S. African Splendor: Our Luxe Ride with Rovos Rail, Part II
It’s day two of our Pretoria-Cape Town adventure aboard Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa.
And what can I say but “Yum!”
We start with a leisurely breakfast in the dining car. Guests can order a freshly prepared omelet, sausage, bacon, mushrooms or roasted tomatoes. Fruit, cereal, yogurt, homemade breads, coffee and tea are also on offer.
After our meal, we make a beeline for the observation car.
Joe, the train manager, had advised us the evening before that we might see flamingos shortly before arriving in Kimberley this morning.
And indeed, we’re lucky. There they are — in the thousands — feeding in a shallow lake right next to the tracks. An excited crush of guests fills the observation car to witness the spectacle.
Soon afterwards, we arrive in Kimberley, the birthplace of South African diamond mining, where we disembark for a short tour.
The mine is a yawning crater lake. Appropriately named the “Big Hole,” it’s the largest man-made excavation site in the world. It’s bizarrely beautiful, despite being a place of enormous human suffering. After a quick to visit the Diamond Mine Museum, we rejoin the train.
Back on board, we make for the dining car — and lunch. Outside our window, the scenery is changing. We’re entering the Karoo, a semi-desert region defined by vast, open plains.
Impala, wildebeest, and springbok flash by. Miles ahead, a thunderstorm threatens, creating a shallow rainbow that seems to arc right alongside the train.
After another wonderful meal, we drift back to our cabins for a nap. Others head to one of the public cars to read or simply gaze at the African scenery flashing past.
Having enjoyed our luscious lunch, I’m not particularly hungry for what comes next—afternoon tea — even if it is served at 4:30 p.m. But how often do I have afternoon tea?
Served in both lounge cars, it includes fresh fruit, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and decadent pastries. I especially eye the scones.
Given the train’s all-inclusive nature, I consider a before-dinner drink as well.
Dinner is yet another lavish affair. If anything, it’s even jollier, now that guests have gotten to know one another. Alpheus, our server and unofficial staff “hype man,” alerts us to a cocktail hour after dinner in the rear bar car.
Sure enough, the observation car is full and lively. The bartender offers an array of drinks: in addition to his fully-stocked bar, choices include mojitos, tequila sunrises, margaritas and the local “Springbokkie” (Amarula and crème de menthe), our favorite here in South Africa.
The party’s in full swing as we depart for our cabins around 11, exhausted but happy.
The next morning, I’m one of the early risers who choose to disembark for a three-mile walk into Matjiesfontein, a quaint Victorian village where the train stops for several hours. I’m struck by the town’s stark beauty. Its dramatic desert hills are dotted with brush. I spot occasional animals in the distance.
I also note the town’s historic hotel, shops, cafes, and a small transportation museum boasting vintage autos and rail cars.
After we re-board the train and sit down for lunch, our train descends the face of an escarpment, and the scenery abruptly changes.
The Pride of Africa chugs through a series of four tunnels (the longest is over eight miles), then pops out into a totally different world of large mountain ranges and lush vineyards. We’re approaching beautiful Cape Town.
We enjoy the observation car one last time, as the city’s iconic Table Mountain looms sharply into focus.
Too soon, we pull into the station. There to welcome us is Mr. Rovos Rail himself: Rohan Vos, owner and mastermind of Rovos Rail.
We pose for a quick photo with Mr. Vos and his staff — and then it’s back to reality.
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Rachel M. Hardy is a luxury travel advisor and VP, Sales & Marketing, for the Society of IRT. Angela Walker is a 20-year veteran of The Society of International Railway Travelers, and has been on many of our World’s Top 25® Trains. She is a luxury travel advisor and VP, Operations. Both are based in our Louisville, KY headquarters. They have just returned from a month-long study tour examining trains, hotels and experiences in Europe and South Africa.