Friday, March 7, 2008

Riding the Tazara Rails

When planning our trip through Africa, we had always kept a little gap in the 'how are we going to get from Zambia to Tanzania' column. The information online is scant at best with a combination of horror stories about busses, chicken buses and trains. The basic gist of our earlier research into the (in)ability to get from Lusaka to Dar Es Salaam was the each mode of transport would breakdown or crash. Every time.

So, we figured we would wait to ask the locals for advice. Luckily, the word on the street was that the train, while slow, was actually pretty nice. So we booked passage on the Taraza 'express' line for a two-day ride on the rails. But, when we got to the train station, we were informed that Kristi and I could not stay in the same 4-person cabin. Seems the rule is that a brother and sister are the only mixed gender pair allowed to cohabitate. No aunts and nephew, No grandfather and granddaughter, No husband and wife. So we slept in seperate rooms with people not related to us. Thanks Zambia for keeping everything tidy.

Once we got on the train and settled in, we discovered what would be our home for the bulk of the 46 hour journey, the lounge car. The lounge car was appointed with red couches that would have looked at home in any college housing, fake wood paneling and the nicest bartender-waiter combo-team ever. After settling into the coed lounge car, we met up with some fellow travelers, Libby and Matt, who had recently been asked by the Peace Corps to kindly leave Kenya for their own safety. Glad we changed our tickets out of Nairobi. We spent the next day and a half playing cards, looking at the beautiful scenery and chatting about our travels. Seemed a lot better than a 50 hour bus ride with no A/C and our luggage on our laps, that's for sure.

During our research prior to the trip about the train, the chief advantage was that the rail line passed through one of the better game reserves in Africa. And so, on the day that we pulled into Dar, we got our free 2 hour safari. Watching eland, ibyx, antelope, aardwolf, water buffalo, warthogs, baboons and, Samango monkeys, without ever getting up off of the couch was pretty darn amazing.

-d

2 comments:

Lee said...
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Lee said...

So jealous! Paul Theroux talked about watching animals on that train in Dark Star Safari - which I highly recommend you read but after you have left the continent! But tell me...aren't warthogs endearing? There's nothing remotely cute about them, but yet I find them adorable and hilarious.