Pennies do count when you’re travelling for this long, and although I’m not cheap, I can’t say I’m not “financially responsible”.. See how classy I made that sound!
Anyways, I do look up my options, I research flights, buses, taxis, public transportation, and any other means of local transportation if it means saving a few bucks. Why all the trouble?? Because if I play my cards right, my savings could easily mean an extra month’s travel, or a luxury getaway when I’m about to crack. I try to maintain a balance and keep in mind simple things, like if a taxi is going to cost me $5.00 more, but save me 2 hours and mountains of stress, it may just be worth it to just go with the Taxi. Unfortunately, what I can’t get through my thick skull, is that whether I can live on $5.00 for a week in the country or merely buy a liter of water, $5.00 is still just $5.00. The complexity hits me, when the local currency tells me my $5.00 = $10,000 in the country where I’ve arrived. Basic maths, I get it, it’s simply I know, but I get so caught up with all the local stuff and buying my meal for $1.00 equivalent, that when all of a sudden someone rips me off $2.00, I briefly act as though they stole thousands from me. Okay, maybe not that bad, I actually just walk away and say nothing, but inside oh, inside it’s complete chaos and in my mind I really give them shit!
Two whole days on a train in Africa seemed long, but after looking at flights all well over $500.00 dollars (I feel it’s necessary to convert this amount for all my employed readers, so $500.00 in traveler’s bucks is give or take about $100,000.00 dollars in the employment world). I figured, we could just pay for a whole train cabin, have some privacy and enjoy the view. I mean when I worked in the distance covered plus the 2 nights’ accommodation, buying the 4 tickets for the whole cabin seemed well worth it, less than half the price of flying, and how bad could a train be, I mean really?
The train is called the Tazara because it runs from Zambia to Tanzania and vice versa. Originally funded and supported by China, who have a long relationship with Zambia and it’s people. The rail was built between 1970 and 1975, and over 160 workers died (60 plus, of which were Chinese Nationals) building the now crucial link between the two countries.
If nothing else I knew I could experience firsthand the great work and efforts of all the workers who succeeded in building this railway, and at the very least I could get great scenic photos of small secluded areas deep within both countries. I got just that, and lets say absolutely nothing else. The only way I can look at it, is that at least the 2 day journey will be a check mark on my “list of adventures” and although I like to portray the most optimistic positive views of any situations, there’s also an honesty perspective that lies in any of my ramblings.
We boarded the not over-crowded train – Positive check, and made our way to our small but very acceptable cabin, another positive check! Our neighbors to the right was a lovely Chinese family, mom, son, grandma and grandpa – positive check, because families don’t party and the kid was old enough to behave, best yet, the kid played cards and was actually quite good!!! – as an added bonus the whole family was very friendly and made for some good company. Our neighbors to the left were two younger European (I’m assuming here) guys who talked loud, played music without headphones and looked like they’d happily smoke a fatty if I offered them one – big negative check on that one.
The first day went relatively well, people didn’t have bad body odor (yet), things around our cabin were quiet and we seemed to have no delays. Then 10pm hit, now I don’t know if all these people were passed out in the day time, but apparently when the sun went down the crazies came out to play. People walked – nope, scratch that, people stomped around through our coach, they yelled back and forth, and one guy event tried to come into our cabin at 2am. As a word of advice “men of the world”, don’t wake me up in the middle of the night trying to come inside a cabin I just happen to be occupying because it’s not me that’s going to get the scare of my life, just a nice warning cause this bitch be crazy!! The staff?? Well they were no better and couldn’t care less about the disturbance.
Not a big deal, we were on the train for 2 full days anyways so who cares if we slept or not, we had nothing to do but sit on our butts, enjoy the view and wait for our destination I though. The second day got more interesting, the various body odors could be smelt seeping through the vents as people walked by our cabin – ALL completely unnecessary might I add because the Tazara has showers on board!!!! The kitchen seemed to never be open and we only managed to get one meal for the day, although with the weight I’ve gained on this trip, it’s not like I don’t have enough reserves… The train ran out of water – yes that’s right a long-distance train ran out of water which meant that the body odors would only get worse, the toilets no longer flushed and the stench was growing stronger by the second. I’m not even going to describe the horror I witnessed as I walked passed the toilets. Clearly all there was left to do was to look out the window and imagine with all our might that we were out there. It was incredibly beautiful outside!
We headed off to sleep equipped with earplugs hoping to get just a few hours of sleep. We were woken up past 10pm because apparently, a police officer out of uniform with no badge decided to walk around the train demanding an inspection of each room in order to conduct a search for a missing item, a mystery item with no description or detail, just a thing…. As I was not in my country and with the “I don’t care” attitude of the staff ever more clear, I obliged to the “police / probably thief” request and then spent the following hour reshuffling by bags to ensure I hid and locked any items of value. It goes without saying that I did not sleep that night – this crazy bitch was on guard!
As the train remained idol for a little too long, I perched my head just enough in order to get my ear closer to the hallway vents as I heard people discussing the delay. The train had broken down, engineers were on their way and it should “apparently” be fixed soon… Our delay was 6 hours, not actually bad considering I’ve heard of some people being delayed for as long as 19 hours. We arrived in Dar es Salaam in one piece on our stench filled train. I imagined a green thick cloud hovering above the train as it pulled into the station. Hectic chaos slapped us in the face the instance we stepped off the train, but I welcomed it. I was just happy to breath in something other than feces and body odor. Welcome to Dar es Salaam I thought! With our amazing photos in hand, our “adventure” ticked off our imaginary list and a great story to last us a lifetime, I undoubtedly considered it a success.