Long Live the Shongololo Express!

It’s been a busy, sometimes overwhelming but very exciting week here at Rovos Rail headquarters. As some of you may know we purchased the three-star Shongololo Express train in January of this year and for the past few months the train has undergone quite a substantial renovation. On Tuesday, 16th August, we walked Gauteng-based tour operators and travel agents through our brand new spruced up train and celebrated with a few bottles of bubbly afterwards!

In true Rovos fashion, the timeline for the renovation was tight but our incredible team pulled off miracles. The brief was to gut all existing bathrooms so that new shower and bathroom floors could be laid down, wooden shower door frames were built with better shower heads, new loos have been installed as well as bathroom cabinets, hair-dryers and some cabins received new sinks! Our plumbing team also worked hard at improving the water pressure in each cabin.

The layout of the Gold cabins was overhauled to allow for more space and there are now twin, double and fixed double options. The more spacious Emerald cabins have also been tweaked to allow for more space and all rooms have been fitted with new wood-panelling, linen, day covers, curtains, paintings, carpets, towels and the Shongololo Express now comes with full amenities kits too.

To be able to walk some of our biggest supporters through our lovely new train was a privilege and our team felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

The ‘new’ Shongo departed for a 15-day Good Hope Golf trip yesterday and we feel confident that all guests on board will feel comfortable in their new digs!

Long live the Shongololo Express!

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Rhino Rescuers

By Brenda Vos

Our wildlife is under siege in Africa and has been for many years. Too many. One of the largest contributors to the massacre of rhinos it seems is a few powerful influencers in Asia who decided that rhino horn carries curative properties that can treat an array of illnesses, some of them being as minor as nosebleeds and fevers. Please, get a tissue or take an Asprin like the rest of us.

We are sure that there are claims that the keratin in the horns can cure cancer and other terminal illnesses but there is no medical proof whatsoever to support these theories. African, and in fact wildlife the world over, is being obliterated due to obscene medical propaganda, high-end fashion, political unrest and loss of habitat. It’s a story most of you will have heard and we hope some of you will join us in the fight.

Over our 27 years we have enjoyed a good relationship with &Beyond, a tour operator with a powerful and proactive approach to community outreach and wildlife conservation. In partnership with Great Plains Foundation, they formed Rhinos Without Borders, an initiative so bold and brave that it almost seems impossible. They have undertaken to relocate rhinos on a scale never done before – to move no less than 100 rhino from South Africa to safe havens in Botswana.

In mid-2015 a large team safely darted and transported these rhino, this being their first successful mission. The incredible footage captured by Dereck and Beverly Joubert can be viewed by clicking here. You really do want to watch this video as it highlights the enormity of this initiative.

Dereck Joubert is the Chairman of Great Plains Foundation and together with his wife, Beverly, has been on a mission for years to protect African wildlife. Their documentaries and beautiful imagery have been seen the world over and they recently appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show to talk about their latest film “Soul of an Elephant”, another animal close to their hearts.

With a rhino being killed every seven and a half hours, the heroic efforts of Rhinos Without Borders are essential to the survival of this endangered species.

Great Plains coined a new phrase, Conservation Tourism, as it is first and foremost a conservation organisation that uses eco-tourism as a tool to sustain conservation programmes. The relocation of the 100 rhino could not have happened without the support of the government of Botswana but also the local communities as they are an intrinsic part of this initiative. Without their involvement, the rhino would be as vulnerable in Botswana as they are in South Africa.

Growing up in this beautiful country some of us have been afforded the opportunity to go on safari and see wildlife up close. Elephants, rhinos, lions and the rest of the Big Five have given us heart-warming and special memories. Being able to witness the raw, brutal and beautiful lives of these animals is humbling and humility is a quality greatly lacking in the general human population. Spending time in the bush proves that there are forces much larger than us at work. It’s a spiritual experience and for many a religion.

Why should greed take this away from us?

Donations, publicity, raising awareness and big hearts are all welcomed by Rhinos Without Borders so please visit their website and spread the word. None of us should live in a world without wildlife.

Images above by Beverley Joubert and the Rhinos Without Borders team.

Rovos Rail Rhinos Without Borders

 

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Old-world charm of St James Manor

St James in Cape Town certainly has old-world charm as does our guest house, St James Manor. We have three beautiful guest houses down in St James and it’s always a treat receiving positive feedback!

