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Issue 1
Africa Travel> Issue 1
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
A Beautiful Noise
On board the world's most luxurious train
Story and photographs By Jo Kromberg

Open air balcony and observation car

I have travelled on the Rovos Rail before, but it is still one of the most awe-inspiring experiences you can have in a lifetime and is billed as the most luxurious train in the world. We leave Cape Town station at 11 a.m. for our two-day adventure and even prior to departure we were treated like royalty - briefed in the rail company's exclusive lounge at the station and told about the route and journey we are about to embark on while snacking on canapés, drinks, coffee and tea. Then the adventure begins. You have your very own personal host or hostess, who introduces him or herself to you in your suite and then tells you about the train and answers any questions you may have. The suites are old-worldly colonialist with mahogany wood-panelling and soft lighting. They are all en-suite and you are provided with your own bathrobe, slippers, mini-bar filled by request (included in the fare), a take-home vanity case, and sockets for all types of plugs, snacks and a built-in safe. And, contrary to almost anywhere else, smoking is permitted in certain suites.

Our suite is one of the Pullman Suites (7 sq metres) which is equipped with a comfortable sofa-seat during the day with a conversion to double or twin beds for the evening and an en-suite bathroom with shower. The wood-panelled rebuilt sleeper coaches, remodeled and refurbished to mint condition, offer every modern convenience and comfort. In the en-suite bathrooms, original fittings combine with the modern technology of hot showers, hair dryers and shaver plugs.

In the train's bar and observation car, excited chattering of other passengers and the friendly smiles from the staff forecast an epic adventure.

We are now moving into the Breede River Valley and through the Western Cape's famous vineyards. The majestic mountain scenery all along the route hugs the red and yellow colors of autumn. Natural beauty personified.

Elegance on rails

Lunch is served in the dining car, preceded by a gong. We feast on a traditional South African "bobotie" (spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping)as a starter and the main course is prawns, done simply, and with aplomb. The cutlery is pure silver and we are offered a selection of South Africa's best wines.

We enter the stark, arid beauty of the Karoo late afternoon. The lush vines give way to the forlorn and haunting expanses of this timeless, nowhere land which has inspired the muse in countless writers and artists. A lonely track of dust flying up into the air behind a vehicle in the late afternoon sun in the far distance is the only sign of human life. The Karoo is the backdrop for high tea, served in the lounge and bar. The most delectable array of teas, coffees, cakes and savory fare truly evokes a time of past travel elegance.

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