africa

Tazara

Tazara stands for Tanzanian-Zambian Railways, originally this 1800 km track was built by Chinese in 1970’s. Socialist camp African countries had minerals available for trade, but no other way to get them delivered to world. Chinese words come by everywhere, buildings, machines. But it’s very different world now, than time of Mao’s labor brigades that built Tazara!

Journey started horribly late behind schedule, about 12 hours! For a moment we thought there was riot breaking out at the station, fully packed with exhausted, tired people. Tired of hours waiting and sitting on floors. Outside our room, passengers began shouting and protesting constant postpone notices, banging the iron fence to platforms. Delays are common and perhaps because of political disagreements behind jointly owned and operated railway company of Tanzanians and Zambians. Finally train rolled to platform, loaded fast and journey started.

After got going, and trip has been progressing without surprises. Track is jumpy at parts and we’re stopping often on small village stations. On stops people rush to it from their huts, goods are loaded in and out, some leave, some hop aboard. Tazara is a perfect way to enjoy views of African countryside, relax, read or chat with fellow passengers.

Zambian border was a bit of surprise, since Visa must be bought on Dollars which I had none. Money exchange guys followed the immigration persons, so got my Dollars but what a rate!

After full day progressing under merciless African sun, view of brown and yellow savannas start to fade into dusk. Its time to go back sleep let train continue journey through the night.

All in all, an awesome experience! Too bad railways aren’t more common in Africa, what a great way to explore this vast continent.

@ Tazara train from Dar es Salaam to Capiri Mposhi, Oct 2010.

Swakopmunde and Pondicherry

Swakopmunde is in Namibian coast, South West Africa. Pondicherry East coast of India. They have very little else in common, but what history had reserved for them after high hopes in the beginning.

October 2010 — Swakopmunde is similar low profile small town with neighboring Valves Bay, 30 mins drive North. Came this morning in a shuttle bus, and have walked through the city attractions now around 2pm. Town tries to balance on a thin line between desert and ocean. Beach is nice, and South Atlantic waves are magnificent. Sun is merciless, winds strong and water cool. German language comes across everywhere such as street and building names, as well as German tourists who probably feel homey here. Early 1900’s posters about steamer connections to Hamburg adds nice touch. Atmosphere is sleepy, waiting.

Had a long chat yesterday in Walvis with a young rapper calling himself Smooth James, I met when walking and admiring flamingos of Walvis Bay Lagoon. This light voiced, 20 year old kind looking Namibian boy dreams about career as singer in USA, has made few songs (got copy of his CD) and tries to make his way in local sing contests and auditions. Only advice I could give to the boy was try also to get an education, despite his bigger ambitions. Don’t know how feasible my advice was e.g. money wise, but least it wasn’t rejected out right. Maybe just politely ignored. @ Swakopmunde

February 2012 — Since Madurai, been traveling ten days in South India. My train took me to Chennai, former Madras and British starting point of colonizing India since 1700’s. After few days in Chennai, jumped to bus back South. I wanted to see some more of Bengal coast history and cultural places. So I arrived today to Pondicherry, small town and former colonial outpost. Its architecture and feel immediately reminded the visit to Swakopmunde in Namibia coast.

This was not German but French, but similarities were striking, long strait coast and towns oldest buildings built right on edge of sea. Kind of outpost, where to load the boats from Europe: soldiers, equipment, goods. Many Indians still speak French, after all this time. Pondicherry’s destiny was similar to Swakopmunde’s. It eventually got occupied by British in the wars between the European powers, and then reduced to secondary status since they already had main port (taken earlier and from better place) in the region. @ Pondicherry