A maximum of 72 passengers travel in a 20-carriage train. Some cars date as far back as the 1880’s and are a throwback to the height of steam travel when carriages sported polished wood and ornate brasses, and tuxedoed porters wore white gloves. We were taking the two-day 1,600 km journey from Cape Town to Pretoria following the 160-year-old pioneering trail. An immediate sense of occasion was established when we entered a private lounge at the railway station in Cape Town. A smartly uniformed attendant handed us a glass of champagne and a string duo played while we met our travelling companions.
By this time, afternoon high tea arrived. Don't be fooled, afternoon tea does not replace dinner!
The dinner gong rang promptly at 7:30 There is no room for weight watching on this particular trip. Although, to be fair, the portions are small, albeit exquisite.
The Cape Winelands district houses one-quarter of the country’s justifiably famous wine industry with about 20 wine co-operatives and several brandy distilleries.
Dinner in the elegant pre-1940 dining cars (right) requires a jacket and tie at a minimum for men, and cocktail/evening dresses for women.
Formality feels appropriate in the lovely dining room where five-course meals include fresh game and rock lobster paired with fine South African wines.
The train makes several stops along the way, but it was the Big Hole at Kimberley (the world’s biggest excavation) and the accompanying Diamond Mine Museum that left an indelible impression.
On our last leg of the journey, we were guided to the Pretoria station by Tiffany, the smallest engine in the Rovos Rail stable.
It is one of the oldest working locomotives in the world. Rohan Vos has named all of the Rovos Rail engines after his family members.
In short, a memorable trip through sensational scenery and fascinating excursions. Worth every penny.