It wasn’t the trip I expected. It wasn’t what Audrey expected. It was better than what the kids expected. We are not sure if any of us can say, “I told you so.”
This was to be the epic train journey I wanted the boys to experience on this one-year adventure. The plan was to take an overnight train from northern Zimbabwe down the western edge and spend two nights in a comfortable lodge. Then, get back on the train for a night, walk across the border into Mozambique the next morning, and board another overnight train to Maputo after getting through immigration. There were many things that could go wrong. Unfortunately, one did.
The first leg went as expected as we boarded the 1960’s train at 7:00 p.m. and arrived in our destination 14 hours later. It was as pristine as we thought it would be which is to say it was last cleaned shortly after its maiden voyage. And, our air-conditioned-less room in the warm Zimbabwean night along with the rumbling of the train did not leave us feeling well rested. But, that is what we anticipated and all part of the journey. We did, however, see giraffes along the way.
Upon completing the first overnight leg, we were to spend two nights in a comfortable lodge. That went as predicted. No, better. The host, Lisa, at the Banff Lodge was spectacular. The room was large and comfortable. The staff was highly accommodating. And, the internet was fiber-optic fast allowing us to easily call home. The morning we were to start the two-day trip to Mozambique — the most difficult section — I called the Train Station Manager to confirm everything. “It is cancelled as there is a blockage and the train can’t get through. The next one will leave in a week.” he said. “Crap!”
I walked into our room and said to Audrey and the boys, “It’s time to think about Plan B.” Colin then asked, “What is our Plan B?” for which I responded, “We don’t have one yet.” Audrey and I then scrambled for the next few hours to figure out how we would get from the middle of Zimbabwe to the coastal capital of Mozambique.
Waiting a week for the next train wasn’t a viable option as we already had airline tickets and hotel rooms booked. Other options required several trains and busses — all of which are unreliable. Or, we could fork out the money on an exorbitantly-overpriced flight and go the easy way. The kids said, “Let’s Fly.” Audrey looked at me and calmly said, “I think we should fly to.” Knowing she was right, I reluctantly bought the tickets and was bummed the rest of the day given that our ‘epic’ train trip was over. Decker later admitted he was a little sad. Colin was thrilled.
Audrey too was disappointed as she had mentally geared up for the adventure and was looking forward to reading her book and playing cards with her three boys. She also knew I really wanted to do it and has always been supportive of my crazy ideas. We’d even bought enough food and water to last us several days and were prepared to serve better meals than the Dining Car. Not saying much since our ingredients consisted of peanut butter, jelly, bread, ramen, cookies, and enough apples to make several pies.
In times like these, locals come through. It happened in Namibia when we were stranded with two flat tires. And, it happened again in Zimbabwe. While sitting at breakfast shortly after we heard our train was canceled, a local Zimbabwean business man (Lazarus) asked about our trip. Few tourists take this path so he wanted to know what brought us to this remote part of the continent.
After telling him about our one-year adventure, we explained our current dilemma. He spent the next hour helping us figure out Plan B, then Plan C, and then Plan D until he had to run to the airport. I later learned he almost missed his flight to Johannesburg because he was helping us.
Once again, I am reminded how many wonder people are around this globe. Since Lazarus was staying in Johannesburg and we had to fly through and spend a night there, he offered to show us around. Upon arrival, we called and he said he had arranged a Braai (an African BBQ) at a friend’s house and to be ready at 6:00 p.m. for dinner. Audrey and I both did the Happy Dance.
It was an outstanding local meal and one of the best dinners we have had on the trip. They grilled T-bone steaks, pork filets, pork sausage, and boerewors (beef sausage) then served it all with other local delicacies and South African wines. The boys got to run around the yard and play with their nine-year old daughter and we chatted about life in Zimbabwe, politics, and the influence South Africa has on the continent. It couldn’t have been better. Twelve hours earlier we didn’t know these people at all. Now I can call them my friends.
Traveling so often helps put things in perspective and this situation did for me once again. Our train was cancelled and we had to re-route through another country on expensive plane tickets in order to get to our final destination here in Maputo. Upon arrival I read about a train that crashed on its way to Johannesburg killing 18 people and injuring 260 more.
Our disappointing journey ended with a wonderful dinner and new friends. For those 18 people, their journey just ended. So, can either of us really say, “I told you so”?
Check out the recently posted pictures from Botswana and Namibia.