|Title:||the night train|
|Location:||mombasa, kenya (sea level)|
|Text:||53 194 kilometres on the road
we arrived at the train station well in time and went straight to the ticket office where we hoped to get vouchers for a good carriage and for diner at 19:30.
the train fare includes a three course meal at the food carriage which is served in three shifts. according to marcel, a swiss friend of mine who lives in nairobi, there it's quite a difference between the first shift and the last one where you'll be eating leftovers from not-so-clean plates on stained table cloth.
"your train has left yesterday!" the lady at the ticket counter lectured us like a school teacher. she must have weighted at least 100 kilos and was almost bursting out of her uniform. pearls of sweat ran over her face and down the neck from where the disappeared into the gap between her impressive breast. it was hard not to stare.
the office was an uninspiring, room with not much more than a counter and a wooden table behind it. a bare light bulb swung above our heads, projecting sharply defined, moving shadows on the wall. i felt more like a common criminal at a police station than like a would-be passenger for the legendary train ride to mombasa, about to be served by waiters in white uniform in an antique restaurant on wheels.
we must have looked like kids who'd just had their toys stolen as we stood under the bright light in this unreal setting. then the woman's face broke into the most beautiful motherly smile and the presumed dragon suddenly radiated such an affection that i felt an immediate urge to hug her and cuddle into the safety of her immense body.
"there is still space in the last carriage… well… ah, don't worry, you'll be fine!" she could have sold me land on the moon; i would have bought it. so i was only reminded of the fine, warning undertone of her voice when we found our compartment. there was no light, the door wouldn't lock, nor did the windows. but we didn't care, we were on the train and tomorrow we'd wake up in mombasa and go to the beach.
it came as no surprise that we were served diner in the last shift and that marcel had been right: there were some scraps of food left, the floor was dirty with food rests and the table cloth were stained. but the old-school waiters in their white uniforms served us with such dignity and good humour that we hardly noticed it.
when we got back to our compartment the benches had been turned into beds, lined with perfectly white sheets and wool blankets. one of the staff had brought in a battery-powered emergency lamp which gave off a ghostly romantic light that only increased the setting of the old night train.
we opened a bottle of south african red wine and chatted until late while an almost full moon shone a silvery light over the endless savannas of the east african plain. this was not just a trip to the beach but also into a different time. the rhythmic staccato of the wheels on rails had an hypnotic effect on my as i dozed off into sleep and the last thought i remember was that just three weeks ago i had still be limping around zurich's winter on crutches.