Sunday, June 16.
We were awakened at 3:45 am with a knock at the door. We immediately thought it was our wake up to get the train. When we realized it was not the right time, we struggled with sleep and being awake, fearful of missing our train. We woke up at 5:00 because we had a taxi coming at 5:30. The ride to the station was good until we got to the station. There was such a crowd of cars and tuk-tuks we could hardly move. It was so bad it wold make a NY taxi driver nervous! Finally in the traffic, with our driver being physically threatened, we got out and began to walk to the station with our heavy bags.
We got there in plenty of time. A young man offered to help us find the right gate. He was nice and courteous, saying it was his duty to help. When we approached the security section, another young man, who looked like a railway official, looked at our tidket and told us the train had been cancelled. He led us to a queiter place and called what we thought was another train station official. He said we should go to the old station and try to get on another train. He led us out of the station to a waiting car (there were many). It so happened that this car was occupied by the first young man to offer help.
The car drove as fast as possible from the crowded station. He was taking us to the old train station but stopped first at a travel agency and told us to go in and try to re-book a ticket. The nice young man there told me the trains to H… were booked solid for two days and that we should go back to the first train station to try to get a “standby” seat. Also, he said that even though the train had been cancelled, it may indeed be called up again if the problems had been fixed. If we were lucky we could perhaps get on the train after all.
Quickly our car took us back to the station. The nice young man helped us get our bags through security, up and over the tracks, and onto the platform. The train was there, boarding. We had only a few minutes to get on board. He started to run and we went with him. We got on the train, barely.
Then it hit. He wanted R1000 for the help. I protested that we had agreed on R300. He said, “Well I helped you with the bags and we were able to get on the train after all.” I had little recourse but to pay. Then we found seats, got our baggage stowed, and it hit me. This was a set up! The train had not been cancelled at all. This group of men saw Americans who didn’t know their way around and who had money. We just followed what we thought was official and right.
The good news is that we are on the train as I write. Bad news is that we are out R1000 (about $20). We also are not in our proper seats. The trains here have assigned seats. We were so glad dto be on the train, we took the first seats we saw that were empty. Then a young couple with a baby wanted “their” seats. We moved to other vacant seats on the same car. For now,no one wants our seats. The conductor just came by and reminded us that we were in the wrong seats on the wrong car. But he said we could stay here if we wanted. We stayed.