Category : Guest Stories

Pretoria to Victoria Falls with Rovos Rail

The Rovos Rail journey from Pretoria to Victoria Falls has certainly become a firm favourite. We recently had guests, Mr and Mrs Hume, who travelled on this journey in celebration of their 80th birthdays! They took the time to send us a lovely e-mail but also a really kind and enthusiastic review on their trip.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Hume and happy birthday from all of us at Rovos Rail!

Rovos Rail was simply transporting. In so many ways. Born of the dreams of a tall, handsome visionary who dreamt of having a private refurbished train on which to take his family on a tour of South Africa, it soon evolved into one of the most luxurious trains in the world.

Rohan Vos (pronounced “Foss”), having obtained permission from South African Railways to operate a private train, soon found that the myriad of petty fees and costs levied by the state operator,  made a private train simply unaffordable. So, not to be daunted, Vos expanded his idea into a commercial tourist train. Following his passion of transforming derelict rail carriages into masterpieces of mahogany-paneled Edwardian grandeur, finished with the finest brass and silver trimmings and crimped, etched glass lampshades, Vos has created a traveling jewel which affords the discerning traveler the chance to glide through the rugged African veldt while being pampered in the best ways known to man.

Brother David had driven us from his home in Johannesburg to the start point. But at first we had trouble finding it, nestled as it was under unlikely tall palm trees in a disused section of Pretoria’s railyards. Adding to its sense of mystery. Then there it was, a colonial-era station house, transformed into a spacious, gracious lounge filled with leather couches and period pictures, all gently blown by the breezes of twirling, broad-bladed ceiling fans. Young waitresses plied the guests with trays of champagne in frosted flutes.  We had arrived. The sense of expectation was electric.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Vos himself seems to treat the departure of every train as a landmark event in his family’s history. He was there in person to shake every hand and wish everyone a good time. Before  boarding he devoted almost a full hour to explaining the history of ROVOS, and to giving his guests a tour of the workshops adjoining the station house, where coaches are refurbished and train pieces from bogey wheels to window latches are serviced and repaired. For our amusement he had arranged for one of the original steam engines to be drawn up at the siding. We crawled all over it, amid its wisps of escaping steam, like kids on a Jungle Jim, striking poses for each other’s cameras.

Eventually, we boarded. Our bags already loaded into our spacious cabin, we soaked up every detail of the luxury hat engulfed us. The broad double bed, the warmth of the wood panels, the space, the work table, the adjoining shower room and toilet, the ample hanging and cupboard space, the mini-bar, to be stocked up as we ordered. What else could there be? We were soon in the Observation Car, chilled Chenin Bancs in hand, the logoed cut-crystal glasses glistening like golden orbs against the arid grassy plains passing beyond the windows.

Lunch was as much a dream as a meal. We struggled to balance our focus between the scrumptiousness of the food and wine and the beauty of the fittings in the ornate Dining Car, with its tasseled velvet curtains at each window. Mini-quiche served with Hamilton Russell Constantia Chardonnay was followed by grilled salmon on rice with asparagus accompanied by Sutherland Saugivnon Blanc. All served under the regal audience of a large Protea flower, one per table, South Africa’s unique symbol of enduring elegance. Echoed by the pleasure of Meriel’s ethereal presence . Butter balls in a silver-plated dish completed the picture.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

As the train gently lurched its way forward my history came into focus. We crossed the Limpopo at Beit Bridge, named after Sir Alfred , Cecil Rhodes’ minor partner in the De Beers diamond company, . The fund he established helped finance my Doctorate at Oxford. Bulawayo, place of my birth, was up ahead. First would come Collen Bawn, famous century-old quarry and cement plant, then Gwanda, Balla Balla, and, finally, Essexvale where, about  a hundred years ago, my father Denny cycled out with his gold pan to prospect the streams.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

We stopped at Gwanda to visit a curio market. Besieged by politely badgering African kids the Rovos guests shuffled from stall to stall against a backdrop of African singing as a troupe of young locals vigorously danced for us.

