Monday, June 9, 2014

Tazara Day 2/3

Throughout the night we could heard the familiar sounds associated with the movement on the train. But also, we felt the cold air blasting in through the open window. Along with the air came some sort of allergen and I awoke unable to breathe and my eyes almost swollen shut.It was another experience to add to those already had. One of the stops made during the night had people milling around, noisy and boisterous, and not all getting on the train. Were they vendors, those who stayed behind? How did they expect to sell anything if everyone on the train was asleep? Even the children were running around in excitement emitting the cries, squeals and delight that can only come from children.

Danny and Gary got their one and only trip to the dining room where they indulged themselves with hard fried eggs, very pink wiener/sausages, beans, and Mrs Bairds-like white bread - a full English Breakfast as I was to learn soon enough.

  Of course, with the subsequent room service, one was faced with the problem of too much rice, too much boney chicken and too much .....  There was one garbage can on the whole car and it was filled with whatever you can imagine, although often emptied at each stop, the idea of putting more into it was unnerving. So ... a natural garbage disposal was used, even by the porter 

As for the commode accommodations, water was not hooked up: There was a bucket of water in the bathroom that was filled at each stop. The water was forever sloshing on the floor which was a good thing actually as I am sure that the men had a hard time with the seesawing and bouncing as the train trundled down the track. The porter was fastidious as he could be, always washing up with bleach but still ... need I say more? The sink was the driest place in the room, also not being hooked up to water. I discovered real early that the clorox wipes that I hesitated in bringing came in real handy. As to the disposal? True early Americana, an open chute down to the tracks below and no bucket for paper so off it went as well. One can only hope that it disintegrates easily in the outside environment.

We continued our 2nd and then, 3rd day, as yesterday but with as much enthusiasm or even more.  and yes we leaned this much and often more ... 
We swayed and bumped and screeched our way through some beautiful scenery and a variety of ecosystems. We went from the coastal plains up into piney wooded mountains and then down into fertile valleys.  
Rural areas and towns of "zero lot line"closeness.  
 At different parts of the country we would pass factories or refineries or whatever. At one point we passed a pulp mil, you knew what it was by the smell emanating from the 6 stacks. The surrounding valley was enshrouded in pollution
 Prosperity yes, to the local people? Who knows! We became grimier and dirtier as the hours wore on: How could we not, for the windows were open and the wind blowing in that cooled us also brought dirt, dust and diesel grime.  Will our clothes ever get clean after this? I am sure that my white t-shirt will forever be grey from now on. Each and every stop afforded us an opportunity to view more of the workings of inner Africa, even if only from a superficial viewpoint.

Each stop afforded us the pleasure of the vendors; men, women, and children. They were all geared towards the locals however as nary a souvenir was seen excepting this man, who was trying to sell bows. Now how would we pack one of these in our one, lonely suitcase?   grapes, oranges, pineapples, bananas, as well as deep fried pastries and chicken. 
 If you bought from one, you would suddenly be inundated with everyone shoving their wares towards you trying to get ahead of the others. It could be quite overwhelming at times and with this in mind, we bought very little except fruit. A rail platform is also a good place to view life, but often times with sadness, for railways attract the less fortunate, "the good, the bad, and the ugly".    

To me, of course, the children were the most wondrous.  Even in circumstances that would knock the most hardened American to the floor, they were full of smiles and playful antics. A train passing by was cause for stopping what they were doing, run towards the train, waving furiously and shouting gleefully, and not just the kids did this. Children are the same anywhere you go!   People often walked beside or on the tracks, blissfully accepting the fact that the trains passed them by as they walked.  
 of course, they were also congregating points for the children. 
 Begging was the norm and not only for candy as is always for children but for the more basic of items: soap, toothbrushes, pens, paper, shillings and kwachas. At times a more adventuresome youth would hop onto the train with a hard luck story. If they were luck enough to make a sale they would return and return again, each time with a different but plausible story.
  we started with 2 bottles of water from this young vendor and he kept coming back with snacks and such, stating that he was trying to make money to go to school, for a school uniform, for supplies: You name it he needed (wanted?) it!

Photos were often times hard to get without being sneaky (one learns to take photos with a digital while looking like you are simply holding the camera :) )  This young lady was beautiful and in spite of her situation, had the elegance and poise of a young woman beyond her years.
The young girls would often shield the faces of the babies and toddlers that they were carrying on their backs or even turn away to protect them from the camera. 

The second night on the train found us going through the border crossing to Zambia at midnight - an easy situation for us as already had our visas.
Our friends had to get up out of bed and buy theirs. As we stopped to exit and then pass through no-man's land, all on the train, we were astounded to hear music blaring and people shouting. What in the world? At this time of night? Looking out we discovered a beauty/barber shop open for business. Do people actually partake of these services this late at night while waiting for a train?  The vendors were actually shouting and carrying on conversations with the people on the train.

We arrived after dark on the 3rd day in Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia  to another stark and empty Chinese-built terminus, A little better than 7 hours late, and we still faced an hours drive at least to our final destination. We should have arrived around 3pm but better late than never! A harrowing drive on the wrong side of the road with no delineating lines on the tarmac with oncoming trucks, buses and cars who blinked on their high beams as they came close! Phew! What a heart-stopping ride, and I was in the back, behind the driver. Imagine Danny's experience in the front seat watching all of this. Potholes the size of small ponds, the driver apologized saying that the road was in the process of  being repaired. The reason is that the road is the main thoroughfare from the Congo and is used by heavy loads constantly to and fro. We saw the loads passing within inches of the car and often times they had double trailers on the back.

We arrived in Ndola, a dreary site or so it seemed in the dark, with pollution from the various refineries and mining operations all mixed in with the dust of the unfinished road and barren landscape. This all seen from the car, as we hoped that we were only seeing a small part of the town. Tired and beat we arrived to a beautiful BandB/guesthouse and slept.