This selection is from a one day journey on the overnight train from Cape Town to Johannesburg, South Africa. We disembarked in the preserved village of Matjiesfontein, a National Heritage Site. The train starts in the coastal verdue of Capetown in an un-air-conditioned Shosholoza Meyl tourist class train with windows we could open to catch the 80°F ‘cooling’ breeze and to take photographs. The route shows the switchback that climbs the 3,000 foot high wall of the Great Escarpment to the succulent biome of the Great Karoo and Matjiesfontein.
In 1884 James D. Logan, a railway man, purchased the depot and small farm that was Matjiesfontein. Soon thereafter he set up a refreshment station for train passengers. He opened the Water Works and Milner Hotel in 1889, creating a fashionable health spa that attracted many seeking the benefits of the Victorian ‘change of air’.
In 1968, noted hôtelier David Rawdon formally purchased Matjiesfontein Village to be preserved for its Victorian charm. Rawdon reopened the Spa in 1970 as The Lord Milner Hotel. The railway station now houses the Marie Rawdon Museum, an eclectic collection of the village’s history.
Our hosts met us in Matjiesfontein and we traveled by car to Prince Albert, known as one of the best stargazing night skies in the world. Via the Swartberg Pass we visited the Peter Bayly Winery near Calitzdorp. There we heard one story after another about preventing the wildlife from stripping the grapes from the vines. After a night in Barrydale Karoo Hotel, we returned to Cape Town, and on to the Sausage Tree Safari Camp in the Balule Nature Reserve.