On Saturday we boarded a train headed all the way to Pretoria Accommodation from Cape Town. Not just any train, it was the elegant lady of all trains: The Rovos Rail. What started as a hobby for Rohan Vos soon turned into a business and once you set eyes on this train, you’ll recognize it as a labour of love. He began salvaging old train carriages from the 1920’s and restoring them together with the Railway Preservation Society.
This train has many routes going through South Africa, to Victoria Falls, Dar es Salaam and also to Cairo. But this slow, romantic way of travel is really about the ride and the journey and not the destination of the train…
When stepping onto the Classic and Edwardian trains, you will immediately get the feel of a time that has slipped away. One where electronics don’t exist, ladies and gentlemen dress up in their finest to smoke cigars, enjoy fine wines and sip whiskey.
Whilst sleek and majestic on the outside, the interior is no less elegant. Throughout the carriages, rich wooden trimmings are used in addition to button leather seats in the opulent dining cars. Lamps are placed beside the beds to ensure a romantic ambience and elaborate patterns and rich fabrics are used on the bed, curtains and carpeted floors.
Whilst travelling by car often leaves you exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything but the road, this train grants you the full occupation of relaxation.
Breakfast is served in the dining car until 10am; thereafter we were free to lounge in our bedroom suite named Apsey and watch the Karoo float by. Couples sat reading in the lounge, others enjoyed the fresh air on the observation deck and some enjoyed a game of cards.
Lunch and dinner were always elaborate affairs of 4 courses including dishes such as ostrich fillet and jacket potatoes, grilled prawn skewers, various cheeses such as Drunken Pecorino and Bleu en Blanc camembert and rich desserts such as oven-baked sago pudding and dark chocolate fondant. And if you felt peckish in between, high tea is served at 4:30pm.
Whilst smart casual was the dress code during the day, men were asked to wear jackets and ties to dinner with the ladies following with cocktail and evening dresses.
Outside it was hot, with low, dry bushveld whilst inside the train, the temperature was perfectly controlled in our rooms, a mini-bar was continually refilled and classical music played in the public areas.
Despite my reliance on a fast internet connection, I loved that connectivity was bad whilst the train was in motion and that laptops and phones were only permitted in suites. It meant that I was free to just savour the sights flying past my window and get a glimpse of what train travel must have been like.
Whilst we stopped in Matjiesfontein and Kimberly to stretch our legs and wonder around, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the train for two full days listening to it chug steadily along, being served by wonderful, professional staff and indulging in gourmet food whilst dressing for the occasion.
It won’t be a journey I easily forget.
Contact Rovos Rail:
Telephone: + 27 (0)12 315 8242
Photo Credits: Photos by and © Vaughan and Lauren McShane
Photograph: Lauren and Vaughan enjoying a romantic dinner on Rovos Rail