As I have a Kenyan wife I try to get out to Kenya whenever I can. This year suddenly at the last minute a cheap flight with First Choice who had a flight a couple of days later than I wanted to go but at under £300 and at £600 cheaper than flying to Nairoi I booked the flight and told the wife we would be together for the New Year.
So on the morning of the December 30, after an enjoyable night flight (due to getting the 3 seats in the middle to myself and being able to have a little nap, I arrived at Moi International Airport at 6.25am, so after an enormous wait I finally get through customs and change a small amount of money into Kenya Shillings (for the Taxi and booking into the Hotel) I meet the wife. We jump into the taxi and make our way to the hotel and have the obligatory shower.
Now feeling refreshed and ready to sort things out we head off to look for a Forex Bureau. What a wacky I can be sometimes - I had forgotten that the 2nd Eid this year was on December 30 and Mombasa is mainly a Muslim town all the Forex Bureaus were shut, so I had the choice of the illegal money changers or finding a sensible bank that didn't want to charge a ridiculous commission. After about an hour we find a suitable one. Funny that a Muslim bank open on the day that all the local Forex's were shut due to it being a Muslim Holiday - Thank You the Dubai Bank.
Now we've got our money my wife and I booked the train the train for New Year's Eve, (First Class- a nice Xmas Present to ourselves we thought), dinner bed and breakfast and a chance to dress up for dinner (I had even bought a suitable evening dress for my wife and packed the evening suit. The cost of this was Ksh3160 each or £47.88 for the pair of us, not a lot I know but because this was done at such short notice (1 Week) we were on quite a tight budget. The lady at Mombasa Railway Station graciously took our money, gave us our tickets and told us we had to check in for our journey by 7pm - seemed reasonable enough so we took our tickets and went back to The Manson Hotel and had dinner.
As I was in Mombasa and my In-Laws have a communication system that appears to work like a bush fire we all met at one of my brother in laws' homes where we met up with some of the relatives I hadn't seen since our wedding day and caught up with the gossip. All was going well when somewhere around midday the wifw's mobile starts to ring, we're a bit surprised as all the relatives likely to ring are at the home and it isn't any of my side of the family calling, so the telephone is answered (reluctantly-I might add).
It's The train people calling us at approximately 12.30/1pm to say that there is a problem with the train - it's cancelled due to rain somewhere in the middle of the train track so would we like to catch the coach?
(I wasn't allowed to take the phone to say no it's too heavy to do that, thank you) (It was New Year's Eve and I had been drinking). Now seeing as it was too late to recheck into the hotel for another night and those that were available were above our budget and it was too late to book a coach of opur choice this late we accepted "their kind offer" of the coach to Nairobi for Ksh1,000. We still had to check in half hour before the coach leaves, so at 6.pm we leave the family behind, catch the matatu to the Hotel, collect our belongings from reception and catch a Tuk Tuk to the Railway Station for 7pm to see in the region of 3-400 people milling around the station. So we queue up to get our coach ticket and the refund balance and to find out where the coach is - we're starting to get a bad feeling about this.
No problem Sir/Madam the coach will be here soon but unfortunately due to it being a Sunday all the money is in the bank so you will have to get your refund in Nairobi. I asked what happened if I stay in Mombasa - you will have to wait till following day as tomorrow is a Bank Holiday. I then asked what was different In Nairobi as it was a Bank Holiday there too- wouldn't we have a similar problem there, no sir he said. Now at this point we start talking to the people around us and at about 8pm when we should be on our way to Nairobi we find that the coach is still on its way to the station and will be at least an hour and overhear the man say the it will take 7/8 hours to get to Nairobi by the coach coming. It takes the professionals between 8-10 hours to do this journey. Now people are starting to worry because it's 9pm and some people are due to be in work the following morning and everyone's discovering the different lies this man has been telling us all and that he hasn't told those in 3rd class that they're not going on the coach, now he comes out with I suppose a bodyguard to talk to us. We then discover by talking to another Mzungu that they had already cancelled the train a couple of days ago because of the rains a couple of days before in the same area, so they knew they would be cancelling the train when they took the money! Now extremely annoyed I set off to demand my money back when we are distracted by a coach arriving - would you believe it a CityHoppa! Certainly not suitable for the Mombasa Road. People are furious and the "helpful" Guard disappears back into the office. As the coach stops and the people come off the coach we find out they've been travelling for 14 hours from halfway along the track and that the drivers are so tired they are not going anywhere till the morning and also they had no idea they were collecting anybody from the station for a return journey. The Guard - now the manager suggested with an I don't care attitude suggested we sleep on the bus but they wouldn't be supplying blankets or anything like that. I now went to the man and pointed out that the bus was not suitable for the Mombasa Road or sleeping on what could be done - he said that we could take taxis to hotels and that the firm would pay for them on production of Receipts, but we would still have to get the full refund from Nairobi. As it was too late to book a hotel we hastily made arrangements to go back to my Brother-In-laws for the night.
When we returned the following morning we were told that as we hadn't stayed at a hotel we weren't entitled to the cost of the taxi but we could have the full refund for the train trip.
With the help of my brother in law who just happened to be lucky enough to know the person in the Booking Office for the coach company we were able to get a coach back to Nairobi that night at Ksh1,000 but it wasn't Air Conditioned.( Well it was sort of - the window by my head was broke and we couldn't shut it).
It turns out that no one completely owns Kenya Railways at the moment as a South African is trying to buy it and neither he nor the Kenya Government has full control of it at the moment and so they can blame each other for any problems that occur at the moment and they frequently do.
So all in all the moral of this long story is until they have sorted out who actually wholly owns the Kenya Railway System - DON'T USE KENYA RAILWAYS!