Our owner and manager, Colin Dilland, recently enjoyed three blissful days on board the luxury Rovos Rail. This is what he had to say about his trip:
I have had the most incredible week on board Rovos Rail, celebrating my wedding anniversary with my wife, Jill. This being my first trip on the ‘the most luxurious train in the world’, I was thoroughly looking forward to it and was certainly not disappointed.
Our trip started off in Cape Town, where we enjoyed afternoon high-tea at Mount Nelson. I have heard so much about it, so it was great to finally get to enjoy the experience for myself. The food was just excellent, and it baffles me as to how they can arrange so many treats in such a short space of time!
We then moved on to the much-anticipated Rovos Rail, where the theme of outstanding food continued. From breakfasts and morning cakes, to lunches, afternoon teas and dinners all accompanied by first-class wine and champagne, it’s well worth going on the trip just to enjoy the cuisine.
The train itself is spectacular, and is truly everything that it’s made out to be. The carriages are all made up to extremely high standards, with timely décor and the standard cream-and-green theme extending throughout the train.
The experience is slow and graceful, taking you back to an entirely different era. There’s no Wi-Fi, very limited cell-phone network, and a policy that prohibits all mobile devices in the common areas. I also had to wear proper shoes and a suit for dinner! Those who know me will understand that the formal attire and no laptop was quite a challenge!
We stopped off at a few small towns along the way, including Matjiesfontein – which was a huge British Garrison in the Boer War – and Kimberley – home to the Big Hole and the former diamond rush days. The views on board the train were phenomenal, specifically the landscape as you leave Cape Town. As the train progressed, we were treated to beautiful sunsets, flocks of flamingos and serene bushlands.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect and I was a little surprised at how difficult it was to sleep as the train moved along. I’m sure it would be easy to get used to on a longer journey. I think their African Golf Collage is probably the best option as it’s a longer trip, with some great golfing courses that may help you burn off some of the delicious food they keep feeding you!
I mentioned some time ago that I once sat next to Rohan Vos – the owner of Rovos Rail – on a flight back from Hong Kong. I suspect he is no longer flying economy class! He welcomed us onto the train in Cape Town and then met up with us again at Capital Park Station in Pretoria where he showed us around the workshop. The carriages are bought in a complete state of disrepair and are then lovingly rebuilt to match the rest of the carriages. Rovos has purchased a selection of classic engines from Perth in Australia, which are currently being rebuilt and will be launched shortly.
Apart from the incredible experience, it was great to see just how much railway heritage Rovos Rail has managed to preserve. As more carriages come along, we can look forward to more routes and journeys being added.
After the luxury train journey, I took Jill on a hot air balloon as a surprise. For many years we went to the Southampton Balloon Festival, and due to the English weather we only saw them take off a few times and never thought to go up in one. Having recently gone on one during a familiarity trip to the Hartbeespoort area, I thought she would really enjoy it.
As with the last time, the hot air balloon ride was just magical. I now know that the wind goes in different directions at different levels, and our pilot was so skilled we landed back 500 meters from where we started. Once again, the theme of great food and champagne continued. We were treated to an outstanding breakfast and bottomless bubbly, so were slightly tipsy by mid-morning! Unfortunately, the theme of not sleeping so well also continued with a pre-sunrise start to the day which will only get earlier as the summer progresses.
We finished off our trip in Soweto, where we spent most of our time at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, enjoying chilled drinks at the funky beach bar (yes, you read that correctly!). The community involvement in Soweto is just incredible, and you can really see how tourism has improved the standard of living there.
All in all, another great trip around South Africa! With every journey around the country, I find myself loving it more and more.