Chug-a-chug-a-choo choo!

March 23-27, 2012

We are finally taking the trip we have been looking forward to all year. Originally, we were going to go Indian Ocean to Atlantic Ocean via alternate transportation (trains, buses, taxis, etc). But, I had to be back in the States for so long, that we ended up cutting the trip short.  Basically, our year of wandering the continent is running out. We have way too much to do in no time.

We picked up another traveler. Emily is our friend. We met her through Jane and Kevin (yes the people from Here’s Your Sign – even though we do stupid stuff like that they still introduce us to new people!) She grew up in Birmingham, AL, went to Mississippi College, AND works in Alaska 5 months out of the year for Holland America. Oh and she has family in ATL and lived there for a while too!  Could we have more in common???? Needless to say. We like her.

Before the trip, Liam and a friend were chatting and decided that Liam should introduce us as his two wives for reaction only. Well, it was pretty funny. So, we went along with it. Insert Emily’s new nickname: Wife#2.

Back to the story at hand. We were scheduled to leave on the Friday train at 1350. I make a mad dash to Subway to buy a few sandwiches for the train ride while Liam finishes packing up. When I get back he is ready to go. We swing by Emily’s house and kidnap her. Then, off we go to the train station at 11am. Now did it occur to us to call and make sure the train was on time. Of course not. So, we show up and find out that the train isn’t leaving until March 24th at 2200. Well that would have been good to know. Basically, right at 34 hours late. Awesome.

Why didn't they just post this online? Then, we would have found it!

For those who can read Kiswahili.

Liam went to find the Station Master to find out the details and obtain some contact info so we could call tomorrow and make sure the train was leaving.  Turns out, the Station Master is a woman. And she prefers to be called Station Mistress. Insert your own inappropriate joke here. Liam sure did…but only after he giggled for a few minutes.

Once we returned home, we repacked our stuff a little better. I worked on schoolwork with a sense of urgency. I decided my textbooks were way too heavy and I didn’t want to lug them across Tanzania and Zambia I was able to dump two of them by finishing a bunch of homework!! Woo hoo. Went to bed. Spent most of Saturday lounging and resting. Around 2pm, we called the Station Mistress and she told us the train was scheduled to arrive around 6pm and would leave at 2200. At 8pm, went to pick up Emily. Smoker came over at 8:30pm and took us to the train station. We pulled in to the TAZARA train station to find out that the train wasn’t leaving until March 25th at 0300. Well, we aren’t going back home. Off to the first class lounge we go.

Needs a good scrub down...

If you want to call it a first class lounge. There were chairs, a few open windows for the breeze and a super loud TV that a few people had already turned down once. Then, there was the bathroom. First of all, I’m glad “first class” had it’s own bathroom based on what we walked into. Don’t close the door. It will touch your forehead or your cheek. Gross.  It also had an interesting odor. But, it worked to pee. There is NO WAY I would ever attempt #2 in there. This train thing is going to be interesting if this is the bathroom sans wheels.

Since we had nowhere to go for a few hours, we began to chat with fellow travelers. There were two Aussies, a couple from New Zealand a few other people. We spent the next 6 hours chatting it up with them. The Aussies, Prue & Liann, are traveling around Africa until they move to London in a few months! So, we are going to try to meet up with them in Europe! This is a perk of traveling around the world. You meet a ton of really cool people!

Emily took a nap on our bags. I’m still trying to figure out she slept with all those lights on, the amount of noise in the train station, and the heat. But, somehow she did and she woke up with an hour to spare before we got on the train. I warned her about the bathroom door before she meandered in there.

I still don't know how she slept.

About 0230, all of the Africans waiting in the first class lounge disappeared. Something was said over the loud speaker but we couldn’t understand it. Walked out into the main lobby and everyone was lining up.  Went back into the first class lounge and sat around for about 15 more minutes. Then, we saw people boarding the train and realized they just let first class people board. No one clued us in. Oh well. We walked into the main lobby into a world of chaos. Lines and people everywhere. We joined the back end of a line that was walking out to the train and the Station Mistress’s assistants held the other lines for the rest of the first class passengers.

