent inevitable disaster.
The day moves on in friendly hospitality and photo opportunities and pleasant chat and night settles around us, dark and comforting as we chug through the cold night air, stars much crisper than can be seen from the light pollution of the city, with the sounds of crickets and frogs alerting us to the places close to marshy ponds along the tracks.
We arrive back at Capitol Park to find the place flood-lit for the night shoot, tables set for more hospitality, and a opportunity for the tourists to have an alcoholic drink. My friend and I cry off, it is cold and late and we have to head back to Johannesburg, not least of it for my friend to have a good night's sleep before his birthday celebrations. The day was glorious, but we've had enough.
I can recommend a day on a heritage steam train tour to any family, friends and enthusiasts. It was perfect.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Missionaries of Charity
Four Nuns who belong to the Mission founded by Nobel Laureate Mother Theresa,
I have had three visits personally, always grateful for the many blessings i personally have compared to the residents here.
This missionaries and staff look after HIV_Aids Orphans and physically disabled who have been cast out of their families' homes.
Click on MAP for view of Mission which is just North on the right of the Post Office
Missionaries of Charity, Klipgat, North of Pretoria (Garankuwa)
PO Box 911-1459, Rosslyn 0200.
Tel: (012) 707 9323
The highveld is actually a nice part of the country for sunsets. Funnily enough but the air pollution from Johannesburg actually adds to the good colours you get with sunsets up here.
FARM INN IS A GREAT PLACE JUST OUTSIDE PRETORIA , TO GET CLOSE TO NATURE GOT A COUPLE OF LIONS, CHEETA`S GREAT CONFERENCE FACILITIES. MY BROTHER GOT MARRIED THERE GREAT ATMOSPHERE.
Tri to get on a 4x4 trail for...
Tri to get on a 4x4 trail for a day or more, lots of trails and clubs around Pretoria.
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