A closer look at the Nikon Coolpix P900 #dpreview

If you are a blogger or a #socialmedialite, or just an enthusiastic photographer, Nikon has a really great camera for you – it is not a toy. Enter Coolpix P900.

It is king of the bridge cameras. A bridge camera bridges the gap between compacts and DSLR’s, nowadays also mirrorless cameras. It can do all the settings such as shutter speed, time value, aperture, white balance, etc., yet the lens is not removable. Instead, one like this offers 24-2000mm equicvalent to a 35mm camera. That is with optical zoom, add digital and it grows to 8000mm. Crazy.

It sports NFC which allows for wireless connection affording the user easy photo sharing but also limited remote control via smartphones or tablets. Furthermore, it has built-in GPS.

It isn’t ecactly cheap but presently can be had at around ten thousand South African Rand or roughly US$ 770.

If you, like I do, love cameras, take a good read at:



El Lions Conference Centre

It was Friday morning, the the 15th of September, 2017, as we headed out on the N7 highway, with very little traffic and the going was much easier than anticipated; time was around 8:30AM.


We were not rushed and drove at a leisurely pace to Philadelphia, where we turned left towards the West Coast and passed the historical farm Keert De Koe. This is where we saw the first of many man-made owl-nests. This stretch is just 4.7km. We turned right into the R304, the old road to Darling and travelled for 7.3km, passing through a leafy tunnel formed by huge saligna trees and turned right into Saxonwold Road. We passed the Waldorf school to our left and saw many more owl’s nests. The effort to re-establish owls is encouraging. Following this road, we entered another “tree tunnel” and promptly found El Lions to our right, after having covered 4,1km.

Arriving at the gate shortly after us, were Marius De Vos and Marinda Holtzhausen, who had facilitated the day’s educational visit. We passed through the electric gate and saw a few peacocks doing their prouncing. We parked under gigantic trees next to a large khoi dam, where we were introduced to owners Mario and Lona. We were surrounded by woodlands alternated by expansive lawns and grasslands, with spring flowers blossoming. The setting was picturesque and the two ladies, Karen and Niki, soon took to doing some photography.


As other guests arrived, we were introduced and invited to the lapa, a tented wooden structure made of home-grown saligna and hand-built by Marco. It did not ask but estimate that it can seat approximately seventy guests, maybe more. In the centre is a lovely built-in fireplace and in the one corner, a very neat bar counter from where we were served light snacks and coffee.

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We were then taken on a walk to view the facilities and were shown a number of 1-bedroom apartments, each with a sofa, kitchenette, bedroom with double bed, wardrobe and a bathroom with toilet, basin and shower, all very neat and presentable. Each has a two-seater wooden table outside.

From there, we went to the conference centre consisting of two one-bedroom apartments that can also be used as a two-bedroom apartment, with a lovely lounge, there are two bathrooms and two kicthens, of which one interleads into the fairly large conference room.

We also viewed the thirty stables converted into sleeping rooms with two double bunk beds each, a shared kitchen and his & hers bathrooms, each with several showers, toilets and basins. As in all the other facilities, wood sourced from the premises have been used, expertly crafted by owner Mario Baragona.

Finally, there is an indoor swimming pool, pool table and other leisure amenities.

El Lions is set in rustic woodlands covering 21 hectares and there is ample space for team building, mountain biking, quad biking, jogging and other physical activities. There are various braai spots as well as an amphitheatre with a plinthed fireplace at its centre – formerly used as a lunging ring for training racehorses. As someone remarked, there has to be a place where Khumbaya can be sung under a starlit sky.

Groups of twenty or more are welcome and El Lions would be ideal for church-, school-, youth-, cultural- and corporate groups for conferences, team building and training.


#RailLoveRevolution: The Blue Train – A Sequel


In the article linked above, I walk my blind friend through The Blue Train, back to front. Walk with us, imagine the grandeur and classy sophistication.

Main Line Trains In South Africa – PRASA

There is somehow a perception that trains have stopped running in South Africa in 1994. Many reasons are given by “those in the know” yet I am here to boldly tell you that all is well. We travel so often that I have lost count, but I am going to outline our journeys for you.


1-2 November 2016

Upon our arrival at the Premier Classe Lounge, we were served with tea, coffee, scones and muffins. Our Train Manager welcomed us and we were addressed by Mr Mthura Swartz, Executive Manager, Main Line Passenger Services. We were made to feel at home. We also soon made friends with a couple from Kenya.

