Hello Garden Route was recently invited ‘onboard’ for the launch of Diaz Express’ brand new train tour, travelling from George to Groot Brak River, direction Mossel Bay. Together with a select few other local businesses in the tourism industry, we gladly accepted the opportunity to experience first-hand what our valued travellers would enjoy when we refer and book them on this trip.
Transnet Transport Museum in George was the meeting point where we were given a warm welcome by the tour hosts, Pierre and Uli. Pierre is the genius founder of the Diaz Express, Uli is his dedicated tour guide. Together, they make a great and entertaining team!
After a brief explanation of what awaited us on this full-day tour, we were encouraged to walk around the museum before departing. If you haven’t visited this museum yet, we highly recommend it. Filled with various forms of transportation dating back to the 18th and 19th Century, expect an educational and informative walk through the various eras of South Africa’s Transportation industry, from boating to aircraft with the main focus being on Transnet’s railway history. Well-known passenger trains and dining cars are restored to display their exquisite interior wood design, along with stunning antiques from the respective periods. One section is dedicated to cars, a wide variety of vintage vehicles all very well taken care of, on display. For any old car lovers, this collection is a must see!
Commencing the tour, we embarked upon a short bus drive from the museum to Skimmelkrans train station, an old depot on the outskirts of George.
As we eagerly awaited on the small platform for our train’s arrival, we took in the surrounding flatlands being hugged by the majestic Outeniqua Mountains. Minutes later, our little blue train approached. Comprising of linked, simple yet charming cars with comfortable seating and large windows on either side (great for viewings and photo opportunities), we were off on our adventure. Hello Garden Route was lucky enough to get the front row seats – what a bonus!
Each car seats around 8 people with a dedicated driver. Slow moving at around 20km per hour, this is a leisurely tour through the Garden Route’s landscape, going over old bridges with streams and rivers below, weaving through nature’s path of idyllic scenery with mountainous backdrops and even passing through old tunnels.
Uli addressed the entire group through the train’s linked intercom system giving us interesting background info on the areas that we were passing through, his sense of humor keeping us in giggles. One of our favorite parts of the trip was when the coastline came into view. As the breathtaking panorama of coast revealed itself beneath us, it had everyone on the edges of their seats. A most incredible view of the Garden Route coastline stretched ahead for miles, one could see all the way to the point of Mossel Bay.
Upon arrival at the Groot Brak depot, Sharon and Marianne from The Fragrance Route welcomed us. After a moment to refresh, we hopped on another mini bus for the start of the Fragrance Route Tour. Sharon and Marianne mapped out where we would be visiting, the first of which was Brothers Coffee Roastery nestled on the fynbos slopes just outside of Groot Brak River. A thriving family business with a secluded location and amazing views, we enjoyed a presentation on the roastery process plus a free cappuccino. Soooo good! Following that, an in-depth presentation on the Fragrance Route and all it’s offerings was rolled out via an informative slide-show. Since we were limited in time to return to the museum in George before it closed at 17h00 (as our cars were parked there), our hosts selected only three of the nine excursions/experiences that one can enjoy on this custom-designed half or full day tour.
Next stop was the historical and culturally rich town of Friemersheim, the original mission station and the site of the slave quarters for Great Brak River. Here, we were blessed to visit the community sewing group, eat home-made, traditional lavender koeksisters and watch the crafty ladies weave their magic into the traditional shweshwe garments and bags. It was inspiring to hear all about the town’s history and observe the community’s thriving sustainability culture.
From there, we drove to The Village Lodge which is a new addition to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. This remarkable property, opulent in luxury yet relaxed in ambiance, is set on the landmark Kleinvlei Farm, part of this picturesque 4,200-hectare, malaria-free reserve. It is home to the incredible Bellevue Restaurant (formerly the district’s school house) as well as beautifully appointed accommodation units.
The Village Lodge is child-friendly, accepting children of all ages. On-site facilities include the restaurant (with bakery and pizza oven), curio shop, children’s playground with swings and sandpit, pony rides for the little ones, swimming pool, also spacious lawns and sunloungers on which to relax and watch the world (and wildlife grazing close by) go by…
Ending off the tour on this high note, we drove back to George all relaxed yet rejuvenated. It was a day WELL spent!
Contact Hello Garden Route – Your Friendly Experts in Garden Route Getaways to book all your accommodations, tours, transfers, car rental & activity bookings in the Garden Route.
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