Day 5-6 – 23/24 Sep Rovos Rail

Left the hotel at 10am for Cape Town Railway station for our train trip – one that Ros has been dreaming about for over 20 years! Moses was there to greet us with his final piece of millinery finery.

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On arrival at the station yet another glass of champagne was there to greet us – what is this champagne business all about?

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In the lounge a violin/guitar duo serenaded our arrival and we were then welcomed by Rohan Vos, the founder of Rovos Rail. From there it was on board The Pride of Africa for our 48-hour journey to Pretoria.

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Shame about our cabin – ah well. I guess we will just have to put up with it. Amazingly enough our cabin was called “Hwange” which is one of the few places in Africa that we have actually been to! And our room maid’s name is Lebogang which is close enough to Lembongan which is a place we stayed in Bali – weird!!

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The lounge was  bit “How’s your father” as well but one must not complain.

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Lunch was announced at 12.30 by a girl walking along the 20-odd carriages banging on a small xylophone. There is a choice of two dining carriages – Rohan Vos apparently said that the definition of a luxury train was one with enough seats in the dining car for everyone to eat whenever it suited them – all at once if necessary. Here are a few of our group  sitting down to dinner.

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Ros looking decidedly miserable with her lot.

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A nice little touch – they provide goggles to avoid all those nasty little beasties getting in your eyes when you decide to take your life in your hands by sticking your head out the window.

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In contrast to all this amazing luxury were the miles and miles of squatters huts surrounding Cape Town. One of them is said to house over two million people! I can’t help feeling that one day it is all going to explode with frustration. A couple of things really brought it home for us – as we were leaving Cape Town with champagne glasses in hand all the little kids were lined up along the tracks waving at us, and then a large piece of fruit smashed against the window and burst into a thousand pieces. Then we understood why the windows on the train were all toughened glass with steel shutters that slide up and we were asked to ensure they were all closed whenever we pulled into a station. Also, late in the night in the middle of the veld we came across a huge area full of very bright lights on very tall poles. There didn’t seem to be any buildings around them until we passed close by and I realised that it was another huge squatter town with thousands of tiny huts around, but because none of the houses had windows the whole place looked deserted. Very occasionally you could see a light burning inside one of them but for the most part it looked like a ghost town. We feel so privileged to have been born white Australians!

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Travelling along the Hex River Valley we passed by an amazing range of snow capped mountains and mile after mile of vineyards.

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Stopped for about an hour in the tiny town of Majisfontein which was built to service the needs of travellers passing by on the train. We decided to do the obligatory 10-minute tour of the township in a decrepit London double-decker bus where the top-hatted, bugle-playing driver’s commentary was peppered with “It’s SHOWTIME!” and “LOVE IT when you speak foreign!” and “We are now turning right because we can’t turn left”. After that everyone retired to the pub for a singalong with the driver.

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There were two little museums to visit, the first one containing an amazing array of knick-knacks from times of yore, and the other a transport museum with about a dozen cars and a train.

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I thought I would check out employment opportunities for celebrants while I was here.

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Loved the little weaver birds who had set up home in the garden of the hotel.

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Back on board for more drinkies (is there no end to them??) and dinner where it is expected that passengers will dress formal. We decided not to disappoint and got a round of applause from members of the group 🙂

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All was absolutely tickety-boo until we asked for some ice for Ros’ wine – the look we got from Elliot, our sommelier, was a classic! The expression “Surely you jest!”, while not actually spoken, was on the tip of his lips dying to pop out..

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Slept surprisingly well and woke to a freezing morning. We are told the temperature range today will be from 8-32 degrees. Stopped briefly at Worcester so that Ros could wash the windows – a woman’s work is never done!

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Had an early lunch prior to our arrival in Kimberley where we did a short tour of the town. Diamond mining has now ceased in Kimberley but they have now started going through the tailings in search of diamonds they may have missed and they expect this process to take another 15 years. They are hoping that tourism will make up for the lack of mining jobs. Not sure how successful that is going to be …

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The Cullinan diamond, a replica of which is shown here, in now part of the Crown Jewels

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A nice little surprise as we left Kimberley was a colony of flamingos right next to the railway line.

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Dinner was dressy again and we returned to our cabin to find a bottle of champagne, a box of tea and some nougat and rose petals and a card from Rovos Rail wishing us a happy anniversary – very nice touch!

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About Philip Holland

Celebrating life in all its forms.
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