A train journey through Africa

For: Javier Brandoli (text and photos)
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(At the end of the text is no information of other rail routes in Africa)

The streets are empty and dark when we left the hotel simple Vision 2000, the best lodging option in Cuamba, a city in northern Mozambique near the border with Malawi. Are 4 am. We walk among some puddles in the rain of the previous evening and arrived at the station. A small light bulb indicates the place where the box office. There are two people ahead of us and a few fruit vendors, water or nuts to start working when the roosters are not yet on the city. We bought our two second-class tickets (in practice, first) that cost 400 MZN (about eight euros) and headed to the train. Let Nampula.

The cars seem eternal. The lack of light makes you think it is an endless convoy. We spend shadows that roam the station. We went to our cabins have comfortable benches that convert into beds. We are exhausted and give a nod before they start the old machine iron, the end of the day we are just over eleven hours of travel. "I do not quit at five, this is not Switzerland "I tell Dani. I remember nothing else, I sleep due until you hear a whistle and I notice that the train begins to walk. I watch the clock, are the five o'clock. "Maybe, you are in Switzerland", I.

For more than seven euros have comfortable benches that convert into beds.

Half an hour later, behind the window, the world of shadows begins to take shape. Dawn to shape the landscape, filling it with colors. We passed small villages of humble wooden houses with small gardens. Since there is life, life in Africa and starts off with sunlight. In the background are the strange stone mountains in the region. They have a peculiar physiognomy, beautiful. The train makes its way through thick vegetation, valleys, rivers… Kids get close to the road to watch the train go. In many of these different populations is the only thing that will happen throughout the day. An appointment with an invariable routine: a huge iron machine that crosses their lives every day at the same time. A look, greetings to travelers and a return to expect a repeat of his "amazing" scene tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ...

Dawn to shape the landscape, filling it with colors. We passed small villages of humble wooden houses with small gardens

Suddenly, opens the door and three women enter. Well, enter two women and a girl sitting next to us. Are grandmother, mother and granddaughter. A whole generation family with which we began to talk. Grandma, and withdrawal, was a teacher. Talk to the cadence of the school. His voice is warm, sweet and is always ready to answer all our questions. Laughs easily, talk about politics, the situation of women in Mozambique, landscape, their customs. The daughter works at the bank Millennium, the financial group in the country. Are pregnant and have a look tender and penetrating both. Take care of your child, an earthquake that will not stop playing and laughing with all.

Outside, in the corridors of the train, windows become large balconies from which to look into a different world. The convoy then begins to slow its march. In the distance he sensed the first of more than 10 stops which has the path. As we approach the station begins a unique scene that is repeated in each of the stops. Hundreds of people come to the windows. Begins a frenzied market that sold fruit, cooked meat, tapioca, sugarcane, nuts, Plastic bags, refreshments, eggs ... It's chaos in which people do not know where to draw the eye. In the freight cars go up the goods, in the passenger see people hanging near windows and runs to secure the sale. It is pure Africa. You see kids wearing from live chickens coming through the windows after brisk business. All is movement, disorder, but the picture gets you. Then a powerful whistle sounds, see the smoke from coal-burning locomotive out of the chaos disappears and all that, is left behind until the next season.

Then a powerful whistle sounds, see the smoke from coal-burning locomotive out of the chaos disappears and all that, is left behind until the next season

We decided to go to the cafeteria of the train. An old rickety wagon with wooden windows and iron chairs and tables. Had coffee and I approach the area where the cars third. Benches are badly damaged and full of people and bags. An older man stands, greets me and welcomes me. A host that does not want the foreigner feel a strange. There is a noticeable difference between the second and third categories. That train is a perfect summary of Africa from 2010 he contemplado. I return to the cabin, our partners have made the bunks. I sleep a while. I wake to the sound of a new station. I open my eyes, under my bed and go back to the window to continue to enjoy a train ride through Africa, something you always wanted.

The last minutes of our journey we witness a race between the convoy and an ambulance is on the dirt track

In South Africa made short trips where I lived part of this chaos, spiced with some robberies there and foul odors. In Zambia lost the reservation I made to go to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on a train journey that lasts two days. Memory, while I'm hanging on a door that I opened the car, I wrote a story two years ago in Cape Town: "The Man on the Train". I was traveling on a train across the continent; two years later I discovered that many of those fantasies were real.

It's almost four p.m., we Nampula. The last minutes of our journey we witness a race between the convoy and an ambulance is on the dirt track. The guys at the loading heads removed, encourage and celebrate the victory of the convoy from the windows at the crossroads (destination virtual).

Finally, the old machine stops, not return from its perennial journey back and forth until a whistle and smoke advertise in the dark to get going again. Then that mass of iron will cross a small part of the heart of Africa full of travelers and stories that always come, are always.

Other train travel in Africa

Between Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) y Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia) there is a path over 48 hours in a train mythical Africa. Crosses part of the reserve Selous and Mikumi National Park, making the trip in a time when a small safari animals. More information on the link
http://www.tazarasite.com/

The Rovos Train South Africa is one of the luxury trains in the world. They offer different routes on their website for South Africa and the rest of the continent, but perhaps because it is an old wish that I would meet you now point out that going from Cape Town to Cairo. In the link you see all the details of this tour which is required to give some breaks by air. It is certainly, one of the most beautiful trips that can be done in Africa but it is for selected pockets.
http://www.rovos.com/journeys/cape-to-cairo

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Comments (9)

  • Eduardo

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    Great story Javier. Thanks for following us approaching Africa and feel a little closer.

    Answer

  • Javier Brandoli

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    Thanks Eduardo. There are many people writing stories VaP. very good in Africa. The bottom of issues I think is worth merce. We are counting to ten African voices and that has to do even more value to a single, at least makes it more interesting.

    Answer

  • mayte

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    I quierooo!!!! I always want but after spending four days in the rain at ss and now read this story as authentic, my desire to return to Africa is even stronger! Thanks

    Answer

  • Javier Brandoli

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    That's what this magazine Mayte, as you know, to invite travel. Besos

    Answer

  • Mary Reventós

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    My dear Javier,
    Millions of thanks for making me travel from one simple screen. It is so important that people like you (And ANA) we convey hope and poetry. My beloved Angel Gonzalez said (masomenos) that: “If I were a god would be accurate to you and would try and make the bakers, ie with the mouth”. I hope to see you soon, in Tuscany, Tellez Toledo or. Christina and Michael and I as much as I yearn. You are addictive.

    Answer

  • Javier Brandoli

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    Thank you Mary. Your joy really is addictive

    Answer

  • The African adventure

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    I liked it. Earned suddenly put me in the mood of a train journey through Africa, a dream that I hope to do some day.
    With the Selous and Mikumi travel by train you get me in the head a new project. And what about the other, reach Cairo…
    Thanks for the article. Greetings!

    Answer

  • Javier Brandoli

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    Trains Africans have something special. Maybe because you see past that crazy life from a window, perhaps because the landscape is always a unique beauty, perhaps because we like the continent we give Africa a special mythical. Thanks for your comment. I have in mind I also make the trip from Cape Town, where I lived, to Cairo by train.

    Answer

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