I never thought I would say I have travelled through South Africa by train until a few weeks ago when I embarked on a once in a lifetime trip on Rovos Rail. Rovos Rail is known for being the most luxurious train in the world and after a two-night journey from Pretoria to Cape Town, I can definitely see why.
Rovos Rail – How It All Began
Rohan Vos, the founder of Rovos Rail, enjoyed vintage trains. He thought he would restore a few carriages to use for holidays with his wife and four children. It was only in 1986 when he received his first letter of permission to run a train on the national rail network. Rovos Rail started selling tickets and the company has now been taking guests all around Africa for over 30 years. With routes around South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The trips range from three days to fifteen days, depending on the route.
An interesting fact is that the Pride of Africa’s collection of locomotives are all named after Vos’ family members.
One of the trains most popular routes is the two night Pretoria to Cape Town journey. The journey begins at about 3pm on a Friday afternoon at Rovos Rail’s own private station, Capital Park, in Pretoria. It is here where we meet up with all the other passengers, sip champagne and nibble on cucumber sandwiches before we embark on the train. Once all the passengers have arrived, we’re introduced to the team, briefed and then led to our cabin on the train. Within 15 minutes of settling in and unpacking, we feel the train start to move … faster … faster … and we’re off on a journey of a lifetime!
Stepping aboard Rovos Rail and walking into our cabin was one of the most exciting moments because we literally did not know what to expect. Our deluxe suite had a double bed, a small lounge area, a mini bar and an en-suite shower room. As luxurious as the room was, it was also just so cozy. With thick green carpeting, dark wooded walls and bell-shaped reading lamps. The same aesthetic extends throughout the train, from the observation car at the back all the way to the dining room in the front of the train.
From breakfast, to lunch and dinner, and even High Tea, meals on board are an absolute lavish affair. Expect exquisite crystal glassware, monogrammed silverware and crockery and crispy white linen napkins. Meals are served in the extraordinary Edwardian style dining car. The dining car is furnished with high-backed, tufted leather chairs and tasseled curtains embroidered with roses. Evenings on the train are formal and we were required to dress up in our most smartest. Think suit and tie for men and a LBD for women!
The quality of the food served on the train is amazing! It’s quite hard to fathom that a small train kitchen is capable of producing food of such a high standard. Not only did the food impress, but so did the extensive wine list offering the very best South African wines. What I loved most is some of the dishes are traditionally South African. Think bobotie (beef mince with spices, almonds, and dried fruit), Karoo lamb shank and South African milk tart. My favourite though was every meal had a cheese course which made us fall in love with cheese all over again. I also absolutely loved breakfast time – waking up in the middle of nowhere, on a train, to the most beautiful fruit platter is not something that happens all the time.
The Rovos Rail Experience
Traveling on Rovos Rail was like stepping back in time. With it’s old fashioned glamour and romance, and the strict no cellphones in public policy. The aesthetic of the carriages, the attention to detail and the exceptional level of service all contributes to the luxuriousness of the experience.
Our Rovos Rail experience was nothing less than magical. I can definitely say it has been one of my all-time favourite experiences and all I know is, I would travel with Rovos Rail again in a heartbeat!
If you haven’t added this to your bucket list, I suggest you do.
Stay tuned to the blog this week for a post on the actual journey.
More information: www.rovos.com