Sea Star 7

1998 Bayliner LeClercq

We make a run for it

We departed our condo at 10am Puerto Vallarta, and arrived at our hotel in Arusha Tanzania at 4am local time – in total 34 total hours in transit.  The trip from Puerto Vallarta to Houston was uneventful, but the flight from Houston to Istanbul was over an hour late departing.

Turkish air business class on the leg to Istanbul was great.  We had lay flat seats and the catering aboard looked amazing.  I say “looked amazing” because we made the tactical mistake of ordering a gluten free meal which appears to be translation for “flavorless meal with nothing anyone can be allergic to in it”.  Meanwhile those around us were served with salads with poached shrimp and the like.  Sigh.  We could have eaten the regular meals.

Because the flight to Istanbul was late departing, we stepped off the airplane with 35 minutes before they would close the doors our departure to Kilimanjaro.  You would think that would be ok, but…

There is no tram and these two gates are about as far about as they could be – in fact just shy of a mile.  So we hoofed it.  Arrived with about 10 minutes to spare.  Just enough time to hit the restroom.  Fast walking a mile on hard concrete – my shins still hurt days later.

While we hustled, one of our bags didn’t. When we arrived in Kilimanjaro Melissa’s bag was nowhere to be seen.  Computer trace indicated it was still in Istanbul.  Problem with that is that the flight from Istanbul to Kilimanjaro only runs every two days.  So no hope of seeing the bag anytime soon.  Thank goodness Melissa packed her medications in her carry on.  But most of the carefully procured safari gear was in the checked bag.

Upon arrival as soon as we stepped out of the airplane onto the tarmac you could smell that we were in a different country.  A sweet sort of earthy smell.  First, we had to show we had our COVID vaccinations before we were even allowed into the building.  Then onto immigration.  Having gotten our VISAs on line before we left – it was pretty straightforward and the customs officials were super friendly.  Everyone speaks English here and all signage is in English.  So easy to find your way around.

Kilimanjaro is a tiny airport and the two bags that made it were sitting waiting for us – even though we were the first through immigration.  You could walk in and out of the customs area freely.  Apparently, no one transports stuff into Africa that anyone cares to find.  They were X-Raying on the bags leaving the airport but it wasn’t clear anyone was even watching the x-Ray monitor.

Our guide, Shabani was waiting for us.  He chattered the one hour drive to the plantation we would be staying on, but we hardly remember much of what he said being somewhat bleary eyed by then.  We do remember him talking about game hunts though.  Apparently, they have an abundance of lions – so you can buy a game tag for $20,000 USD.  But when you add accommodations and the hunting guide – think $80,000 USD to try and get one.  Of course, endangered species such as Elephants are off limits.

A ton of confusion ensued about what day it was.  We had paid for two nights at the plantation – one of which had essentially already passed since we were checking in at 4am.  But our itinerary from the travel agent didn’t show this.  So we spent most of the drive from the airport fretting about whether we even had a room to crash in.  And whether our missing bag would reach us before we departed on Safari depending on whether the itinerary was right or wrong on the days it showed we were supposed to be at each location.

When we arrived at the plantation - Arusha Coffee Lodge - at 4am, there was a crew of 4 people waiting to greet us.  The receptionist, a security guard, and two porters.  The receptionist confirmed that we had paid for two nights – so the location of the next lodge we had given the airport to deliver the bag when it arrived was correct.  It was chilly – probably 65 degrees – and we were offered blankets during check in.  We felt like royalty.  This we learned is common.  Labor is crazy cheap here (well duh!).  A living wage is $500 per month.  Most of the people in the country live on $1.50 per day.  So when a hotel is charging US rates, they can afford to hire a ton of staff to pamper you.  So four people escorted us to our room – one each carrying a bag.

We tried to get a few hours of sleep but it wasn’t easy as we are 8 hours ahead of Puerto Vallarta time and our brains were convinced it was daytime.

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