Day 8- Arusha back to Nairobi

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There were a variety of dogs that hung around the property and there was a bunch of barking at night. I cannot be sure it wasn’t the echoing of the village down below, but my guess would be if there property dogs, they were barking at monkeys. This place was supposed to be teaming with them, but so far we hadn’t seen any.

We set the alarm for 830, just in case we really needed it, but figured, like most days, we’d be up earlier than that. It is amazing how on vacation I am almost never tired in the morning, no matter how early but on any given day at home it is incredibly painful to wake up. I suppose it could be that I get more sleep here, since it gets dark pretty early…even though i wake up a bunch in the night relatively often, i am still not that groggy- but sometimes I feel like I will fall asleep on the 10 minute drive to the Studio?!

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We locked up the room to make our way to brekky, which we figured would also be a buffet. It was one that didn’t disappoint: great coffee, juice, a spicy/ creamy “baked beans”, a sauteed creamy mushroom dish, omelette, sweet potato chunks and a sweet corn like cake. All was great, and the baked beans and mushroom dishes were a bit like Indian food, which I can always actually enjoy for brekky. Something about the creaminess of the dishes just makes them seem appealing to me for breakfast- not sure why. I imagine most people don’t feel that way- except I guess maybe here in Africa and India 😉

Thoroughly full and nearly ready to roll out of there, we went back to the room.Bryan had fit in a shower last night but I needed one today. The water actually got hot- too hot- and I had to mix some cold in. I don’t think this has ever happened in Africa (or Borneo for that matter)! My hair was pretty gnarly from driving around a lot and I am sure, dusty, so it was a bit hard to brush and I swear it was all breaking off…but a little shampoo and some conditioner (which they provide in the rooms in refillable jars, rather than single use packaging) and it was a bit better. I will need to wear my hat more just to keep my hair from getting so ratty and subsequently broken and frizzy.

 

We did a bit of laundry in the sink with some Tide- and worst case, just use the bar soap. Mostly this is socks, underwear and maybe a tshirt or tank top so not a ton, and not everything. We discovered that while the shower gets hot quickly, the sink takes forever. Almost as Bryan had finished, the water started to get warm, but even then, not hot.

We sat on the patio/ balcony for a while, Bryan reading while I was transferring pictures off the camera card onto a usb. This is unfortunately not really something that is easily done as the one usb port on the tablet doesn’t recognize the hub I got to connect the thumb drive and card reader together. So transferring pictures involves transferring them to the tablet- which usually fills up before the card is done dumping, so I have to figure out which pictures transferred and which didn’t and when dealing with hundreds, it certainly is tedious. I finally got it to work and started the long process.

We had laid our laundry on the railing and used some of the hangers to hang them from the thatch and this woodcutter bee kept buzzing around. These bees are HUGE, like the size of a strawberry. I believe they can sting- and it would hurt like a son-of-a, but they are interested in cutting wood. We discovered later that we had hung a shirt over a hole he seemed to have been working on previously, so unfortunately we set him behind in his work!

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We took a walk down to the pool and to hunt for monkeys, which much to Bryan’s dismay, we did not find. That is actually why he chose the place, because they talked about the monkeys on the property, so it seems a shame Bryan didn’t get to see his spirit animal, but it was a nice day nonetheless. Definitely too cold for swimming, but we were comfortable in a tshirt and tank top and pants. 

We sat down near the pool to read and write for a bit and just enjoy the ambiance. There was a lot of noises coming up from the village including laughing children, dogs barking and a lot of roosters…a lot of roosters. And they kept crowing all morning. This wasn’t bothering us per se- and didn’t wake us up either- but it just seems there are many people keeping chickens in the village and they don’t just crow at dawn. Myth busted.

Finally it was time to go so we made sure we’d gotten everything packed and organized- which was when we realized the gift we’d gotten was missing, left in Herman’s truck. It was especially sad because while it was really cool, it wasn’t cheap and we debated about it’s price to begin with- and now we’d bought it, but didn’t even have it?! 

After much lamenting, we started the trek to the lobby with all our stuff. With a hiking backpack and then a smaller carry on one, this is pretty manageable, but it’s certainly heavy. 

Only the left door swing freely and the right was fixed with bolts at the top, and we almost couldn’t get our bags through the door. It was like the door was birthing us and I even got stuck a little. It probably would have been better to try and fit the backpack through first, but the thought hadn’t really occurred to me until I was stuck already.

With some coaxing from Bryan I made it through and we walked up the hill to the main parking lot. As we headed to the lobby, I saw a safari truck and noted I wished we’d be getting in one, as it would be a long time till we would (as the rest of the safari is on a large, bus-like truck). The driver started to walk over to us and noted that he was our ride to the airport! 

