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PLANES, TRAINS AND SHIPS: Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa from Pretoria to Cape Town

From Pretoria (that’s basically Johannesburg) in South Africa down to Cape Town, I took the Rovos Rail, which I had been hearing tales of for years. Train travel in a style that throws back to an earlier day of wealth and class. Now that’s what I was very interested in experiencing.

And I did!

So, what to expect, well let me tell you all about it.

Let’s refer to it as Rovos Rail Pride of Africa. It is coined as the most luxurious train in the world. Compared to the trains I have overnighted in during my time in Europe I agree. I even had a bathtub in my cabin, which I used. I can’t really describe the magical feeling of being a little lightheaded from the wine at dinner and then drawing a hot bath in a suite on a train chugging its way through the South Africa night in the dark. I felt as if the moment was timeless and I could have been anyone living anytime in that grand period of train travel in Africa – new discoveries awaiting me.

Even now new discoveries await as you stop at the stations along the route to discover these little South African outposts. 

On the train there is a dress code to adhere to so be sure you respect that properly.  For dinner when taking meals, the requirement is a jacket and tie, minimally.  I liked it – it felt right in this atmosphere.

Even from the beginning before you board the train at the Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria you know you are on to something special. Champagne and canapes all around to say hello and wish you a good voyage.  

As the train pulls out of the station headed south to Cape Town we are on our way first towards the goldfields of Witwatersrand. This is a good time to get acquainted with the train from the lounge car to the observation car at the rear of the train. You can also sit in your suite and look out the very large window.  It is recommended when not in your suite to keep the window shut since the train slows down in the various stations during the journey and the windows are large enough for people to put their hands inside and perhaps take something sitting on your nightstand.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily in the dining room daily at a specific time and the food is excellently prepared and served with delicious local wines.  

On day two the train stops in Kimberly. Minutes before that stop if you are lucky you will see a flock of Lesser Flamingos enjoying the nearby lake.  

In Kimberly passengers disembark and are taken on a city tour and to the Diamond Mine Museum with a stop at what is called the Big Hole for a look see.

That is a morning tour then back on the train for lunch and departure for an overnight through the Karoo via Beaufort West to Matjiesfontein.

At some point take the time to have a bit of tea, very British of course, but this trip is about being British – at least to a point so why not?

The next morning the train stops at Whitehall Siding where guests can walk into Matjiesfontein or if you aren’t up for the long hike wait until the train actually arrives in Matjiesfontein and get off there. In this small outpost of a town you can see the collection of vintage cars and old railway carriage and take a look inside the old Lord Milner Hotel. 

Upon departure on this your third day, you will then head through Tweedside and Touws River and take a special interest for a view in the Observation car at Hex River Pass. There are four tunnels you will enter during this last part of the journey, one being six miles long. After Hex River Valley the train chugs through Worcester and then the valley opens up to hundreds of vineyards. That is when you know you are very close to the end of the line in Cape Town.  

We arrived in Cape Town around 6 p.m. and even as we disembarked, the train experience magic lasted with us for days.

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