By now dusk had fallen and I knew I would not actually see these places, but would be in them. Night would steal them from me as history had already done, almost.  So that night we slept near Bulawayo without seeing it, at Mpopoma. After sunrise our journey continued and more names, each with memories, came into view: Pasi Pas where Denny had taken me one day in the late 1940s to buy sandstone from the quarry to build our house on Norfolk Road; Nyamandhlovu (“flesh of the elephant”) where my Plumtree classmate Mike Wood’s father had been Native Commissioner; then Saw Mills once the center of Rhodesia’s hardwood industry (Yellowwood an Muqua), now standing weeded and overgrown, grazed by a small herd of motley looking goats. Gwaai River would be next, followed by Dett and Hwange where we are to stop for a game drive.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

The game drive exceeded all expectations. Starting early on open, tiered-seat Jeeps (supplied by The Hide) there was a sense of exhilarating excitement cruising across Hwange’s endless grassy khaki-colored grasslands. We saw few animals to start with. It was still too warm for them to start their evening browsing. There were a couple of giraffes and a lone Impala bull, partly hidden in the shade of thickets, and some bird life but not much else. Cleophas the guide had asked us what we would like to see. We all said, predictably, “The Big Five”. One guest said “Cheetah” and I added “Kudu”. “The Big Five not possible” he said, “because Hwange no longer has rhinos. Cheetahs not guaranteed and Kudu unlikely but we can hope..” He finished. He said we could see lions but they were 30Kms away. We said that was too far. After a while, deep into the plain we came across a muddy watering hole in which there was a lone elephant bull. It stood motionless like an apparition, its tusks completely covered in glistening black mud like a dark chocolate version of itself. “This bull” the guide explained “has probably been estranged from the herd. He may be in decline and is facing his own extinction in what will be a lonely life from now on.” We left him alone and moved to another water hole with four more younger bulls, caking themselves in mud and dust. Cleophus explained that, once thus covered and caked, they would find a tree and rub their sides against it. Any ticks and other parasites apparently get ripped off the elephant with the caked mud. Tuskers toilet.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

As we left the elephants another viewing Jeep closed on us, saying that the reported lions were still at the same place. We decided to go there. On arrival we saw only a small green patch in the sea of golden grss, with sme scattered bushes and a fallen tree trunk. The we saw that there were two huge male lions, one lying on his side snug into the bush for the shade, the other stretched out below the fallen tree trunk. We came within a few yards from them. They showed no interest in us at all. Occasionally the one would look out into the distance across the plane. We did not know it at the time but he was eying his mates, three lionesses hidden in the grass a half mile away. As we watched the lion under the tree trunk rolled into its back, turned its head lazily and gazed at us with his head upside down. Sizing us up from down under.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Before long, as the sun lost its heat, sinking towards the horizon and throwing a liquid gold light across the glowing pain, we suddenly saw that it had come alive with animals. Herds of Impala appeared from nowhere, there were giraffe gliding like glinting cranes through a patch of trees, we saw two Kudu does, and there was a family of waterbuck not far from where the lions lay. Cleophus explained the waterbuck were not afraid of lions, partly because they knew did not favor the taste of their flesh, but also because, strong swimmers, they could take to the water if attacked. They made a regal sight as they stared across the pain. As we drove quietly away, Cleophus suddenly stopped the Jeep some yards from a small grass-covered mound. “Cheetahs” he whispered. Then we saw the two small heads of the cubs, ears twitching in the sunlight as they gazed intently outwards. As Cleophus moved the Jeep some feet forward we could then see the mother. Sprawled languidly across the back of the mound, mostly hidden in the grass, she stared intently across the plain with steady, sullen eyes. Was it to be Impala or something else for dinner?

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

We moved on. In the mosaic that is the Hwange reserve, patches of rich green grass and scrub intertwine the pale khaki of the grassland. In one such patch we came across aa small herd of Zebra grazing actively in the declining daylight. The whiteness on their beautifully plump and proportioned bodies glowed brightly like liquid silver in the sunlight between the jagged stripes of carbon blacking. Lionfish of the plain. Their high manes gave them a full-dress military look, like Trojan Centurions trussed up by Versace.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

It was time to begin to head back to base camp, close to the train, where drinks awaited us.  By this stage we were all elated and flushed with joy. We had not seen The Big Five, but close. Nic had seen his Cheetah, I had seen my Kudu. Nic then shouted that he saw more elephants up ahead, crossing the road. As we snapped our gaze in the direction of the elephants none of us could believe what we saw next on the road ahead of us: a huge male lion, followed by a lioness, sauntering on the bare sandy earth of the roadway towards the Jeep. The male lion did not stop when he saw us, but just kept walking. Less certain, the lioness went to ground and, her belly on the sandy surface, watched intently. The male lion just walked slowly but relentlessly right up close to the Jeep. Seeing that we were not going to move, he padded into the grass on the side of bare track, a few feet from where we sat watching. The jet-black tassel on the end of his tail was twitching, as if nervously, as he passed us about four feet from the edge of the vehicle.  Once he had passed us he simply spun round and lay down to rest no more than six or seven feet from the back of the Jeep. Nicolas had taken a video of the whole incident. Who said we had to drive 30Kms to see lions?

