Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tazara Train

Tazara Train to Zambia, 24 August 2010

We boarded the Tazara train to Zambia at 15:30 and departed the train station at exactly 15:50 as scheduled. We bought all the bunks in a four berth first class cabin on the train for comfort and to minimize the chances we would get stuck with bad company. When we had told others of our grand plan to ride the rails to Livingston most laughed or told us we were crazy. Some told us to look out for robbers or thieves and the one person who had taken the train years ago told us about how one of the bunks in his cabin had been used for "professional purposes."

We were surrounded by muzungos in our first class car, except for the one cabin next to who us which must have housed VIPs because police officers kept stopping in to say hi and talk in Swahili and they got fed before everyone else. Two cars up was the lounge car with a bar stocked with plenty of beer, sodas, and water. Beyond that was the second class cars with six berths per room, and in front of that the cattle cars with open seating and regular seats like on a plane. I think there were only three first class cars on the 20 car train with the majority of cars carrying economy passengers.

The scenery for the ride was amazing with distant mountains and little villages everywhere. Since we were on the express train we didn't stop as much, but did stop occasionally and were instantly swarmed by locals selling bananas, plantains, fruits, and fried chicken. Four hours into our trip we stopped for 15 minutes to allow a huge group of tourists dismount with their expedition size backpacks and join a safari group heading into a game park. Their empty cabins were immediately occupied by German backpackers with their equally large backpacks.

Dinner was served in our cabin at 9pm I had some chewy grisly meat with rice while brad ate the fried chicken and rice. The meal wasn't half bad and only cost us 7,400 shillings. The steward cleaned the plates by holding them out the window and allowing the wind to clean the plates.

I was surprised to see the number of fires burning in the countryside and even though we seer miles from any towns smoke was still thick in the air. The bright orange and red flames stood out in the pale moonlight. Luckily we had a full moon so we could still see some of the landscape as we traveled in the dark night.

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