The Journey to the Sun has begun, with Suncamino Floral Rum!
The journey to the sun
Rovos Rail added the world’s first floral rum to our already impressive range of spirits. Suncamino Floral Rum is the brainchild of three Capetonian friends who shares a love of adventure, the outdoors, and the ocean. These friends got together and created something magical. Suncamino is a Spanish word, which means “Journey to the sun”, and what a journey it has been. Part of what makes the Suncamino journey so special is their mantra, which is simply: bring good company, a bottle of Suncamino, and pick a spot on the map – The rest will take care of itself.
Where it all began
The idea behind Suncamino rum originated in Cape Town. Thereafter the three friends travelled to Barbedos and developed their signature 8yo blend with the help of a local distiller. This incredibly smooth rum ages for 8 years in a typical Caribbean climate in ex-bourbon barrels. As the world’s first floral rum, the intention behind aging the rum is to preserve the naturally beautiful aromas. As well as to develop a rum that is perfect in its natural form without having to add a lot of extra trimmings.
Why choose Suncamino on Rovos Rail
Once the blend was perfect, the friends travelled to sunny Cape Town where a local botanist subtly infused the rum with natural floral extracts typical of the Cape. It is a beautiful bouquet of floral botanicals that complement the rum’s signature notes. What makes this rum so incredibly unique is some of the exceptional flavours found in the rum which includes Hibiscus, Honeybush and Orange Blossom. Suncamino Floral Rum can be enjoyed in a range of ways, it is only dependant on your mood. We invite the dreamers, the travellers, the chance-takers, and those who know the quality of life to bring their passion for everyday adventure to enjoy the rum on our train journeys.
Suncamina Floral Run can be enjoyed on a trip to Cape Town and all Rovos Rail journeys. Come as you are and you will be welcomed.
Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.
Epitomizing a bygone era in train travel, Rovos Rail, The world’s most luxurious train provides a stylish experience on the 870-mile journey from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, to Pretoria in South Africa. Departing from Victoria Falls Railway Station – established in 1904 – insouciant baboons stroll on the platform, as rumpeter hornbills call from the canopies of Natal Mahogany trees. An à capella african choir serenades us enthusiastically, as we proceed along the red carpet to board the train. Like travelers of the Belle Époque, we are led by our hostess to our vintage sleeper coach, with its walls of burnished Mahogany. Our luggage is waiting, our double bed made up in crispy white linen and in our ensuite bathroom is immaculate. A canvas toiletry bag holds useful amenities. Low beams from the setting sun filter through three windows. The trainblows her high-pitched whistle, then with a chug, we are on the way.
Ladies and gentlemen are required to dress formally for dinner, so passengers arrive at the dining car looking elegant. Tables are made up of two-seaters and four-seaters, so guests may dine together or individually. White damask tablecloths, silver cutlery and cut glass crystalware complement fine china. Our sommelier, wearing a dapper waistcoat, pours the first wine with a flourish. We taste the iced Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc to be paired with the starter, declaring it to be delectable. Chosen carefully to be enjoyed any time during the journey, the wines are South African with 4-5 star ratings, including the renowned Meerlust Rubicon. The table d’hôte menu, with vegetarian options, has 3 courses, followed by a cheese plate, then dessert. Exceptionally tasty and presented with flair, the cuisine – with its accent on fresh local ingredients and traditional dishes – is a consistent highlight each day of the four-night journey on the world’s most luxurious train.
After the formal dinner, guests repair to their cabins, or stroll down carpeted corridors to the Lounge Car or Observation Car – that includes an open air balcony – for post-prandial conversation and a nightcap. Perfectly designed to mingle with fellow travelers, or to find a quiet corner, these cars have picture windows, comfortable sofas, wing backed chairs and booths. To re-create the feeling of timeless travel, in grandeur and quietude, the use of mobile phones is discouraged. This adds time for a game of cards, backgammon, scrabble, to peruse the leather-bound books, or to watch the scenery go by. The Club Car is a glass-enclosed space for smokers to take pleasure in their cigarettes, or cigars, while being able to watch the countryside on both sides of the train.
