Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The next stop will be Nairobi... in 15 hours...

I love trains. After taking the train in Kenya, I want to be an ambassador for the Mombasa - Nairobi Railway!

When booking your travel around Kenya, you'll generally have the choice between air and rail, buses don't really exist other than in the form of matatus which are like minivans that hold around 12 people, but usually more! They go along a set route and you have to bang on the roof to stop them wherever you want to get off. Love it. Napenda Kenya. Dirt cheap but sweaty, great way to immerse yourself in to Kenyan life, very sweaty though. Repeat. Sweaty Betty.

The boy and I booked a one way air ticket to Mombasa, with the return flight to London from Nairobi. A little scary but it was something that I wanted to do to get off the beaten track a little. Anyone can book a return flight and that's absolutely fine if they want to do that, but it's not for me thank you very much. Taking the train instead of flying also saved me around £30 too, so happy days all around. More beer money.

So, intro over. After an amazing trip to Mombasa (highly recommend it to anyone) we headed to Mombasa railway station, a tiny rickety station with a bar (I don't remember much else apart from the bar for some reason, I think I pounced on that bar because it was so hot in Mombasa...) and by some miracle our train appeared on time, this almost never happens in Kenya.

We boarded the train and found our cabin. This is quite possibly the first time I'd ever travelled First Class and for £30 each we got a bunk bed room with a wardrobe (randomly) and a sink area. The door locked from the inside only and then there's a sliding door that connects with the cabin next door, so if there are 4 of you, you can all have a private connecting room - comprende amigos?

Cosy. Bagsie the bottom bunk!

Bedding, dinner and breakfast are included in your ticket price if you're going First Class (I can't help the capital letters, it seems only right to do so!) your bed is included in Second Class I think and Third Class you just get a standard seat.

Let me remind you at this point that the train journey takes 15 hours, so no one will think badly of you for going First Class, it's a bloody long way.

I'll also inform you that if you takes a mere 45 minutes :) and you get a snack box on the flight too. And peanuts I think! But you don't get to see Kenya on the ground... you do get to see Mount Kenya though - I don't really know what point I'm trying to make here. Do what I did and do both! Take a flight there and get the train back.

Anyhoo. Where were we? Oh yes, the train! I loved it!

We left Mombasa as it was getting dark and we got chatting to our train neighbours who were on their way to climb Mount Kenya and had been volunteering, just like us, so we had plenty to chat about.


All that talk made us thirsty though, so we headed down the carriage to the dining carriage, which was deliciously old school. Just like many other places I'd visited in Kenya, it reminded os something that was once great, but has now gone a little shabby, but I like it that way. If you leave a tip for the guard in the carriage, he'll watch your door as you can only lock it from the inside remember? Take your passports to dinner please!

Taking our seats in the plastic chairs as the train trundled along, we ordered a Tusker beer, man that beer is good. There were more cool kids like us who arrived for beers too, so pretty soon we were chatting away about our trips and having a good laugh as we drained our beers.

Dinner was served a while later and we had soup to start which was hilarious. I say that because the train was not only bumping up and down but left to right too, which meant you could just serve a puddle of soup in to the bowl without it spilling over the side, it was a race against time to eat it before it spilt!

Due to the amount of beers consumed, I can't even remember what else we had, but I remember laughing about it with a lot of fondness, I'd made the right decision not to fly back to Nairobi.

Later, one of the guards came to tell us that there was no more beer on the entire train, we'd drank it all. Ooopsie. Time for bed. As we slid off the plastic chairs, we had a game of 'my shorts are sweatier than yours' and we bade our goodnights.

I can't say I slept a lot on the train, the bumping doesn't really make for a good night's sleep, plus the train kept stopping and that would wake you up too, so don't expect the best night of sleep you've ever had...

Oh and by the way, treat yourself to an Immodium on the train as the toilet was a squat affair and you could see the track at the end of the pipe! Fun! Well hello there!

...Anyway, toilets aside, the best part of the journey was waking up as we went through Nairobi National Park and having giraffes running past your window! If only I had the Lion King theme tune!

Take the train if only for the chance to take a slow rickety, lovely train through a National Park, wonderful!

Cue crappy sunset/sunrise photo (Can't remember which it was)

Cue photo of train going around the bend!

15 hours later after some breakfast, we rocked up to Nairobi and for the rest of the day I still felt like I was on that train if I stood still even for a second... rocking all over the place. There was only one thing for it... a beer. Asante sana!

I'd really recommend doing a mixture of both flying and taking the train if you can. It might be cheaper to do it that way too, so just have a look if you're heading to Kenya anytime soon. I hope you choo choo choose the train. Oh God, sorry, that was so lame.


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  2. Hey, I did end up taking the train! :) Nice ride. Next time I'll try the sleeper train that's 24 hours!