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Nicolas reminded us about the herd of elephants up ahead, so we drove on towards where they had been. Sure enough, we rounded a bend in the road behind a fleeing flock of Guinea Fowl that sprinted un the road ahead of us, we found ourselves in the midst of a large herd of elephants. Some of them, particularly the younger ones of which there were many, flapped their ears furiously, lifted their trunks skywards and emitted coarse hissing sounds. It was time to return to base camp. We had had a thrilling set of episodes, it was invigorating out on the plain. Birds were everywhere chasing insects in the dying light. The sun had suddenly melted into a faintly crimson glowing orb. The game view was over.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

The whole train was now gathered for drinks and grilled snacks at a camp facility, part of The Hide operation. In an amazing act of management prowess ROVOS had decamped the whole drinks camp, had guests all re-board the train and within an hour served a corsage and candle light final dinner in the Dining Cars. Bravo ROVOS!

All that was left of the ROVOS Rail trip was for us  to arrive at Victoria Falls. There it was suddenly, distant spray rising out of the dense bush, a siding sign, glimpses of the white facades of the gracious Victoria Falls Hotel, and the sounds of African harmonies, as a group of leopard skin-clad Shangaans danced and sang a welcome on the platform.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

A magical dream had ended. A new welcome awaited.

(All images provided by © Mr Ian and Mrs Meriel Hume)

Visit our website at rovos.com, e-mail reservations@rovos.co.za or call us on +27 (0) 12 315 8242 (Pretoria) or +27 (0) 21 421 4020 (Cape Town).

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The Lost Art of Train Travel

It’s always a lovely and welcome surprise when guests take it upon themselves to write a story for us. There seem to be many budding writers, poets and filmmakers on board as we are sometimes sent wonderful pieces of writing and video footage which often have the same theme – the lost art of train travel. How we’re all in a hurry to get to the destination so that we can “unwind” but once there we never put our phones down because everything needs to be shared online.

We received the below from Chris Hammond who, in his own words, could imagine himself as a history professor wearing a tweed blazer with leather elbow patches! Chris travelled from Cape Town to Pretoria on the train with his wife, Robyn, and when met on arrival at Rovos Rail Station they said that it surprised them how long it took them to relax and do nothing but eat, drink, sleep and mingle. “Train travel, in this form, is a lost art and it took some getting used to”, they said. “Well, just half a day and then we locked our phones away and didn’t seem them again until we got into Pretoria!”

The Lost Art of  Train Travel by Chris Hammond

Humans haven’t yet figured out a way of travelling through time but that doesn’t exclude us from experiencing the indulgences of a bygone era, which is exactly what Rovos Rail offers the discerning traveler – a step back in time and a tantalising taste of the romance and craft of the Age of Rail.

The furious pace of our modern lives has sadly distorted our opinion of travel. The goal these days, largely, is to get from Place A to Place B in the least possible time, with as little inconvenience as possible. The journey has become a means to an end, the objective to will the time away with distraction after distraction so that we can reach the destination and carry on with our frantic lives. Now is not the time to explore the effect of this ‘always-on’ mentality on our collective psyches and stress levels, but suffice to say that, at the very least, it is unhealthy.

A century ago there were fewer options. We couldn’t jump on a plane in Cape Town and land in Johannesburg two hours later. A trip then necessitated an understanding of the journey and an appreciation of the time that it would take to cover that distance, invariably, by train. With that came an acceptance that the journey would consist of what the modern day traveller might call ‘dead time’ – a period of time where communication with the outside world was effectively impossible and seemingly little could be accomplished. The traveler was forced to seek ways of extracting pleasure from the journey itself, a notion that Rovos Rail has revisited and refined into something of an art form.

