Tuesday, 12 October 2010

To the coast

So that night we got the sleeper from Nairobi to Mombassa. My friend had warned me that the last few times she took it it had taken a lot longer than the 14 hours that it should. Getting in to the train station was quite stressful as they tried to keep out some people and let others in - through a small gate. This sleeper had a buffet car where we unwisely opted for the second sitting which was a lot later than its adverised time. At some point during the meal the train stopped. Going to sleep it was still stationary. I was woken at about 1am by a german guy being really loud 2 cabins along. I asked him politely to be quieter which he ignored. Cate had a go a bit firmer which I could hear him ignoring. I kind of lost it at this point & got quite angry, as I was so tired still being a bit ill and needing to sleep. I even... pointed at him as I was talking, which he really didn't like and swore at me quite a lot, but he did quiten down ofter this.

We awoke to a still stationary train and were able to get off and look around. We were in the middle of nowhere - who'd have guessed it - except there were still a fair number of kids who were enjoying the train being there. It's quite easy to look down on the africans for this kind of thing, but as they have only been able to afford one track from Nairobi to the coast, with occasional passing places, it only takes one to break down and the line is blocked. In this case it wasn't our train that had broken down (as I had assumed), but a small cargo train. It had taken all night for another train to get there to take it away. Getting off the train seemed to get things moving as someone was shouting for us to get back on! So we rushed back on and had our breakfast in the buffet. At one point the german guy came and apologised which I thought was quite decent of him and I accepted it and we kind of became friends and greeted each other like long-lost brothers, Cate said, when we saw each other later on in Mombassa.

So we had an unexpected day journey, most of which being thwough a massive game reserve. Some of the guys we met saw elephants in the distance. We arrived in Mombassa about 1 day and 1 hour after we'd left which was our longest train journey yet. We found a really sweet hotel with a roof courtyard & an amazing curry house. The only sad bit was when our waiter asked us if we knew how he could get child sponsorship for his child. He was an older guy and didn't look at all tricksy and also wasn't asking us for money. It was a nice restaurant & we had assumed that a waiter there would earn enough to look after his kids.

Mombassa's old town was really beatiful and we found the scene of boys playing football in front of Fort Jesus (not two words that I like to see together!) that Cate had seen in her Cities book. We met a sweet old man selling crafts who'd lost most of his voice. We explored the old city a bit and ending up eating chapattis and beans in a little room / restaurant for something like 40p which reminded us how most people there live.

The next day we had quite a long journey ahead as we took a taxi to the small (& free!) ferry accross from the peninsula and then waited about an hour for a minibus matatu to fill up to take us to the border town of Lunga Lunga to head into Tanzania. They were competing with the north africans for noise levels, with a home made wooden box subwoofer. Time for the earplugs again.

Quite a few squeezed in hours later and we were almost at the border. This is going to be a little embarassing, but we are committed to honesty on the blog, so here goes... we remembered that again we didn't have enough money for the visa!! We asked someone if there was an ATM at the border. Oh no. There was one an hour ago in the last big town if we'd have remembered before that. So once we'd got there I had to get in a matatu heading back north for an hour or so and go and get money and get another one back, which turned out to drop me only halfway back so I had to wait for yet another one. And did I mention these are fairly cosy?!

On the plus side we did then get across the border fairly easily, not without the help of two motorbikes which seemed the only way between the two customs spots - a few miles apart, one in Lunga Lunga, the other in Hora Hora, Tanzania. At some point I found some money hidden away which we had actually had all along (whether it was enough for visas and onward travel we don't quite know...) We had hoped to head to a bigger town in Tanznaia, but we had promised ourselves not to travel after dark and so hoped that this tiny place would look after us well for our first night in Tanzania.