When next in Pick n Pay, pick up a copy of the latest Travel Ideas magazine, it’s packed with interesting content and travel stories, and I’m very happy to have an article on my dreamy once in a lifetime Rovos Rail experience in it too. Included below for your ease.
The World’s Most Luxurious Train Teaches me that Travel is about the Journey.
I love all travel. It’s common knowledge that I would go anywhere. To look, see, learn, listen. To gain a better understanding of our world and connect more with her people. Interesting thing is that I’m often so focused on the destination that I don’t give enough thought to the how I get there. Be it car or plane, the mode of transport is too often a practical means to a much-anticipated end. Yet when I was invited by Brenda Vos, daughter of Rohan and Anthea Vos of Rovos Rail to experience their Cape Town to Pretoria train trip, I realised that I’ve been doing it all wrong. Travel is about the journey and there is no finer way than on the World’s Most Luxurious Train.
My Rovos Rail experience starts with check-in at their private lounge in Cape Town; a glass of bubbly in hand, a duo playing music and guests on couches chatting casually with fellow travellers. For most of us this is our first Rovos trip and the anticipation is tinged with nervous excitement for the unknown.
Once onboard I notice that the cabins are all aptly named after South African fauna, flora and greats such as Shaka Zulu and Nelson Mandela. My luggage awaits in mine, an opulent Royal Suite with a huge double bed and electric blanket to ward off the Karoo chill. There are three types of accommodation available, Pullman, Deluxe and Royal suites. All are air-conditioned, have mini-bars, wood-panelling with endless views, en-suite bathrooms and loads of storage space. There’s even an in-house laundry and ironing service on offer. They have thought of everything.
With just 40 people on-board (the max is 72) during my trip, the two dining carts, lounges and bar areas are always partly free. The observation car and its open-air balcony at the back of the train is undoubtedly the most popular spot, and I chose to sit out in the crisp air whilst the train moved forward. Time is passed chatting to new friends, a glass of bubbly in hand. This is luxury travel.
The staff are young, vibrant, professional and charming. They take great pride in maintaining a very high standard, are always near to offer assistance yet allow the privacy required to relax and chat. On check-in, the chef comes to your cabin to talk about allergies and meal preferences, accompanied by restaurant staff to ensure that your preferred drinks are available. All is included. My option is vegetarian with halloumi and aubergine dishes, soups, beautiful fresh salads and fruit gracing my plate.
There’s a rule on-board. No cell phones, iPads or laptops in public areas, only in your cabin. It’s the best policy as you are forced to be social, chat to other guests and escape into the journey. You dress for dinner too. That’s a jacket and tie for the gentleman and cocktail dress for ladies.
It adds a dimension of splendour to an already extraordinary experience.
The 1600km journey between Cape Town and Pretoria takes you through the beautiful barren Karoo, past lonely windmills surrounded by sheep in the fields. On this journey, there are stops at my favourite Victorian village Matjiesfontein and an afternoon in Kimberley for a city tour, a visit to the world’s largest man-made excavation, the Big Hole and the Diamond Mine Museum. It’s a fascinating history and certainly encourages a return. As we leave Kimberley the sun sets over the Kamfers Dam wetlands, stained pink with its high population of flamingos.
The history of Rovos started when Rohan bought a coach or two with the intention of restoring them and hitching them to South African Railway trains for family holidays. From there it was locomotives and engines that would be lovingly restored and named after his children Bianca, Brenda, Tiffany and Shaun. A thriving business developed, fuelled by family involvement, passion and dedication, establishing a rail service that has certainly set them apart; one of unsurpassed luxury and attention to detail that I was soon to experience.
Unlike other trains that travel at 100+kph or more, Rovos has a policy of travelling at 60kph. This leisurely pace brings the beauty of the passing landscape to life, that and the occasional stops and driver change. How soon my body adjusted to the rhythmic rocking of the train on the tracks – a soothing sound that I missed once disembarked.
