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October 15, 2001
Kilimanjaro: the long way (Russell)

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Mt. Kilimanjaro, tallest peak in Africa (no, not the little one -- it's the one in the back covered in fog)

We reluctantly (and sleepily) left the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi at 7:00 AM on the morning of October 15th.  Although our flight to Kilimanjaro did not depart until 10:10 AM, we were warned that rush hour traffic in Nairobi is awful.  We were the only ones on the airport shuttle at that early hour, and our driver took obvious pride in his city as he explained the sites that we passed.  We made a mental note to return to Nairobi "some day."

We ended up with more than two hours to wander Nairobi's airport, and we bought our usual souvenirs of stickers and patches.  We also picked up some more books for Cameron, as well as a nature guide to African wildlife.  We boarded the Air Tanzania flight and unhappily rediscovered what it is like to sit in economy class.  Gail had to be reassured by Russell that the airlines hadn't reduced the leg space while we were away -- it had always been this bad.

More bad news came after takeoff, when the flight attendant announced that our flight was not going to Kilimanjaro as scheduled -- we were going to Dar Es Salaam instead.  We were dumbfounded.  Are airlines allowed to do this?  The attendant went on to explain that after we landed in Dar Es Salaam, they would figure out some other way to get us to Kilimanjaro.

Geographically, Kilimanjaro is on the north end of Tanzania.  Just across the border is Nairobi, Kenya.  By flying to Dar Es Salaam, we actually flew one third of the way back towards Mauritius.  Apparently, we would then turn around and fly almost all the way back to Nairobi in order to reach Kilimanjaro.

Our arrival in Dar Es Salaam -- and Tanzania -- was even more chaotic than our arrival in Nairobi the night before.  We wanted to avoid going through Immigration, as we were just going to get right back on another plane anyway.  No such luck.  Because we had crossed from Kenya into Tanzania, we would have to go through Immigration, collect our luggage, go through customs, then turn around and recheck our luggage again.  After waiting in the passport line, we discovered once again that we should have been waiting in the visa line instead.  Russell was sent off once again to exchange his travelers checks for American cash (at a loss) in order to pay for the visas.

On the positive side, the airline provided a complementary lunch for us at the local restaurant -- a delicious buffet that included beef musaka, chicken cachaiore, and kunde curry.  Air Tanzania also provided a wonderful service: they laid all of the check-in luggage out on the tarmac, so that we could verify which ones were ours as we physically boarded the plane.  While this helped the airline from a security point of view, it also gave us tremendous reassurance that all of our bags were indeed going onto the same plane that we were.

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Dar Es Salaam airport (it was Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam that had their US embassies bombed a few years ago)

On board the flight from Dar Es Salaam to Kilimanjaro, Russell was mortified to discover that his economy-class seat (in the second-to-last row) actually had even less legroom than he had on the morning flight.  Gail reassured him that yes, they had indeed reduced the leg space while he was away.  In addition, the 2:30 PM flight departed fifteen minutes late, during which time we sat in the hot sun with no air conditioning.  And of course, the plane was filled completely to capacity by people whose definition of "personal hygiene" differed vastly from ours.

We finally arrived in Kilimanjaro at 4:30 PM.  As we were already honorary Tanzanians by now, we didn't have to go through Immigration.  Hooray!  Our long day ended happily when we saw Tom, our safari guide, waiting for us outside of the airport.  (He had actually been waiting there since 10:55 AM that morning, which was when our first flight was supposed to have landed in Kilimanjaro.)  Gail was so happy, she threw her arms around him and gave him a big hug.

After a short, fifteen-minute drive from Kilimanjaro to Arusha, we met Tom's wife Sandi, with whom Gail had been exchanging email messages for the last several months.  Our African safari was about to begin. 

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Gail, Sandi, Russell, and Tom

 

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