Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Tazara train

We took the "express train" -- 46-hours from Kapiri Mposhi (near Lusaka, the capital of Zambia) to Dar es Salaam (the economic but not the political capital of Tanzania) -- even though the direct bus is 24 hours...ahem!

Everytime the train started in motion, a loud, booming noise accompanied a bone-rattling lurch forward that stung our eardrums and shook us body and soul (especially due to fear of train delays which we are told occur often). After the first time after which the fear of breakdown and delays dissapated, we couldn't help but giggle afterward, every time -- which was quite often, the train stopped at many stations at all hours, so getting sound sleep was out of the question.

Second class was nearly deserted -- we had a whole 6-bed compartment to our two selves! Our train porter was friendly and very occasionally stopped by to chat or clean (sweep or mop). Garbage bins do not exist on the train -- which I did not know until our friendly train guy took our two small bags of garbage and tossed them right out the window before I could protest.

We read a lot and (unsoundly) slept a lot and ate little -- the train food vendor network is not quite as decked out as it is in other countries. I made a good dent into Moby Dick which I am re-reading for the first time since high school. We did have some good food finds -- some fresh corn for dinner the second night and warm chapatis for breakfast this morning.

Toward the end of the ride (today, mid-morning), we saw giraffes and zebras and impalas and warthogs and wildebeeste! That was great fun, but mostly they were running away from the very loud train animal that was us.


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