Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Train Travel

Cape to Cairo by rail, ship and air
October 2009 665

A 28-day Cape to Cairo luxury adventure using a combination of rail, air and ship transportation is on offer from South Africa’s Rovos Rail.

The epic journey starts in Cape Town on January 8, 2010 and includes various tours in South Africa, an overnight stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe, a flight to Zanzibar followed by time spent at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and a tented experience in the Serengeti, then a flight to Entebbe in Uganda for an optional visit to the gorillas in Uganda/Bwindi, after which an aircraft takes guests to Khartoum, Sudan.

After that, guests move to Egypt and take in various options including a three night cruise on Lake Nasser, culminating in Cairo, from where the identical reverse journey departs on January 26, 2010. The aircraft used will be confirmed closer to the time depending upon availability and passenger complement.

A more accessible choice for discerning travellers with less time on their hands is Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa partial steam train journeys lasting from 24 hours to two weeks. The longest journey takes 14 days and runs from Cape Town to Dar-es-Salaam via Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia three times a year in January, July and September. A reverse journey is also available.

The company, formed by Rohan Vos in 1989, had the specific aim of taking passengers back to an era when train travel was for the privileged to experience Africa swaddled in luxury and elegance and enhanced by five-star dining. Its wood panelled coaches from the old days have been remodeled and refurbished to luxurious high standards, and carry a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 suites. The trains are hauled by steam, diesel or electric locomotives, headquartered in Capital Park Station, Pretoria, a once derelict locomotive yard that is now a gracious colonial-style railway station.  TTN took a two-night three-day Victoria Falls to Pretoria trip to see what all the excitement was about. First though, we had to see one of the most spectacular seven natural wonders of the world – then from just outside the Victoria Falls Hotel in a dedicated area it was all aboard…..

We snaked through Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve spotting an elephant or two en route, rumbled through Thomson’s Junction, into Bulawayo, Plumtree (where border formalities for passengers consist of slumbering on while Rovos staff do the necessary) and into neighbouring Botswana. Just outside Francistown to the north east guests get a chance to stop at the 12,000 hectare Wayside game and cattle ranch belonging to Rowland Munger (also owner of the country’s most famous champion prize bull named Cappuccino), who gives an interesting insight into the Botswana farming industry as well as a sumptuous morning tea of local fare.

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn just before Gaborone, then headed towards the historic border town of Mafikeng, Zeerust, the Magaliesburg and finally into Pretoria.

Our carriage Umfolozi – all are named after historical figures and areas of South Africa – was a double suite with all the luxurious trimmings one could wish for. Wooden shutters and panels from the old days mould well with the modern luxuries of an enormous bed, fat comfy duvets, power points for recharging today’s essentials we cannot seem to do without (mobile phones are banned anywhere other than the rooms, a fabulous idea), hot shower, mini fridge, hair dryer and tea and coffee making facilities. The helpful yet unobtrusive staff seemed to take pleasure in working for Rovos Rail, a good sign, with dedicated hosts taking care of each guest.

The menu is equal to that of any international five-star restaurant, with three course meals served in delicate manageable portions sometimes garnished with beautiful edible flowers and always washed down with a limitless supply of South Africa’s best wines.

Verdict? A once-in-a-lifetime luxury travel experience like nothing else – ideal for special occasions or even simply just because you can.

by Cheryl Mandy

Digital Edition

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