From the moment you set foot in the Rovos departure lounge, you are transported to a time that exists now only in books and in memories we hold of stories passed down to us from generations that have gone before. Vaulted, high ceilinged corridors and a rolling, red carpet lead to an elegantly appointed lounge, where the soothing chords of a string quartet float through the air and the sparkle of a glass of champagne on a silver tray welcome the guest to the Rovos experience. There is no option other than to exhale, relax and allow yourself to be transported back in time.

Nothing is rushed. The train departs when it is ready, and the landscapes pass lazily by as passengers are encouraged to unwind, to mingle and to enjoy the scenery. It is easy to forget how vast and beautiful this country is, and to watch through the windows as the space unfolds into the Karoo in front of your eyes is restorative.

Exquisite attention to detail allows for fascinating interactions with the train, as the story and history of each carriage and indeed of Rovos Rail itself is discovered to those intent on finding it. The history revealed is remarkable and enchanting, so much so that had Barney Barnato himself walked into the dining carriage it would not have felt surreal.

Undeniably the sensation of not being rushed, or of having time to spare, has become so unfamiliar to us that it takes some getting used to. It’s not long however, before one can sense the layers of stress falling away and the thrill of adventure return.

Of course, it helps immensely that your every need is catered to. Magnificent meals that seem to emanate from invisible kitchens are sumptuously stretched out into the evening, paired with the finest selection of wines that the country can offer. Guests are left wondering what kind of sorcery enables the waiters to deliver such exceptional fare in such style from within the restrictions of the train environment. Questions of service logistics are quickly forgotten though, as the combination of the dessert wine and the soothing, rhythmical motion of the train draws one into a deep sleep in the surprisingly generous double bed.

Much of the same is to be expected in the days to come, and before long the cycle of eating indulgently followed by prolonged sessions of staring into the vast expanses that present themselves has become second nature. The ‘real world’ worries that seemed so pressing before departure seem to dissipate into the blue South African sky.

Guests are left feeling revived and invigorated as the train pulls slowly into the Private Rovos station in Pretoria.

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A Dad and his Daughter go on a Train Date

Rovos Rail Dad and daughter date

We recently received a lovely letter from a Dad who decided to treat his 11-year old daughter to a train trip. What fun and what a special Dad and and daughter date!

Mr Pflaum travelled our two-night Cape Town journey with his daughter, Léonie, and other than a glowing report they also sent us images and a video from their time on the train and in South Africa!

Dear Brenda,

I don’t have words to describe our journey a few days ago. It was just a blast! It was a dream of mine for several years to do that – but I had to wait, until my oldest daughter was old enough to realize all of it and enjoy it. Léonie (my daughter) is 11 years old and she never felt bored on the whole journey – she would like to extend for another 1 or 2 nights! I pick out one of my girls for some of my travels and this time Léonie was the one who could enjoy South Africa with me. I attached a few photos of us ;-D

We’ve expected a lot – but all our expectations were surpassed! From the Pretoria station, the train, the stops, the great crew on board (with Heinrich – our favorite in the restaurant ;-D) and the great welcome speech of your father. The most impressive part – beside of all the overwhelming rest – was, that your father even made it to Cape Town to say Good Bye with a handshake and some nice words. I was stunned and the journey was worth every Rand we spent – even much more! I can’t describe it with words…!

Thanks to the whole team – in the front and in the back to make something like that possible! Not only to invest with an “all-in” strategy in something new, to have a vision of something great and to realize the vision in an even better way – but to keep it up so many years and still be in the front, searching the contacts with the costumers directly and share the vision as a “once in a lifetime experience”!

I really hope that I can come back very very soon to show this to the rest of my family – my other two daughters and my wife. Thank you all so much and keep everything as it is! My English is limited, so I don’t have other superlatives for everything. But please hug your father from our side – as well from my daughter! Next time, if we see him, we will do it personally! THANK YOU!!!

Here you find a little trip report video from us, which I just created with my iPhone (together with a little soundtrack, which I created together with a good friend back in Kingston, Jamaica). If you have some time, feel free to watch it: https://youtu.be/krB0iYX6YE8

Ah yes: Did I say THANK YOU already? If not: THANK YOU for everything! I had and I will spread this great experience with many others!

And Dad of the month goes to you Mr Pflaum! Thank you for your kind words, they certainly brightened up our Monday and made us feel very content with the work we do here at Rovos Rail.

To all Dad’s out there – bring your daughters on a date with us! As you can see it’s a spoil that does wonders for what is a very special relationship.

