We were desperate to get out of our hotel rooms where we have been staying the past two weeks and we found a couple of days to get away and decided to head straight for the coast. We wanted the beach, but we also wanted the beach on a budget, so we were looking for cheap ways to get there. And what we found was…a train. Heather and I had never ridden a train before and we thought it sounded interesting, plus it was only $50 and included dinner and breakfast. Done deal.
Our train to the coast was supposed to leave Nairobi at 7:00 PM and arrive in Mombasa at 10:00 AM the next day. True to African fashion, the train was late and we left at 10:00 PM that night because we were waiting on an engine for the train – kind of important. No biggie, except that Heather and I were rather anxious to make the most of our 3 day beach trip and the train’s lateness was cutting into our beach time!
Being as how we had never been on a train before, we really didn’t know what to expect and had heard stories on both extremes. The train station itself looked like it was set in the 1920’s (but we are pretty used to being a step back in time) and the train looked like it might have been built around that same time too. Everything was quite compact in our little train compartment and we felt a bit like we were camping. Dinner was surprisingly good and we ate it while we were still waiting on the train to leave the station. After that, it was pretty much bed time and we climbed onto our little sleeper sofas. Heather slept on top and had to have a rail strapped up to keep her from falling off in the night. It sounded like a good idea to sleep through the night on the train, but have you ever ridden a train? They are not quiet, nor smooth! I can’t say that either Heather or I got much sleep between the mosquitoes biting (please no malaria!), the train noise, and the train motion.
Our room and beds for the evening.
Because we were so late leaving, we got to see a part of the journey that is usually covered at night and that meant seeing some elephants the following morning! We saw about 8 elephants total through our train window. I always thought trains went really fast, but this one didn’t seem to do so. The whole trip was a total of 15 hours…it took us one hour to fly back.
Trying to spot some elephants!
The railroad we were on is the same one that led to the book, The Man-eaters of Tsavo and the movie, The Ghost and The Darkness. Thankfully, I have neither read the book nor watched the movie. We were told lions on this railroad used to jump through the windows of the train and eat passengers….but I think that might have been a bit exaggerated. Somehow I managed to be sleeping when we passed through that area.
The most adventurous part of the journey was trying to use the train’s restroom which was really just a hole in the floor of the train (what we affectionately call a “squatty potty”). Those things are never fun or easy to use for us girls, but trying to do so while the train was rocking from side to side was a new endeavor. Am I glad I took the train? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes, but only to save money. Was I oh so glad to get off? Oh, yes.
We arrived at the coast grungy, sleepy, hungry, and all adventured out. But we were rewarded for our efforts shortly after. Nothing but us and the beautiful Indian Ocean.