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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: one girl's quest to see the world

The longest (and most awesome) way to get to Mombasa

KENYA | Saturday, 19 December 2009 | Views [804]

Hello, dear readers!  I am writing from my hotel room in Mombasa, a lovely, air-conditioned closet of a room with the most wonderful, fulfilling, amazing shower on the planet.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Last I wrote, I was schvitzing in a sweltering cyber cafe in Nairobi, on my way to the train station for my much-anticipated overnight train ride (in 1st class!) to the Swahili coast.  After procuring a mediocre lunch (but with delicious coffee) I decided to find my way to the railway station early, just in case I had trouble finding it or (maybe) my train left early.  So I hopped in a cab with my 60lbs of luggage (between my two backpacks... I think I may have overpacked a bit)and arrived at the station around 3.  The lovely manager gave me my ticket and suggested I grab a drink from the kiosk on the platform while I wait for the train.  Now, having survived two red-eyes in a row at this point I determined it was a better use of my waiting time to plant my daypack on my lap with my big pack between my knees and take a quick nap.  

I awoke about two hours later when an English bloke (named Ian, I later found out) joined me at my table and asked if I too was on the train to Mombasa at 12.  I was a little concerned -- perhaps I was still sleepy? -- doesn't the train leave at 7?  Ah, yes, he smiled, it's running a bit late.  Five hours late.  My bed for the night was running 5 hours late.  Excellent.  

More backpackers began arriving and within minutes a Swiss couple named Liesl and Patrick joined me and Ian and we grabbed a round of Kenyan beers, Tuskers.  I found a deck of cards in a random backpack pocket and we entertained ourselves until midnight.  And then midnight came.  And went.  And still no train.  Finally at 12:30 Ian went to talk with the station managers and they insisted the train was on its way.  Why don't we grab dinner in the dinner car they pulled up for us (dinner was included in our tickets).  So we climbed in and, aided by mosquito lights, inhaled a bland mixture of stewed vegetables, some meat-like substance, and what I think was supposed to be rice.  Let's just say it was sustenance if not a gourmet treat...

Finally, just after 2am, the train arrived and we boarded, where I was pleasantly surprised to have my own compartment (1st class tickets generally are two to a room).  It was no larger than my walk-in closet in Boston, but the bed/couch was soft and a vast improvement over sleeping on airplanes.  Plus it came with a pillow and sink. It also came with a communal "toilet", though it was little more than a hole in the floor.  Give that a try sometime when the cabin is jolting about at 50mph.  Yeah, not all that easy.  Also, there was no toilet paper.  (Note to self: find toilet paper for backpack.)  

About an hour later we set off for the coast, just 8 hours delayed.  I curled up on my bed, slapped on my eye mask, and slept until 2pm today.  Yay for a decent night's sleep; boo for losing any semblance of time-adjustment.  I'm going to force myself to go to bed as soon as I finish blogging here (it's a bit after 11pm).  

So we made it to Mombasa around 6pm today.  Ian is staying a hotel down the street and we met up for dinner at this amazing Indian restaurant a couple hours ago.  He's a biology professor from about an hour outside of London and has been in Kenya for a few months.  Liesl and Patrick are in a hostel just outside of town and may meet up with us tomorrow to tour Fort Jesus and the old town.  They are on a 6-week sabbatical from their jobs to travel around Kenya and Tanzania. All in all, a great group of travel friends.  

And finally, at 7pm here (11am back in Boston) I got my first shower of this trip.  And it was amazing.  I would have paid so much for that shower.  And they just gave it to me with the room.  Amazing. 

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend.  Check out some new pictures from Kenya!

Tags: indian food, mombasa, nairobi, stinky, trains, travel friends

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