Its about the JOurneY ... not the destination.
Cape Town has always felt like home, even though I have never actually lived there. I have, however, spent many years dreaming about it.
Talking about dreams, in 2015 as a story teller and actress I had the opportunity to play one of the lead characters (an absolute dream role) in a film remake of an iconic South African television series from the 80’s called Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling. Trains form an integral part of the story and we had the privilege of doing a beautiful photo shoot for the campaign at the Rovos Rail Train Station in Pretoria. From the moment I set foot in their magnificent station I started dreaming - OUT LOUD - that someday I would board this beautiful train and go on the most wondrous journey of my own.
Lo and behold, a few years later (still working hard and dreaming even harder) we arrived at the Rovos Rail Train Station in Pretoria to make memories with our recently launched travel & lifestyle brand The Romantic Collective. The heart and essence of the The Romantic Collective is all about the memories you make whilst wearing the brand. I have insatiable wanderlust and my dream was to create a platform that inspires travel and making memories, and to showcase beautiful ways of doing that.
Our entire experience was as magical as I had dreamt it would be. We stepped back in time, to a time when time was honoured and appreciated above all else.
Mr. Rohan Voss - a true visionary who dreamt of having a private refurbished train on which to take his family on a tour of South Africa, which then soon evolved into one of the most luxurious trains in the world - took the time (as he does on every single departure) to share his lifelong dream and work with us. He took us on a personalized tour of the railway, passionately sharing how every detail and wood carving and construction lovingly gets made right there. This year marks their 30th year of beyond beautiful journeys - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROVOS RAIL - and how wonderful that so many of the staff that joined the company from day one, still to this day, is part of the Rovos family.
Here they are 30 years on, with nearly six train sets, 11 journeys on offer and 440 staff members who work tirelessly to create memorable experiences for their guests.
As soon as we stepped on board we were transported back to a time where taking a journey across the country was a big event and time spent watching rolling hills and ever changing landscapes was the most beautiful film of all. Without being plugged into your mobile device scrolling down social media and ‘being in someone else’s life’, one could just be - be in your own exquisite moment.
With an average speed of just 45km/hour, there’s no rush to get to your destination. Looking back, some of our most beautiful South African memories were created in those moments where we could just BE - sitting the observation car, finally having some time to read and feel the pages of a book under our eager fingers and during long conversations, over everything and nothing, sipping delicious tomato cocktails and G&T’s as the scenery rolled by like beautiful scenes from a film.
The only thing that could possibly pull us away from the absolute bliss of just being was the chime that sounded breakfast, lunch and dinner ... every meal was a four course dream, showcased within polished hardwoods, royal rugs, velvet details and tables decorated with shimmering crystal. Our glasses were constantly filled, as was our awe at the beautiful elaborate food deliciously prepared in such a tiny rocking food car, every course presented was literally a feast for the senses.
Our beautiful cabin was a masterpiece of detailed luxury that enveloped us. The queen bed, the warmth of the wood panels, the adjoining shower room and toilet, the cleverly thought out spaces cupboards and hooks to stow your luggage. It soon became a haven for us, lying on the bed with the windows and shutters pulled down as sun rays flooded the room and a cool breeze accompanied the rocking of the train and the sound of the train on the tracks became one with our daydreaming.
Even to me, whilst writing this, it all seems too good to be true right? Wrong!
I mean the Rovos Rail has been voted as one of the seven most luxurious trains in the world.
Never in my life have I ever been treated to this extent!! The luxury and the love can literally be felt and seen in every detail and in every warm smile from all the staff on board. And let me pause there for a moment, THE STAFF deserve a standing ovation!! Their passion and genuine kindness shines through right from the more formal handshake in the beginning to the warm hugs at the end whilst closing the door to our uber - no jokes - the entire team got off to greet the passengers in Cape Town, help with our luggage and as a team they literally waited until the very last car (which was us) left.
Even Mr. Voss (Yes he does fly to Cape Town to be there to receive his guests that he greeted with a farewell in Pretoria) was there at the end to inquire as to how our journey was! Remarkable and commendable and STANDING OVATIONABLE!!
But before I do what we all have become accustomed to doing - pressing fast forward and rushing toward the end - lets go back to time taking its time as the train leisurely took us on our journey ...
This beautiful experience gave us the opportunity to become tourists in our own country. Stopping in Kimberley to visit the famous diamond mining town and “big hole” on to a magical little town called Maitjiesfontein before heading down to Cape Town. We truly do have a BEAUTIFUL country.
As we enjoyed our final cup of afternoon tea and scones in the observation car, I smiled as I got the opportunity to see magnificent Table Mountain as if again for the first time through our new found friends and international guests eyes as they gasped and pointed their cameras, yes I admit I also got inspired to try and capture her in some way on a picture even though it could never compare to what you see when just looking at her.
If there was one specific thing that this journey boldly highlighted again, it was that Life truly is a journey, not a destination, because if you miss those beautiful moments in between destinations and goals your life will literally speed train past you!! Those little in between real moments are the magical memories and we had needed an extra suitcase for all the memories we had made on our Rovos Rail Journey.
But, I forgot to mention earlier that part of the dreaming really hard, was also working very hard towards that dream to one day actually live in Cape Town. The timing had worked out perfectly that the moving company truck had left - with our entire life in it - at the same time as we boarded the train and suddenly as Table Mountain welcomed us into the mother city, I was overwhelmed by the amazing thought that I was home ... I was finally for the first time in my life literally and truly HOME - the Rovos Rail had brought me here, and this will forever be one of my most treasured memories!
***Beautiful pictures by amazing photographer Schantel Merwe.