Welcome to Mombasa’s ( actually Miritini ) terminus.
But. I moved too far, too fast. Let’s draw back a little.
This is Miritini. On the Map, you can see it’s way past the Mombasa International airport, and has to be reached by car or bike ( Bicycle or motorcycle ). I advise against walking to the station, will explain in a bit about why.
Before I proceed further, it’s important for you to note that while this may seem like a rant, it’s more of an observation. I truly do appreciate the new SGR and would recommend everyone try it while it works.
The distance of 11 Kilometers can be traversed by car or matatu ( Local transport ) or Tuk tuk ( Not recommended ).
In order to reach the station, you’ll drive for about 45 minutes to 3 hours because the station is located along the Mombasa – Nairobi Highway, a road that’s riddled with transport vehicles that simply trash the road and cause a traffic jam that’s possibly visible from space. On one trip to Nairobi from Mombasa, I counted approximately 120 lorries on the road. While that’s great for the jobs market, I will explain that it’s the worst thing for a town as small as Mombasa. Yes a town. We may be called a city but it isn’t a title we deserve.
This is what it looks like trying to get to Miritini from Mombasa.
Now try imagining that all the way to Nairobi. There’s a single carriageway road ( like in the video above that’s not really a road ) that’s trying to push tonnes and tonnes of Fuel, Poisonous gasses, cars and a lot lot more. There’s absolutely no way for you to get to Nairobi without being frustrated. And it’s even worse when you get in to Nairobi with all the extra unnecessary traffic.
Once you manage to get out of that mess, you get to the bridge that crosses on to the mainland from the island of mombasa, all the while contending with traffic, and then comes this putrid, horrid smell that’s simply a waste disposal dump at the edge of the ocean, and it’s unbelievable that this is the entry point in to Mombasa whether by bus, car, or plane.
What you’re looking at are the garbage pickup trucks lined up in green and the garbage disposal running in to the ocean.
So. Now that you’ve gotten through fighting with lorries, and past the horrifying scents and smells of Mombasa’s “Beauty”, you get to Miritini. But you realise the station is nowhere near here. And why? because there’s no signs leading to the station. Turns out, it’s not even at Miritini. it’s off the highway, to the left ( when heading to Nairobi ), in to the forest, and there in the middle of nowhere, you’ll find the train station.
But, that’s not the best part. This here, is the road leading to the station:
What you’re seeing is a one way road, with these mountains of sand on them and they’re chocoblocked because there’s absolutely no way to get through.
But then we get in to the station and everything’s sort of hunky dory.
We start the lineup for entering the station and nothing happens. 5 minutes, 10, 20, still nothing.
Turns out, there was no electricity. The station was offline. We ended up being ushered in by policemen who searched us manually.
So we’re in now. The view is stunning:
I’ll cut to the part where we board the train because it’s fairly uneventful till then, i’m just sitting in my chair listening to the choir of ten-ish children crying away while trying to make a call in a No-Network area.
The first thing I see when walking from the boarding area toward the train is the statuette of an old chinese dignitary.
From then on, it’s more and more about how the chinese are a benevolent people who are here on a “Fair” trade and partnership with Kenya. Forgive my sceptical nature, i’m seeing things a little differently considering the fact that they’re going to be running the station for the next 10 years, and that we’ve got absolutely nothing to do with earning any revenue from it. Or even better is the news that we won’t be done paying them off after ten years either.
But I digress. This is about the train.
As we proceed, we get to the red sands of the tsavo almost immediately.
In the cabins, there’s adequate room to sit facing one another. Privacy is something that doesn’t exist in the regular cabins. On the plus side though, everyone, and I mean everyone was talking to one another. Mobile network isn’t the best along the route so it was interesting to see how people’s phones were put away and conversation was taking place.
I think as Africans, we a people are very sociable. And very warm, and welcoming. But we’re also getting to a tipping point where it’s almost blatantly obvious to the rest of the world that we’re suckers.
Apart from the ride being uneventful, there is an issue i’d like to point out.
We as a Kenyan people enjoy our meals. We like to sit and have our 10AM teas with Andazi and chapo’s. On the train, if you haven’t carried your own, you’ll run in to this long line of people waiting to get in to the food cabin.
I understand as of writing this post that they’ve resolved the matter by getting the cabin crew to take tea to the cabins. But it’s still to be confirmed.
Overall, despite the hurdles in getting to the SGR, I enjoyed the experience and would recommend everyone to try it at least once.
A few things to keep in mind if you are going to take the SGR:
- Book early so you don’t miss getting a ticket. They sell out fast.
- Keep your ticket with you at all times, you’ll need it to exit the train station.
- There’s no power sockets in the train so make sure you’ve got a charged phone / laptop / tablet or carry a power pack with you.
- I haven’t seen luggage space for large bags, you may have to make alternate arrangements for them or see what happens if you take big bags. ( let us know )
- Network on the SGR is iffy. Be ready for a conversation with random people.
- Be respectful of your peers. It’s easy to get in to a heated discussion with such a variety of people on the same cabin.
- Be on time. The SGR unlike most local transport is actually keeping time.
Hope you guys liked the article.