Returning to our sleeper carriage, we find the shutters closed, soft lighting over a turned down bed, plus a gift of Wedgwood nougat. Clothing that we had chosen for the excursion in the morning has already been pressed by our hostess. Though adrenalized by excitement and anticipation, the motion of the train and repetitive sound on the tracks eventually rocks us to sleep.
As the sun’s rays ease over the horizon at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, we enjoy a continental breakfast, including pastries still warm from the oven. Quality Twinings tea or cappuccinos are available. Disembarking for a game drive through this far-flung wilderness, an image of the savannah, in soft pastel light, is reflected on the side of the train. Sweeping plains of grass yield a rich reward of elephant sightings, including a breeding herd with tiny calves. We are driven through a forested area where the road is narrow and not often traversed, adding to our sense of being deep in remote Africa. We are surprised by a giraffe that peers down at us, seemingly curious, then he continues to strip leaves from a Camel-thorn tree.
Keeping up the tradition of excellence, for the morning coffee stop, a long serving table with a banquet of snacks has been prepared for us. Beneath spreading Leadwood trees is a semi-circle of canvas chairs. This is hosted by the owners of The Hide, a prize winning safari lodge.
Back at the train, we are greeted by staff, with champagne or pressed fruit juices. While we are savouring lunch in the dining car, the train is still traveling through Hwange National Park. With a mighty screech of breaks, the train stops! Someone has spotted lions on a kill, so we rush to the windows to watch the action of these big cats. Friendships are forged as we chatter about this sighting and how we are reveling in our Hwange venture. The adventurers of the Victorian era on the world’s most luxurious train could not have had it better than this.
When Rovos Rail halts at Gwanda, a village in Zimbabwe, we hop off the train for a leisurely walk to explore and to meet the local people. A donkey cart moves alongside pedestrians, while entrepreneurs hawk their array of goods, including vegetables, dried Mopane worms (protein rich), cigarettes, mobile phone time or second-hand clothing. Established premises in brick buildings sport names like Conquering Family General dealer, Liquid Sports Restaurant, and Mbalabala Cocktail Bar.
After a joyous time of street photography, I welcome the soothing air conditioning in the Lounge Car, as I quaff a chilled litchi virgin cocktail. Crossing the border from Zimbabwe – over the Limpopo River – into South Africa is a seamless process, organised by Rovos Rail staff. Panoramic views unfold as the train crosses the Tropic of Capricorn, heading southwards towards Pretoria and the olde world Rovos Rail Station.
For a change of tempo from the pace of city life, the demands of media and from one’s usual pre-occupations, this is a perfect way to slow down, to unwind, to allow thoughts to flow freely. Cuisine is superb, the wines and spirits par excellence and the service unobtrusive. It’s an enriching journey, a way to reconnect with yourself and with your partner, if you travel these tracks together on the world’s most luxurious train.
What better wine to enjoy on your next Rovos Rail adventure than with an acclaimed Cape dry white which defies perceptions of origin and which is tantalisingly called the Vagabond.
The Vagabond – made by The Fledge & Co. – is like a luxurious train journey; it is not about the destination but the level of satisfaction that you feel when you see the world at a more sedate pace. The wine is similar and takes a good few years to show at its best. Every vintage is like a voyage of discovery and can be compared to a cricket test match where each session should be played carefully and strategically.
The name Vagabond stems from the fact that the winemakers do not own vineyards but travel around diverse wine growing regions from Swartland to Agulhus in search of the best grapes they can find.
The Fledge & Co. is the remarkable undertaking by husband-and-wife team Leon Coetzee and Margaux Nel who have attracted plenty of attention for their nonconformist approach to winemaking.
Fledge is a passion project that started back in 2007 and is an expression of the couple’s desire to handcraft authentic wines to enjoy with fine food with good company. The wines are unflinching, eclectic and experimental and express their true sense of place (terroir) through a combination of “old school” techniques and innovative methods, while driving an agenda of concern for their soils and the environment with a carbon-neutral or carbon-sensitive footprint.
Margaux Nel has an impressive wine pedigree and is a seventh-generation winemaker from Calitzdorp (South Africa’s Cape port capital) in the Klein Karoo where the Nel family has plied their trade for many years. She is also the winemaker for Boplaas (the family estate) where The Fledge & Co. is also produced.