Bryan went to the lobby to check out- and to ask them to contact the safari company as well (we had sent off an email) to tell them if found, we’d pay to have it shipped to us…which is probably going to cost more than if we bought another!? 

The driver’s name was Wilson and he was telling me about some of the safari’s he’d been on. He said he’d seen a lion kill and impala from about 100ft away! He also said that to see the wildebeest crossing the river, he’d waited more than 5 hours at times (which didn’t sound awesome to me).

The drive is only about 45km and should normally take a little under an hour but there was a lot of traffic. It was a Friday morning, so I guess that makes sense, but it was surprising as it ended up taking 75 minutes.

The weather was pretty overcast so seeing Meru or Kili were not possible. We’d seen Meru on the way in, but only got a tiny glimpse at the peak of Kili poking above a cloud that basically enshrouded it otherwise. This was just a total white out, which made me laugh because it reminded me of when we went to see Mt. Rushmore and it was a very clear day, but as soon as we paid the fee and parked, a very thick fog had set in and there would be no view…neither would we see, Crazy Horse, or Devil’s Tower- all of which has special meaning for me, so was especially disappointing.

In 2005, my mother committed suicide and when I went back to NY for the funeral, my dad offered us her car. We also took her last bunny (she raised and showed rabbits much of my life) and her/ my cat (ie the cat she wouldn’t let me take when I first moved out, because she couldn’t lose her only child and the cat together)- and as my mom also cross-polinated and created day lilies, the entire yard was full of more than 400 different types. We ended up digging up a bunch of these and filling the trunk and back seat with them, leaving only enough room for the cat and rabbit.

When I was young my mom showed me pictures of a cross country trip she’d taken when she was 19, as she described the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower (not sure if Crazy Horse existed then) and Craters of the Moon…so these iconic places created a strong nostalgia and we would “retrace” her trip. Therefore when the fog prevented seeing them, it was really disappointing and disheartening all together.

We redeemed the day a bit with Jewel Cave, as we always enjoy caves- and we did get to see the Badlands just before the fog and Craters of the Moon later on.

Anyway, while we didn’t get to see Kili much at all, Tanzania was not the least bit disappointing!

On the way, part of the melee involved one of the Toyota Land Cruisers used for safari, tipped over in the ditch. It didn’t look like anyone was hurt so that was good. Otherwise the scenery was the cows and goats grazing by the road, often with their tender dozing in the grass- or just watching the traffic. Many wave, especially the younger ones- honestly it amazes me they are SO EXCITED every time as they see hundreds of safari trucks a day, but they always seem as joyful as though it was the first time. 

Actually while writing this (on Day 12) as we are headed to Uganda, we got a girl shrieking so loudly and violently with excitement that I thought someone was hurt and Jillian was able to hear her over her headphones. Since then we have had multiple choirs of large groups shouting, running and waving at us. 

Right before we left for this trip, I had been listening to Jane’s Addiction and the Ritual de lo Habitual song, “No One’s Leaving” which is about racism and prejudice and one of the lines is, “I wish we all waved” (instead of being mean, rude and bigoted). I have had that song stuck in my head and it’s been nice to see that concept in action…

We got to the more rural areas and again saw the sunflowers and corn, almost all the way to the airport. When we arrived, the security is at the door. It was pretty serious, the guy asked where we were going and what flight we were on which we didn’t know. I never know the flight number until i get there, i can’t remember more than the time and airline because that’s the most important part. Anyway we looked a bit suspicious, but not criminal enough to stop us. We proceeds through the metal detector and our stuff went through an xray, which dumped us into a very crowded, small area for everyone going anywhere- and we guessed many of the people were on our plane.

Next you step up to a desk where they scrutinize and question you again while checking your passport, which when approved, they add a sticker to the back noting we were inspected by #19. There was barely room to move forward so they adjusted the stanchions and made room for us- right behind a large group. It seemed maybe they were bikers, but not sure you come here for that- so could be they were climbers, but either was it was a large, not every organized group with a giant stack of luggage.

The line went nowhere fast as time ticked away. This didn’t stop them trying to create panic by announcing everyone on our flight needed to proceed to security. This was extremely unnecessary as there is literally nowhere to go to the left, and the only place anyone could go would be to the right to immigration- but only as fast as the ticket agents could tag the bags and print boarding passes. Two American girls to the left of us were starting to get antsy. Our flight was at 3 and it was inching closer to 2, then 215, then 230.

