Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Train Yourself to Go Wild in Africa

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Train Yourself to Go Wild in Africa

Article excerpt

WHEN Leon Plutsick and his business partner decided to go beyond their travel agency and restaurant ventures and start their own tourist train, they didn't call in business consultants, bank managers or even their accountants.

They called in a witchdoctor.

aWitchdoctors have extraordinary inner senses and perceptive powers,a Leon says. aIf they say go ahead, then you know your thinking is right. If they say no, then forget it.a

It was in 1995 that Leon's witchdoctor disappeared into the night from their meeting in Johannesburg in South Africa to return a few days later with the good news. aI have seen that your venture will be a success,a he said. aBut you must call your train, Shongololo.a

And such a success has the Shongololo been that it's grown from one train 15 years ago to a diverse collection today, doing tours to such far-flung places as Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning aThe Smoke That Thundersa as the locals call the eternal mist that hangs over these massive cascades,) Kruger National Park that's often compared with Kenya's Masai Mara for the finest in game viewing, wine country around Stellenbosch and garden country of Mossel Bay, the bizarre desert dunes of Namibia in the south-west, and the Germanically picturesque one-time colonial centre Swakopmund.

aOther tour operators use ordinary trains, planes and automobiles, but we wanted a train with all the comforts and services of a hotela[degrees] in reality, a hotel on wheels.

We carry our own mini-buses, and stop where we want for day excursions a so that with our hotel on wheels and our own buses, our tours are, in fact, like cruises on land,a Leon says. aAnd you only have to unpack once.a

But why Shongololo?

aWhen the first trains came to Africa, the village people said the way they wound their way through the landscape and across the ridge tops reminded them of a centipede a a Shongololo in the Zulu dialect.

aThat's why our witchdoctor said we had to name our train Shongololo and also because, like a centipede, while all the spinning wheels on our carriages look like they are frantically busy they're really just getting the centipede from one place to another in an orderly and comfortable way. …

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