Margaux is in charge of the cellar while Leon collaborates with the farmers they work with and together they blend The Fledge & Co. wines. Explains Leon: “We are currently working with nearly 50 different vineyards and around 28 different varieties from across the Cape.”
The Vagabond is produced from vines planted from 1971 to as early as 2010; many are old dryland bush vines while others are grown more conventionally but all are produced by farmers who believe in sustainability.
The blend changes with each vintage but varietals generally included are Chardonnay, Steen (Chenin Blanc), Viognier, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Sometimes there is even a blast from the past with the inclusion of the rare Hungarian Hárslevelü – fully skin fermented as one would a red.
Says Leon: “Our aim is to showcase the best of the Cape in a glass and produce a wine which works well with food but can also be enjoyed on its own. We want to defy preconceptions which is why the Latin on the front of the bottle says Prudentia Sine Vino (An Independently Minded Wine). It is only in the Cape that one has the freedom to blend such a diverse (some may think mismatched) variety of different grapes together to craft a reflection of the diverse tapestry which makes up this wine.”
Vagabond’s components are vinified separately, either destemmed or whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented in old French oak for nine to 15 months until the final blend is made. It is racked into tank and left for another six to nine months on the lees. It is unfined and unfiltered when bottled and only sold when Margaux and Leon believe it is ready which is usually three years after vintage.
The wine profile is a mélange of orange blossom; ripe cling peach; yellow, orange and green citrus; pineapple; hay; hints of Rooibos and flint while honeyed almond and white spice abound on the bouquet. It is a perfect partner for roast fowl, duck or pork, traditional Cape Malay and mild Cantonese cuisine or enjoyed as an aperitif.
Devotees affectionately call this wine the “Geel Slang”, Afrikaans for the resplendently golden yellow Cape Cobra sometimes found in the vineyards, a beautiful reptile with an impressive strike.
South African sparkling wine and the name Pieter Ferreira, aka Mr Bubbles, are as synonymous as fish and chips, James Bond and a shaken martini and Rovos Rail and a world-class travel experience.
One of South Africa’s fastest growing wine categories, Cap Classique is the South African version of champagne with the wine made by the same “traditional method” used by the French whereby the second fermentation occurs in the bottle.
Pieter – who proudly carries the moniker “Bubbles” and who is chairman of the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) – is considered by many to be the godfather and the guru of the local industry which he has helped elevate on an international stage.
He has been instrumental in cementing Graham Beck as one of the world’s leading producers of premium Cap Classique and has been with the estate since its maiden vintage in 1991. He recently became Graham Beck’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) after 32 years in charge of the cellar.
However, a life in wine wasn’t always on the cards for the ebullient Ferreira. The Durban born, self-confessed “surfer dude” loved science and also considered becoming a dentist.
However, rugby Springbok and South African wine pioneer Jan Boland Coetzee arranged for a young Pieter to work as an apprentice to Achim von Arnim at Clos Cabriere in Franschhoek. The rest, as they say, is history and Ferreira helped Von Arnim launch his Pierre Jourdan bubbly with Ferreira also working in Champagne: at Mumm in 1987 and at Moët & Chandon two years later.
This new venture comes from their dogged pursuit of the perfect bubbly, striving to produce sparkling wine which showcases the very best expression of South African Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with their Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé and a blended Brut Vintage.
This 100% Chardonnay Cap Classique (Blanc de Blancs) 2015, currently being served by Rovos Rail, is sourced from carefully selected sites from the Robertson region, renowned for its rich limestone and weathered shale soils. The limestone content allows for an ideal platform for growing grapes with the acidic backbone and chemical composition required for the making of a perfect Cap Classique base wine.
A small portion of the base juice undergoes fermentation in French barrels. Once in bottle, it spent a minimum of 72 months on the lees.
Sip on a glass or two of the 2015 Pieter Ferreira Blanc de Blancs and you should pick up balanced flavours of citrus fruit and lime zest that are layered between notes of brioche and pastry combined with a vibrant mouth-feel with flavours of citrus, tropical fruits, honey and toast. It has a fine mousse and elegantly dry lingering finish.
