Morocco Much more to come.
Much more to come.
Appeared in Travel World
News, New York,
"The design of the train has given us suites considerably larger than the world's famous trains such as the Orient Express, the Blue Train, Royal Scotsman in England and El Andalus in Spain." Rohan Vos
What a way to celebrate the New Year! As we joined the other passengers assembled on the red-carpeted platform, a traditional toast of South African champagne and orange juice set the mood, while a trio of violinists provided soft, soothing classical music -- a fitting background for such a memorable send off. At the microphone Mr. Vos gave a hearty and humorous "bon voyage," announcing each guest's name in turn as we boarded the train. Many nations were represented that morning - the UK, Norway, Italy, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, France, South Africa and Canada. These vintage coaches have carried royalty on past tours, and we soon discovered there was a European countess among us, which reflects the company's claim "the most luxurious train in the world. A mild thunderstorm was brewing above Table Mountain, and as rain began to beat on the windows, the train pulled away from Cape Town station. Have no fear, I had a feeling that the trip would be even more enjoyable, looking out from our cozy cocoon on wheels. My intuition proved to be quite true.
Five Star Hotel on Wheels: Private
Order of Good Cheer: As Mr. Vos says, "It is an atmosphere of good food, good wine and good conversation that we are striving to create. " Like Pavlov's dog, and personal memories of cruises on the Alaska coast, a soft gong in the passageway signaled that dinner was being served. Naturally,on Rovos Rail, semi formal dress was the order of the day, and as we took our seats, a red roses was pinned on each lapel. After all, this was a glorious land cruise - and the superb menu featured such local game dishes as Springbok with lemon honey sauce, plus others like South African Botobie and Kingclip in Pernod cream. It goes without saying that the wine list was extensive, and drinks were complimentary for the entire trip, throughout the train.
The Road Ahead: The vistas were spellbinding. Having read Covenant by James Michener, several Wilbur Smith sagas and various other books on South Africa, I was aware that the 900-mile rail journey follows the old pioneer trail from Cape Town north, via Paarl, Worcester and South Africa's bountiful Winelands, wending its way through the Hex River Valley to the interior's higher, drier Karoo country. What I did not expect was the fact that there were some exceptionally long tunnels en route. Just imagine the engineering challenges and effort that was involved in early railroad-building in this area.
History comes Alive: A pleasant surprise was our brief stop at the historic village of Matjiesfontein, which resembles a romantic movie set, with its street of carefully restored buildings, such as the Victorian Lord Milner Hotel, with lush gardens and a friendly pub nearby. I couldn't help imagining that Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke would come through the red velvet curtains and descend the ornate staircase. Several of us could have spent all day at the nearby museum, checking out relics of pioneer days, before, during and following the Anglo Boer War and the frantic gold and diamond rushes. It was hard to imagine that the rich and famous of the world came here 100 years ago, when it was a thriving health resort. Well, we've been told a renaissance is underway.
Kimberley's Diamond Legacy: Speaking of journeys into history, our next major stop was at Modder River station, a lonely spot where the Boers and British once clashed in a major battle. Disembarking from the train, we boarded a bus for Kimberley, and received a history lesson, which set the stage for our visit to this provincial capital and luncheon at the exclusive Kimberley Club, once male only and frequented by Cecil Rhodes, De Beers and colleagues. Well-fed and ready for action, we were off to the famous Kimberley diamond mine. A restored village surrounded what they call the "greatest hole in the world, " a huge excavation that was once a gentle hill. Our final lesson included mining practices and replicas of world famous diamonds from South Africa.
Pretoria and Capital Park
Having heard about Rovos Rail since the early 1989, when I originated the series, "Railways of the World" in the travel trade media, this New Year's excursion was like a dream come true. It goes without saying that the Rovos team won our hearts and earned our respect as true professionals, a credit to South Africa and to the travel tourism industry. Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Vos for such a wonderful lifetime experience; one we're proud to tell the world all about. Our Rovos Rail story continues with new installments at http://www.africa-ata.org/sa_rovos.htm, e-mail: email@example.com
Jerry W. Bird is Editor and
Publisher of Africa Travel Magazine and President of the
Africa Travel Association's Canada Chapter. He originated
the popular series "Railways of the World" in 1989, and has
written many articles on the topic of rail travel. If you
have items or comments regarding Rovos Rail, or railway
travel in general, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Kentucky, USA