We left Cape Town on the morning of November 1, 2016, on board PremierClasse, South Africa’s only affordable luxury train. At a price point less than a business class airline ticket, you get:

  • Air-conditioned throughout with individual controls in each compartment
  • Only two guests per compartment, one per coupe.
  • Convenient lockable wardrobes, oodles of stowage space and lots of place to hang things
  • Complementary amenities such as body wash, shampoo and shower slippers
  • Shower gowns and towels – these remain on the train
  • A variety of mood- and day/night lighting options with reading lights as well.
  • A foldable table that hides a stainless steel wash basin
  • Soft carpeting on the floors
  • A complementary bottle of still spring water per guest
  • Personalised welcoming letters that also serves as travel information regarding your journey
  • Two lounges with cash bars, with card payment facilities – one for smokers, one for non-smokers
  • Dining cars where some of the most delectable meals are served, prepared by top class chefs
  • Dinner is a five course affair. Affaire could be the right description. It is a sensory seduction.
  • Lunch is a three course delight fit for a king
  • Breakfast – once you have been served, you can face an army. It is scrumptious and laden with goodness
  • Afternoon tea with a selection of cake
  • Welcoming tea/coffee with a selection of muffins and scones, jam and butter, sometimes cheese as well, in the PremierClasse Lounge
  • Welcoming bubbly or juice with crisps, nuts, sandwiches and biltong once on board.
  • I forgot to mention the crisp bed linen, really in a league well above the travel price – also included.
  • A conference car that can be equipped according to your needs and taking 20 – 30 delegates. Also great for weddings, birthdays and wedding anniversaries or just a nice party!
  • Telephones are being installed so that guests can order room service or summon the Train Manager.
  • Mains power ports – 220V great for USB charging, laptops, cameras or your own music gadgets!
  • Plain clothes Police and Security officers keep guests safe. Relax, all is well!

On this first journey, we traveled to Potchefstroom, some 1,200km away – it is not a scheduled stop yet the Train Manager allowed us to disembark as we had another train to catch.

Our train traveled through the vineyards of the Boland and finally we stopped in Worcester where fresh water and Diesel fuel were replenished. The fuel is for the twin generator set that powers all facilities on board as overhead power is only for the electric locomotives. We then passed through the scenic Hex River Valley, then the Hexton tunnel complex that consists of four tunnels of 0.5km, 1.1km, 1.2km and 13.5km respectively. We emerged in the Karoo desert and witnessed a sable antelope that stood guard over a solar power farm. On to Beaufort West, where we arrived about 90 minutes early. On our way there, we were served with afternoon tea and cake.

At Beaufort West, more replenishment and a single Class 7E locomotive replaced the twin set of Class 6E1’s. Overhead voltage now increased from 3kV to 7kV. This is also where the sun set as we passed Steenbokkie Private Nature Reserve while the famous five course dinner was served. Some had energy left to party the night away, smoke cigars in the Club Car or just converse with fellow guests over a few drinks in the Lounge Car. In the last few rays of daylight, we were treated to three herds of Springbok (Thomson’s gazelle) showing off their skills. A beautiful sight to behold and as African as it can get.

The next morning, we woke to coffee being served at our compartment – sunrise was so beautiful but we soon saw more herds of wild game – kudu, eland, sable antelope, zebra, gnu, giraffes, red hartebeest……and we were being served that famous breakfast as we passed through Klerksdorp and the first gold mines. Our journey was over within forty minutes and we greeted our new-made friends from Kenya, delightful people that we are still in contact with.

Our Train Manager was the venerable Mr Sydney Pele Nodikana.

14 March 2017

A number of journalists were invited but only showed up. Then you ask me why you didn’t know that main line rail passengers in this country is still alive and well, just better than in the days of old. The occasion was celebrating the brand new Conference Car and I travelled with Mr Karel Crous, the Area Manager, Prasa main Line Passenger Services, as a special guest, to Wellington. I had the opportunity to view the Conference Car on its maiden journey, but had to terminate my travel at Wellington as I had another appointment soon after.

17 March 2017

Karen and I boarded at Klerksdorp, on the return journey of the PremierClass with Conference Car. This was an excellent choice, as the SiMODiSA #VentureTrain was happening in the Conference Car and I was the first media representative to see it in action. Quite phenomenal and those people brought a great mood with them. Our journey to Cape Town, like our November one, was a delight and bordered upon indulgent. We met the owner of a game ranch, his wife, brother and sister-in-law. As our train was a bit delayed, we had the benefit of traveling about two hours longer, due to speed restrictions imposed by the Rail Safety Regulator and/or Transnet Freight Rail, both separate entities. Even so, these and other guests were reluctant to end their journeys as they found it so enjoyable.

