Semester at Sea is a floating campus, a unique study abroad program where the world is your classroom. So many memories…
We took an overnight train, straight out of the 1950s, to Nairobi.
Behind us, we left the port city of Mombasa where our ship had docked early that morning, where I’d traded socks and ink pens and some shillings for a chess set of soft pink soapstone and wooden serving spoons with giraffes carved on the handles. One student, having traded down to his underwear, had carried a six-foot tall wooden statue of a Maasai tribe warrior back aboard ship. Venders, calling out to us, had lined our pathway to dry land—to Kenya.
The train, heading slowly for Nairobi, creaked and rocked while the land slid by, so much teasingly indiscernible in the dark. I knew we were missing out, crossing 14-hours worth of Africa at night. Seated in the dining car from a bygone era, the window reflected only the flowered panels on the walls, waiters in white jackets, slow-moving silver fans, and our laughing faces. One of us had just returned from experiencing the bathroom, the toilet a hole in the floor with the track going by below.
We drank strong coffee and talked all night, too excited to sleep. I waited for the morning light to reveal the Great Rift Valley…and it did not disappoint.
Welcome to my Kenya safari series.
P.S. The old “Lunatic Express” as the train was sometimes called, made its last run on April 28, 2017. A new fast train has relegated it to the past as one of the classic train rides in the world.
I’d love to hear about a memorable experience you’ve had on a train. Please feel free to comment below. If you know someone who would like this travel series, please share it!