Luxury travel to Bafana a fine ride
THE journey from Johannesburg to Mangaung was a lifetime experience for the soccer fans who went to watch Bafana Bafana's final group game against Spain on Saturday.
Two trains, called the Premier Classe, ferried a total of 1500 fans from Johannesburg to the Free State capital - and I was on one of the trains.
Dressed in Bafana Bafana jerseys and blowing vuvuzelas, journalists, their partners and executives of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) boarded one of the trains at midday.
The train is the latest definition of luxury in travel between provinces in South Africa.
We were welcomed aboard by well-dressed staff who ushered us to our private compartments, which accommodate two people, a perfect setting even for a honeymoon.
We then went to the lounge for drinks.
Since the mood was jovial some passengers started drinking to celebrate what was expected to be a great night in the history of South African soccer.
In the lounge, we sat on beautiful sofas, and seeing that the bar was stocked with some of the best spirits on the market, the celebrations began.
The lounge had cosy sofas and a big screen on which the soothing sounds of George Benson were playing.
But this was only the beginning of what was to follow.
An hour later the crew ushered us into the dining car, where we were served an exquisite lunch.
After that we went back to our air-conditioned rooms to rest.
I was able to charge my photographic equipment and draft a business proposal as my partner read a novel while lying on the couch.
As I surfed the net using Wi-Fi, that is available in all compartment, I occasionally gazed outside at the beautiful ripe wheat fields of the Free State farmland.
Before we knew it we were in Bloemfontein and the vuvuzelas started blaring again.
"Siyabangena," was the chorus as policemen formed a guard of honour to usher us to the bus to take us to the stadium.
We sat next to former Bafana Bafana coach and Pirates' development head Augusto Palacios.
After the game we went back to the train with our heads hanging in shame and all of us calling for Joel Santana's head.
On our arrival we had snacks and analysed, over whisky and wine, how we could have done better.
I went to check the night club coach where we were meant to celebrate Bafana Bafana's victory, only to find the train manager puffing on a Cuban cigar with his son drinking fruit juice next to him.
The train left Free State at midnight and my partner and I only made it back to our room at 2am from the lounge.
"This is beautiful," she said, surprised by the change of bedding and the romantic lights that had been switched on for our return.
By 8am we were back at Johannesburg's Park Station enjoying breakfast with the other guests.