The stately stream of Nguni cows that walked past in the veld beyond where the Blue Train had come to stop may not fit the strictly technical definition of Afrofuturism. But as Maps Maponyane reclined in a sumptuous leather chair on the train and watched the cows amble past, there was a perfect harmony in place.
“This is a beautiful way of thinking about the past of it all before really thinking about the future,” said Maponyane as he considered what he termed the beautiful juxtaposition of the timeless elegance of The Blue Train with the cultural revolution that is Afrofuturism.
For Maponyane, this particular trip on The Blue Train for the launch of the Vodacom Durban July Red Experience was itself a bucket-list moment.
As he stepped off the platform at Pretoria Station, walked across the red carpet and was then welcomed onto the train by one of the butlers, it was the realisation of the long-desired dream of any serious traveller to experience one of the most iconic and luxurious train journeys in the world, with a heritage dating back to 1923, and a history of travellers including royalty and celebrities.
And he predicts it will be the same for the Vodacom Red clients who join him for the main event over the weekend of the Vodacom Durban July.
Maponyane will travel with 10 Vodacom Red winners of this exclusive experience as they leave Pretoria Station on Friday 5 July and travel in style overnight from Pretoria to Durban, and are then escorted to Greyville Racecourse and the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday for a day of Vodacom Red VIP hospitality at the Vodacom Paddock.
Once at the Vodacom Paddock, they’ll have a front-row seat to the latest creations from a gathering of designers including Laduma, Rina from Ri.Ch Factory and Sindiso Khumalo as they unveil their interpretations of the “Stars of Africa” theme.
“I really like the juxtaposition between the Afrofuturism and Stars of Africa concept with the Blue Train, which is essentially Afroclassicalism. It may be classical, but it can also always continue to be the future. It’s such a classical part of travel in South Africa and will always be timeless. That’s what makes so much sense in the Vodacom Durban July and the Blue Train coming together. Certainly, if you think of the stars of travel, the Blue Train is definitely one of the stars of Africa,” he says from an observation carriage that is now bathed in the glow of a lazy Sunday afternoon sun.
Maponyane is a man who travels extensively worldwide, representing brands and ideas on a multitude of stages. It would be easy to mistake him as a man drawn only to the comforts of the business lounge at an airport and efficiency of first-class flights. But train travel is arguably his most complete form of travel.
“Train travel is the form of travel I appreciate the most. Obviously, air travel is the most efficient. But particularly when I’m in Europe, I prefer to travel by train because it connects you so quickly to the rest of the country or continent. And it’s a fantastic way to take in the landscape. I can also be productive and work while traveling. Train travel allows me to get so much more from my seated experience of going somewhere. I find train travel by far the most comfortable form of travel. I wish we could do it so much more in South Africa.”
“And what a better way to be able to see the beauty of South Africa than in the luxury of The Blue Train? The Blue Train is an icon with a great heritage in South Africa. The wood finishes, the leather chairs and all of the furnishings just exude this magnificent heritage. It feels like you are on this five-star hotel on wheels.”
As an expert in how to make the most of his travel experience, Maponyane has his own list of must-haves for a trip to the Vodacom Durban July on The Blue Train.
“The first thing I would suggest you bring is a notebook and a pen. Looking out the window you just have so many beautiful thoughts, ideas, appreciations and moments of gratitude. I think it would be beautiful to document these and to develop that stream of consciousness of what you’re really feeling when you’re in motion on the Blue Train.”
“Secondly, a camera phone to capture the special moments. But don’t be on the phone constantly.”
“And finally, bring an appetite because the food and beverages are very considered and to get the full experience you want to make sure you come hungry in order to experience everything on offer. So I’d say come with an open mind and empty stomach.”
A journey on Africa’s most iconic train, to Africa’s most iconic horseracing event, and where time is not money.
It is the luxury of time that is the true wealth of a train journey.