Planning Our Adventure

I Told You So

This world trip is about many things. It’s about spending time with our boys before they grow up. It’s about seeing other cultures and realizing that not everyone lives in a wealthy San Francisco sub-urban community.  And, it’s about experiencing different adventures.

Before we left, I said to Audrey that I want the boys to have an epic train journey. Not some posh two-hour Euro-rail trip through France but a multi-day trip across someplace like, well, Africa. Twelve years ago we spent 10 days going from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Mongolian Railway. I’m glad we did it even though I couldn’t wait to get off the train as we approached the communist capital.

Most South American countries lack long distance passenger rail so it had to be Africa. While there are a few train routes, only one was near our path through this 54-country continent. There were three problems with my proposed train journey through Zimbabwe. Well, there were many more but, these were the biggest.

  1. The president of Zimbabwe was recently overthrown in a military coup and the U.S. State Department had issued several travel alerts.
  2. The train appeared to go only part way through the country leaving us stranded on the western edge of Zimbabwe and not getting us to our final destination in Mozambique.
  3. The boys strongly voted against it and wanted to fly. Audrey, who says yes to more of my crazy suggestions than any reasonable wife would, was hesitant.

As I told the boys,

Most problems have solutions and mom and I spend a lot of time looking for those solutions.

Problem One – Coup.

Actually, Africa claims to not do ‘coups’ anymore. They are now referred to as Bloodless Transitions which appears to be slightly better for marketing. The unpopular president had recently fired his more-popular Vice President who was seen as the heir apparent in an attempt to get his much younger and healthier wife in power. This did not go over well so the military took action. Jim Mattis, are you paying attention?

Problem Two – Stranded.

My vision was to take the train from the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, venture through Zimbabwe from north to south, cross over into Mozambique, then continue on to the capital city: Maputo. We had reliable information for 1/3 of the way but nothing beyond that. Even the train company’s website lacked an accurate schedule. After weeks of researching the internet and talking with fellow travelers and locals, we learned…nothing. Then, a few phone calls to several train stations finally got us what we needed. It appears we can take three overnight trains and make the journey. This assumes we don’t get stuck at the Zimbabwe / Mozambique border because of visa issues.

Problem Three –  Buy In.

I’m still working on this one… The boys will go along with it because, as Decker says, “It’s not like we have a choice.” He’s very wise. I then looked at Audrey and said, “When we get to Maputo, one of us will say, ‘I told you so.’” I’m just not sure if it will be her because the trip was exactly what she expected or me because it was exactly what I expected. Either way, I feel confident we will be talking about this five-night, six-day excursion for years to come.

Tomorrow we leave the Victoria Falls train station in Zimbabwe at 7:00 p.m. and arrive in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe at 9:30 a.m. the next day. We will stay two nights then board the train at 12:15 p.m. to the Zimbabwe / Mozambique border where we should arrive about 22 hours later. Key word, “should.” We get off the Zimbabwe train, walk 300 meters across the border, hopefully get our visa, then get on the Maputo-bound train at 1:00 p.m. the same day for our final, 21-hour leg. What could go wrong?

After re-reading that last paragraph, I’m now wondering why we aren’t flying.

Part II will follow in a week…I hope.

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Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for The Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.