|On the right tracks|
About an hour before departure people started gathering their bags and making their way to the train. Smartly dressed stewards were at every door, checking tickets and welcoming us aboard. There were a fair number of Westerners in first and second-class, but the majority were Africans. As we were waiting for departure we took pictures of the train and noticed a posh carriage at the front, beyond first class. Surely we had missed a trick? Could we not have chartered a carriage of our own? A steward told us it was the Prime Ministerís carriage but he was not yet on board. Well, we thought, at least we would run to schedule if we were carrying a VIP. (We learnt later that in fact it was a member of the TAZARA board.)
We shared our four berth cabin with a couple from Yorkshire who were getting out at Selous, about five hours away and, if we were on schedule, before bedtime. Once we were off I went to sit in the first class lounge and treated myself to a cold beer, spotting monkeys and giraffe as the African bush slipped past and the sun gracefully sunk below the horizon.
Back in our compartment our companions were delighted with the first class service. Apparently a steward had been in to ask them what they would like for supper. They had ordered fish and chips. An hour passed. They cleared a space on the table. Mrs Yorkshire said she was really looking forward to her meal. Mr Yorkshire, a bit more cautious suggested she should look forward to "a meal" as he was not at all confident that it would arrive before they had to get off. Of course it did, and they enjoyed it. When the Yorkshires left another couple got on. I think they were from Netherlands. They were certainly enthusiastic about the mountains they could see silhouetted in the night sky. They were only going to the next stop but we began to realise we were unlikely to get the compartment to ourselves. TAZARA were more efficient than we had given them credit for.
When the Dutchies left an African gentleman, who I think had been waiting in the corridor, joined us. He was travelling to Makambako where we were due to stop at 7am. We settled down to sleep not sure if the fourth berth was yet to be filled. Sure enough at 2am we were awakened, first the knocking on the door, then the steward unlocked the door and put the light on. A second African gentleman was shown in and given sheets and blankets. We slept well. The train was generally comfortable. Toilets: clean and flushed. Sinks had flowing water. Although, the restaurant car was slow and breakfast served in our compartment was cold.
|On the right tracks|