written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander
I woke up because of something I had omitted from my blog update yesterday. Quite literally actually… That gentle humming noise that I could hear from within our Rocherpan eco-cabin as I awoke was in fact the sound of a passing Sishen-Saldanha train. Local reports had the train at between 3kms & 7kms long and that when the train departed, the front carriage was at a brisk 11km’s per hour before the back engine even started moving! Other tales told of how along the route the locomotives could not actually come to a complete stop & so changes of staff were facilitated through a rolling substitution – slowing the procession to 6km/h while old staff jump off the still-moving train while the new staff would run alongside and jump on. A quick Google search confirmed that in fact the longest train on this route was indeed 7.5Kms long (with 660 wagons, carrying almost 69 thousand tons of iron ore!) but that most trains on the line today are 3.7kms long with 342 wagons and requiring 8 locomotives/engines interspersed amongst the wagons to drive it along (still the longest production trains in the world!) That’s right, the train itself is over 3kms long! The sight of the train simply chugging along the line with a seemingly endless run of wagons taking minutes to pass is something that truly boggles the mind when you stop to really think about the sheer magnitude of this engineering feat.
Morning of Day 4 and we’re half way through! Wow, time has flown by. Once out of our cozy beds, we needed to suit up to get to breakfast, again at the very hospitable Draaihoek Lodge. Wisps of condensing steam escaped our mouths as we readied ourselves & breathed the somewhat fresh morning air. By the time we arrived at Draaihoek Lodge about 20 minutes later I simply could not feel my fingers. No wonder, as Dwain informed me that his car’s thermometer had registered our departing temperature at a mere 4 degrees! Nothing that cradling a warm cup of tea couldn’t cure though 🙂 A direct quote from Rory during breakfast -> “the best French toast and fresh honey I have ever had in my life!!” Added to this, some rather exotic fruit (Star Anise, Prickly Pear & a very interesting fruit called Persimmon or ‘Sharon Fruit’ that looks like a tomato but has a very distinctive sweet taste) and the standard hot breakfast staple of eggs, bacon and accompaniments & the certainty of me returning in need of a new belt continued.
With well-satisfied bellies, we took to the road again and with Siv regrettably heading back to Cape Town in the evening for other work commitments (he will be back tomorrow, have no fear) he was forced to follow in his car. This meant that Rory was upgraded to a 200cc bike (he had been riding a 125cc up until this point) and the gusto with which he took to the fresh road was proof that he had really grown tired of all the “why do we have to keep slowing down for you?” comments thus far. We simply couldn’t keep him off the front of the peloton! Rory’s ungoverned freedom was rather short-lived though as (more…)