Dar Es Salaam to Zambia by Train

January 25, 2006

A boy in the Mpika train station We took the train from Dar (Tanzania) to Kapiri Mposi (Zambia). It was supposed to be a 41 hour trip, but actually arrived 47 hours and 45 minutes late! 4 days is a long time to be on a train! I am in the process of writing up a detailed account, but in the mean time here is a link to the only high point of sitting in a train station all day:

Photos of Zambian kids in the Kasama and Mpika train stations.

Who’s your daddy? Is he big like me?

January 20, 2006

Take home the Big Daddy.Ever since Andrew Teman brought to light the sexually tinged “I’d Hit It” McDonald’s campaign, I have kept a special eye on fast food ads.

There is an African burger chain called “Steers”. They are running a campaign that struck me as almost as suggestive as McDonalds:

“Take home the Big Daddy!”

But ask him to be gentle if it is your first time doing it with a sandwich.

A penny saved might not be 1% of dollar.

Exchange rates signI have long known that traveler’s checks get less good exchange rates than cash. I have seen people refuse to change old or stained cash, but this is the first time I have seen people reduce the rates by (almost 20%!) for small bills. I have seen this sort of thing tat virtually all currency exchange places in Dar Es Salaam. This is doubly surprising because just 3 weeks ago in Moshi people were very anxious to get small US notes to make change. Sounds like an arbitrage opportunity to me.

None the less, I still like having some small bills because no one ever has any change!


January 18, 2006

We had planned to take the train from Dar Es Salaam to Ujiji (really all the way to Kigoma, but it is just a few miles from Ujiji). Ujiji was the town where Stanely uttered the immortal words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Kigoma is on the border of lake Tanganika and from there we had planned to take the ferry down to Zambia.

Livingstone wandered all the way from one coast of Africa to the other and then for years more to get to Ujiji. Stanely spent vast sums of money and caught an almost equally vast array of diseases in his year long trip to Ujiji to find Livingstone. Soyan I were unwilling to wait two weeks to take the train.

After our trip to the Zambian embassy this morning to apply for our visas, we headed to the train station only to find that all the seats for the two weeks of trains to Kigoma are full. We spoke to the main ticket window, the first class ticket window, the assistant station manager and the station manager, but there was nothing to be done. We did put our names on a waitlist with the station manager, but the assistant station manger had already told us that nobody cancels.

After much research, we decided to scrap our trip to Kigoma and head straight for Zambia on a different train which we could get tickets for. The only problem is that we had to book the whole compartment (4 seats) to avoid splitting up in a men’s car and a woman’s car.

If there is another couple heading from Dar to Zambia on Friday the 20th please contact me and we’ll sell you tickets at a discount if you don’t snore.