The Madaraka express leaves Nairobi terminus at 2:30pm, we are on schedule. It is a beautiful day to fly but the train will do the work just fine. It will be 5 hours or 7:20pm local time is when we arrive in Mombasa terminus. Gone are the days, gone are the days…..I say to my self.
My first travel to Mombasa I had just finished high school, I was looking forward to something great, something of the future. Apart from me finishing school, something else had happened, that thing, that threatened to get me in a police cell was the reason my mother put me in a Mombasa bound bus. But I tell you, this is a story for another day.
A while back it took many hours to travel to this coastal town, to a common man whom flying was unthinkable luxury, they had to put in the time. Today things are different, thanks to the debt hole we as a country dug for ourselves. Its a fact that for at $5.6m per kilometre for the track alone, Kenya’s railway line cost close to three times the international standard and four times the original estimate.
So it is perhaps not surprising that Kenyans have been asking why they seem to have paid so much. But that is a story for another day, today I just want to have a feel of this mega expensive project. Luckily the damage for me is kshs2.1 per kilometre and I want to see if every shilling counts. Its a slow start from Nairobi, suddenly the Athi River station is behind us, we head to Emali. This is an express train so we are not stopping at the small stations.
The guys hawking the snacks are live, in-fact my feeling is that food is the business not travel. At this point I don’t like my aisle seat, with my wife seated on the opposite row its difficult to be affectionate when people are busy on the move. The seats are not very comfortable but never mind if you booked on second class, first class would be better. But the people making the seats should have done better I think.
By the time we arrive in Emali i am already on my feet. My wife is even making fun of me, my body has had enough already. I am also wondering if the train can be faster, maybe maintain 114km per hour for at-least two hours. But never mind me, I am not a train captain and I even don’t know how it works.
At some point we meet with the train that left Mombasa at 3:30pm, then the train slows down as we approach Tsavo, and at this point we are able to spot some elephants and other wild animals from a distance.
The train keeps rolling and sunset engulf us, and I know we should be approaching Mariakani then Mombasa our last station. Our speed reduces to 34 KM an hour as we pass Mariakani station, headed to our last Station. We arrive Mombasa terminus 7:20pm, I am still standing. I have been standing better part of the way.
A sea of humanity pour out of the train to the empty station, the smell of Mombasa, the heat welcomes us with a smile. The weather app said there will be rain, it lied. Finding ourselves to our respective mode of transportation to the city, I think about how things have changed for the traveller.
One of my seat mate on the train is a frequent traveller between Nairobi and Mombasa, and he finds the train really useful. This means that when the government does things that improve the life and work of its citizen, they thrive. I agree with many that the government should have done more, done better, but for now “it is what it is”