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The Magic of Train Journeys!

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Canadian author and travel writer, Margaret Deefholts, on board the Shongololo Express on the Good Hope-Golf tour. Margaret is the co-founder of Travel Writers Tales and shared her experience on the company’s website.

On and off the Rails in South Africa

By Margaret Deefholts

There is an enormous shudder, a loud clanking jolt…and wheee, we’re off! I peer out of my window as the sign “Cape Town” on the railway platform slides away into my past. We are moving…new horizons beckon.

Oh the magic of train journeys!

Sholongololo, the train I’m riding on, is aptly named after the Zulu or Xhosa word for millipede. It curves sinuously along the rails, through the African landscape –the sky bending like a blue bowl over the grassy veldt stretching to the distant horizon.

                              Shongololo Express Southern Cross  8aSholongololo-observation-deck

The last couple of days have been memorable ones. Although Cape Town is now folded into the past, it is nonetheless as sharply etched in my mind as its iconic Table Mountain that stands high and proud against the sky, the city’s buildings sprawling in its shadow, and the dark blue ocean prowling its beaches.

Along with a group of friends, I’ve sat entranced on the upper deck of a hop-on-hop-off Cape Town bus, watching the road curve and dip past beaches thronged with surfers, and sun-worshippers, the sands bleached blonde in the blaze of the afternoon sun and where the breaking surf shudders and roars. Palatial homes line the seafront, vivid bougainvillea creepers showering down their whitewashed walls but I notice that many are topped with snarls of barbed wire.

The dining car tables glitter with fine china and silver cutlery set out on crisp linen tablecloths. This first dinner, like the rest of the meals throughout our 13-day journey on the Sholongololo is five-star quality. Our breakfast buffets boast a variety of pastries, juices, cereals and fruit platters, riotous with color as a Cezanne still-life painting; our dinners consist of dainty appetizers, sumptuous veal, chicken or fish main courses, and rich desserts. All served by our gracious, smiling African waitresses. At the end of our journey the chief chef and his kitchen staff get a well-deserved standing ovation from appreciative guests.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

The Sholongololo experience is more than just a train ride. I am lulled to sleep each night by the roll and rhythm of the wheels, but after breakfast we spill out onto station platforms and board coaches to be whisked off into day-long excursions accompanied by our fun-loving and knowledgeable driver-guides.

And there is so much to see. South Africa’s natural beauty is on display as we stroll its lush tropical gardens, drive through rolling countryside, and over craggy mountain ranges, past vertiginous canyons and rushing streams. There are magnificent sunsets that set the sky is on fire, and fierce afternoons when the sun is at white heat.

At the Cape of Good Hope, the wind is a hysterical banshee, and we watch gigantic rollers as high as twenty to thirty feet rushing madly to the rocky shore, and breaking into enormous clouds of spray that blot out the skyline. The unending roar and hiss of the primordial ocean—its fathomless depths and its furious and intense energy is like staring at eternity. These waters are the haunt of the legendary phantom ship, The Flying Dutchman, the sight of which is regarded by sailors as a harbinger of doom.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

Leaving the heaving sea behind we visit Boulders, where a colony of hundreds of Cape Penguins waddle around on a beach some tending to their babies, others patiently sitting on eggs, or engaging in amorous couplings.

 5Penguin-Sanctuary

A couple of days later, a wetlands river cruise reveals a pod of impassive hippos, their droopy-lidded eyes and flaring nostrils floating just above the water; upstream, a crocodile suns itself among shoreline reeds.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

At Kruger National Park, we drive dusty trails past thorn bushes and trees with branches that twist into macabre silhouettes again the sky. Herds of antelopes, loping giraffes, Cape buffaloes, a lone leopard, and a group of rhinos wallowing gloriously in a mud hole are all subjects for our cameras. A baby Jumbo, ears flapping, breaks away from his group and makes a mock charge at us. But it’s only for show and fun over, he takes off after his Mum as she crashes through the trees.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

A visit to a Zulu settlement is a popular tourist attraction and we sit bemused at the closing item – an energetic and vastly entertaining Zulu warrior dance.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

And then, there are moments of sober reflection as we explore the now extant Kimberley’s DeBeer diamond mine, a place of sudden death and tragedy in 1914 after which the mine closed down.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

In Durban the beaches bordering the placid Indian Ocean are thronged with holiday crowds, as are the shopping arcades where we gleefully buy curry spices from Indian merchants who have lived in the city for generations.

