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.
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.