As the journey drew to an end and we approached Rovos Rail station in Pretoria, a steam train joined for the last stretch to take us home. Rovos certainly offers the luxury and romance of a bygone era, under the watchful eye of a family whose heart and passion have gone into creating an impeccable service appropriately named ‘The Pride of Africa.’
After only 48 hours onboard I’d retreated into a world of relaxed wonder. Revitalised and invigorated. Inspired and excited. Ever grateful for the opportunity I encourage all to do the same. The best news is that Rovos run a 2-for-1 special for South Africans on their Cape Town and Durban Safari every June, July and August! Contact reservations to learn more.
With luxury train travel very much crept into my heart, I dream of extended journeys to Victoria Falls, through the KwaZulu Natal Battlefields and Game Reserves and even a retreat to Dar es Salaam, the ultimate African train journey being their Cape to Cairo routing.
Suddenly I completely understand that Travel is the Journey. One of sheer Rovos Rail style indulgence.
South Africa from the lap of luxury. Pretoria to Cape Town with Rovos Rail.
This 1 600-kilometre meander is a perfect illustration of South Africa as a world in one country. Travel the grasslands of the gold-rich Highveld to the haunting barrenness of the Great Karoo; trundle through the spectacular mountain ranges and scenic Winelands of the Cape. Journey’s end is Cape Town, the Mother City of South Africa, cradled by the imposing bulk of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head.
Highlights of the north- and southbound routes include a visit to the historic village of Matjiesfontein; this authentic perfectly preserved Victorian Village – founded by Mr Logan as a refreshment stop in 1890 – also boasts an impressive museum on the platform. Another stop is made in Kimberley providing an opportunity to enjoy a city tour and a visit to the Diamond Mine Museum and the world’s largest man-made excavation, the Big Hole. Available in reverse.
Other Rovos Rail Itineraries
11 DAYS • DURBAN TO VICTORIA FALLS
Embark on this 11-day adventure with a two-night stay at the Fairmont Zimbali, one of South Africa’s premier resorts on KwaZulu-Natal’s Dolphin Coast. Board the Pride of Africa on our Durban Safari to Pretoria for two nights. Arrive at Rovos Rail for an introduction to our beautifully appointed private station before spending the night at your hotel. Spend the following three nights on board the train on the Victoria Falls Journey. Arrive at the incomparable Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi River and enjoy a two-night stay at the colonial-style Victoria Falls Hotel. Please note that depending upon railway capacity this journey could be routed northwards through Botswana.
7 DAYS • CAPE TOWN AND DURBAN SAFARI PACKAGE
This seven-day journey begins in Cape Town and ends in Durban. Travel on our Cape Town Journey to Pretoria through the spectacular mountain ranges and scenic Winelands of the Cape to the haunting barrenness of the Great Karoo and the goldfields of the Witwatersrand. Arrive in Pretoria and transfer to your hotel for the night. Enjoy the day at leisure or tour the city, Soweto, Johannesburg, Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum. The train departs the following morning on the Durban Safari for two nights with visits to a Big Five bush retreat, an 11 000-acre nature reserve and a charming and influential ceramics gallery before travelling the Valley of a Thousand Hills to Durban. Available in reverse. These journeys can also be combined with own arrangements in Pretoria.
6 DAYS • PRETORIA AND VICTORIA FALLS INCLUDING THE ELEPHANT CAMP
This five-night adventure begins in Pretoria with the Victoria Falls Journey. The train travels northwards across the Tropic of Capricorn through Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park where a game-drive excursion is enjoyed. The sojourn ends at the incomparable Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi River. Transfer to The Elephant Camp – set against a backdrop of indigenous teak woodland nestled on a ridge between the Masuwe River and the Zambezi gorges – for a two-night stay including accommodation, meals, local brand drinks and a game drive per day. Available in reverse. Please note that depending upon railway capacity this journey could be routed northwards through Botswana.
Current Special Offer
A 2-for-1 three day Winter special from Pretoria to Cape Town is available from April to September 2018, for South African residents at only @ R14 325 pp sharing in a deluxe suite. Connect with Rovos Rail at www.rovos.co.za to learn more and book by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 (0) 12 315 8242.