And we are off. On another crazy African adventure. I mean really what sane people wake up and say “You know what today I’ll take a sketchy train through Africa.” And, we have been looking forward to this trip for months!!!!  So apparently, our sanity is questionable.

Find our car towards the back of the train. I would have thought first class was up front. Somehow manage to squeeze through the door with all of our bags. Between my gluteus maximus and the gigantic bag resting on it, it’s no surprise I got a tiny bit stuck trying to enter our cabin. So backed up (hear the Beep. Beep. Beep.), took the camera bag off of my front, took the bag off my back and tried again. One bag at a time. It worked. Emily and Liam followed suit and we were in. Our tiny little room for a few days. Now, hopefully we can get the window open and this thing starts moving quickly.

Imagine what 3rd class looks like....

The cabin consisted of 4 vinyl “beds/seats” each with it’s own prison sheet, pillow, and creepy shag blanket. Emily took one of the bottom bunks, I took the other, and Liam was above me. Every time he moved, I worried whether I was going to get squished from above. His bunk had a safety bar to keep him from falling to the floor. Emily’s and my bunk – not so much. There was a table in between Emily’s and my bed and a fan above the bed that didn’t work. There were also a couple of extra plugs. None of which worked. The fourth bunk was bag storage. Liam wanted to treat his “wives” extra special and bought the whole cabin!  Aren’t we special!!!

Opened the window. Sprayed for bugs. Off we went. The train was moving. The best part of this train is we get to go through two National Parks (Mikumi and Selous). Only problem is, it may still be the middle of the night when we pass through them. I really want to see a few animals.

Not my most flattering moment but my teeth were clean!!!

Went to sleep around 04:00. I woke up as soon as the sun decided to warm my face with her first few rays. I finally sat up and looked out of the window. We had to be in Mikumi or Selous. There should be animals everywhere. But, there wasn’t one in sight. Emily woke up about 30 minutes after I did and we brushed our teeth.

Shortly after, we began to see animals. Impala, wildebeest, cape buffalo, giraffes.  Emily decided she needed to run to the bathroom. Well, she walked away for a about two minutes and we passed two elephants. One of which decided he was mad at the train and began to charge it!!! I was hoping Emily heard it while she was in the bathroom but she said she did not! I was able to get a few shots for her. I wish she could have seen it!

Angry elephant...

Wildebeast...

Liam begins to stir and decides to join his wives down below! We each ate a ½ Subway sandwich for breakfast. Then, one the workers walked by and asked to take our breakfast order. Oh okay, we all ordered coffee or tea. I need to remember that African tea comes with lots of sugar and milk. It’s not bad, just not want I’m used to for tea.

Well, first meal is done. Our teeth or brushed. What are we going to do till lunch?  We all lay down and take a nap. I think Liam went exploring to see what all was on the train. He found the first class dining car. The showers and the “nice” toilet.  Apparently, we have everything we need.

Giraffe

Emily and I took about a 2-hour nap. Sleeping for a couple of hours was nice. The guy controlling the brakes on the train was not a gentle person. We went from full speed to 0 in a few seconds. Which meant you had to miraculously figure out a way to keep from flying across the cabin. Liam had a bar on his top-bunk. But, there was a good chance I was going to end up flying and landing on poor Emily.  Not only that, but every time the train stopped, you woke up. Sometimes you fell back asleep, and sometimes you did not.

Around 1:30pm, the waiter came back and took our order for lunch. We gave him the rest of the Subway sandwiches because they were starting to smell rank and figured that someone may want to eat them soon. (We were not willing to embrace a stomach bug off of a chicken tikka subway sandwich). Emily and I ordered kuku and rice, Liam kuku and chips. While the kuku’s had to be tiny while alive, they were absolutely delicious. Tanzanians can cook some kuku. It’s expensive. But, always delicious. (PS. Kuku is Kiswahili for chicken).

