The Locomoto to the Copperbelt


The Chinese built the Tazara line, from Dar es Salaam all the way to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia and back.  Why?  Because they used the railway to carry all the copper from the famous copper mines in the Copperbelt of Zambia to a port in the Coast.  The train station has banners that read in Chinese, the passenger trains themselves have equipments in Chinese, such as the water pressure gauge in the bathroom.  The train is single rail, and quite magnificently, goes through Savannah and mountain terrains.  How the fuck did people laid down so many rails in the middle of no where will forever be beyond me.
I thought I wasn’t going to be on the Friday train, but I managed to get on anyway.  I read somewhere, that I should book the first class train.  The train breaks down, the compartments are dirty, this and that.  I cherish that stuff, I wasn’t expecting beautiful maids massaging my feet in the morning on my lush king size bed in my train compartment while eating lobster for breakfast anyways.
Of course I didn’t get first class, but I got a second class sleeper train.  It turned out to be awesome.  The train is clean, even thou as the trip went on it did deteriorate a bit, but nothing as exaggerated as the stuff I read online, probably written by safari goers who are used to their shit taken care by their money.
The second class carrier is right next to booze carrier, which is a plus.  Also, I had Africans, three Tanzanians and one Zambian bunk mates.  I would probably be stuck by some Finnish kid not even 20 if I was in the first class trains.  I saw a bunch of Finnish, or maybe Norwegians, or maybe Germans waiting in the first class lounge before I went on the train.  They looked so pale that I wondered how did the African sun not tanned them.  I was glad that I had African bunk mates and get to hang out with locals.  Also in our compartment is a Korean guy who quit his job and traveled through Russia, Europe, eastern Europe, mid East, and now on his way to Malawi.  Pretty hard core, I can dig that.  We don’t have a bad group at all.
One Tanzanian is going back to his home town Mlimba.  He was more talkative than others.  He is a private driver for some British big shot in Dar now, but he wants to start some business back home.  It is his first vacation in a while.  The Zambian is going back to his home town, but he lives in Tanzania now.  The others weren’t around for much.
Eventually, everyone except Korean and myself departed out compartment by noon of the second day.  Two people for a whole compartment isn’t bad at all.
The scenery on the train is beautiful.  Savannah plains, mountains, national parks, and villages.  Kids would line outside watching the train approach.  I don’t know if we have the express train or the ordinary train or if the passenger compartments are new.  All I know it’s that the ride has been wonderful.  Alot of space, to sleep, to sit, to walk.  The second class is really cheap too, cheaper than the hour and half ferry ride to Zanzibar.  The train takes me from the biggest city from one country to almost the biggest city in the other.
I threw away the guidebook that someone gave me a while ago because guidebooks lead you astray.  It makes people paranoid about danger that isn’t there and doesn’t show you many of the pristine stops Africa has to offer.
Dar has fake taxi driver that robs you they said.  Because some dumbasses decided to fly to Dar es Salaam at 2AM at night.  One of my favorite story is actually this girl who had nothing to do in Dar and asked a taxi driver what to do.  Then the driver showed her all the cool places.  That should have been a story on a guidebook, but some dumbshits flew to Dar at 2AM and then got robbed.
Africa is a place where you can observe infinity.  The cloud feels infinite.  The landscape, the trees, the grass, the bushes, stretch so far you can’t imagine where it will end.  The beach in Zanzibar feels like it’ll go on forever as well.  Even time feels slow.  The train ride proves that.  I can stare outside the window out day.
At Mbeya, the waiting became infinite too.  Mbeya is the last big city until the train reaches Zambia.  From the train station, it seems like a lovely town surrounded by the Ngozi mountain.  The scenery is beautiful and weather ambient.  I wished I could get off and checked the city out, but I have allocated too short of my time for my Africa trip.  The following stupid things occurred.  Our train needed to wait for the Zambia to Dar train so they can switch track.  An hour passed, the train came and our train started to wait for them to depart so we can depart.  There is so much stupid in this I don’t know how to form it into words.  Another hour passed.  No one moved.  I don’t really mind the train not moving, because I have a place to sleep, and there is food, I can lay here for days.  It is just so stupid I have to point it out.  It wouldn’t surprise me the trains are waiting for more passengers like a dala dala.
