In March, 2009 I went to Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa, to join a group organized by FarRail of Germany on a chartered steam photographers special. Since mother is in the UK, I flew to Manchester via Chicago (6 hour wait) to check up on her and to do some shopping for her. Then Lufthansa took me to Frankfurt, and Egypt Air to Cairo on a brand new B737-800. It was easy to tell who the group were, mostly in the bar! Egypt Air again to Asmara, where we arrived about 3 am. Customs didn't like my binoculars, digital SLR or my video camera, but eventually let me go. We had to declare all our currency, and fill out bits of paper showing what we had. Eventually, we all got on our bus, with another for all the luggage, and went to the hotel. A little sleep, then it was off to the station and engine sheds. Eventually we set of to Arbaroba and met the tourist train, which we followed up the mountain. The engines are nice little Italian built 0-4-4-0T Mallets, and are a bit, to be charitable, tired. Despite this, lousy coal, small water capacity and the need to stop frequently to build up steam, we all had a good time, with lots of run-by's and on the whole decent weather.
Home under the viaduct at Arbaroba
Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, and has a port on the Red Sea. Neighbors are Sudan, Ethiopia and Djbouti. The railway was destroyed in the civil war for independence from Ethiopia, and rebuilt post war by the government. There is no commercial traffic, an occasional tourist train, and the odd railfan charter. The line runs from sea level at the port of Massawa, through the desert, then climbs up through the mountains to the capital of Asmara at 7874 feet. Despite being dirt scrabble poor, the people were interested in what the crazy camera toting foreigners were doing, and as usual, the kids were great!
Reasonably typical home.
The whole trip really was a lot of fun, despite there being perhaps too many of us. The train crews really were very good, though I'm not at all sure they understood what the attraction of steam was. It's very difficult, for me anyway, to shoot both video and stills. My primary reason for being there was to shoot video, but I took the opportunity to shoot stills where I could, usually during stops to make steam.
And when it was all over, we set off for the airport for a 5 am flight back to Europe, via Cairo. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the bit of paper showing the currency transactions. Which they didn't like at all, and I was taken away for the third degree. Eventually they got tired of stupid foreigners, and I was sent away, much to my relief. Four hours in Cairo, and it was off to Frankfurt, and I got to see the pyramids shortly after take off. Since US flights leave in the morning, I got to spend the night in Frankfurt, and when I got to DFW, American had cancelled my flight to Tucson, so I got to spend the night there as well. I enjoyed the trip, but it was certainly a relief to be back home!