African   Histories

The   African   Sickness

The Lunatic Train from Monbasa to Nairobi

Accommodated in my compartment of first class of the train, sigh alleviated by to have arrived just on time, because the train makes its exit to the exact hour, renqueando with its machine of colonial times. We will cross 600 km that separate Mombasa de Nairobi in 12 hours, crossing savannahs, jungles and deserts to a slow but constant rate. With a little luck we will be able to see all type of fierce savages after the dawn. The train crosses the iron bridge that unites Mombasa with the continent, with almost human crujido as if all their joints were suffered of the many years that have supported the weight of the very old trains. Yet, one wonder there of how the British were able to reproduce their style of life with the smaller detail where was, India or Africa, Australia or Hong Kong. 3 classes, 4 in the past, since it was possible to be traveled in the ceiling, separate sufficiently the ethnic groups, since in third only there are run wood banks, in the second compartments they are of 6 bunks, and in first it shares with another person; the hungry wagon is totally colonial, covered of wood, with ventilators in the ceiling, and small lamps that illuminate the tables; the places setting are a compendium of the history of the railroad in Eastern Africa, since they are recorded the initials of the different names that it has had throughout his history, East Africa Railways, Uganda Railways, Kenya Railways, et cetera. The waiters see discomforts in their white uniforms of closed neck; after the gustativas sensations of the last days in Zanzíbar, everything knows insipid and the supposedly continental style of the supper seems outside place, I long for a fish to curry with Coco milk; the coffee however is very good, and that makes me remember that in Tanzania it was impossible to me to take a coffee that not outside soluble, must practically export all the production to obtain currencies; one of the things that also surprised to me in Zanzíbar is the plant of the fragmentation hand grenade, that takes 12 weeks in producing a single fragmentation hand grenade, which soon we bought tinned in its own juice or natural nearly more than 100 pesetas, and one asks whatever will receive of that money the producer in its place of origin so that once added the costs of transformation and transport and the margins of at least 6 or 7 intermediaries it costs those 100 pesetas to us. Be that as it may, surely that is very little, typical inheritance of the colonial system to obtain the raw materials to minimum prices to give back processed products, that yes, to European prices. When we read in newspapers the enormous sums of external debt of these countries we will be able to understand a little better to than use goes part of that money. Return to the compartment while we crossed the desert of Taru, an inhospitable place in which one would wish not to lose itself and that it is thankful to cross in the iron horse. They did not have the same luck many expeditionary that perished into the hands of the Masai, owners of these earth, or decimated by the fly tse-tsé, reason why many caravans were turned aside to the south, by the route of Tabora, in spite of surrounding several hundreds by kilometers. The first European expedition that managed to cross the zone to arrive at the Great Lakes did it in 1883, followed of that they decided the layout of the railroad at the end of century. Quickly the zones were developed that the train would cross, emphasizing a small village of shepherds that with time would become the capital of Kenya, Nairobi, the extreme metropolis that today we know. We back left to the desert of Taru, avoiding the highest and mountainous zones with continuous quiebros of the land, and penetrated in the natural park of the Tsavo, greatest of Kenya and without a doubt one of greatest of Africa. From the protection of our train, but at a sufficiently slow speed to appreciate its beauty in detail, we observed the herds of antelopes and zebras that pursue totally raising dust clouds, customary to the passage of the train and ignoring it, although are not left the times so far in that the hunters bet in the frontal part of the train with his rifles shooting to all living tiny beast without ecological preoccupations; the only firings that were heard now were those of the cameras, that made run their coils without rest before the spectacle; a little later, near the Tsavo river that crosses the park, shows in the horizon the stony mass of the Kili, with their crown of silver that remembers to me that only one week ago it was in his top feeling to me I love of the world. The time in Africa has a measurement different from that we are customary; there are moments at which one stops, congealed in his to happen, until some God realizes, and with a movement of his wrist, it shakes it and it returns to put it in march; however there are moments at which everything so fast goes that you need extra time to be able to digest everything what you perceive, in a vicious circle that requests more time to him to the time; perhaps for that reason this book is written 10 months after my trip by Africa, the different pieces from my African puzzle have needed east period to put themselves in their site and to let see the complete image clearly to me to try to transmit