Journal -- Day 1
July 29th and 30th

Return to Journal Home Page

Return to African Safari Home Page

Hours on planes:  18  (but in economy so equivalent to 36 business class hours)
Cold showers:  1
Hours sleep:  10?  (v. bad, as elapsed time close to 40)

The lovely Audrey Hepburn would no doubt be distressed to see her name gracing a 20 year old MD 11 on the third world route for KLM.  They do their blue-clad best, but there's no disguising the age and wear.  As we land, condensation drips on unprotected heads as the overhead jiggles madly.

Landing at Kilimanjaro:  pitch dark, only a few dim bulbs light the runway.  No sign of the mountain for which it is named.  The runway seems to have been last paved sometime prior to expulsion of the English, perhaps as part of the search for Livingstone.  I'm surprised the tires survive multiple landings.  (Perhaps they don't, and a section of the cargo hold is dedicated to new tires and such.  In Dar, they will likely jack up the plane and change them, pit-crew style, while offering the pilot Gatorade through a straw.)  We exit the plane by way of stairs (haven't used those in a while), and find ourselves in front of a prototypical tropical airport, complete with flagpoles, palm trees, and slatted windows.  The customs hall / money exchange / baggage claim room boasts mahogany floors a New York designer would drool over, should such a person find themselves in Tanzania.

There is somewhat less than the usual chaos getting through passport control.  We walk through the green line to be greeted by enormous crowd of safari drivers.  One tour group was met by a traditional (?) Maasai brass band.  They were a bit ragged at first, but soon the arrivals lounge was in full "visiting ambassador" brou-ha-ha.  Regrettably, this follows us to the parking lot.

We are stopped at the exit of the airport to wait for a group of vans to leave for Arusha, some 50 kilometers away.  We are told by a somewhat insufficiently innocuous guard that it's not safe to drive at night.  The road seemed fine, if Pepsi-sign infested.  The other van occupants are several young women who have not traveled in such exotic locales before -- the whole episode of being stopped by machine-gun toting guards and needing to drive in a group seems to offer them a rather disturbing welcome.  They are further excited by spotting their first wild animal, a house cat crossing the road.  A second sighting proves less interesting, as the giraffe in question is wooden.

Once in Arusha, we climb up a rutted dirt road lined with shacks to a stunning compound, featuring a dozen or so hut-like rooms.  Each is quite comfortable, with lovely painted roof beams and a selection of African art (on sale in the gift shop, no doubt).  In the morning, we rise to freezing cold showers and the sound of a pack a dogs attempting to either kill or mate with something.  Assuming that it is perhaps too early for hot water, and somewhat concerned about the location of the dogs, I refrain from running over to the main lobby to ask for help with the water temperature situation.  Over breakfast, as my hair slows thaws, I discover that the other huts included hot water.  Sigh.

Next Installment