All aboard the Madaraka Express – Kenya with the Coopers

John and Margaret Cooper are currently in Kenya. Here is an account of their experience of catching Kenya’s “Chinese Train” the modern replacement of the British narrow-guage railway (of man-eating lions fame) built at the turn of the 19th century, in its day a memorable, well-recorded experience in itself.

The only certainty in life is that the Madaraka Express (built and managed by China) will leave on time. The gates are closed mercilessly before departure, late-comers left behind in shock, unused to such un-African precision.

By contrast, getting to the train at the crack of dawn is a matter of unknowns. How heavy is the traffic? Where is the turn-off to the station (no signage)? Which is the passenger entrance? Leave all this to a local driver and add 30 mins to their travel time estimate and pray). Will the sniffer dogs be on time for the first of three security checks? At the second, will they try to confiscate my (MEC’s) hair spray again? The tin says inflammable. But, I beseech the guard, “Mama, what about my beauty?” This brings laughter, the spray almost ends up in another person’s suitcase and I seem to be able to clutch it gratefully. Finally, will the tickets print out (the website is malfunctioning and cannot issue confirmation of purchase or ticket numbers at present)???

Help with heavy luggage or wheelchairs is like gold dust. How do passengers in China manage, one wonders. John’s solution is to grumble loudly in Swahili until innate African courtesy and respect for white hair overcomes the Chinese rules apparently to stand and watch people struggle.

The train leaves on time and the staff on the platform stand to attention in smart uniforms.

HS2: this is what you will get if the government accepts China’s offer to complete it.

Best wishes to all
Margaret and John

8 Thoughts

  1. I’m so glad that John and Margaret will be back in the civilisation of the United Kenya Club, Nairobi, on Tuesday where I am to be delivered from Heathrow courtesy of Kenya Airways and an airport taxi. Tortoise training in Karen on Wednesday (probably it’s the Herpetarium staff to be trained) then au revoir. I shall fly to Kisumu and muse on the species flocks of Haplochromin fish in the Lake that so hastily evolved but succumbed to the ravages of greedy Mankind. But our dear Coopers take generous and constructive contribution to the cause of the natural world wherever they travel. University of Kent at Canterbury this year ? It would be lovely to see you, Margaret and John, at UKC and UKC. Valerie (or as friend Ben Ogola says, “nyar Siaya”).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have a safe and productive trip, Valerie. It would be great to share your progress with FFON readers if you do happen to get a moment to share a blog and a few photos. Stay safe and hats off to you, too, for being generous with your time and knowledge.


  2. Lovely! Just off to Nakuru via the Rift Valley Escarpment. Margaret and John

    On Sat, 7 Mar 2020 at 21:42, The Frightened Face of Nature (FFON) wrote:

    > Simon H King posted: ” John and Margaret Cooper are currently in Kenya. > Here is an account of their experience of catching Kenya’s “Chinese Train” > the modern replacement of the British narrow-guage railway (of man-eating > lions fame) built at the turn of the 19th century, in i” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these snippets of adventure you share or reminders of what I must give more thought to. Thank you for a good start to Sunday. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Margaret and John, it is good to see you in your chair, enjoying the birds in the garden. It is lovely to see you in Kenya, in the modern mode of transport. (An in-depth investment and help of the Chinese government). I presume, there were no lions or ostriches on the railway? I remember: some years ago, we were traveling by train in China. The train stopped exactly in time, only a few steps away from your reserved seats. Nevertheless, we had to hurry to our seats. Continuation was in seconds.
    We are in a good mood, supported by sunny weather, in our splendid isolation.
    We enjoy gardening etc. I am working on a paper concerning physiology and pathology of the avian respiratory system. As an addition, I learned about the presence of air-sacs in insects and the unidirectional respiration in crocodylians.
    All the best and kind greetings,
    Han and Peer

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Han and Peer
    Thank you for your nice message. Good to see that you (Peer especially) are as busy as ever. We are too – marking student assignments and exams, writing chapters for textbooks, reading histology slides (John) and revising our UF wildlife forensic pathology course for next year. .
    Our daughter-in-law continues to work as a neurologist in the NHS. Our son, also a medic, has trained many young doctors but has to be at home looking after the children, our three grandchildren, at present.
    We hope you are all keeping safe and well. We are fine and cheerful and think ourselves lucky, compared with so many, in disparate parts of the world, to be isolated together in a small cottage in Norfolk, England.
    Please stay in touch and look after yourselves.
    Best wishes
    John and Margaret Cooper


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