|AFRICA DAY 2 - LONDON TO MOSHI|
Sunday, June 26
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I woke up again just in time for breakfast, this time at around 5:30am. We were about an hour from landing in Nairobi. Breakfast was again a croissant, butter, and less than spectacular yogurt. After I ate I tried to get a bit more rest but couldn't really fall back asleep.
We landed right on time, but a delay at the gate kept us on the tarmac for another 15 minutes, so we didn't get into the terminal until about 6:45am, only 45 minutes before our next flight. We walked from Gate 3 where we arrived to Gate 4 for the next flight. Despite what you might think, Gate 3 wasn't exactly right next to Gate 4, so we had to walk a decent distance to get to our gate. It was like walking through a depressing duty free mall. One side of the walkway was a seemingly endless stream of duty free shops, separated by the occasional gate. The other side was mostly seating, filled with tired looking people, broken only by the occasional duty-free shop. There was a lot of alcohol and cigarettes for sale.
I had to check the bag I had been carrying on for the last leg of the trip as it wouldn't be able to fit in the overhead bin in the smaller plane. Mike had thought it was going to be a very small plane (~30 seats) but we ended up in a plane fit for 80 passengers or so. It was definitely smaller than the 777s we'd been flying in, but this wasn't anything smaller than you'd find in the US on a short-haul flight. We had to walk out onto the tarmac before stepping into the plane from the rolling stairs (no jetway), and took off a bit late according to our schedule and tickets. The pilot commented how we were right on time though - our apparent introduction to "Africa time". They served the same weak breakfast on the plane as the incoming flight, but I suppose at least I got two of them today.
It was too cloudy to see Mt. Kilimanjaro from the plane, which was especially disappointing as I had a window seat on the left side (the side facing the mountain). We arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport around 9:00am after a flight of 50 minutes or so. The government official did actually check for the yellow fever certificate when going through the airport, though I'm not sure how closely their "health inspector" actually looked, especially at the documents for the American and European tourists. At least one in our group didn't have the certificate but didn't have any issues getting in. We did get electronically fingerprinted at Customs, but other than that it was a quick and easy process. Getting the visa ahead of time definitely helped - it looked like half the passengers didn't have theirs and had to wait in a long line, though it did at least seem to be moving quickly enough.
After gathering our bags (everyone's bags made it all the way from Denver - a minor miracle according to Mike based on his past experience) we met our drivers at the exit and piled into two vehicles, with most of the luggage strapped onto the roof of the Land Rover. The drive to the AMEG lodge took around 30 minutes. We passed a lot of farmland - mostly maize and sunflowers it seemed. Our driver explained that this area is one of the wettest in the country, and since their population is not very dense they have plenty of land to grow crops.
The roads we were on were mostly paved and actually in decent condition - at least until the last couple hundred feet on a rutted dirt road leading to the lodge entrance. Everywhere along the route were people walking - in and out of the fields and along the roads. While there were quite a few heavy trucks on the road, there were very few passenger vehicles. Some people did ride motorcycles, though pretty slowly.
We got checked in at the lodge and while dropping our stuff in the rooms discovered we had no electricity. Apparently, since the elections last fall here in Tanzania there have been consistent rolling blackouts throughout almost the entire country (except for the capital of course). The drought in Kenya also contributed to the power issues, as the rivers that drive the hydroelectric plants weren't running enough to keep up with the demand. Basic infrastructure problems like these are common here (and across much of Africa), which helps you to realize how fortunate we are in the states to have regular access to some of these basic things.
Our room itself is okay, but nothing special. It's about 250 square feet or so with two one-person (bigger than a twin but smaller than a full) beds with mosquito nets surrounding them. A small hallway leads to the door and the bathroom. There's no AC in the room, but it's cool enough that temperature shouldn't be an issue. It actually reminds me a bit of my apartment at Purdue in the grad-student housing with the same linoleum flooring and lack of sufficient lighting.
We met the head guide for the trek - Azizi -a bit later just before lunch time. He gave us a basic rundown of what to expect and what we needed - though we had heard most of it already from Mike.
The exchange rate in Tanzania is approximately 1500 Tanzanian Shillings (TS) per US dollar. If you pay in dollars (everywhere accepts US currency there) they approximate the exchange rate at 1000:1, which of course makes for easy math but is more costly for us. A few from the group went with Azizi to a local bank to exchange some money (Nikki helpfully exchanged some for me) while Mike, Alex and myself walked about ten minutes to a nearby general store to pick up some bottled water. We picked up ten 1.5 liter bottles for $10 US and got 2500 TS back in change - so it wasn't a bad deal at all. After we got back I took a quick and cold (no hot water due to lack of power) shower to clean off the remains of travelling. I think it had been around 40 hours since leaving home, but 4 flights (including 2 red-eye overnights on the plane) and crossing nine time zones leaves you a little uncertain about everything. I wrote a bit in the journal, took a nap, and then wrote some more after waking up a couple hours later. The plan was originally to stay up until night to try to reset my internal clock, but I had trouble staying awake.
Randy was putting his pack together so I decided to do the same, even though we weren't leaving for the mountain for two days. It took a while, but I was able to get everything arranged for the hike in my camera/day bag (for me to carry) and everything else in the other bag (for the porter to carry).
A little before 7:00 pm we headed over to the dining area for dinner. The rest of the group had been there awhile and had already ordered, but the food hadn't arrived yet. I ordered the Thai Beef Curry with rice, which was okay but nothing special. I was a little surprised at the menu though - it was a lot of Indian, Asian, and American food - but nothing that looked especially African (not that I would necessarily know what that was, but process of elimination could at least get me close). I do want to try something a little more traditional at some point.
After dinner the others went back to their rooms to do some (un)packing, while Randy and I stayed in the dining area. He asked the staff to put on some African music instead of the awful 80's American music they were playing during dinner. We hung out there for another 45 minutes or so before heading back to the room around 9:15pm.
Despite the long nap earlier I'm pretty tired; time for bed.
Our Plane to Moshi (Kenya)
Clouds Over Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Kilimanjaro Airport (Tanzania)
Sunflower Field (Tanzania)
AMEG Lodge (Moshia, Tanzania)
Aloe Plant (Moshi, Tanzania)
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