From Cape Town to Dar in rail luxury

Friday August 11 2017

The Rovos Rail observation coach. PHOTO |

The Rovos Rail observation coach. PHOTO | COURTESY | ROVOS RAIL 

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Rovos Rail’s tourist vintage train has rekindled the dream of Cecil Rhodes of making Africa one country through linking the south to the northern tip of the continent.

The vintage steam train, known as Pride of Africa, travels from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam and back in its twice-a year 15-day journeys. The round trip costs from $12,450-$21,550.

The first trip was in July 1993.

Last month, the train brought 65 tourists who arrived in the Tanzanian commercial capital.

The luxury train covers about 6,500 kilometres, snaking through various tourist attraction sites like the Kruger National Park and the historic village of Matjiesfontein, the diamond town of Kimberley and the capital city of Pretoria for short tours followed by two nights in the Madikwe Game Reservein South Africa, through Botswana to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, over the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, and ends up at the Tazara station in Dar es Salaam.

The train uses the Tanzania and Zambia Railway line (Tazara) descending into the Great Rift Valley, negotiating the tunnels, switchbacks, and viaducts of the spectacular escarpment southern highlands of Tanzania, including the picturesque Kipengere and Livingstone ranges, Kitulo National Park, Mlimba escarpment, Selous Game Reserve, and other sites.

The old Edwardian Rovos Rail train has 21 wooden coaches with a capacity of 72 passengers. The wooden coaches are between 70 and 100 years old. The train dates back to the late 1890s, but has been modified into a five-star hotel with all the requirements for first-class tourist facilities.

The wooden coaches are supported with steel bars, said Rovos Rail’s on-board historian Nicholas Schofield.

Inside the dining coach on Rovos Rail. PHOTO |

Inside the dining coach on Rovos Rail. PHOTO | COURTESY | ROVOS RAIL

“In Zimbabwe our train passengers experience, through this spectacular trip, the magnificent Victoria Falls as it crosses the falls over a bridge to the heart of Zimbabwe’s historical sites,” Schofield said.

Known as the Miracle railway, the Tazara is among the longest and most modern railroads in Africa. The 1,067mm gauge railway covers a distance of 1,860 kilometres from Dar es Salaam to Zambia’s copper belt city of Kapiri-Mposhi.

It crosses 23 tunnels through the Eastern Arc ranges. The longest tunnel covers 800 metres through rugged mountains. These dark tunnels make the trip more exciting.