Indaba 2015 held in Durban South Africa gave birth to a new transport experience known as Rovos Paradise. Mohammed Abdullahi who rode on the luxurious train writes his experience throughout the journey
In April 1989, a locomotive and seven carriages carrying on board four paying passengers, friends and press set off for the Eastern Transvaal, today’s Mpumalanga province in South Africa. That journey heralded what is now famous as the Rovos Rail, regarded as the most luxurious train in the entire world. Rohan Vos, young successful businessman, founder and owner of Rovos Rail takes the challenge of bringing and restoring pride to Africa via rail transportation.
It was the end of Indaba 2015 in Durban, South Africa. After a three day show of the biggest travel event in Africa, it was time to travel to Pretoria, the administrative capital of the country. There was curiosity in the air concerning the mode of transportation, Rovos Rail!
After a short drive from Southern Sun Elangeni, Durban’s iconic grandeur hotel, travellers arrived at the train station greeted by well-dressed hostesses with glasses of champagne and orange juice.Then it was time for the red-carpet check-in to the Rovos train. Rohan Vos is on board and personally read out the lengthy rules of enjoying the most luxurious train in the world. “This train is meant for absolute relaxation, hence no Wi-Fi on board and the use of mobile phone is strictly prohibited in the public areas and hopefully we will get to Pretoria sometime tomorrow,” said Vos in a humorous voice. As all the passengers checked-in to their various cabins, the train began its journey. A hostess is assigned to two cabins to cater for all the needs of the travellers just by the dial of the in-cabin phone.
The cabin is best described as a 5 star accommodation on wheels with a mini king-size bed and expansive duvet; a mini bar; a kit that includes body amenities and a dosage of pain relief drug in case of injuries. The well-lit cabin also got electricity power sockets, air conditioning and travellers are offered complimentary shoe shining service.
As part of the cabin is a private bathroom and toilet that is fitted with a modern hand-held shower, surplus luxurious bath soaps, gels and a simple hand-pull device to heat the bathroom in the event of cold.
There are three categories of cabins; The Royal Suites, each of which take up half a carriage, are spacious and elegant measuring ±16 sq metres in size. Each has its own private lounge area and full bathroom with Victorian bath and separate shower. The epitome of luxury with handsome wood panelling and period Edwardian features, the air-conditioned suites accommodate two people offering the option of side-by-side twin or spacious double beds. In the en-suite bathrooms, original fittings combine with the modern technology of hot showers, hair dryers and shaver plugs.The Deluxe Suites which is ±10 sq metres/±118 sq feet accommodate two passengers in either twin or double beds and have a lounge area and en-suite bathroom with shower.
The wood-panelled rebuilt sleeper coaches, remodelled and refurbished to mint condition, offer every modern convenience and comfort. The Pullman Suites, ±7 sq metres/±76 sq feet are equipped with a comfortable sofa-seat during the day with a conversion to double or twin beds for the evening, and also have an en-suite bathroom with shower. In the en-suite bathrooms, original fittings combine with the modern technology of hot showers, hair dryers and shaver plugs.
Rovos Rail operates 3 days Pretoria – Cape Town starting from USD1,700; 4 days Pretoria – Victoria falls, Zimbabwe starting from USD2,000; 3 days Pretoria – Durban starting from USD1,600; 9 days Golf safari starting from USD4,300; 9 days Pretoria – Namibia starting from USD5,400; 15 days Cape Town– Da res Salam starting from USD11,850 and a host of other special tailor made packages.
At about two hours into the train ride, the gong rang for lunch.Three course sumptuous Mediterranean meal is served. Eating while viewing the vast greenlands and spectacular landscape is beyond imagination.
Izaan, the always-smiling hostess of the Koos-De-la-Rey cabin smartly re-make the cabin while travellers were busy with lunch. The hostess also filled the in-cabin bar with selected drinks as ordered.
Rovos Rail had a two hour stop near Howick, small town in the Kwazulu-Natal Province famous for being the place where the late Nelson Mandela was captured in August 1962. All the train passengers had a tour of the Nelson Mandela capture site museum and a first- hand experience of the amazing Nelson Mandela steel sculpture. 50 steel column constructions up to 9.5 metres tall, walk some step backwards and behold Mandela! Next stop is the Bonnie Ntshalintshali museum where pottery is simply an art.
Back in the train, another gong rang at exactly 7pm, this time it is the call for dinner. Ethically, passengers must be formally dressed for dinner. After an exquisite dinner, time to sleep. Once again, the hostesses have re-make the cabins. A new electric duvet to combat the cold alongside a bottle of champagne. There is also a coffee and tea making machine. The balcony and lounge carriage of the Rovos Rail provides another interesting setting to unwind and relax. There is an exclusive smokers’ lounge.
The next day, after breakfast and lunch, Rovos Rail finally stopped at its private station in Pretoria. Interestingly, the train was pulled to station by an 1893 built locomotive, described by Rohan Vos as the oldest operating locomotive in the world.