Mr Sydney Pele Nodikana was our friendly Train Manager.

11 April 2017

Arriving at the PremierClasse Lounge, we were met by Chris and Nathan, who efficiently took charge of our luggage and directed us towards the lounge area, where Mr Sydney Pele Nodikana awaited guests for the welcoming snacks and drinks – and the regulation welcoming speech and “house rules.” We soon made new friends and were soon on our way, but I first showed an interested guest the heritage trains at the nearby Monument Station. Our journey to Klerksdorp was very pleasant and we were yet again treated to much wild game along the way. We arrived some twenty minutes late despite having gained 90 minutes during the course of the night. This was welcome as it afforded us an opportunity to breakfast before we disembarked.

27 April 2017

Our train arrived a few hours late due to speed restrictions as there was a TFR freight train that had derailed a week prior and the Rail Safety Regulator did not give clearance to travel at the usual 90km/h, but rather at 30km/h. As our train drew into the station from Johannesburg, a guest stepped out to stretch her legs. Her words to me: “Sir, you’d better board this train, the MOOD on here is GOOD.” So, it runs much late yet the guests celebrate? We were whisked to the dining room where our food was served, as they kept our lunch for us. A very nice touch. Then we went to unpack and settle in, as my usual paraphernalia had to be hooked up to the mains power to get charged. Cameras, laptop, tablet, three phones. We are geeks on a mission.

This journey became memorable in so many ways, as we saw even more wild game, twice we found that eagles glided for some distance right next to where we sat to breakfast in the Dining Car. We could advise foreign guests on matters travel in South Africa and we were delighted to count so many relics from the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902, in the form of blockhouses.

People really enjoyed themselves even though we were running quite late – they found it a bonus as they now had more time to play card games or chat while having a few more cocktails from the cash bar. One guest came up to me and said: “You told me this is the #GoodFoodTrain, but I can improve upon that. Let me call it the “GreatValueTrain as we get more for the same money.” I just loved that attitude!

So, we rolled along the Karoo desert towards the Hex River and Cape Town. Because of circumstances beyond the control of Prasa, our train arrived nine hours late; we had two extra meals meanwhile and dessert with each. I stand amazed at the hours the staff were on duty and how friendly their service was throughout. As we neared Cape Town, a few guests came up to me, asking if I knew “the guys at the top.” They then asked me to “put a letter forward asking that the train always travels at 30km/h so that they can sleep another night on board.” Out of 68 guests on board, only ONE person was upset because of the delays.

Our Train Manager was Mr Patrick Khumalo assisted by James. As we disembarked, James asked me if the trip was exhausting and I surprised him by saying that, to the contrary, a number of guests indicated that they would board at the drop of a hat…..ready to go! Traveling on the PremierClasse is exceptionally pleasant and I am so glad I am not on board on the many days that I see it arrive either on time or a bit early. I would hate that!



  • Two classes, Sleeper and Sitter
  • Dining Car
  • A La Carte restaurant
  • Cash bar
  • As on PremierClasse, two flushing toilets but traditional types
  • Hot showers
  • USB charging ports, 220V
  • Carriages are being refurbished and have wood paneling (almost as great as PremiewrClasse)
  • Some have air conditioning
  • 5 or more uniformed armed SA Police Officers
  • 5 or more uniformed Prasa Protection Services Officers

You are in capable and safe hands!

November 2, 2016,

We boarded the ShosholozaMeyl at Potchefstroom and were allocated our compartment. It was old and maybe needed a lick of paint but it was really very clean and somehow, someone had made our (optional). Otherwise, spic & span! We left in a mild thunderstorm, treated to the beauty of Highveld lightning as we passed the many gold mines on our way to Kimberley. Soon, we had dinner which was a beautiful Sirloin served with Hot and cold salads. We had nice company in the form of a few couples who traveled quite often, ONLY to experience the train! They came to beautiful Cape Town, stayed a night or two and were on the next train back. They take all routes on ShosholozaMeyl and never seem to get enough of it. A good sign.