Indian-spices-by-Sara-Marlowe

(Image via Eat Out)

Africa’s dark days of apartheid are on show as well. In Johannesburg, we tour Number 4 jail at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill and are sickened, by the egregious prison brutality once meted out to blacks inmates. Later we walk the streets of Soweto, past Desmond Tutu’s home and linger to read emotional tributes carved on stones that are placed on the sidewalk in front of Nelson Mandela’s house.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

 

All good things must come to an end, and we bid a reluctant farewell to the hard working, efficient and hospitable staff on board the Sholongololo and our driver-guides who have made this holiday such a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

_________________________________

IF YOU GO:

Note: Having recently been acquired by Rovos Rail, the Sholongololo train carriages are to undergo a complete overhaul as many of the compartments are old and cramped and several fittings are in need of repair. The train will be back in service in August and details of dates and prices are available on their website.

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Rovos Rail Hollywood

Rovos Rail hits screens in Hollywood!

By Brenda Vos

Yes, you read that right and we couldn’t be more chuffed. Rovos Rail hit the screens in Hollywood thanks to local documentary maker, Deon van Zyl. This project evolved from one man’s quest to learn about film-making to creating a short movie that not only received an Official Selection at the Hollywood Independent Documentary Awards but was also a winner in the category, First Time Filmmakers! My Life on the Tracks – the Rohan Vos story is the tale of how Rovos Rail came to be and how Rohan has powered through monumental challenges to keep the business in operation.

Deon worked as a Project Manager in the engineering arena but was retrenched in 2015 which prompted him to follow is passion in film-making. He travelled with us in 2007 and it wasn’t until he met Rohan on the station platform that he first thought about the man behind Rovos Rail. It fascinated him that a man could be so bold to own and operate a luxury train in Southern Africa but also that Rohan’s story had not been told in full.

Deon contacted me last year to request permission to film the train at our private station. I must receive about 10 calls like this month so I didn’t really give it much thought but I did invite him to join us on a Friday afternoon as we can have two departures that day so there is a lot of action. Not too long after that Deon asked if he could interview my Dad (Rohan) and me to which we obliged and then off he went. Honestly thinking this was a hobbyist who was a bit train-obsessed I still didn’t really give it much thought. And I mean this in the most humble way possible because it is obviously flattering when people are excited about what we do but there are true train fanatics out there who border on the edge of lunacy and I thought Deon was one of them!

A month or two ago an e-mail dropped into my inbox, from Deon, which gave me the link to the trailer for his movie. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather! It’s not often that these sort of things come to fruition and now here I was watching a trailer for a short film on my Dad. I got a few goosebumps and a bit teary listening to my Pops talk about the struggles over the years but there was also an immense feeling of pride.

Deon’s “disaster project”, as he affectionately calls it, has blossomed and the recognition he received in the States has spurred him on to have the film screened in South Africa. Not an easy process but we understand that negotiations are in the works with local television networks eTV and ED190. Deon has also entered a few African film festivals such as Africa in Motion, Rapid Lion and KleinKaap. Although Klein Kaap is a small festival, it might prove to be just the perfect fit.

Next on the agenda for Deon? He wants to make a documentary that looks at Pathogenic Parenting (Attachment Based Parental Alienation) and its prevalence not only in our society but also in a global context. Another idea manifesting is a short film on the consequential problems associated with the divergent perceptions of the rich and the poor groups in South Africa.

We have no doubt that both these documentaries will be made with the same determination and passion as My Life on the Tracks – the Rohan Vos story. Deon, thank you for all your passion in telling The Boss’s tale. We wish you all the very best with your next endeavours.

Click here to watch the trailer for My Life on the Tracks.

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From Cape Town to Victoria Falls with Rovos– Part 2

Ian Gill’s second part of his story about his Rovos trip to Victoria Falls. 

The beginning of an awesome adventure

We have started the second leg of our train journey. The train station in Pretoria was a step back in time. It was like being a kid again as I constantly ran around with some of my fellow traveRovos rail train on trackslling counterparts searching out the steam engines and reliving a boy’s lost memories.

 

A pleasant surprise for us was to get upgraded to a deluxe berth. Unexpected, but nevertheless much appreciated.

 

Crossing the border into Botswana

 

After departing Pretoria we back tracked to Johannesburg, then continued to head north. Somewhere (Mafikeng) in the middle of the night, we crossed the border into Botswana.

