This blog could never do justice to the unique experience of our train journey from Kapiri Mposhi, 3 hours north of Lusaka to Dar es Salaam, some 1800km north east in Tanzania.
The Kilimanjaro express train set off almost on time actually only 15 minutes late for its scheduled 42 hour trip with us nicely settled into our own private compartment for the duration. Sharki3 laughing at my excitement as I gazed, like a school boy out of the window into the African bush on my first overnight train ride.
As the countryside flew by us we were left unsuspecting of the excitement ahead. If you have ever seen Elvis Presley’s hips rock n roll or Shakira’s hips do likewise then you get the gist of how the train swayed from side to side in a rolling fashion.
Now the train driver of this powerful diesel locomotive was an experienced hand who loved to try his hand out at emergency stops just to see if he could get any passengers off their bunks or seats, the rest of the time he drove this express juggernaut at an mind blowing average speed of 45km/h and stopped at every possible station or other places he thought deserving.
But not everything was challenging, we tried our stomach sensitivity on some chicken and chips, at an affordable $1.5 and we’re still here to tell the tale. The views along the route was something you can not describe in mere words and the experience of being jossled about while squatting over the loo trying not to touch anything is something you can only hope to translate.
Then there is the fun of stopping in the middle of nowhere and suddenly the train being attacked by the local women and children, like bees to honey as they sold their fruit and drinks from by the side of the train tracks to the tiring passengers.
We were crossing the border and on the Zambian side a couple of men suddenly appeared in our compartment wanting to exchange Kwacha for Tanzanian Shillings…after a few minutes of negotiation we had said goodbye to our last Zambian Kwacha and now had hundreds of thousands of shilling notes, maybe $50 in total.
The border crossing was very seamless as the immigration officials actually come on board and issue the visas, well Sharki3 as usual gets in for free and as usual I pay for my colonial ancestors yet again, this time $50.
The beauty of the Zambian and Tanzanian countryside and the kids living by the railway who waved at this twice weekly locomotive trickling passed them at an awe inspiring carpet fading pace was well worth the experience.
The expedition courtesy of Tazarite Trains made our journey take an extra 14 hours and delivered us safely into Dar es Salaam just before midnight. No airtime, no hotel and no internet connection with only a vague memory of the name of a hotel. In luck Econo Lodge saved the day, for some much needed sleep and shower.
Amazing and unforgettable journey on so many levels.