I slept like a log and woke in time for breakfast. Trains lull me to sleep and the gentle sway is something I love. I almost forgot to tell you: we were woken with coffee, a rather nice touch. After breakfast, we stopped at Beaufort West to replenish (there were two such stops while I was sleeping, at De Aar and Kimberley.) From there, we started our slow descent towards the Hex River Valley a few hundred kilometres away, passed through the four Hexton tunnels, the valley itself and on to the beautiful Worcester. We spent some twenty minutes here and I was fortunate as Mr Karel Crous, Area Manager, awaited me and promptly installed me in the driver’s cabin with driver Okkie Pretorius and Assistant Henricho Vermeulen. I had a fantastic ride to Wellington, through Nuwekloof Pass between Tulbagh and Gouda and, all too soon, our journey ended.

Our Train Managers were Mr Veldtsman and Delafontyn while Soraya Stemmet managed the dining car. We were really impressed.

November 23, 2016

We boarded at Cape Town and were once again surprised to see how smooth a train can pull away. One just sees the “platform move away.” So subtle, even on a budget tourist class train. We followed the same route to Beaufort West and took many photos, or bloopers, rather. Fun with cameras….. The train was very neat and tidy, nothing out of place. James, Assistant Train Manager was installed in the Dining Car where Suraya Stemmet did her usual magic and we really enjoyed the shorter journey to Beaufort West, where Dries Potgieter of Steenbokkie Private Nature Reserve collected us for a farm stay. Something I can really recommend.

We stayed for a week en returned on ShosholozaMeyl on November 28, 2016 – another pleasant journey.

I think this is sufficient to give you an idea of passenger rail travel in South Africa that really is doing quite well. You owe yourself a nice journey!

July 5, 2017

Stepping from a train that had been awarded the title of World’s Best Luxury Train some sixteen times or so, of which eight were consecutive, we boarded this train that cost almost twenty-two times less. With some guests in our party who had never traveled on trains before! No problem, they found all to their satisfaction and they soon were tweeting and posting all over social media about how great this backpacker on wheels was! Yes, ShosholozaMeyl is LOVED by we South Africans, yet we see that visitors from abroad travel here to experience her yet again. Some adopt some sort of “addiction.”

Yes, rail travel in South Africa is just great and, if anything, better than 25 years ago!

Join the #RailLoveRevolution (also as a group on Facebook) and re-live the days of rail travel. It is here and it is as great as ever, if not even better!

Be sure to: Follow @awethentiq on Twitter and AwethentiQ Travel on Facebook. Visit www.railloverevolution.blogspot.com

The Blue Train – Great Value

So many times, people will advise me that it is too expensive to travel on The Blue Train. It is expensive, of course, as that supreme level of luxury and comfort decidedly cannot come at giveaway prices. One has to be fair in making direct comparisons.

As a retired financial consultant, I decided, to do just that and had a quick look at comparable prices:

  • 1 night for two persons sharing in a comparable five star hotel would cost upward of R14,000
  • Business Class airline tickets (no comparable domestic first class flights) R7,000
  • Gautrain R350
  • Meals, snacks, drinks R9,000 at the very least

I have arrived at R30,350 without including all possible drinks, snacks, room service, etc. Already, this is just short of our own De Luxe ticket of March 2017, which had amounted to R31,000. Of course, on The Blue Train, all meals, drinks, snacks, high teas are included in the price!

Thinking back to our most enjoyable trip, I do not think that most equivalent hotels would have afforded us the same levels of comfort, superlative levels of service and memorable meals while offering us an ever-changing landscape, a pleasant interlude at Matjiesfontein or even delivered us in premium class style to Pretoria, from Cape Town, at the same price.

As there are no premium or even first class flights on domestic flights, The Blue Train does afford the most luxurious travel between the two capitals of South Africa possible, except for much more expensive charter flights using private jets. For the levels of sophistication we had experienced on The Blue Train, we still rate it as the very best hotel we had ever stayed over at.

Value for money it certainly is – I have made basic cost estimates and I am of the opinion that their tariffs are at least thirty percent lower than expected. Given the top service from each and every staff member, from making our reservations right to the end of our journey, we decided that we had the very best deal available in South Africa.

Reclining at the rear of the Observation Car really is a window into the soul of Africa!

The Blue Train – To A Blind Friend

Do they serve pudding after dinner?
I looked at the lady, not sure how to react. Was this a joke, a trick question? Even so, I responded: “Either side.”
The Blue Train is where everything is included, it oozes with luxurious opulence. To even think that there won’t be dessert is, err, unthinkable.
People ask questions about The Blue Train when they learn that my wife and I had the privilege to travel on arguably the world’s best train.  Let us investigate further, taking a blind friend with me.


A Tour of The Blue Train

Taking a blind friend on a short walking tour of The Blue Train, awarded the title of World’s Best Train eight times consecutively.