Diamonds and Agriculture

As we were enjoying our breakfast in the dining car, we passed through the capital city of Gaborone, which apparently is quite prosperous due to diamonds and agriculture. We continued north to the Zimbabwe border town of Bulawayo, which we should have reached sometime in the middle of the night.

 

We were running something like three hours late, but that was before the engine broke down and a variety of other reasons, but alas, this is the nature of train travel. It really didn’t affect us as we just sat back and watched the world go by.

 

Waving Hello at Happy Locals

One of the sights and activities I enjoy the most is waving to the locals who are crossing the tracks or tending their cattle by the wayside. Always smiling with an enthusiastic wave makes me feel quite welcome.

train trips

Guest by the train tracks

 

The countryside does vary now and then with hills, mountains and lush Acacia trees. This is in sharp contrast to the dry, brown, flat bushveld of South Africa, which we left the day before yesterday. And did I mention it is HOT!

train trips south africa

We are passing through a game reserve now and lots of wildlife to be seen! Jennifer says she saw a female lion this morning at breakfast. (I told her it looked like a large dog to me). Gazelles, wildebeest, impalas and zebras so far. This should be fun.

The other great thing about train travel and travel in general, is that you get to meet some great people. Thank you for your great companionship, conversation and laughs, Carl and Christina. You made a great trip even better!

Older couple and friend taking a picture

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From Cape Town to Victoria Falls – Ian Gill’s story: Part 1

Ian Gill from America, contacted us recently to tell us about the wonderful experience he had in Africa in 2013. Ian then decided to explore further than South Africa. His journey to the Mother Continent took him to Nairobi, where he enjoyed a two-week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Thereafter, he journeyed aboard the Pride of Africa starting at Cape Town, winding through stunning South Africa via Pretoria, and finishing in Zimbabwe at the mighty Victoria Falls.  Ian took the Victoria Falls train safari.

It certainly sounds like he had a wonderful holiday!

 

Hi Brenda:

This year’s adventure trek takes us to the Dark Continent. Our trip will be broken up into three segments. Upon arrival in Nairobi, we will first embark on a two week safari encompassing Kenya and Tanzania. This will be followed by a week on the Rovos Train between Cape Town, South Africa and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We will finish off with a two week self-drive trip along the South African coast following the Wine Route and the Garden Route. We hope you will enjoy following our travels as we very much look forward to our exciting and adventurous six-week tour of the Dark Continent.

 

All aboard the Rovos train!

I love train travel and this is to be our second, long distance train trips. This however, will be slightly different than our trip across the Rockies last August as this time we will actually be sleeping on board, in our Pullman berth. Our five night and six day journey will take us from Cape Town to Victoria Falls via Pretoria.

Train trips

 

We have spent one night on board and there are two things that struck my attention. Firstly, the vastness of this country from the mountains and vineyards in the lowveldt to the vast open spaces and plains in central South Africa, which go on and on and on. Secondly, the service, amenities as well as food and drink are way beyond expectation.

 

The Rovos Dining Experience

Different South African wines served with each course let alone each meal is a real treat and experience as the pre-selected wine parings really know how to tempt and satisfy the palate. The food and its presentation is unparalleled.

Guest enjoying breakfast on train

 

Scenery to die for – no need for television! : 

Sitting in the exquisitely appointed dining car with white linens, silver cutlery and professional service is self-indulgence not often experienced. Oh, and did I mention the window views from both our dining room table and Pullman suite are wonderful. No need for HD television here.

African sunset Rovos Rail

I sit back and write this entry from the lounge car. With the bright sunlight streaming in, I am swallowed up by the huge lounge chair, trying to fight off the gentle roll of the train as it tries to lull me to sleep. I’ll be heading back to the observation car for a pre-dinner drink and a glowing sunset across the African plains. That will probably be followed by a short nap before dressing for dinner and once again over-indulging. Ah, train travel. It is the best!

 

Feeling like a kid again

I’ll have to admit, one of the highlights for me was when the old steam engine showed up and hitched on to all of the carriages. Being a kid again. Women just don’t feel the same about trains as men do.

Old couple next to industrial train

Read the rest of Ian’s journey in part 2.

