iGO Africa does the Rovos Rail
First thought when going on a train trip for 2 nights, 3 days; “what are on earth will we do on the train for all that time?” We bought books and magazines as well as some extra snacks, even though it was all meals included.
Not once did we open a magazine and we didn’t get to the snacks. We had so much fun, laughed so much, met such wonderful people, and ate until our bellies were about to explode; go figure!
This was going to be an adventure for my husband and I, a little getaway from the kids; and our anniversary as well as a birthday celebration. We could not have asked for a better experience. We flew up from Durban to Johannesburg on the Friday morning and took the Gautrain as a starter for our journey; Marlboro to Pretoria station. The two of us were a little excited and ready to get going.
On arrival at the station in Pretoria, we grabbed an Uber to Capital Park; the Rovos station which is approximately 5 km away; with traffic it took us about 20 minutes. As we entered the station, we were met very officially; bags taken and told to enjoy the museum and station while we await the other passengers and boarding.
What a quaint museum. It really took us back to our childhoods; with original phone box, parking metre, trains as well as all the special collectors’ items that were fondly appreciated by all who were visiting. It was like we had stepped into a past era – so beautifully kept.
As we waited to board, we sipped on sparkling wine and relaxed in the station lounge. Just as about it was time to depart, Rohan Vos, the owner of the Rovos Rail arrived to personally send us off. This to us was quite remarkable. Apparently, he attempts to be at every departure from Capital Park that he possibly can be; to welcome new comers, repeat travellers and also give everyone a little imprint of what he has created. After he chatted to us about the journey ahead, he shook each of our hands and introduced us to our hostess for the duration on-board. We would have Rebecca; she would be available to all our needs and would attend to our cabin – she was delightful!
As we boarded, Rebecca showed us to our Deluxe Suite Cabin – which was perfect. She ran through all the amenities, showed us where everything was and told us to just give her a shout if we needed anything.
Dinner would be in 2 hours, so we had some time to settle; make our way to the observation car at the back of the train, which also had the bar which had everything you could possibly think of available and if it didn’t, they would make sure that at the next stop it would be there. One Gin down and hubby and I started to mingle and get acquainted with the other passengers that were from all over – UK, Australia, Europe, USA, JNB and all celebrating a variety of milestones; anniversaries, birthdays, forever friends, safari holidays and many more. We all just seemed to click and mingle with each other effortlessly. This was not going to be a stuffy, nose-in-the-air pompous train trip – we were going to have some fun.
The bell sounded at 7 pm for dinner. Dress up was a must – gentleman in jackets and ladies looking beautiful. It almost felt like we were back in the era of the train museum; it was wonderful. Dinner was 4 courses – each with a paired wine – food and wine was sublime – there was not one thing that could be faulted.
With the early morning start as well as the long day of travelling, by nine o’clock we were exhausted and called it a night. I must say it was a little weird lying in bed hearing the train on the tracks and every now and then the train jerks from stopping and starting to let a train pass. It must be said, our first night was quite broken and restless. Then again, we were on a train, in unfamiliar surroundings and also travelling at 60kph.
Waking Up Saturday morning somewhere in the Karoo, it was freezing cold and we headed to Kimberley. Sean and I could not stop commenting on what an awesome experience it was to be travelling on this train as we watched the sunrise from our suite window – it was rather surreal. The bathroom was heated, thankfully! It was approximately 3 degrees outside. We dressed in layers and made our way to breakfast.
To Start, the Lemon poppy muffins were to die for and then onto a selection of full breakfast options to order. Everything was delicious and we were ready to take on the day.
As we arrived into Kimberly, we disembarked and a transfer awaited to take us to the Kimberley Mine and see the big hole. We were met at the mine by our tour guide for the morning who has lived in Kimberley all his life. He shared many a story with us to ensure we were enlightened and also kept us entertained. We watched a short film: “Diamonds and Destiny” and then went out to see the Big Hole which you now can go out to on a walkway for the viewing. Our guide continued telling us more on mining history and then, we could opt to go haggle for diamonds or go underground and take a look at a few that are on show in the diamond mine museum. We did the Latter.
It was great to see the difference from when I had been there as young girl and then there was just a fence around it – to the now more tourist made site.
Back on the train and it was time for lunch. Wow, just wow! Ostrich Fillet, Salads, cheese course, desert and wine again paired with every course – “Maagiesvol – Oogies toe” led us to nice little nap after lunch.
Afternoon tea was served, however we opted to socialise in the observation cart; enjoying the afternoon sun and having a selection of Gin’s and cocktails. Time flew by and when we looked again it was time to get ready for dinner. The last dinner on the train is always the special one, so we needed to pull out our best outfits and make a night of it. As we arrived back at the suite – a birthday gift had been delivered for Sean and placed with a handwritten card – just another touch of class.
Dinner certainly did not disappoint. Soup Starter, Lobster tails (big ones), cheese, and chocolate Fondant – all again paired with the most magnificent wines. This dinner would certainly put some of the top restaurants in Durban to shame – a definite highlight, compliments to Chef(s)!
After dinner, we made our way back to the bar for an after-dinner Port; which turned into many ports and a few other weird but wonderful selections. There was some singing, much laughter and new friendships made.
Discussions were held around the morning 5km walk into maatjiesfontein about who would be walking into town and who would be riding into town with the train. My suggestion after having done the walk that following morning; take the ride in; you will not be missing anything, except a little exercise and 5km’s of dust.
On arriving into Maatjiesfontein; a perfectly preserved railway village; we were given the time to explore the town and have a look at the famous Lord Milner Hotel.
On leaving Maatjiesfontein, we were on the last stretch of the journey and Cape Town bound. We packed up our suite and spent our time out on the observation deck until Lunch; which again was another stellar performance from the Chef. After lunch; we stayed out on the deck enjoying the sunshine, our new friends and the beauty of the Cape Winelands as we came closer to Cape Town. Our new international friends were wowed by our country’s beauty, the landscape, the green valley’s – it was spectacular!
We arrived into Cape Town around 18:15 where we disembarked; said our warmest good-byes and transferred to our final stop on our Journey – The One and Only Cape Town.
The Rovos Rail was completely luxurious; not at all what either of us expected it to be; and a Journey that I would recommend anyone should go on, any couple or any group of friend’s bucket list! We will never forget our experience, it’s a tick on our bucket list and a lot more than you could expect.