Many train enthusiasts consider Rovos Rail to be one of the most luxurious trains in the world. I don’t have much to compare with, apart from European intercity trains which fall into an entirely separate category – like comparing apples and champagne. Nevertheless, I doubt there are many experiences that beat the one I had on Rovos recently!
Giddy with expectations, we arrived at the private station in Pretoria to check in for our journey to Durban. We were met by a porter in high hat and tails, who swiftly relieved us of our luggage and assured us that we’d find it in our suite later on. In the waiting room, furnished with leather armchairs and decorated with antique train memorabilia, we were served a glass of champagne and shown to the breakfast buffet where we tucked into warm croissants, fresh fruit and the compulsory cucumber sandwiches.
Then it was time to board the train. The steam locomotive whistled as it entered the platform and it felt like being transported back in time where we stood, champagne in hand, waiting to be escorted to our suites. As promised our luggage was there, neatly packed away. We were informed about the necessities, like how to arrange for our clothes to be pressed, mealtimes and how to get our in-suite fridge re-stocked with champagne.
The train slowly moved eastwards, and just as we left the city behind lunch was served; a delicious three course meal perfectly paired with wines from the extensive collection. The tone was definitely set for a few days of indulgence! After a short siesta, where the rhythmic sounds of the train rocked us to sleep, we decided to visit the viewing deck at the back of the train. In an open carriage, we sipped ice cold gin & tonics as the Highveld passed us by, slowly painted into a thousand shades of gold by the setting sun.
At dinner time, the dresscode was cocktail dress and suit. Once again, the feeling of being in an era long gone by came back as we sat in the restaurant carriage, surrounded by people in their finest, with a sommelier in white gloves served vintage wines. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
Our journey continued in the same comfortable pace, where the passing of time was marked by meals and perfect moments on the viewing deck. There were excursions for those that wished to join; a safari, a wonderful battlefields story by a historian and a visit to a local ceramic studio.
When we arrived at Durban station, our final destination, two days later it felt a little strange to be on solid ground. We would have loved to linger on board a little longer. We fantasised of being of the 15-day journey to Dar es Salaam via Victoria Falls. But that is for another time, and another place.
Our journey was courtesy of Rovos Rail, but as always all opinions expressed are my own.