FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER – ON THE PLATFORM At 6:45 AM we left the hotel with our gear and walked down to the bus station where people were already busy at their daily routines. We had to wait until 8:00 AM before the old blue bus wheezed into the lot and spilled its load of natives with their luggage, then straightaway began loading for the return journey. With our packs on the roof, and us squeezed in with twenty sweating Tanzanians, the bus set off at breakneck speed down the steep, winding road. The view from the bus was stunning as we sped down the hill, the road following above the course of a steep stream, its bed strewn with huge grey boulders. In places the stream stepped down over waterfalls at the base of which, fertile crops were growing, watered by the fine spray from the falls.
The road ran out at the foot of the mountains onto the dusty town of Mumba, and we sat in the dirt under the spreading shade of a tree while we waited for the 10:00 o’clock bus to Karogwe.
The bus, when it arrived, was the usual rattletrap shell stuffed with natives and their goods, and I preferred to stand rather than suffer the jolting vibrations of the road. It took about an hour to reach Karogwe and we settled into one of the grimy cafes for a coke and a donut.
Surrounding the compound was a collection of ramshackle shops with some peculiar names such as:
NEW MIZIGI GROCERY UNIT
MOBILE GENERAL ENTERPRISES
BUGE’S MUSIC AND SHOPPING CENTRE
BUGE’S BEAUTIES, SPORTSWEAR AND MUSIC CENTRE
MR BOND KIOSK
MR TENGERUSA RECORDING
A man told us it was only 2 kilometres to the railway station at Old Korogwe so we set off in the blazing sun to walk there. It turned out to be 5 kilometres and we were well knackered by the time the station hove into view at the far end of the decaying main street of Old Korogwe.
A babel of activity was failing to happen at the station. A few locals lounged around the platform, and the few police officers in the shade in the shabby police post seemed in a state of torpor, from which they would never emerge. But the station shop sold ice cold drinks, which made amends for the long trudge down from the bus station, and the overhang of its roof gave some shade, so we stretched out on the platform to pass the rest of the day.
By the time darkness had fallen, quite a few people had gathered on and around the platform, and several stalls had been set up. Among the people waiting for the train where the usual bunch of local morons with nothing better to do than hang around the station pretending to be Chuck Norris and annoying people. An English girl called Sue arrived and we all sat and waited until 10:30 when the train from Tanga creaked into the station, followed soon after by the one from Moshi.
We boarded, found our seats by torchlight, and sat down, trying to ignore the stench coming from the toilet. The best part of two hours were spent rearranging the carriages of both trains. At around 1:00 AM, the train set off with a shudder and we tried as best we could to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs with the nauseating smell of the choo [Swahili for toilet] wafting over us, and the clattering roar of the train’s passage along the rails echoing up through the gap between the carriages.