Says Pieter, who happily admits that bubbles have consumed his life: “The beauty of Cap Classique is that it is uniquely South African. It will forever remain the better alternative for those who don’t want to do Champagne. There is a great amount of respect for Champagne but with our great weather and sunshine we will also always provide great value. I still believe it is the most ‘underrated’ wine category in the wine world.
“We’ve developed a uniquely New World style while remaining true to the essence, technique and tradition of champagne itself. Bubbly or Cap Classique has become a lifestyle drink and is not only there for celebrations anymore. A great glass of bubbly sets the tone for ‘what-ever-happens-next’! It is a great palate cleanser and makes for the best aperitif,” he explains.
Pieter says that bubbles are the most versatile wine for food pairing: “There is no right or wrong anymore. Bubbles have the ability to play the ‘enhancer’. My favourite pairings are Brut Blend – oysters on the rocks (anytime); Blanc de Blancs – fresh pan-seared fish with a beurre blanc sauce; Rosé – breast of duck (still moist and pink inside) with roasted vegetables and a matured Cap Classique– cheese board (mainly hard cheeses).”
We are so thrilled to welcome the Ferreira family to ours and look forward to serving this delicious bubbly on board our journeys.
With South African tourism opening up and slowly making its way back to a new normality, Rovos Rail is once again at the forefront of everyone’s bucket list of travel adventure and experiences.
The private railway company has recently updated its wine and bar list to focus on some of the country’s premier local wines and producers which it believes rival some of the best in the world. Peruse the exciting offerings and you would be hard-pressed to argue this.
Who wouldn’t want to work their way through some wines featured on the carefully curated list while taking a scenic trip to Cape Town or raising a toast with a glass of bubbles, in their luxury suite, while travelling to the magnificent Victoria Falls? These are memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.
Each week we will take you on a journey through some of these acclaimed boutique producers whose wines you will discover on your next Rovos Rail tour. And don’t forget Rovos Rail packages, rates and prices are fully inclusive of all meals and beverages on board, with suggested food and wine pairing recommendations given on all menus.
It was American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “Too much of anything is bad but too much champagne is just right.” So what better way to begin than with one of South Africa’s finest bubblies, Silverthorn’s Chardonnay Cap Classique, The Green Man. Just the act of popping open the bottle feels festive!
Silverthorn is an exclusive boutique winery situated in the Robertson Valley where John and Karen Loubser pour their heart and soul into producing some of the country’s finest sparkling wines. Silverthorn is now among only a handful of South African producers who have devoted their expertise to solely producing this sophisticated style of wine.
The wines are made according to the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) of making champagne by creating a second fermentation in the bottle. The term Cap Classique has been used in South Africa since 1992. EU law and the laws of most countries reserve the term “champagne” exclusively for wines that come from the Champagne region located about 160 kilometres east of Paris in France.
Before starting out his own label, John was the winemaker at Graham Beck where he discovered his passion for Cap Classique whilst working under the mentorship of acclaimed winemaker Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira.
The multiple award-winning Green Man (the first vintage in 2004 was released in 2006) was born out of the Loubser family’s love of nature and the environment surrounding them.
Explains John: “Half human, half nature, the Green Man is an ancient mythical figure representing the spirit of the forest, the continuous regeneration of life and the interdependence of all things. He has appeared throughout the ages from as far afield as ancient Babylon and India to abbeys and cathedrals all over Europe. In his modern guise, The Green Man has appeared under a new name – ecology. It is this spirit, as well as the delicate green hue of this wine, that inspired me to break with traditional name ‘Blanc de Blancs’ and personify the wine with the name The Green Man.”
The farm has also honoured its very own “Green Man”, longest-serving employee Willem Willemse, who oversees the Silverthorn vineyards. John and Karen commissioned Academy Award winning filmmaker Craig Foster, of My Octopus Teacher fame, who took images of Willem and superimposed them with pictures he had taken of nature. This series of mythical and dramatic artwork can now be viewed at Silverthorn.
Continues Karen: “People from throughout the world seem to be taken with the Green Man; from our German agent sending us the most extraordinary Green Man sculpture for our Tasting Room opening to a customer from the UK bringing us the most gorgeous little ceramic Green Man when she visited.”
