In the past few decades travellers have taken to the skies, leaving train trips a thing of the past, however, after spending 3 days on Rovos Rail, let me tell you, they shouldn’t be.
Stepping aboard Rovos Rail is stepping into a bygone era of luxury travel. We were shown to our sleeping car suite by our personal hostess as we slowly chugged out of Rovos Rail’s Pretoria station.
The sleeping car suites are spacious and comfortable, with a queen-sized bed, writing desk, two chairs, storage space and an en-suite toilet, basin and shower (there are no Televisions or radios on this journey) and there is no cellphone reception for most of the journey.
My first port of call was the observation deck located at the rear end of the train - a luxurious carriage with a full bar service and windows the entire length of it which leads onto an open deck at the back.
Our fellow travellers were made up of, Australians, British, Americans and South Africans. Being winter season, Rovos Rail offers South African residents a 50% discount off the normal rate and I soon discovered that of at least half of the forty-two travellers were locals.
Dinner is a formal affair - with ladies required to wear cocktail attire and men are requested to wear jacket and tie. The 4-course set menu changes daily and showcases traditional South African cuisine such as ostrich fillet, lamb shank, fresh seafood and cheese platters.
The next morning we woke to sunrise across the African plains.
The landscape was different to that of Gauteng the previous night. Flat plains dotted with hills - we were well into the interior of South Africa - the northern Cape to be exact.
After a cup of freshly brewed Kenyan coffee, a platter of fresh fruit and hot breakfast we headed out for a 3 hour tour of Kimberly and the Big Hole.
After the tour and with a fresh glass of MCC in our hand we stepped back onboard our mobile 5-star hotel, freshened up before heading down to the dining coach for lunch.
High tea is served every afternoon in the observation car and the lounge – cucumber sandwiches, salmon sandwiches, scones with mascarpone cream, cheesecake and chocolate mousse cake.
Every meal was excellent, complete with exquisite crystal glassware, silverware, monogrammed crockery and crisply pressed white linen napkins. There is an an extensive list of South African wines and each lunch and dinner course is expertly paired with a South African wine.
On Sunday morning at around 8am the train trundled into our second stop of the trip - the historic Karoo town of Matjiesfontein.
We had 2 hours to meander around Matjiesfontein before boarding and make our way back down to Cape Town. The afternoon was spent rolling through the sprawling wide spaces of the Karoo, dotted with cactus, acacias and low scrub.
The landscape transformed again on the last stretch of the journey to Cape Town - we were no longer surrounded by the vast, flat plains of the Karoo, but by majestic blue mountains and golden green patchwork of the Hex River Valley.
We enjoyed dinner as we rolled past the Matroosberg mountain range, via Worcester through the Slanghoek Valley and around past Wellington and Paarl to our final destination - Cape Town station. It was around ten o’çlock when we arrived at the Rovos Rail platform in Cape Town station, where we were welcomed by the founder of Rovos, Rohan Vos, who greeted each passenger and personally assisted in carrying the guests bags from the train station to their cars - a true reflection of the passion and attention to detail that this family run business still retains thirty years since it was founded.
Rovos Rail is an experience of a lifetime - reminiscent of the days of grand tours whilst rolling past iconic African landscapes in Edwardian style luxury with a gin & tonic in hand.