Our food! Yum.

After lunch, we walked around a little and read our books. We also took pictures periodically. I think there was another nap in there as well! Might as well sleep. Cause sleep is my friend and I didn’t really sleep last night!

Man, it was hot. Stinky boy hot. And, I’m talking about me here. I had sweat running into places I didn’t know could collect sweat. This was not the time of year to take the train. Not only was it muggy but it was just flat H. O. T. There is a reason I left Mississippi and it was heat like this. Now, I find myself in Africa wondering why I’m back in my own personal hell of heat AND humidity. The things you do for the one you love!  Plus, I wasn’t the only one suffering through the heat. We were all pretty miserable.

Liam decided he was going to take a shower on the train. I was thinking about staying stinky for the trip. Emily was sharing my idea and we both agreed to let Liam risk it first. He came back feeling all refreshed and happy. I can’t imagine that the train has a nice shower based on the condition of the bathroom. But, maybe I’ll take a chance tomorrow too. I think it’s going to depend on how nasty I’ll feel in the morning.  Prue & Liann stopped by and again we were all in stitches. They are hysterical!  I wish we could travel some more with them! It would be a lot of fun!

Ordered more kuku and rice for dinner. I guess I should explain. The other two options were a beef stew and ugali. I’m sure the stew was amazing but my tummy doesn’t always love beef so I had to pass. Ugali is a local dish that is made of maize. Kuku won out cause kuku is delicious.

Brush our teeth out the train window while one person served as spotter so we didn’t lose an arm or our head.  Snuggled into bed with a good book and back to “sleep” we went.

The train would randomly stop in the middle of the night for hours. I’m not really sure why. But, I would sleep really well for a bit, then wake up hot because we had stopped. Then, the train would jerk forward again and once it was going, we all slept well!

Woke up the next morning with the sun again. We had not gone nearly as far as I thought we would have by now. I’m sensing this is going to take a lot longer than we were expecting. Ate some breakfast out of our food bag, brushed the teeth and thought about a shower again. I’ve been in the same clothes for 30 something hours and I have a feeling they could probably stand up on their own. I think the train shower is going to win.

We ask about when we are expected to land in Kapiri Mposhi, the final stop. Yep, the train from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka Zambia actually ends 2 hours north of Lusaka (what happens when Mr. Chinaman builds it for you).  Found out it was supposed to be the following afternoon (Tuesday) around 1pm. Well, I guess that’s good news. We also caught on that the best time to go to the potty was while the train was stopped!  Duh. Sometimes, I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, when I should be.

How to obtain super strength thighs...

We had an uneventful afternoon. Stopped in Mbeya for a few hours. We walked around outside in turns. Someone had to stay in the cabin at all times to keep an eye on our stuff. Mbeya appeared to be pretty nice. It’s a beautiful part of the country. It will be fun to drive back through here in a few weeks.   I really like Western Tanzania.

Finally the train decides to leave and we eat a late lunch. Play a few games of go fish and black jack, read, and take another nap. As the dinner hour approached, I decided there was no way I could smell myself anymore and I had to shower before I ate.

Liam said it was actually nice and refreshing. Assuming there was no hot water heater, I asked how cold it was. He said it wasn’t bad and I should be okay. This is one of the few things I abhor. Cold water. It’s not comfortable in any fashion. Every time, I find myself in cold water I can’t catch my breath.

I head to the shower hoping for slightly chilly but tolerable. Walk into the bathroom and figure out how to place everything so it doesn’t get wet and I don’t touch any of the walls. The faucet for the shower was a tough one. Once I get it on, I do a test run of the water temperature. Uh. Oh. It’s FREEZING. Okay. Here goes cause I’m already in my birthday suit and sick of being stinky.  A splash here. A gasp there. A few minutes later and I am all clean.