it. The sobrename of lunático train comes dice by the preposterous thing to construct to a railway line between the lake Victory and the Indian Ocean with the existing technology at the end of the last century; one of it main reasons for its construction was not nothing romantic, if not that obeyed to the necessity to transport troops in few days from the coast in case of turned around in Uganda, instead of the months and wearing down that its transport by earth would entail; yet, its approval in 1893 generated bitter debates in London between which they defended his construction and those that, with reason, argued that its real cost would be very superior to the budgeted one. The low concept which they had the British of the native ones like workers, made make the decision to concern Indian coolies, members of chaste the more losses, than in a number superior to 15,000 6 years were brought from India in more than than its construction lasted. In the way they remained more than 2,400 men, who passed away by diseases, accidents and attacks of fierce savages. The cost I surpass the 5 million pounds, the double of the budgeted thing. To know these data the hairs of end to the knowledge put to one the sacrifices to him that have had to do so that you slippings by the rails seated comfortably in your seat of first class. Of all the calamities undergone in the construction of the channel, the only one that was on the verge of stopping it totally was the appearance of the devoradores lions of men, who once proved the coolie meat decided that that would be its breakfast all the mornings, seeding the panic between the workers who attributed diabolic powers to them. The story of its persecution and discouragement narrates in the book " the devoradores of men of Tsavo ", of Patterson, colonel of the British army in charge of the laying of a bridge on the Tsavo river. The 2 lions of the story had already devorado 10 workers when these went to strike and decided not to work more until they were lowered, which Patterson obtained after several nights bet on a scaffold, in the case of the first lion, and from a tree the second, to which it had to climb when still after several firings that guessed right to him the lion loaded on him. This book has served as it at night bases to the film " the demons ". When we left Tsavo appears the calls High Earth, populated with plantations of fragmentation hand grenades and coffee, that are lost in the distance; the light in the morning is very strong and penetrates by all the resquicios of the train; a Continental breakfast, with spoon of the KR, puts our clock in march shortly before penetrating in the marginal districts of Nairobi, where the cabins in a capricious arrangement crowd and whose inhabitants salute to us with their hands to the passage of the train; like in all the great cities, but perhaps increased by the disturbed growth of Nairobi, the marginality belt here it serves like reminder as which " everything is not gold what shines ". Renqueando, our lunático train arrives at the central station of Nairobi, 12 hours and 600 km from our exit of Mombasa, that have served to us to appreciate all the misery and greatness of this country that despereza slowly looking for its own destiny the margin of those of greatness of so many of its leaders With my last currencies in the hand, I go to a taxi driver who seems the sufficiently flexible thing to negotiate a tariff from transport to the airport that is the third part of the official; I teach my few currencies to him and I say to him that it is what there is, it watches with indolencia and it says matata to the magical phrase " akuna to me ", and we rose the taxi. A generosity gesture on the other hand that finishes me convincing that in this country everything is negotiable and always can be reached a satisfactory agreement for all the parts. With the desire of which they do not change certain ways of life, I take leave of the taxi driver, and when invoicing my luggage to Madrid, I also take leave of Africa, but I know that it is not a good bye, will be until soon, Africa has penetrated of such way in my heart that could not spend too much time without returning to see it, would be broken to me. As colofón to this trip, as a reflection, is a phrase of Graham Greene who says " Africa will be always the one of the time of the maps of the Victorian era, the unexplored empty continent with the form of a human heart "; for me this defines the sensation perfectly that you have in Africa; although you know that before you million people have visited it and traveled by her, that Nature squashes to you, it surrounds to you and it makes you feel as if you were part of her, and it leaves from tí like something indissoluble. Badly of Africa she is within tí and nothing or nobody she will be able arrancártelo. I would like to finish with heard Kikuyus proverbs in Kenya, and that say enough of the popular wisdom in Africa: The women and the sky are not comprehensible. The man is the head of the house, the woman is the heart. The law of the fish: the great one eats the boy. An old goat bullet without sense (the old ones are wise) a woman whose children have died is not richer than a sterile woman a friend is not the one who go to your celebrations, but the one that help to construct your house Madrid, 1997.

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