Kenya: Why it is called the Lunatic Express

We leave the Maasai Mara on August 26th for a brief watering stop in Nairobi, which is supposed to be followed by a journey to Mombassa on the night train, also called , in Victorian times, the “lunatic express” when the Nairobi to Mombassa section of the Uganda Railway was being built in 1913. Perhaps that name was related to the engineering complexity of building a railroad across Africa’s great Rift  Valley. Or perhaps it was because of the “Man Eaters” of Tsavo, the two lions who crept into the camp every night and dragged a worker out into the bush to eat him. The lions were finally shot after they had devoured 138 workers.

Anyhow, we decide to ignore the puzzled looks we keep getting from locals upon us telling them that we are going to Mombassa by train (well, I suppose the 15 hour train journey compared to the six hour drive or one hour flight must have had something to do with it).

A few minutes before heading to the train station, we are told that the train has crashed into a car on the way in, killing three people and that – it might be “slightly delayed”. That is enough to shatter our  hitherto unshakable resolve and we decide to spend the night at the Muthaiga Club in Nairobi, and to drive down to Tsavo the next morning.

At the Muthaiga Country Club

What would have turned out to be a nightmarish night on the Lunatic Express ends up being a very comfortable night spent in a cottage in the gardens of the Muthaiga Club – a place frozen in time, with antiquated rules which have not changed since its founding in 1913. No hats in the lobby, no ladies allowed in the “gentlemen’s bar” except on New Year’s eve etc.