The Rift Valley Railways

When it comes  to traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa one has options. There are comfortable luxury buses, expensive of course. There are less comfortable, less expensive buses which traverse the same distance as the luxury ones and the good news is that they take the same time.

You could fly of course. Saves time. Let’s not discuss the economics of that.  Then there is the Rift Valley Railways. It takes twice as much time as the buses,twice as expensive and twice as fun!

I had barely been in the African continent for a day when I boarded the train at Nairobi. I was so excited that it drove me to the point of confusion.  Now,  I have traveled extensively by train in India and so there was no rhyme or reason to my excitement.

I had booked into a second class compartment and was  fortunate to find that Roda from Mombasa would be the only other occupant of my 4 sleeper room.

It was dark when the train pulled out of the Nairobi station and it as it chugged its way through the country it got darker and darker. I looked out of the window into the night. The air smelled crisp. Thanks to my imagination ( being  the hyper one that it is), I could see the occasional acacia tree that is characteristic of African landscape. Through the darkness I could see the brown of the dry parched land. This is Africa I told myself and boy! was I glad to be here.

At a respectable hour most people had retired into their rooms and lights had been dimmed. I still stood by the window gazing in to Africa beyond the darkness. The only light I could see was the red of the American’s burning cigarette butt at a window in a compartment ahead of mine.

Falling  asleep was interesting. For starters the train was on vibration mode. You can’t wash your face without splashing water all over your self. (You would be lucky if a little water landed on your face). A close second was the thunderous lullaby of the train. At one point I fell asleep only to be awakened by the jerk of the train braking.

I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see if we had stopped for a passing  elephant or maybe even a lion. This is Africa , animals have the right of way, correct? I strained my neck out in to the darkness trying to will an elephant or a lion or at least a deer to pass by.

The patrolling security guard in my compartment rather amused at my antics demanded what I was up to. I did not appreciate his sardonic grin when he told me that we had stopped for passengers to de -train and there were no animals ‘railway crossing‘ at this time of the time. ‘Sleep time‘, he said.

With that I continued my sleep time. While I slept, I dreamed of the occasional acacia tree in the dry parched land; of elephants moving in herds and of lions lying in wait for deers. This is Africa and boy! was I glad to be here.

So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning and looked out of the window to find trees with green leaves all around and around those trees with green leaves goats were grazing on the green grass that grew in abundance.

O Lord Almighty! While I was sleeping someone re painted the African landscape!


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