I’ve long had a love for travel by train, probably owing to a trip to Cape Town my mom took with my brother and me when we were still little, just 4 and 6 I think. I lucked out in my professional capacity when I moved to London in 2008; my role as a brand manager for both SSP and Paramount Restaurants (now Brasserie Blanc) meant visiting my units and restaurants around the country, mostly by rail. As a visual creature, being able to look out of a window and actually see the landscape change is just magic. While flying is fast and convenient, you don’t really feel a part of the experience; travel by train is visceral.
I recently ticked off one of my wanderlist to-do’s: travel on Rovos Rail. One of the things I love about [finally] being my own boss is the freedom to design my life and workweek, sans guilt and that dreaded ‘can I please take leave’ conversation with the boss. So for my birthday this year, I decided to schedule some time-off and journey from Cape Town back to Pretoria with J on the world-renowned Rovos Rail. This two-night adventure across the Karoo, stopping along the way at Matjesfontein and either Kimberly or Bloemfontein (depending on which line you’re on) is a real treat and something you need to experience in your lifetime.
The journey started at 8:30AM on Monday morning in Cape Town at the Rovos Rail HQ on Adderley Street. Kagiso came bounding towards us with a spring in his step and a smile that didn’t leave him throughout the journey. Our luggage was whisked away and we were offered some bubbly and a seat in the lounge, accompanied by music from The Palm Strings (I see what they did there) on violin and guitar. When all passengers had arrived we were introduced to the team, briefed and then led to our cabins on the train by our host/hostess for the duration of the journey.
The cabins are fully contained with everything you need for the trip, no detail spared. The walls are paneled with dark mahogany, there’s art on the walls and the loo has the best ever-changing view. We stayed in a Deluxe Suite which has a double bed, mini bar, tea/coffee station, a fold-away table and two chairs which serve as a small lounge area. The bathroom has a shower, basin, loo and heater, ideal for those nippy winter mornings.
By 11 AM we were on our way, that gentle rock and lull everything I’d hoped it’d be. The views leaving the Cape through the winelands were breathtaking; green vineyards bordered by hazy purple mountains. We sat in the formal lounge in the front for a while, drinking tea, nibbling on snacks and taking it all in.
If you hate food (do such people even exist?) then traveling on Rovos Rail is certainly not for you; the trip is essentially a 48-hour feast punctuated with sleep. The dining cart is truly otherworldly and I love that guests are required to dress up at meals times, it creates atmosphere and sets the scene for the experience which is nothing short of regal. The food, drink and service is excellent and it’s hard to believe a small train kitchen is capable of fare like that which we enjoyed. I mean: lobster. Are you kidding me? I knew we were in for a treat, but I really didn’t anticipate lobster.
And if six three-course meals aren’t enough, there’s high tea served in the observation car at the tail of the train in the afternoons too. We loved the observation car and ended up spending most of our time there playing games, reading, writing and enjoying the bar and company of other travellers. Food and drink is all-inclusive so the only cash one needs to carry is to leave a tip for the amazing staff at the end of the journey (at your discretion of course). And maybe a little for a quick drink at the bar in Matjesfontein, the first stop. I’ve always wanted to visit this one-horse town, home to the shortest guided bus tour in Africa: 5 minutes, and a real hoot. We had an hour to stretch our legs at sunset in this sweet little Karoo town.
If you’re a light sleeper then I’d recommend packing the Melatonin or Somnil; sleeping on a moving train is unusual and can be a little disruptive. The trains generally do stop for a good few hours during the night to ensure some peaceful, stationary sleep. I slept much better on the second night, perhaps the excitement of the first got to me. I loved sleeping with the blinds open to let sunrise over the Karoo in and to wake up with the light. Heaven.
The final day of our journey, the Wednesday, was really special for me. I woke up on my birthday to a cabin full of balloons, bunting hanging across the cabin, the whole nine yards. We had a lazy morning and enjoyed our last breakfast aboard the train before pulling in to the station just outside of Pretoria. I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable way to spend my birthday, the last one before I become a mom. Eep!
The Rovos Rail 2-for-1 Winter Promotion
If this is a trip you’d like to add to your wanderlist, the folks at Rovos Rail are offering residents of South Africa and its neighbouring countries a 50% reduced rate on board a two-night Cape Town journey between April and September each year. The 2-for-1 rate is R14 325 per person (as opposed to R28 650 per person) and includes accommodation in a Deluxe suite, all meals on board, all alcoholic and other beverages, all off-train excursions (if the train is running to schedule), room service and a limited laundry service. The offer does not include flights, transfers or gratuities for the train staff.
SA Airlink now offer flights to and from Wonderboom Airport which is 11.4km from the Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria where all train journeys begin or end.
Pretoria to Cape Town – the train departs at 15h00 on a Wednesday or Friday afternoon and gets into Cape Town on a Friday or Sunday evening at about 18h00.
Cape Town to Pretoria – the train departs on a Saturday or Monday morning at 11h00 and gets into Pretoria at about 12h00 on a Monday or Wednesday.
To book this winter 2018 special, e-mail Regardo on firstname.lastname@example.org
Right, so let me get straight to the sexy bit you’re dying to know more about. The kind folks at Rovos Rail have given me the trip of a lifetime to gift to one lucky reader for two people aboard one of their luxurious trains, valued at R57 000. The winner and his/her plus one will get to enjoy two nights in a Deluxe Suite on a Cape Town to Johannesburg or Johannesburg to Cape Town journey between April and September 2018, all food and drink included.
Please note these T’s & C’s before you enter:
- Prize valid only from April – September 2018
- Prize does not include flights or transfers, the cost of these will need to be covered by the winner and his/her plus one
- Prize does not include staff gratuities
- Prize valid only for the Cape Town to Johannesburg or Johannesburg to Cape Town routes
- Prize winner and his/her partner must be over the age of 18
This is how you can enter, there are five ways and you can enter once via each method to up your chances of winning this phenomenal prize:
- Comment on this blog post (please include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you’ve won, don’t worry it will not be visible to anyone but me) and tell me who you’ll be taking on this once-in-a-lifetime journey with you. I’d love a sentence or two explaining why you’ve chosen said partner in crime, but it’s totally okay if you’d prefer to keep your reason to yourself. Make sure to tell your friend/loved one to reciprocate to up your chances of winning.
- Share this Facebook post with your friends
- Tweet and tell me why you deserve to win this epic prize, be sure to include the hashtag #BrandslutXRovosRail so I can track your entry
- Take a screen-grab of this Instagram post and re-share it with your Instagram audience, be sure to caption it with a little blurb about who you want to spoil on this trip (tag them if they’re on Instagram) and be sure to include the hashtag #BrandslutXRovosRail so I can track your entry. You’ll need to be following me (@Brandslut) and @RovosRail on Instagram to qualify. If reposting is not your thang, then leave a comment on my original Instagram post, just be sure to follow me and @RovosRail to qualify.
- Get creative with an Instastory, just be sure to tag me (@brandslut) so I can track your entry.
Competition closes midnight on October 31st, winner will be selected using an online random integer generator. The winner will be announced by 6 November 2017.