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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: -3.36667, 36.6833DAY THREE (Sunday, September 6, 2009)
In to (not out of) Africa.
I awoke before dawn, in time to get my camera out and take some window shots of an incredible sunrise … reds and oranges, over a rugged terrain. Shots destined as backgrounds in the digital scrapbook I've planned. Hope there will be many more.
Our flight arrived Dar es Salaam (largest port in Tanzania) early, which simply meant we had an extra hour to sit on the concrete stairs to await our 11 am flight on Precision Air to Arusha. We were hustled by drivers, porters, beggars, etc., all trying to make a living off us. They finally gave up and moved on to fresh meat.
My first experience with an African ATM was an embarrassing one. I had decided to get $50 in Tanzanian money, just to have some small change. But the ATM explained nothing about the exchange rate. I opted for 5000, hoping it wasn't a lot. I got my wishes. I ended up with just under $5 in Tanzanian shillings. THAT bought me a Diet Coke (having Tab withdrawal, folks) and a Coke for Big P. Should have done some homework on rates … when the
Sunrise over Tanzania
From the air, arriving in Dar es Salaam
exchange booth opened, I learned they were buying US$ for 1100 shillings and selling them for 1335.
The airport is basically a large concrete umbrella … mostly an outdoor affair. We lost power twice while we were filling out emigration paperwork. No A/C. No chairs even. Temp appears to be high 80s with high humidity. We spent four hours on a concrete staircase awaiting departure. Good time for blogging. ;-)
The Precision Air flight to Arusha offered two highlights: a sighting of coastal Tanzania, with beautiful aqua waters, and a view of Mount Kilimanjaro, peaking its head through the clouds. Both fun photographs.
The airport at Arusha is something else. Because we flew a fly-by-night airline, we didn't disembark at the main terminal, which was a tin-roofed sight unto itself, but rather we were welcomed at a sort of Quonset hut with gravel tarmac and sidewalks which made pulling wheeled baggage a real challenge. The bag "truck" that went to the plane to retrieve our luggage was actually a large wagon, pulled by three men. With no pavement, you can't expect A/C, but as I was heading to the ladies room, I had the feeling I should have brought my camera, and I
Things are very arid in Arusha
was right. No electricity and the first stall was an Asian-style hole in the ground. The second stall was Western, and I was relieved to be able to relieve myself there. Note to self: put some of those “Wet Ones” you brought in your purse.
Omari, a driver for the ground supplier Safari Legacy, greeted us and loaded our luggage into his van. The windows were all closed tightly, which I mistakenly believed was because there was A/C. Wrong again. It was to keep the dust balls from choking us. Most of Tanzania is in a severe drought situation and the dust was incredible.
So was the poverty. OK, I live in an ivory tower. I admit it. I have been exposed to abject poverty in Mexico and parts of the US, but this is something else. We passed miles and miles of tin-roofed huts along the road that runs from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi. No windows, no doors, no power. Vendor after vendor trying to make a living.
It was Sunday, so there was a lot of foot traffic, with people dressed in their church-going finest. But when you looked past them, you saw folks washing their clothes in a
dirty river, children begging from the many tourists who provide income to this area, but you also saw a lot of happy faces.
And despite all the dust and lack of water, there are beautiful crops (coffee, bananas) and flowers (bougainvillea and a plant called a “flam” tree, similar to our tulip tree, with red orange flowers that bloom 3 months a year). Lovely.
In the middle of all the dust and squalor, our driver turned down a lane that was the worst so far. Unpaved, with much dust and many potholes. At the end lay our hotel, a magnificent resort called Serena Mountain Village. It was originally a coffee plantation. It's lush. With the cutest thatched roof huts that are guest rooms. In the middle of all THAT … THIS. Amazing.
Our room is round, with honest-to-goodness mosquito netting to keep out those critters (and malaria) at night. The bathroom is lush; there is a TV with cable, and wireless internet. And the view of a gorgeous lake and acres of bougainvillea is spectacular.
As we checked in, we met up with our traveling companions Barcy and Ann and joined them for lunch. It was an Indian theme lunch, with an indoor curry
Entertainers at lunch
Serena Mountain Village Lodge
buffet and an outdoor Tandoori grill. The ladies and I then hit the gift shop where I purchased a khaki-colored fleece zipped jacket with “Tanzania” and an embroidered antelope on it. I'm told it will be in the 50s most mornings when we begin our game drives.
At 4 pm, the entire Tauck “Classic Safari: Kenya and Tanzania” group met in the lobby for an orientation. Rachel Cirincione, our tour director for the next two weeks, covered a lot of topics:
- What you can eat … basically everything at the hotels where we are staying is safe, but avoid all the usual (fruits, lettuce, etc.) when away from the property.
· What you can drink … again, everything on property is OK, including ice (which is made of purified water) but only bottles/canned items when off property. She did suggest we drink bottled water even at the hotels; and brush our teeth with it because of the extremely high mineral content of the tap water.
· What about the bugs? … mosquitoes and malaria are a major concern; tsetse flies are not much of a factor here. When the turn-down service is provided at night, they spray the room extensively and close the
Serena Mountain Village Lodge
mosquito netting until morning. She recommended we apply bug spray with DEET (not 100% but something in the 15-30% range) on all exposed areas each day and lightly spray under light clothing as the bugs will bite through. (We are also taking a daily prescription drug called “Malaron” as a malaria preventative.) She said there is bug spray in each room for a reason: use it to kill the various critters you will encounter.
· What about handouts for children? The travel operators have been asked to keep the tourists from handing out items that encourage children to beg. They ask that we NOT pass out candy, pens, dollar bills, etc. It undermines their culture and family, and encourages kids to beg rather than attend school. They asked if we brought these things that they be turned over to Tauck and they would be presented as a gift to the school in the Maasai village when we visit.
· Additionally, we were encouraged by friends who had visited Africa to bring shoes to leave behind because so many here walk miles each day barefooted, just to get a small amount of water back to their villages. Rachel suggested we leave a
pair in each hotel as we go, with a note for the housekeeper that you were leaving them for her or a family member.
· Are there photo restrictions? It is mandatory that you not photograph the Maasai. Also, photographing government officials, buildings, airports, police or vehicles is not recommended, ESP. at border crossings.
· Shopping: Tauck isn't too big on shopping (they don't want to push particular retailers or vendors). They suggest we limit our purchases to hotel gift shops and the local people in villages we visit. Don't purchase anything made of wild game hide, tusks, ebony. Bargaining is encouraged outside the hotels. She believes the best keepsakes are beads/jewelry, baskets and wood carvings (except ebony, which is protected).
· Swahili: “Jambo” is hello. “Ahsante Sana” is thank you. “Kwaheri” is goodbye.
At five o'clock we were finally able to shower (after 48 hours of travel) and reorganize our belongings for safari. Our “jeep” bags include cameras, bug spray, sunscreen, valuables, hat/visor, sunglasses, binoculars, water, snacks, meds, jacket, and neckerchief.
We had drinks in the hotel lobby and moved to the dining room where there was a fixed price menu
Tanzanian answer to our tulip tree
($32.50 each) for soup, salad bar, choice of 5 entrees, dessert buffet. We each sampled a different entrée (tilapia, lentils, roast pork, African stew). Nothing to write home about but here I am writing home anyway. Note: All meals after today are included in the tour price.
My last activity of the evening is completing yesterday's travel entry and uploading it and photos to my blog on TravelPod.com. I uploaded photos to Facebook as well.
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