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Pole to Pole

Day 127: Johannesburg to Cape Town

Johannesburg, South Africa 
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Inside, looking out: life on the Blue Train.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleDiscomfort in my back at night is still acute. Time will heal, people keep reassuring me, but I wouldn't mind a bit of help. A cheerful and obliging Johannesburg chemist recommends arnica, a homoeopathic remedy, and bonemeal tablets. They join the growing stash of pain-relieving drugs which have just about made up in weight for the bag lost in Lusaka.

Johannesburg station is deserted at 10.15 a.m. apart from a straggle of passengers and their porters booking in beside the sign 'Bloutrein Hoflikheids Diens'. The Blue Train porters must be the smartest in the world, in their blue blazers, grey trousers with knife-edge creases and leather shoes polished to a mirror-like sheen. Sadly, they wear rather sour expressions as if they all might have toothache, but as our man leads us into a lift he makes it pretty clear what he's surly about.

'Sorry about the smell,' he turns to pull the gate across, 'it's the coons. They piss all over the place.'

A group of fellow travellers is squashed onto a piece of carpet at a specially erected check-in area in the middle of an otherwise long and empty platform. They look a little nervous and exposed, as if the ability to take the Blue Train marks you out as one of the world's most muggable prospects. Some are scanning the information board which gives details of unashamed luxuries that await us.

'Dress is smart casual for lunch and elegant for dinner.'

Rack my brains to think of anything in my depleted wardrobe that could by any stretch of the imagination be described as elegant. Fail.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 127
  • Country/sea: South Africa
  • Place: Johannesburg
  • Book page no: 286

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