The Green Man is 100 percent chardonnay which spends a minimum of 24 months on the lees. Limestone soils in the Robertson region give it an intense purity. On the nose you will find fresh aromas of green apple and mineral undertones with my favourite aged bubbly smell of all, baked brioche. This elegant bubbly has a delightful creamy texture with a fine mousse and a long finish. It is well suited as an aperitif on a warm summer’s day or paired with an array of seafood; think freshly shucked oysters, salmon tartar or scallops lightly marinated in a zesty citrus dressing.
2019 THE GREEN MAN ANALYSIS
Alc – 11.64%; RS – 7.0g/l; pH – 3.2; TA – 6.2g/l
Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.
On the 9th of February this year, a group of adventurous travellers will board our Shongololo Express train for the maiden voyage of African Trilogy. It’s always exciting when we launch a new route and this trip was a labour of love from beginning to end. African Trilogy on board the Shongololo Express is set to be a marvellous 15-day sojourn that will engage with all our guests’ imaginations and curiosities.
Rovos Rail purchased the Shongololo Express in 2016 and spent the following year renovating, refurbishing and breathing new life not only into the coaches but also the itineraries. We first wrote about the procurement of our new train in 2016 and since then have operated the 12-day Southern Cross and Dune Express itineraries as well as the 15-day Good Hope trip. To be able to include an additional 15-day adventure, the African Trilogy, is a real accomplishment and we believe this new journey will provide guests with a true cross-section of some of Southern Africa’s most varied scenery.
We hope to welcome you on board one day soon and share in many memorable experiences with you.
Our train arrived back from its mammoth journey on Friday, 6 September and we feel quite proud of this success. This train essentially travelled six different journeys, each with its own group of guests, and is the first passenger train in history to travel the east-to-west Copper Trail, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Lobito, Angola. We called it the Trail of Two Oceans and did we mention that our maiden voyage was a success?!
The six journeys included:
* Pretoria to Cape Town
* Cape Town to Dar es Salaam
* Dar es Salaam to Lobito
* Lobito to Dar es Salaam
* Dar es Salaam to Cape Town
* Cape Town to Pretoria
Our one train travelled a distance of 23 400kms!
Daphne Mabala, our ever graceful and fearless train manager, over saw the operations of our new east-to-west route and we feel that the journey’s success was in large part due to her dedicated management. She was supported by her management team and our owner/CEO, Rohan, who seemed to spend most of his time shaking the hands of dignitaries, politicians and tribal leaders whilst posing for photographs.
Also on board were historian and raconteur, Nicholas Schofield, hair stylist and guest liaison, Craig Geater, a formidable management team, our own locomotive drivers and mechanics, hostesses, dining car staff, barmen and women, an excellent kitchen team, a strong maintenance duo and of course our laundry team who, together with the barmen and chefs, are the real stars of the show.
The trip was a great success in both directions with minimal adjustments to the running schedule. The receptions at Lubumbashi and Kolwezi were a surprise while the officialdom and huge crowds meeting the train in Angola was unbelievable. Governors, ministers, tribal leaders, mayors, railwaymen, clergy and many other dignitaries all dressed up in their finest were on hand to meet the train at all major stations, accompanied by numerous musical groups and tribal dancers.
The tourism department and railways went way beyond the call of duty to ensure a safe and successful journey, while the journalists and TV crews had a field day giving our visit huge publicity. Our thanks to everyone who met us along the way with such enthusiasm and support – you added a memorable and touching element to the journey that we could not have anticipated or hoped for.
The saying goes “save the best for last” and the best of this entire experience had to be our wonderful guests. Our band of intrepid travellers who braved this new route with us! Thank you for travelling with us and helping make it the success that it was. Thank you too for your wonderful feedback and constructive suggestions on how we might improve the itinerary all of which are being fiercely debated between Rohan and journey coordinator, Regárdo! The journey is sold out in 2020 and our commitment to a memorable and once-in-a-lifetime experience for our guests is almost stubborn so your feedback is much valued and appreciated.
