The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 62



In 2019, Rovos Rail was voted
by travellers as one of Condé Nast
Traveler’s Top 10 Trains in the World.
As the old saying goes: form is
temporary, class is permanent.
Now, after nearly 30 years, you
would think that running worldclass routes to Dar es Salaam,
Victoria Falls, Swakopmund,
Cape Town and Durban would be
success (and hard work) enough.
“Have you heard about the Lobito
trip?” Anthea asked me late last
year. “Lobito, Angola?” I replied
hesitantly. “Yes!” she said, smiling.
With the annual experience of
a lifetime that takes clients from
Cape Town to Dar es Salaam now
a bucket-list item for many world
travellers, Rohan has decided to
launch an epic 15-day journey
between Africa’s east and west
coast – from Dar es Salaam in
Tanzania, through northern
Zambia, southern DRC and
central Angola, to Lobito on
Angola’s Atlantic coast. The
trip includes excursions into
Zambia’s South Luangwa National
Park and the copper mines at
Tenke in the DRC, and walking
tours in towns along the way.
“How did he manage to pull
that off?” was my next question,
as I drew on my admittedly
sketchy knowledge of Angola’s
recent history of protracted civil
war. While east Africa has long
been a tourism hub, the west
coast is less visited. Angola’s
wilderness areas potentially
contain an embarrassment
of riches for game enthusiasts
and birders, but the war and its
horrendous legacy of landmines,
the focus on petro-industries and
the lack of tourist infrastructure
make it a risky prospect.
The answer, as ever with Rohan,
lies in his curiosity, shrewdness,
depthless knowledge of railways,
bloody-mindedness and courage.
Such an adventure does not take
shape easily. Rohan’s preparation
for the inaugural trip was a
combination of Joseph Conrad,
PHOTOGRAPHS HARTMUT WACHHOLZ,
COURTESY OF ROVOS RAIL
Not content with owning his
own trains, Rohan also set about
building his own station, on the
derelict Capital Park yard outside
Pretoria in 1997. It sounds a little
like Monopoly: Rohan wins the
game holding all the stations and
Eloff Street. Now Capital Park has
expanded to include sheds for the
locomotives, more than a thousand
trees and shrubs, and a small herd
of Nguni cattle. This last element
began with his Australian son-inlaw, who took Rohan’s stories of the
African tradition of lobola seriously
when he proposed to Bianca.
Since 2000, many luxury trains
have been established around the
world: among them, the Golden
Eagle in Russia, El Transcantábrico
Gran Lujo in Spain, Kyushu Seven
Stars in Japan, and the Maharajas’
Express in India. All offer a blend
of nostalgia for the heyday of rail
travel and modern comforts, and
all are based in some way on the
model that Rohan pursued with
relentless ambition in the 1990s.
60 | THE OLD DIOCESAN





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