Taking the train in Africa
I look out the window and see green plains, green trees, green mountains with the sky being blue and the blue being cut off by some clouds. The train breaks the silence of nature, kids wave alongside the traintracks, men and women are working at the farmlands. Banana trees as far as the eye can see. Some cut, some fully grown, many without bananas.
The train moves slowely and not without humping through the Tanzanian landscape. A gift by the Chinese. Everything is blueish with beige but still in good shape. The emergency hammers are taken away. Whether people took them or it’s taken by the employees to ensure safety I don’t know. Some windows do have a history with the hammers so I guess people did have different ideas on what can be counted as an emergency.
The train hosts a broadcasting room from which the music is played and the announcements are made. Announcements like the fact that there are six muzungu’s on board or not throwing any waste out of the windows. To which unfortunately no-one listened. He plays the music like he’s the only one listening. The toilets were fine but after a night and a day people apparently don’t know how to pee anymore which results in quite a nasty smell and a sticky ground. It’s actually quite hard to pee for a lady. The train humps up and down, forward and backward like a car being towed with a rope too small. So when peeing my knees have to do some extra work to be able continue peeing. Luckily I did my fair share of practising squats 😉
The train has no showers but some fountains instead. Without a door. I guess I can do without washing myself for 36 hours. I’ve done it before 😉 Some people do wash themselves, in the toilet. Which results in a flooded toilet. The restaurant and bar are fine though not really cosy. For two dollars you can have dinner which is either beef, chicken or t-bone with rise, chips or mpasha (local dish made out of mais). Lunch is the same as dinner and breakfast is coffee, egg, toast (which isn’t really toasted) and sausages. Good enough for two dollars I guess.
In the first class one compartment has 4 beds, in the second class 6 and the third class is filled with seats next to one another. No sleeping compartments there.
What happens in this train, stays in this train. Apparently. We are now not Yuri and Milene anymore but ‘first class’. Cause that’s way easier to remember, right? Yep, we booked a whole first class compartment, just for the two of us. That’s about two extra beds and enough space to make a mess. We sleep on the couch which is quite nice. Yuri loves it and slept nine hours straight. I didn’t but that was mostly because I got excited everytime we stopped at a trainstation of which I could see nothing due to the heat. So we got a nice table at the window and the a window which we can lock at night. At night we keep cool due to the van at the roof of our compartment and we’ve got our own little bedlights. Good enough for us.
The second class is something else. Six people are sleeping here. Three beds above each other so not much space to leave luggage and to relax during the day. Luckily there is a restaurant and a bar in the train. Other than that the second class smells of sleep, sweat and food combined. Of course I have no idea how our compartment smells but luckily we can open the window during day time.
We’ve got a guy. You know, a guy that does things for you, a guy that you should give a tip when arriving in Dar es Salaam. Our guy is Hubert and he is almost never around. He is the one with the key of our door and whenever we need him to open the door he is nowhere to be found. Hubert is that type of person that asks “you need help?” But walks away before he could hear the answer, especially when it’s a “yes”. He is a bit lazy too, he just gave us his keys to open our door ourselves so he could stay in the bar. He’s cool though, no special treatment for the muzungus. I like that.
We’ve done well so far. Immigration went almost smoothly. Mister health checker forgot to give my yellow book back and was sure it was my fault. Finally the visum lady found my passport in the hands of the immigration officer. Which was given to him by mister health checker, though he expected my apology. Instead I gave him a smile.
The Zambian hills made space for the Tanzanian mountains, the many greenish trees for empty farmland and bananatrees, the warm sun for nice rainseason showers. Even the employees in the train changed their white t-shirts into green polo’s. The food is the same either rice, chips or mposhi with t-bone, beef stew or chicken. Mosi beer changed to Safari beer and became 1 Dollar more expensive.
Children are dancing when the train passes by, men are resting under a tree chewing on some sugarcane and women walk with a special elegance to keep their heads steady so the things they carry on their heads won’t fall off. The bananatrees made space for empty African plains with small trees separated from each other. The sun is setting while the shades are getting longer.
So the villages we cross are almost all the same, though in Tanzania we see more stoned mud houses whereas in Zambia the houses were made of mud. Some of the houses even look like villa’s compared to others and with the view on the mountains I would even consider buying a house here. The roofs are all made of corrugated sheets
which isn’t really nice when the sun shines and blinds your eyes. There are even some sunenergy plates on top of the roofs.
At about sevenish the night takes over and dinner is being served. As chips takes one hour to prepare here we go for the T-bone with rice. Soon after stars shine at the big black nothing back to us. The moon is bright and I’m thinking of the days ahead of us; game drives in the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara and of course relaxing time at Mafia island. Wow, time flies…