The adventure is about the journey as much as the destination. We
were welcomed to the Rovos Rail train station in Pretoria by peacocks strutting
across the entrance to the colonial private station, llamas grazing the
grass outside and chickens and their chicks scratching around in the flower
Our luggage was immediately taken off us and replaced with glasses
of sparkling South African Wine by the incredibly smart, friendly staff of the
railway. We were lead through to the platform through the most elegant waiting
lounge I have ever seen and onto the most glorious platform. Chairs and
tables centered around a beautiful fountain with the Rovos Rail train standing tall and proud beyond. Our home for the next few days.
After relaxing for a while, guests were slowly escorted to their
suites where luggage was already waiting. Our room was beautiful. Every bit the
1920’s sophisticated suite I had pictured, right down to the freshly polished
gloss wood panels and windows that opened right up to the sights and smells of
the African savannah.
The train jerked into action as we waved to the station staff and
made our way into the viewing carriage.
started to whizz by in an ever increasing blur as the townships on the
outskirts slowly became dots on the horizon.
Children rushed out of their houses as they heard us curving along the
rails waving frantically with shouts of hello. Guinea Fowl spooked at the sound
of the grating tracks and flushed up into the air before settling again a few
meters on and cows glanced up at us with bored expressions not stopping their
We soon passed huge mines and machinery, rudely imposing against the
stunning surroundings in the gold-rich area of Gauteng before the lunch gong
was sounded throughout the carriages and we made our way to the other end of
the train into the dining carriage. White table clothes and crystal glasses
adorned each table; every piece of cutlery and crockery inscribed with the
Rovos logo and laid for four courses.
Rovos Rail is all about the adventure and the people you meet along
the way, so we decided to dine with another couple in the carriage. Michelle
and Lars welcomed us to their table and we were all hushed as the first course
came out; quite simply, it was pitta with hummus, but the most beautiful hummus
dish I have ever seen. Marcelle, our
waiter, paired the wines for us for each course and before the next course had
come out another wine had already arrived at our table.
Following the hummus was pan-fried linefish on a bed of spinach
taliolini with a tomato coulis, black olives and capers.
Roydons Camembert served with water biscuits, fresh fruit and rocket
drizzled with oil.
Eton Mess of berries, meringue, fresh cream and berry coulis.
And, if you weren’t quite full enough, a selection of Kenyan coffee
After lunch, the journey and all the travel had got to us so we
pulled down all the windows and climbed into bed to take a nap. With the warm
breeze drifting into our cabin and the view rushing past, it didn’t take long
for us to fall asleep lulled by the rocking.
When we woke up, we could hear the tea bell ringing, calling us to
the viewing carriage where a delicious afternoon tea spread had been laid out
for us and everyone was already sitting chatting and laughing over glasses of
champagne and cake.
More of the beautiful African landscape rushed by as we joined in
the chatting and laughing. Completely lost between forgotten conversations and daydreaming
out of the glass carriage, minds wandering into the long grasses of the
We continued the conversations and drinks until the sun had set casting a beautiful glow over the landscape. The golden grass was burning with the orange of the sky and the rails reflected the sunset right back into the sky.
Before long, it was time to
change for dinner. Cocktail dresses for the ladies and suits
for the gentlemen, just in time for an extravagant four-course meal paired with delicious
South African wines.
Sautéed artichoke and mushroom selection with a dill and celery
Lamb with Couscous.
Mature Chedder truckle with an olive and pine-nut cantuccini and a salad
of fruit and nuts
Chocolate mousse accompanied by a vanilla macaron.
After dinner we went for more drinks in the viewing carriage which
turned into more drinks and then even more drinks, finally sending us to bed at
about 2am when just a handful of us – Ben and I, another couple and our
affectionately titled Ma Bains (who drank Ben under the table – quite literally
– with whiskey) were left standing. Or sleeping.