Rovos Rail – Pretoria to the Cape

We flew from Cape Town to Or Tambo International airport, Johannesburg where we were met and transported to Pretoria by car, where we boarded the Rovos Rail Train to wend our way slowly back to the Cape.

The accommodation as per usual was of a high standard, the staff friendly and competent. The total number of coaches on this excursion was 12 inclusive of the Dinning, Kitchen, Staff, Van and Observation coaches. A small number of passengers indeed, being 26 in total.

The passengers came as far afield as Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Namibia and the balance from South Africa, the majority being foreign visitors. For someone who loves to observe people, well let’s say I had a captive audience.

The train seemed to take ages to leave the somewhat sombre surrounds of  Pretoria and the greater Johannesburg region; what a depressing sight it was. For as long as it took us to finally leave the cities behind, the view was of poverty, squatters, and dumped plastic waste that left me appalled. It would be interesting to know what the foreign visitors thought.

During our journey there were scheduled as well as unscheduled stops, the latter because we had to make way for other freight and passenger trains. We had two scheduled stops on the itinerary, the first stop being Kimberley providing an opportunity to enjoy a ‘city’ tour and visit the Mine Museum , the Vault with the private Gem collection, as well as the world’s largest man made excavation, the Big Hole.

But the best pink Gems of all were for me the lesser flamingos that have made the Kamfer Dam, a permanent wetland, situated north of Kimberley their breeding ground. This location is the 4th breeding site for lesser flamingos in Africa and 6th in the world. The other locations in Africa are Etosha Pan Namibia, Sua Pan Botswana and Lake Natron Northern Tanzania.

The second scheduled stop was the historical Matjesfontein. When we were about 5 kilometres from Matjiesfontein the train stopped allowing passengers to disembark to take an hour’s walk along a bush path that followed the rail track into Matjesfontein where the Rovos train waited for everyone.

Matjiesfontein is the authentic perfectly preserved Victorian Village, which was founded by Mr Logan as a refreshment stop in 1890, also boasts an impressive museum situated on the platform.

For many visitors to South Africa there is no finer way to see the country than on this 1600 kilometre journey. Once away from the cities, the gold rich savannas of the Highveld slowly creep into view, pale grasslands interspersed with rocky kopjes and sprinkling of trees, the latter which stand out starkly against the paleness of the grasslands. These planes were once teeming with wild life as far as the eye could see, but that is sadly of the past. Now you only catch a glimpse of the odd buck and at times a little group of wild game with a few goat, sheep and cattle in between.

As the train meanders through the African terrain the composition of the landscape evolves from the savannas to the haunting barrenness of the Great Karoo. The land changes from golden grasslands of the Highveld to a scrubby landscape of olive and sage coloured bushes that the Karoo is well known for, the ground is somewhat stony too. The Karoo is where our best lamb comes from, known of course as Karoo Lamb.

Spring is the time of the year when following good rains, one can expect to see an abundance of wild flowers displayed in swathes across the land, and we did. The country side was awash with flowers in bloom. God had definitely had fun with his paint brush of vivid colours this season.

From the Great Karoo the journey then trundles through spectacular mountain ranges and the scenic winelands of the Cape. All too soon our journey ends in

Cape Town, the Mother city of South Africa, cradled by the imposing bulk of Table Mountain, Devils Peak and Lions head.

Perhaps the next Rovos adventure will be to Dar Es Salaam or Namibia.

Picture Gallery

The Rovos Train and Station – Pretoria



clip_image006The observation coach

clip_image008The Suite

clip_image010The golden grasslands

clip_image012The Great Karoo

clip_image014Carpets of white daisies

clip_image016Pink Gems on the Kamfer Dam

clip_image018More Pink Gems. Kamfer Dam wetlands

Kimberley – The Big Hole. Rumour has it that the best cricketers have not been able to pitch a cricket ball from the observation platform into the water below – hope this puts the scale into perspective.


clip_image022More gorgeous wild flowers

clip_image024Matjiesfontein station and village


clip_image029The Winelands of the Cape


clip_image033Back Home in Clifton


8 thoughts on “Rovos Rail – Pretoria to the Cape

  1. Judex

    Very beautiful and very interesting, Kate !Also I appreciate very much the way you wrote your blog. I would say that when I read it, I heard you talk. This is talent and style in writing.Keep enriching us.Hugs,Judex. xxxxxx

  2. Kenneth

    I hear the clatter clatt clatt of the great old iron horse as it chuff chuff chuff’s it’s meandering way across the gold rich savannas.Screaming whistles and black smoke belching from it’s chimney.I hear the whoosh whoosh whooshing of the flaming pink Flamingos, as they take fright and take to the air in their thousands.Disturbed by the passing of the train.I hear the chink chink chinking of wine glasses from your table. The unmistakable aroma of roasting Karroo lamb emanating from the kitchen coach, along with the curious sound of someone singing in Arabic.I see you as you lift your fork laden with lamb to your mouth, you part your lips exposing a hungry throat. You smile as the tenderest of tender lamb melts in your mouth. "Oh yes"…and the putrescence from the squalor insults my senses.I like to ride on the trans cyberian.Warm hugs to you Kate.Kenny x

  3. LAIRD

    What more can I add? A fascinating tale which made me wonder what our youngest grandchildren will see if they are able to make such a journey in half a century? What will the soccer hungry mobs think of the "poverty, squatters, and dumped plastic waste " next year? Queen Victoria had the coaches window blinds down when her special train passed the dark satanic mills of the industrial North when on her way tto Balmoral !!!!!

  4. Judex

    Kenneth, thank you very much to point out the feelings we experience when reading this blog from Kate. Yes, you are right : We can hear the sounds, smell the environment, feel the rails and roads etc. Very, very picturesque. Kate offered us the audio and the video in her blog !Cheers.

  5. Musicman

    Loved the photos which accompagny this fascinating blog. Haven’t been to South Africa since the early 90s, changed a lot I think since then.

  6. Horst

    Hi Kate, Looks like you had a wonderfull trip on the beautifull old train. Enjoyed your photos of the trip. Take care, and talk with you later.

  7. Ye Olde

    Hi Kate,Wow. thats a trip & three quarters… expertly written, and I have to say excellently described by Kenny, complete with some fantastic photos to boot.What a brilliant way to see your country.. and talking of seeing your country, are you ready for the influx of drunken football supporters next year?Interesting to hear about your Padi qualification.. what level are you Kate?We are Rescue Divers ( which brings along a kind of responsibility 😦 ) and sort of changes the way you look at diving.We have just done our Deep Diver speciality which now qualifies us to go to 40m ( scary stuff! ) ,and both have EAN as well.I have done the equipment specialtilty, so am now only 2 off a Master Scuba Diver… big title , but it just means that you’ve done the Rescue Diver & 5 specialities.:-)Our next move is Divemaster… to be honest I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet / ever, thoguh the guys at our local dive centre are brilliant.We have just come back from a week on a boat on the Red Sea,just us & 18 other people ( plus creaw & guides), whixh was brilliant & is worth a blog on its own ( if I ever get time 😦 )… that’s without the stuff in July.. oh lucky us, but that’s it now for another year….There is talk about a trip to S.Africa in 2011 for some shark diving :-O but I’m not sure when exactly that is ( or to be honest if I want to be diving with these magnificent many sharp toothed creatures of the deep- may I will change my mind :-)) Hope everything is ok with you and yours, take care and see you soon!love n hugs xxx


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