Dearest Dené, Lee-Anne, Goodnews and stunning chef!

WOW! Paul and I were blown away with your warm, hearty welcome and incredible attention to detail (from a welcoming hand-written note to Goodnews’s continuous “checking in” on our well-being despite there being another function in the group to attend to!

Needless to say the ambience and old world charm ensures a magic stay. Our Vancouver suite, at St James Manor, with its large king size (hand carved wood) bed, private lounge and huge dressing area, stunning views of the ocean and Simon’s Town and surrounds crowned it all!  The  the service was excellent, yummy breakfast in purrrfect  Capeyonian style. Access to a shared the balcony and patio with stunning views of False Bay was most appreciated. 

Since day one our emails and requests were dealt with promptly and efficiently. As a rental and touring company we thank you in advance for taking great and special care of ALL our international BMW clients en-route – WELL DONE! 

Visiting SOON again!

Thank you for taking the time to write to us Petreaux & Paul, we really appreciate your feedback!

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Rovos Rail Cape Town journey

The Luxury of the Slow Lane

We recently hosted journalist, Eugene Yiga, on board one of our Cape Town journeys and we’re still talking about what a lovely gentleman he is! Thank you for travelling with us Eugene and thank you too for the articles you’ve written, the most recent being for Business Day Live.

Rovos Rail bring back luxury of slow lane

The dinner gong sounds. Is it 7.30pm already? I can’t believe I’m going to be late because I can’t choose a tie. Why did I pack so many? And why can’t I remember how to make a knot?

I put on my jacket and head down the passage, unsure for a moment whether I’m going the right way. Then I arrive at the table, take a seat and sigh in relief. My rushing thoughts are forced to quiet when I find myself captivated by the scene.

This is the dining carriage of Rovos Rail, recently voted by Wired.com as one of the seven most luxurious train in the world. My first impulse is to reach for my phone — not to distract myself with a podcast or an e-book, but to take photographs of the crystal wine glasses, the silverware and the rest of the luxurious scene.

The same impulse strikes when the first course arrives. Given my work as a writer, the standard procedure would be to “compose” the plate, angle the camera, take the picture, crop, filter, tag, tweet and post. Then there’d be endless refreshing in the hopes of “likes” and retweets, all the while hoping the food would still be warm when I took my first bite.

But it’s different here. With no phones allowed at meals, all I can do is sit back and savour the highlights that never fail to impress. Balsamic and lemon-marinated slices of ostrich fillet served on a potato, beetroot, walnut, and watercress salad. Grilled Cape rock lobster tails with a haricot-flavoured bisque cream, Mediterranean vegetables, and lemon rice. Garlic and lemon grilled prawn skewer on a green salad, with a julienne of peppers, mange tout, and cucumber, drizzled with coriander and ginger dressing.

Alone with my thoughts, I wonder about our tendency to document every moment with our smartphones, instead of just experiencing them for what they are. Are we trying to make our Facebook friends jealous of what we remember or are we afraid of what we might forget? And are we, as Om Malik wrote in The New Yorker, a society that photographs everything, but looks at nothing?

At the end of the meal, as many jetlagged passengers retire to their suites with weary smiles and polite nods, I sip on mint tea, grateful that a single dinner seating on all Rovos Rail train trips means no rushing guests out to prepare for the next group. My thoughts turn to the nature of our journeys through life, which has been on my mind since my 30th birthday two days before.

I look out the window and see an airplane overhead, its lights flashing like a pulse against the night sky. I wonder about the passengers travelling the same distance in two hours that I’ll do in two days. And I reflect on the stress of my most recent flight: repacking bags at the counter, breathing artificial air that almost made one sick and experiencing turbulence so severe that all I could do was laugh.

Of course, road journeys are no better when you consider that a bus is like a smaller, slower plane and a car is like a smaller, faster bus. You might not be next to the understandably frazzled mother and her screaming twins or the overweight man and his overpowering cologne, hogging the armrest and disturbing your nap every time he opens another bag of chips.

You might even remember to pack your own food, lest you waste money on stale petrol station pies. But with traffic jams causing delays and the physical stress of driving, you end up just as tense.

But life is different on the train. With an average speed of just 45km/hour, there’s no rush to get from Point A to Point B. It doesn’t even matter that there are often delays outside the operator’s control — they share tracks, after all — because it’s easy to make up the time later. Besides, it’s not like anyone notices. All that matters to me and the 35 other passengers is using the journey as an opportunity to press pause.