The spicket is the shower.

Now, it’s Emily’s turn. I stood outside the door while she showered because someone tried to open it while I was dancing in the freezing water! But, she walked out in one piece and we were clean.

Dinner was delicious and then Liam disappeared to the land of the ice cold shower. He returned and bedtime began. We all read for a while. I had a hard time falling asleep and ended up reading until about midnight. About 2am, some ***BLEEP*** banged on our cabin door and frantically tried to open it. He was 100% toasted. Well, since I had just fallen asleep and was quite tired, little Mister drunkey-drunk poked the bear. Ask anyone in my family how it works out for someone who pokes the bear. It’s not pretty. Problem was, Liam wouldn’t let me out of the cabin to go put this ***BLEEP*** into his place. I was HOT. And then took it out on poor Liam because he wouldn’t let me go yell at this guy and he was not going to yell at the guy!!!! Probably a good thing in hindsight. When awoken suddenly, I’m not passive aggressive at all. Hehehehe.

Finally, fall back to sleep after my heart slows back to a normal rhythm (without counting it was probably up to 140 bpm). Wake up as the sun peeps out in between big white puffy clouds. I lay there and read and eventually when the train stops, I run to the bathroom and hope I finish before the train starts rolling again!

Our train

Relax for a while again. Find out the train should be in Kapiri Mposhi around 2pm. YAY!! I’m so sick of the train. In fact, I pretty much think I’m going to break up with the train. But, probably not forever. Around noon stop at a train station for a while. We are only two stops away from the final stop. And we sit. But, the scenery was amazing. It looked a little fake. But, Zambia’s like that. It’s all blue skies, big puffy clouds, and green rolling hills. Yep. Postcard fake!

Zambia. In every direction.

Finally, make it Kapiri Mposhi around 4pm. I think Emily and I were about to get out and push the train a little faster. Not that it would have done much good, but we would have done it willingly to arrive faster.

Liam jumps off the train and we push our bags through the window because it’s easier than trying to avoid being stuck in the skinny walkway again. Emily and I run out to meet Liam and then we gather all our bags and go hunting for either a taxi or a bus to take us to Lusaka. We walk out of the train station into a chaotic onslaught of people arguing over who would give us the best deal. In this process, I almost was backed over by a car (which I smacked the trunk of the car really hard and hope I left a dent. He stopped and didn’t back over me).  Then, some guy pushed a luggage cart into my left arm and left me with a nasty little bruise. Somehow the other two made it out without a scratch. See. I’m a klutz.

Liam decides the bus is the best deal and it is 40,000 kwacha per person (about $7). We were told the bus would take 2 hours. We get on the bus, with our bags in our laps. (I really need to learn to pack lighter). We sat on the bus for about 20 minutes. Once the bus was mostly full, we were finally off.  Here’s a short video of the ride: http://youtu.be/aXq8P3xeNOQ.

We stopped at two gas stations so people could buy snacks. Why we stopped at two, I’m still confused. Everyone was selling the same stuff. In fact, I think a few people followed us to the second bus station.

5 hours later. We arrive in Lusaka. Not thrilled with the typical African way of telling us what we wanted to hear rather than the truth. Grrr. Get off the bus and find a taxi. Head to the hotel, check in, grab some dinner, shower the train grime off of us, and fall fast asleep.

It's Uncle Fester...

Hi!

Emily's was the best!

Categories: Trip 5 | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Chug-a-chug-a-choo choo!

  1. Jane

    LOVE to hear of your travels…and the pics and NOW a video!!!! GREAT!!! Can’t wait to be there with you..Love Mom

  2. Hattie, Jeremy, and JJ Schmidlkofer

    I love your blog!

    Hope to see you this summer.

    Love Always,

    Hattie, Jeremy & JJ

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