A wedding anniversary…aboard Rovos Rail
Mr and Mrs Moore took a celebratory luxury rail journey from the South African city of Pretoria to the crashing waters of Victoria Falls on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
If you are not familiar with Rovos Rail, I thoroughly recommend it as a perfect way to discover Africa in the luxury of a train from a bygone era. Having previously experienced their nine-day Namibia safari (wonderful!), we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary on a three-night adventure from Pretoria to Victoria Falls.
Cox & Kings made all the ground arrangements including an excellent meet and greet service on our arrival in Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo airport which avoided the lengthy immigration queues!
Rovos Rail travelling across the South African landscape
Our trip began with a guided tour of the private Rovos station and workshops in Capital Park, Pretoria. We were shown around by the owner, Rohan Vos himself, whose enthusiasm and pride in his real life train set shone through. It was wonderful to see the skills being displayed by carpenters and engineers, many of whom are rescued from a life on the streets to become long-term employees with a real purpose in life.
Late morning and it was time for ”the most luxurious train in the world” to begin its journey north crossing the Tropic of Capricorn towards the border with Zimbabwe. All meals and drinks are included together with a useful laundry service that kept us looking smart for the evenings’ formalities. The observation car at the rear of the train proved a popular meeting place to relax with a drink as the train made its steady progress through the African bush.
Lounge car, Rovos Rail
After crossing the ”great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River” (childhood memories of Kipling’s Just So Stories), it was time for border formalities at Beitbridge with music and dance from some Zimbabwean locals. Hordes of baboons invaded the tracks looking for snacks and even water from the train’s hoses, which they were clearly familiar with.
Musical welcome at Beitbridge, Zimbabwe
Next was an unscheduled stop at Gwanda. Despite Zimbabwe’s obvious difficulties, the locals were full of genuine warmth. We all tried to reciprocate their wonderful welcome by providing some much needed business at the impromptu craft market that had been set up just steps away from the train.
Craft market at Gwanda, Zimbabwe
On to Hwange National Park, the largest in Zimbabwe with over 100 species of mammals and 400 types of bird. The development of the elephant population has been particularly successful here and the included wildlife drive was excellent with stunning up-close wildlife encounters.
Hippos, Hwange National park, Zimbabwe
Apart from the warmth of the Zimbabwean people, we will remember the enormous baobab trees and the horse-drawn carts alongside the tracks. It was humbling to be travelling in such luxury whilst returning the friendly waves from local farmers and the excited shrieks of delight from their children.
Journey’s end was Victoria Falls station alongside the Royal Livingstone Hotel with the distant sound of Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’, in the local language. Victoria Falls is not the widest or highest waterfall in the world but it is the largest based on its combined width (an incredible 1,708 metres from Zimbabwe into Zambia) and height (108 metres). We were aware that August is in the dry season but, on the upside, this meant that this provided perfect conditions in which to view and photograph the falls without being saturated in the constant spray. It was an iconic finale to a memorable journey.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
I would recommend reading Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard. I had not appreciated how great an explorer Livingstone actually was. He is believed to be the first European to view what he named the Victoria Falls, in honour of Queen Victoria, on 16th November 1855.
Cox & Kings offers a number of luxury rail journeys worldwide, perfect for celebrating a special occasion. Rail journeys within South Africa and beyond can be viewed here. To discuss further, please either call one of our specialist travel consultants or complete our tailor-made request form and one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary.