TAZARA Railway: A Man Brushing His Teeth for Over 20 Minutes
In effort to make up for some lost time, we decided to play catch up and take my second favorite form of transport from Mbeya to Dar Es Salaam…
Somewhere along the way we had spoken with another cyclist (making his way south from Cairo) who mentioned taking the TAZARA Railway from Dar to Mbeya. He, among others we spoke with, gave a fairly glowing report of the 1970s rail-riding experience. So as a change of pace, literally, we thought we’d give it a go.
The TAZARA Railway links the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam with the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia’s Central Province, with dozens of stops in between. One of the great things about taking this train is the scenery. The 1,870 kilometer line slowly winds through incredibly beautiful parts of Tanzania including the Selous Game Reserve where passengers have the opportunity to spot giraffe, elephant, zebra, antelope and warthog. Then there is the lively social aspect of riding these rails. A first class passenger has one of four bunks in a compartment (or a couple can book a whole compartment, as we did). We met several other travelers as well as government officials, businessmen, etc; most folks generally leave their door open and gladly strike up conversation over a beer from the bar car.
Once you get past the somewhat shabby amenities of the train (for example, the lack of running water) and learn to let go of the little things (like sharing your tiny cabin with a few cockroaches who are actually pretty well behaved), the 28 hour (or somewhere thereabout) journey is a delight. Here are some photos:
– Reserve your compartment a day or so in advance; we saw people get same day berths, but if you want a compartment, it will be safer to reserve it ahead of time.
– You have to go to a train station to book; they don’t do it over the phone, or online.
– Currently the train comes through Mbeya on Wednesdays and Saturdays (the Wednesday is the express which has a few less stops).