Developing Country Not Developing Rail Service

As beautiful as this was when I leaned out of the window of our car as people boarded the train in Windhoek bound for Keetmanshoop, [click to enlarge] the experience was anything but beautiful.  On the way to Windhoek last week the train broke down around 3 AM and we waited hours for a “mechanic” to arrive.   In the dark of night we were hot, tired and anxious over missing our bus connection to Swakopmund that morning.  We were a few hours late BUT we did just make the “bus connection.”  We stepped onto the air-conditioned Inter-Cape coach and settled in for the 4.5-hour ride to Swakopmund and were quite comfortable.   It was then announced that there was a mechanical problem with the vehicle and we would transfer to another coach at the bus depot.  It turned out that they instead squeezed us into a van with the other 14 passengers!   While it was not what we reserved, not to our liking, uncomfortable and completely unethical, it was listed at the same price as the large coach.  No one complained …because this is Namibia.    The photo you see here was taken after a delightful weekend in the Atlantic resort town – more about that next – and we waited for the train to depart for over two hours.  Welcome to Namibia.  I provided from my powerful headlamp the light for an electrician who had to repair wiring under the cars practically in the dark as all he had was a little light on his cell phone!  Now almost four hours late, the train’s electricity was restored by the professional and I said to him, “Good job.  All done?”   Everyone (about 100 passengers) was standing around wondering if we would ever depart on the overnight train to the south.  The electrician replied, “Yes, done.  But it’s not here yet.”  What’s not here?  “The locomotive.”  I was aghast!  He was right of course; there was no locomotive.  We then tried to get some sleep while waiting for a notion of locomotion.   Yep.  We never did depart for the south.  No locomotives working today.  The manager assembled the passengers at 7 AM right were you see them in the photo, explained the problem, apologized and offered options.  Neither of us had slept much between the passenger noise-making and the mosquitos coming in our window.  So, we elected to take the refund and catch a kombie arriving in Keetmans 4-5 hours later than planned.  Train travel is cheap and safe here.   That’s about it.

Train to Nowhere

About Steve Link

In Namibia with the U.S. Peace Corps July 2014 - July 2016. View all posts by Steve Link

5 responses to “Developing Country Not Developing Rail Service

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