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The Pride of Africa: Rovos Rail

March 18, 2013

Rovos Rail

In early 2010 I traveled across the country by train.  While I’ve spent a significant amount of time on trains throughout my life, none having been for any long duration.  Subways, commuter rails and short hauls between New York and Boston, or New York and Washington was the full make-up of my experience on rails.  Nothing even close to what it would take to reach San Francisco; some 70-hours.  However, after some initial hesitation I booked a ticket, and would eventually arrive in San Francisco aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

Like so many others aboard the train, it was far more than just a ride across the country, (T Magazine recently discussed some of the more interesting types who ride the rails).  I was looking to explore, see the country in a different light, and ride the same stretch of rail that was the first to connect the country’s shores.  And to this day, I think taking that train was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  Sure it’s a long ride, and yes there are definitely some weird beards on board, but it’s one of the few ways to fully experience just how big and beautiful this country really is.

Rovos Rail

It was my trip across the U.S. that’s had me looking into other routes around the globe.  Since heading out west, I’ve managed to get on a few other trains in a few other countries but have had my sights set on one train in particular; Rovos Rail.  Known as The Pride of Africa, the south African railroad cuts a path through several countries, and offers amenities that include safari, chartered flights,  and cabins that are bigger than most Manhattan apartments, to name a few.  It’s the Rolls Royce of the railroad.

Started almost by accident, Rovos was a pure product of passion.  After acquiring an old locomotive, several coaches and potentially facing bankruptcy, what was initially a personal endeavor quickly became a commercial offering, and Rovos Rail was born.  Just over 20 years later, Rovos operates with more than 10 locomotives, over 100 coach cars, and is considered one of the most luxurious train journeys in the world.

Rovos Rail

Rovos hangs their hat on not only the impeccable quality of their service and equipment but also on the journeys they offer.  One of the main benefits of taking a train, where ever you are, is blazing a trail typically only traveled by the train.  This is where Rovos Rail embarrasses similar railways.  In addition to operating one of the most impressive fleets of refurbished antique cars and coaches, Rovos carves a path through a section of the globe experienced by less than one percent of people in the world.  And with full ownership of everything from the cars and coaches to the actual stations, no detail is left by the wayside.  Oh, and a champagne toast is celebrated before every journey, no big deal.

It’s true, the Sierra Nevada mountains or Nebraska under moonlight isn’t a south African safari aboard a vintage train with drinks that are aged a minimum of 18 years.  And, while Amtrak is a far cry from Rovos Rail, or nearly any other train in the world for that matter, it did give me a true appreciation for traveling by rail.  And hell, if you’re going to spend five plus days on a train, best make it count.  [Rovos Rail]

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2013 07:54

    Wow! This gives hope to train travel. Been everywhere by train in the USA , Germany ,
    But the Rovos rail looks spectacular !
    Well done on a fine essay and a pleasant surprise .
    Loved the pics of the trains furnishings.
    Thank you

  2. May 8, 2013 17:47

    holy smokestacks, did you take those beautiful photos?

  3. May 20, 2013 22:25

    sadly, no. these are their stock images. good stuff, though.

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