The flame trees outside the Dar es Salaam train station are some of the most beautiful plants i’ve seen in days – more so as their orange flowers lick the deep blue of the sky, cloudless. It’s hardly fitting that here, in this loud and beautiful contrast of colours, our family must come to an end.

I met Jun Ho in Lusaka. Actually, to be fair, before that even. As I boarded the bus in Monze, Zambia, to carry on towards the capital, he was seated in the back, a lone face among two dozen for whom this bus, this place, is everyday. We didn’t speak then, and I shrugged him off as many of the stories I would wonder about as we briefly connected and went our separate paths. Alighting in Lusaka though, we bumped into each other more directly outside the Tazara offices – he too on his way to Kapiri Mposhi to take the slow train to Dar es Salaam. Traveling for his first time outside of Korea, exploring a new world. We would hike Lusaka looking for a backpackers before running around like headless chickens through the traffic of the Lusaka main road, trying to swap forex and buy food for the fourty hours of train journey that we had decided to share together.

Jun Ho. Moving through the Zambian bush at around 60 km/h

Jun Ho. Moving through the Zambian bush at around 60 km/h

We would meet Naomi and Patrick later that morning, as they too were cutting it fine – boarding the eleven o clock bus to Kapiri Mposhi with us. All hoping to make the two hundred or so kilometer journey to the station in time to board the train before it left – our only chance for days. She from Britain, he from Italy, travelling as Dharma Bums through Africa – living outside of life in a world of their own construction.

Naomi and Patrick. In a pose. If you find this picture, let me know and ill send you a bigger one :)

Naomi and Patrick. In a pose. If you find this picture, let me know and i'll send you a bigger one :)

Gradually, guarding each others’ bags and swapping anecdotes about our countries and languages became comparing book lists. Became paying off extortionate policemen together. Became Naomi’s stories of the darkness in Northern Uganda. Became the big discussions of life, truth, dharma. We became a ragtag little family. Questing together on our galloping metal steed.

Our metal steed. Galloping through the countryside - our little party snugly on board at the back and staring out in wonderment.

Our metal steed. Galloping through the countryside - our little party snugly on board at the back and staring out in wonderment.

Running from one side of the train to the other, we called out the names of animals we saw as we clacked through the lush green of Zambia and the mixed colours of Tanzanian forests – grey, copper red and brilliant green underneath the blue, blue sky. We would discuss thoughts on the big things, in the low light of the cabin as the scent of strange places was pulled in through the window, riding the chilled night air. As the day died in that ochre hue particular to the Western horizon of Africa, and was born again in the salmon pink of the East, we would share our small meals of homemade sandwiches, biscuits and bohemian collections of sweets.

Our train gallops off. Fearlessly into the coming night.

Our train gallops off. Fearlessly into the coming night.

It was two days in a cabin – in time that seemed to stretch forever, yet died before we were ready. As we say our goodbyes, under the blue, blue skies of Dar es Salaam, the flame trees, watching, seem a small consolation.

  • Amazing. I really like the way you write.

  • Karin

    The road is long – but you have covered a huge distance already. It’s good to hear that there are other people doing it your way – on local transport. I sometimes think that almost everyone who comes to Africa these days gets on an overland truck and checks in their imagination along with their bag. So I am following you with great admiration.

  • @Dave – Thanks so much. The last few days have been so magical, I wish I could just squeeze them out into the laptop. (wistful sigh)

    @Karin – Making it to Dar es Salaam has really given me this wierd energy. It’s more or less halfway and is as if the balance of “possible” to “really happening” has finally shifted from being entirely possible but unstarted so many days ago, to “inevitable” now. It’s strange, but I haven’t yet met anyone on the route yet (car or backpacking), which I had thought to be almost a certainty by now. Perhaps I am just not hitting the same places at the right time – there are certainly enough tales in progress, from what I can tell.

  • Maria

    Richard, your notes are truly amazing and you put into words what some of us feel but cannot express…. Africa is amazing and the love story remains with us. Good to see you are in Addis and wiaitng for Jonathan already! I could no get him on the phone earlier this evening, it was just to wish you both well and wish you a safe journey…. enjoy.Maria

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