Our motto at Rovos Rail is to celebrate our wins but never rest on our laurels so planning for 2020 and beyond is well underway. And because Rohan is not one to sit still and because Research and Development is his passion, we suspect that not only will he tweak the Trail of Two Oceans itinerary to perfection but that he’ll be flying all over Africa exploring additional routes too.
Arrive at Rovos Rail Station in Capital Park, Pretoria and you’ll find a red carpet laid out before you. A smiling porter is ready to relieve you of your heavy luggage, and a bow-tie clad gentleman is holding out a glass of sparkling Champagne. And thirsty while you may be, we advise you don’t enter those hallowed doors to our red-brick station building just yet.
Instead take a sharp left, let the antics of two tame llamas put a smile on your face, marvel at the mighty horns of some Nguni cows, and venture just a little further into our very own museum. Here, the rough gravelly voice of Gert van Rensburg aka Oom Gert (Uncle Gert) will welcome you back in time.
Boarding his very first Rovos train over 20 years ago, Gert was acquainted with a very different side of train-life than that which you will come to experience on your trip with us. That’s because he spent his time in the engine room.
As one of our most valued train drivers, Gert’s office was the hot, noisy and smoky end of the train, where he toiled away with one goal in mind. That being to get his passengers where they were going safely and on time! It’s a job he did with utmost aplomb, but it wasn’t without tribulation. Spend a few minutes talking to him and you’ll be regaled by tales of elephants on railway tracks and troublesome and tiring steam powered locomotives from days gone past. In fact, so busy was he driving trains that it was only recently that he ventured back into those luxurious cabins for a trip as a guest. And while he may have now let go of his reigns and passed on his hat, and a wealth of knowledge, to the younger generation, Gert is still a valued employee here at Rovos. He now runs the museum at Pretoria and its clear it’s his pride and joy.
Packed with artifacts which reflect Rovos’ 30 year history, as well as interesting items and train memorabilia from around the world, we aim to develop the museum into the foremost train museum in the world. While you’re waiting for your train to depart, the little ones can also wile away the hours playing on a refurbished old tractor or acting out yesteryear inside a traditional telephone booth. There’s also a massive scalextrics track and heaps of model trains that are bound to keep the boys, and girls, enthused.
You’ll need to tear yourself away eventually but before you do, stop and play a while, listen to the stories of Gert, of which there are many to hear, and relive a different era. Just be sure to leave yourself enough time to explore this little piece of history before stepping on the train yourself and enjoying your rail adventure!
In our efforts at Rovos Rail to be as earth-friendly as possible we introduced new toilet paper on board the trains, in both of our departures lounges and at our guesthouses in St James, Cape Town. It’s not the most elegant of subjects but we’d like to share with anyone who might be interested because commitment to the planet should be first on all agendas and hey, it’s how we roll.
The Güdsheet loo roll is hand-wrapped in eco-friendly paper to promote hygiene, it’s packed in recycled paper boxes to replace plastic and sold in bulk to minimise carbon footprint. The 2-ply paper we use is BPA free and contains no chlorine, acids, inks, dyes or fragrances. What we like most is that it’s sewer and septic tank safe as it’s 100% biodegradable.
One of the best aspects of working with is that every Güdsheet purchase helps provide toilets and toilet paper to those in need. There are millions of South Africans who don’t have access to a toilet or even loo roll so through every purchase of Güdsheet we are helping provide toilets and toilet rolls to underprivileged schools and crèches in need.
Our three sensational guesthouses in St James are under new management and we have breathed new life into all aspects of our beautiful seaside homes. For those who don’t know, St James is situated on the beautiful False Bay coastline on the Cape’s south peninsula. Our sensational houses are all on the Main Road so have direct access to St James beach with its beautiful rock pools and well-known colourful Victorian bathing boxes.
St James Manor, Homestead and Seaforth all have their own style and personalities which gives our guests the opportunity to select a home that is best suited to their needs. All have their own swimming pools, breakfast rooms, comfortable lounges and fully operational kitchens. Seaforth even sports a small gym which can be used by guests staying at any of the three houses.
We recently recruited the services of our much trusted videographer, Ross Hillier, to shoot new video content and take new photographs for us. We had a lot of fun creating material that shows off each sensational house and would like to thank Ross, his team and all who participated in what was a fun few days!