And so, after leaving Pretoria on Friday afternoon, touring Kimberley on Saturday, and visiting Matjiesfontein on Sunday, we approach Cape Town. As we enjoy our final afternoon tea in the observation car, the international guests gasp and point, their cameras out to capture what they’ve been waiting for. It’s Table Mountain and their excited expressions are much like the one I had when I saw the Pyramids of Giza for the first time. But I can’t share in their joy because the moment I’ve been dreading is upon me. Cellular signal is back.

My phone spasms, tempting me to attend to it the way it always does. I take one look at the screen’s cluttered notifications and set the device to flight mode to enjoy a few more moments of peace. Even when we arrive at Cape Town station, and I’m taking a short Uber trip home, the city I’ve lived in for 12 years feels brand-new.

Journey over, I continue to wonder why we’re always rushing from one moment to the next; moving and chasing and striving instead of just slowing and stopping and being.

Why are we so afraid to be still, alone with nothing to distract us but our thoughts?

And why did this weekend journey, out of all the experiences I’ve been fortunate to have, leave me feeling so blissed out? Perhaps it’s because, as the modern world continues to yank us into the future at an ever faster pace, taking time out to slow down and relax is the greatest luxury of all.

To contact Eugene, visit his website or e-mail him on hello@eugeneyiga.com

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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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St James Guest Houses

Kalk Bay Favourites

(Image: the gorgeous garden view at Casa Labia)

Written by @thebleugoose

We’re fortunate to have built up a loyal and enthusiastic membership for our Rovos Club over the years. One of our lovely guests, @thebleugoose, has travelled on the train and stayed at St James Manor a few times. She’s a lover of luxury, she has a discerning palette and when it comes to wines, she knows her stuff…sometimes more than we do!

A bagel, some art and a drink to end – a few of my favourite things to do in Kalk Bay ….

My husband I live in Cape Town but we try as often as we can to escape to the tranquility of Kalk Bay, an idyllic but eccentric sea side fishing village not too far from the beautiful wine estates of Constantia and the must-see Cape Point. We always stay at the St James Manor and as soon as we get out of the car and smell the crisp sea air and hear the ocean breaking on the rocks we know we have a relaxing few days ahead.

Now I am not a morning person, even with a toddler, so my husband regularly does the the breakfast run, but we always wake up early in St James and look forward to our first coffee of the day at Bob’s Bagels. A short walk from the Manor and up a narrow cobbled street is where you’ll find Bob’s, a hole-in-the -wall coffee roastery run by the man himself. Our search for a little French patisserie came to an abrupt end as soon as the delicious baked goods and fresh coffee smells had us walking into this delightful little café in a trance. The coffee is freshly roasted and served in pottery bowls and the bagels are mouth-watering. And if it gets too busy inside you can always perch on one of the benches outside and admire the sea view. To complement the cosy atmosphere, there is a little pottery studio and gallery next door which house beautiful pieces that are all locally made.

Another of my favourites is Casa Labia, a café and gallery set in a beautiful old home built in 1929 for the Count and Countess Natale Labia. It is a national monument and heritage site and my husband and I just love going there for lunch. The rooms are beautiful and look out over the Muizenberg coastline. Lunch is always a lovely affair as they often have a pianist or quartet playing in the background. The food is light and delicious and the wine list simple but perfectly suited. We often stay well into the afternoon enjoying the sounds of Bach and watching out for dolphins.

By now our tummies are full and after a much needed nap we venture out again where we always pop into the Octopus Garden. A quirky bar and restaurant in the St James Old Post Office Building. It is right on the railway track and although you cannot see the sea too well one can smell and hear the crashing of the waves on the rocks below.  It is filled with a menagerie of odd bits and pieces with beautiful and somewhat strange quotes written over all the walls. I always order my Campari and soda and my husband a beer and we chatter late into the night – we just love this place!

There is so much more to do in St James and Kalk Bay that it’s actually too much for one article! Trips to the world-famous Cape Winelands are easy and the staff at the guest houses are happy to arrange tours up Table Mountain or to the V&A Waterfront, golf and tennis games or send you on one of the breath-taking hikes in the area with your own personalised picnic!

Until next time, Lucie.

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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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