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Beloved Memories of a Rovos Trip Recounted

We always feel so happy when one of our guests contacts us excitedly recounting the journey they enjoyed with us on the Pride of Africa. It brings us great joy when we read that their experience of Africa has left a lasting impression, and hopefully one day we’ll see them again for round two!

Not too long ago we received this letter from Lorre Lei who hails all the way from New Orleans. We would like to share her letter with our readers wherein she says that Rohan reminds her of Prince Charles. We couldn’t help but chuckle.   We hope you enjoy her description of the train trip she had with us!

 

Hi Brenda,

Just received Rovos Tribune today and I’m amazed that you still have my address from when my husband and I travelled from Pretoria to Cape Town in November of 1998.  That prompted me to pull out the photo album and the journal of the trip.

 

Here is what I wrote:

Boarding the Pride of Africa

Tea at Victoria Hotel with string trio.  Walked to train station by Mr.Vos, himself, who looks somewhat like Prince Charles.  Prince Charles look alike

Rovos Rail Station

Greeted by staff with champagne and red carpet.  18 cars including 2 dining cars, lounge and observation car pulled by 2 steam engines, but no grand piano! (Referencing one on the American Orient Express train from Chicago to DC).

 

Rovos Pride of Africa

Kimberley 

Arid landscape with lots of scrub trees and anthills.  Reminds me of the California foothills north of San Francisco.  Kimberly Diamond mine and the “big hole” not at all what I expected.  Recreated town around the mine very well done with shops, saloon, church, ballroom and undertaker’s parlor.  Afternoon landscapes giving way to old mountain ranges in distance on either side of train.  Some crops with irrigation, mostly cattle and sheep worked from horseback with sheep dogs. Lots of windmills.  Raced by the lake with the pink flamingos.

 

The Big Hole, Kimberley

 

The Karoo

The Karoo is a harsh, barren place to live with an oasis here and there.  Matjiesfontein is such a place.  It was developed as a resort and was a good place to cure asthma and TB.  The whole village was bought in the late 60’s and restored to its original Victorian state.  A local museum contains a huge eclectic collection of Victoriana.

Matjiesfontein - The Lord Milner Hotel

Ostrich farms remind me of the ostrich medallions for dinner last evening.  Mr. Peter Winterbottom (I believe a pseudo name), the train manager, said he never found food or drink he didn’t like.  When I asked him if that was the case, then how did he maintain his youthful figure, he quipped, “Hot women, Madam!”

Cape Town

Off the train and on to the Mount Nelson, the epitome of British chintz!

The Mount Nelson Hotel

 

Please feel free to use any of the above.  I thought Mr. Winterbottom’s response was priceless and showed such a wonderful quick wit!

 

Lorre Lei Jackson,

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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A 50th birthday surprise on board Rovos Rail

A Surprise 50th Birthday!

A surprise 50th birthday. Five envelopes. An elated husband and an even happier wife! All the ingredients that make for a wonderful half century celebration.

For many, a train journey with us is a bucket list item so when Natasja Rabe decided to surprise her husband, Jaco, with this gift she not only made a dream trip come true but she also did it in the most cunning of ways!

On the Thursday before the train’s departure Natasja asked Jaco to pack his bags as she was taking him on a little holiday. He had no idea what was going on but was given an envelope telling him to pack for two nights and that he would have to include a dinner jacket and tie. Sneaky!

The following morning, the couple rose at the horrific hour of 3am to prepare for their trip and Jaco was given a second envelope to say that a luxury car would be collecting them shortly which would be transferring them to the airport. On arrival a third envelope was handed over revealing that the aircraft would be carrying them to Johannesburg.

When landing at OR Tambo International, the fourth envelope revealed that a trip on the Gautrain would be following next. “This is when I started to feel really excited. Confused but very excited”, says Jaco. “I kept thinking that my wife was out of her mind but I played along because I knew she would have planned something really special”.

The Gautrain stop was Pretoria Main Station where the fifth and final envelope was handed over revealing that they would shortly be arriving at Rovos Rail Station to board the train for the luxurious train journey to Cape Town “I knew it would be good but I had no idea it would be this good! I was over the moon as a trip on Rovos is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time”!

“Pulling into Rovos Rail Station was a sad moment because it meant our trip was over and we had to return to normal life. It was such a let down as our journey on the train was exceptional and we couldn’t have asked for anything better”, comments Natasja.

You are both welcome any time and Jaco, a very happy birthday from all of us at Rovos Rail!

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