There is a train from Lusaka to Livingstone on Monday night, so I do prefer to make it to that train, but if I don’t, its not the end of the world.
Three hours later, the train finally departed and I drifted into sleep soon after.  Knock on the door woke me up, and we were at the border.  Tanzanian immigration checked me out, then thirty minutes later, Zambia border checked me in.  I got a single entry visa for 50 dollars, which is sort of illegal because American passport holders aren’t supposed to be able to get single entry visas.  I was just glad to save 30 dollars on visa, and hopefully on my way out I don’t have to pay for it.
Zambians started to get on the train since the border crossing, and they are extremely loud, at 5AM in the morning.  The time zone changed from eastern Africa time to southern Africa time and I gained an hour, but still I kept getting woken up in the middle of the night by people talking loud in the corridor.
The train barely traveled at night and I wonder why.  It looks like the “2 days” journey is going to take 3 days, but I didn’t mind.  It is colder in the Zambia, and it rains alot.  I got ripped off a bit changing the schillings to kwachas on the train, but I have no where else to exchange so the “convenience fee” had to be paid.
Since the Zambian crossing, there are alot more people crowding in the corridor, walking around, and talking.  It seemed like more people are on the train, but there is still just three people in my six bed compartment.
Zambia has 70+ tribes and adding all the immigrants, there is also 70+ languages spoken in different regions.  I have no time to learn all that stuff from Bimba to Chichewa, so I’m not going to try this time.  The local people also talk in slangs so my dictionary approach isn’t going to work either.
Soon, I was the only one in my compartment.  It got quite boring, but my books kept me occupied.  Zambia is raining here and there, and the speed of the train really picked up now we are in open plain now.  I wanted it slow down, because I don’t want to get to Kapiri Mposhi at night.  There is no bus to Lusaka.
I went to get some beer, and a guy sitting at the train bar asked me to buy him a beer, because, pointing to my wallet, he said I have money to. Haha.  I told him that since I’m the visitor, him, the host should be the one buying me a beer.  After finally understood what I meant, he brushed at me with a hell no.  I wouldn’t let that go so easily, so I asked him so that’s how he felt when I asked him to buy me a beer.  No answer.  I hate this beggar mentality, it sets their country back.
I drank more beer and ate train food.  The food cart played fast 6 on the screen and I watched it.  The train picked up speed late in the evening, to my horror. The locomotives roared and the smell of diesel filled the dining car. The train was shaking, and more rains plastered the window while trees zoomed by.  By my calculation, at that speed, we are going to arrive at 1AM.  I turned out to be right.  My prayer for a breakdown was unanswered, I was awoken at 1230AM to get my things packed.  Of course my things were packed, so at a bit past 1, I went in and sat at the station.
A lot people were sleeping at the station that night since buses don’t come until 530AM due to the no night driving rule for buses.  Nothing really happened, I just talked to some guy who seemed a bit retarded because his English isn’t good, but he’s funny though.  He was going to the mining area, because he works there he said.  Maybe rocks had fallen on his head.  Then he went off to the only other foreigners in the train station, two white girls, and told one of them he loves her and wants to marry her in a comedic way.
I took a little 2 hour nap because I couldn’t hold out and nothing happened.  I woke up at 6AM to the shouting of “Lusaka!” “Lusaka!” by the mini bus driver.  I asked for the price, he said 55kwacha (k), I knew he was bullshitting me because that just adds up to 5 dollars exactly.  We literally stood outside the minibus and argued price for 15 minutes.  He was only willing to go down to k40.  I was a sucker, I took the bus anyways.  I didn’t want to wait till 8AM for the next one.  It seemed some others were paying k40 too, but sitting there all squeezed in by others, I knew I was a sucker either way.
For the ride, the driver’s feet never left the pedal and he past so many cars.  In the traffic section going into Lusaka, he literally went on the side walk to pass other cars while honkering at people walking.  I guess I paid the money for that experience, even thou we arrived at a further bus terminal, the minibus terminal.


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