Updated: Aug 31
Embarking on a breathtaking rail adventure from Pretoria to Cape Town aboard the illustrious Rovos Rail is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience that blends opulence, history, and scenery. This luxurious train journey takes you on a captivating passage, providing a glimpse of the country's rich history, exceptional hospitality, people, and its natural beauty. Join me as I share the highlights and memories of this adventure and why I include this experience as a safe sober holiday experience, for those in recovery, including myself (now 3 years, 2 months sober).
I write as a believer that we know our boundaries better than anyone else. Unless the train is solely chartered for recovering addicts, you will be exposed to alcohol. You should avoid trying 1 of our many sober holiday recommendations if you are at risk of relapse.
1. The Grand Departure:
The journey commenced at Pretoria's Capital Park Station, where Rovos Rail's vintage steam locomotive and immaculately restored carriages await. I remember wandering off the beaten path and discovering a variety of engines, but more importantly, I enjoy talking with locals wherever I go. We were particularly impressed by the CEO, who came to give an interesting speech and was clearly respected by his team.
Complimentary luggage handling & welcome drinks. Most guests opting for soft drinks, myself, at the time; wine. Obviously.
2. Lavish Accommodation:
Rovos Rail's carriages exude charm and elegance. Traditionally appointed suites are of a bygone era, complete with super polished woodwork, ensuite bathroom, quality linen, and impeccable attention to detail. The comfort of our twin suite ensured a restful night's sleep.
We didn't choose this trip for the scenery, but rather for the unique experience of a holiday by train. However, the train does traverse a diverse range of landscapes, including the sprawling grasslands of the Highveld, the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, and the Great Karoo. You are treated to panoramic views through large windows. That said, we were warned to avoid being next to windows during certain parts of the trip, so as to avoid being hurt from stones thrown by bored kids in the Great Karoo.
4. Dining in Style:
Meals aboard Rovos Rail are nothing short of extraordinary. Having been lucky enough to live in South Africa for a few Winters, extraordinary cuisine is everywhere. In my opinion, they [South Africans] offer the best food & beverages in the World.
The onboard chefs create a daily menu featuring a fusion of traditional African cuisine and Western classics. Fine wines and exquisite desserts complement the experience, and the atmosphere in the dining car is unique. Tables are set to seat 4, and we dined with the same Australian couple every meal. In hindsight, we should have moved tables each time we dined. During our experience, both myself and my life partner were consuming alcohol. Me as an active alcoholic with unlimited access to wines and spirits, enough to keep me content and well-behaved. Him, as always, sensibly.
I didn't drink the Champagne at breakfast. At this stage of my addiction, I could make it to late afternoon before any withdrawal side effects would kick in.
All passengers drank alcohol at safe levels. Staff were also clearly well-trained and well-equipped to deal with difficult situations, should they have arisen.
5. Off-Train Excursions:
At various stops along the route, guests can participate in off-train excursions that offer a deeper connection to South Africa's history and culture.
6. Bar Lounge and Observation Car:
Between meals and excursions, the bar lounge and observation car open, where passengers share stories & indulge in refreshments and sweet treats. As most of the route passes through the Great Karoo, the start and end of the journey were the most captivating. It's also a perfect space to spark conversation and make new friends in or out of sobriety.
7. A Glimpse into History:
Rovos Rail's commitment to preserving history is evident in every aspect of the journey. The antique steam locomotive, vintage carriages, and attentive staff dressed in traditional attire offered us the chance to experience nostalgia, incredible hospitality, and wonder.
8. Journey's End - Cape Town:
After a three-day | 2-night journey, Rovos Rail arrives in Cape Town, South Africa's vibrant coastal gem. The iconic Table Mountain welcomes guests, signaling the end of this extraordinary expedition.
We moved onto the Silo hotel, found on the less touristic side of the waterfront / waterkant area of Cape Town. Simply incredible, too.
Visit www.rovosrail.com for all itineraries. At the time of my trip, this was the shortest journey available, & priced accordingly. This route operates in both directions.
Smoking was only allowed in some guest suites or when the train stopped at stations or randomly in the Great Karoo!
I experienced a slight bit of imbalance for a few days.
Guests should take advice on the location, or position of your suite on the train.
We booked directly with Rovos Rail in South Africa 🇿🇦. If you are booking outside of S Africa and do not wish to pay in local currency (ZAR) consider which payment method will give you the best possible FX rates and protection.
A trip from Pretoria to Cape Town aboard Rovos Rail is definitely suitable for an indulgent dry holiday. It would also be suitable as a venue for sober events in South Africa. This extraordinary rail journey offers an opportunity to traverse the country's diverse terrain in the lap of opulence while forging meaningful connections with fellow travelers in recovery, or not. A trip on Rovos Rail promises to be a cherished memory etched in the heart of every recovering addict fortunate enough to embark on this remarkable adventure.
'I hope 1 day we will fill the whole train with recovering addicts & their family | friends for a sober holiday'
Dry holidays have invited Rovos Rail to showcase their product on our website and hopefully introduce us to a dedicated reservations specialist, ideally with experience of addiction. Rovos Rail also has the opportunity to offer exclusive deals for members of the dryholidays community.
Together, the dry holidays community has the potential to become the largest closed user group in the World 🌎. Creating incredible connections, all through our shared passion for a positive recovery, full of travel & adventure.
If you aren't already a member then sign up today. Membership will always be complimentary.
Thanks for reading. James
Written - 2 August 2023
3 years, 2 months sober