For our return to Tanzania, we decided to take the train. This first necessitated a 3 hour bus ride north of Lusaka, to the small town of Kapiri Mposhi, since there is no direct train from the capital of Zambia to the capital of Tanzania. Don’t ask me why.
As soon as we stepped off the bus in Kapiri Mposhi, we were literally mobbed by taxi drivers offering their service to take us to the train station, which is a kilometer or two from the bus station. Thankfully we had read the blogs about this particular trip, so we knew what to expect. The trick is to not let them carry any of your stuff. Otherwise you have no choice but to go with that taxi driver and hope he offers you a good price. So we staggered through the mob with our 1 suitcase, 2 backpacks, 2 boxes, and my purse, and managed to find a reasonable taxi to take us to the station.
The Tazara train station is a relic of the 70s, and probably hasn’t been touched since it was built. The entire project – stations and railway line – was completed in 1975, and was completely financed and executed by China. I love old buildings, so I wish I had been bolder with my camera. But sometimes one can get in trouble for taking photos of official buildings in Africa, so I didn’t pull my huge DSLR out. However, Steve did manage to get some photos with our point and shoot.
When we bought our tickets, we had to purchase a second class sleeper compartment because the first class compartments were already full. This meant paying for 6 beds instead of 4. I had tried to set my expectations relatively low about this train ride, but was still surprised by the cramped dimensions of our compartment. This feeling was compounded by our luggage, which was starting to feel excessive at this point.
Imagine our dismay, then, when four more people (well, five, if you count the child that one of them had) filed into our compartment over the course of the boarding time, holding tickets for our same compartment! We learned later that Tazara had reserved the entire first compartment in our car for some of their employees (upper-level staff, no doubt), who were riding for free (read: no tickets). There had obviously been a miscommunication somewhere, and we were looking at sharing a 6 x 4 space with 5 other people for the next 42 hours.
Thankfully, since we had proof of our purchase, the conductor affirmed that yes, indeed, we had paid for the full compartment, and that he would find a place for the other passengers. So after about 4 hours of sitting awkwardly across from our unexpected cabin-mates, we had the compartment to ourselves.
I’m glad it worked out, but not before creating a super uncomfortable situation for everyone.
Everyone except the passengers in compartment 1. They looked pretty comfortable.
(photos of the trip in the next post)