All Aboard The Santos Express

I’ve been spending the last few days of a cheeky little trip around the Western Cape in South Africa in the coastal town of Mossel Bay. A big draw for visiting Mossel Bay is its history. Evidence of Middle Stone Age people occupation some 170,000 to 40,000 years ago can be found at the nearby Pinnacle Point caves, and the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias rocked up here in 1488 christening the place Aguado de São Bras before the Dutch came and renamed it Mossel Bay.



The Santos Express Train Lodge, Mossel Bay, South Africa


But it’s fascinating history was not the highlight for me. For me it was my choice of accommodation one night in a converted defunct train called the Santos Express Train Lodge. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in such a setting like this in all my vast traveling life. All the compartments in each carriage are converted into bedroom cubicles. Two toilets and a shower compartment were also incorporated into the carriage I was staying in. My room was uber poky with a small single mattress but how I relished it all! It was a snug, warm and very rich experience. If only this thing moved. Through the Gobi desert in Mongolia across the endless Sahara and vast expanse of Patagonia. I have a high capacity for dreaming and unlimited fantasy. All the rooms overlook the Indian Ocean and this only augments my imagination and the good feeling about the place. It’s such a unique experience that I think I’ll return one day to Mossel Bay for at least a week and book myself for the duration of that time into one of the rooms on the Santos Express. I could spend all day in my compartment reading, writing poetry and staring out of the window and day dreaming.



Inside my room on the Santos Express


A great lover of trains, the American travel writer Paul Theroux would fall in love with the Santos Express Train Lodge. And so would the criminally underrated English singer songwriter Robyn Hitchcock who once wrote an album (and song) entitled I Often Dream Of Trains. I know that if he ever touched down here he would spend the rest of his days on the Santos Express.

Also, if you do happen to drop by Mossel Bay, I highly recommend that you have breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three) at the Sea Gypsy Cafe. It is a very cool little place with friendly staff and the food is hearty, delicious, no-nonsense and very good value. The hake and chips is stellar. And if you ever come here for breakfast, I highly recommend (providing you are non vegetarian) the Pirates Breakfast. A gut busting feast comprising of a 150g lump of steak, wors (South African style sausages), bacon, 2 eggs, tomato, mushroom, toast and chips. It makes all my past Full English indulgences woefully lightweight.


by Nicholas Peart

2nd May 2016, Mossel Bay


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