When it was finally our turn to go, the American girls asked to cut us because “their” flight was leaving soon. We told them sorry, but so was ours. I kind of chuckled and noted that we were all in the same boat. we are all on the same flight here and the plane won’t leave without everyone that’s supposed to be on it 😉

Once our bags were tagged we hustled to the next room to immigration to get ahead of the large group and their chaos, so we reached under people’s armpits and grabbed the forms from all the people crowding and using the table to fill out the form, opting to fill out the very simple information as we waited in line instead. The American girls’ ticketing took long or they were not savvy enough/ fast enough to get ahead of the group, and were very far behind us in line. 

It was inching closer to 3 and I will admit is was a bit stressful, but the customs lady came along and moved the person in front of us to the front to make two lines starting further back, than the one line that had been splitting into two customs booths- which meant the people that had been waiting much longer than us, were still waiting and we were second in line to get through. A nice, lucky perk.

We got out stamps and went through another xray screening and metal detector, to finally arrive at the not very full gate, where no one was hurried, nothing was happening and the door to the tarmac was locked- indicating nothing was happening in regard to boarding yet.

We went to the bathrooms and thought that we’d get back and basically be getting on, but we waited about half an hour more. During this time, they even announced another flight, which made all the Americans especially, nervous so they kept going up to the desk and asking if it was their flight but were waved away.

Ironically, during this time, a plane actually arrived to take us to Nairobi- because during all that chaos there was NO plane for us even. We watched the long line of people disembark- they make you hand sanitize or they chase you down, before you enter the building…honestly, not a bad idea.

I am not sure what time it was but they finally called our flight and we made our way out to the tarmac. The irony is that they made us do a wide circle around the jet way we could have been using…again, we entered at the back and our seats were toward the back too. 

We took off and it seemed like we barely got to altitude and they were announcing our landing- we didn’t get a drink or the little cake snack, there was no time. Then suddenly we’re on the ground in Nairobi, soon to meet up with Mat, our guide.

We had to walk through a health scanner which is basically an infrared cam to determine whether people have fevers. We got some money from the ATM which took a few tries because it said you can’t take that much out- but also offered no max withdrawal amount either. Finally we decided to just get US dollars (which was an option) as this seems more valuable than an odd smattering of shillings which may not be enough.

Customs was quick as there was no one in line. Bryan was betting they’d make us pay the visa again, despite them having told us it would be fine…I figured we wouldn’t have to, but more because of luck than anything. We went to the “already have visas” line and the guy barely looked at our stuff and just sent us through. Again our luggage was ready and waiting, so we walked outside to meet Mat.

I spotted him immediately and we all hugged and said hellos. He introduced us to Maasai Moses who would be our guide on the trip, Mat being more of a glorified assistant. Turns out the trip is less of a participation one than expected and there is a driver and chef to boot- but they are expected (and paid) to do the work of food prep, dishes and even setting up tents! Of course we will all chip in anyway, but sometimes it seems the folks (not these guys in particular) are either super amused, or annoyed…maybe they think by helping we are insulting the quality of their work? Not sure, but we all carry things, do a few dishes and so on when we can 😉

At this time Mat asked where Paige and Kristoffer were- assuming they were with us, being our friends and all. We said, no they live in LA so we’d have been on separate flights anyway, but we spent 5 days here already (in Tanzania) and they couldn’t take that much time. Then Mat started to panic because he realized he didn’t know when they were coming or if they needed a ride. We knew they wanted to be there for the following morning’s trip to the elephant and giraffe sanctuaries- so we were sure they’d be in today.

He was going through his emails and I had emailed and texted asking where they were and they should contact us when they got the message…Mat was struggling to find anything and at first only came upon our itinerary, but then stumbled upon an email from Kristoffer noting that they’d be arriving later that evening and had arranged a ride to the camp we were all staying, so no they weren’t lost and in need of help…they weren’t even here yet.

Satisfied we did not leave anyone stranded, Moses went to get the truck- a big, overland monster, which is really funny for the airport pickup of one couple! The truck was a lot like the one we had last time, only there were some tables, which would be nice, and 2 long benches up front for people to lay down on. The previous one had all forward facing seats, no tables and only a bench seat of 4 on one side of the front. I don’t remember what occupied the other space, but basically each kind of truck has a different arrangement of storage compartments for different volumes of guests, which configures the seating differently in each. The truck seemed on the newer sides too- which meant hopefully cushier seats and also less chances of a breakdown.

The drive back to the camp was about half an hour and Mat pointed out some different sights, included Kaibera, the largest slum in East Africa- second only to that of Cape Town’s, which are the largest in the world. They look nicer than the Cape Town townships for sure- more of huts than shacks but still pretty bad.

We pulled into the Wildebeest Eco Camp, which is a fantastic place we definitely recommend. It’s got beautiful, tropical grounds with set-your-own-tent-up spots, but also a variety of “glamping” options: big, luxury tents with beds and even hotel rooms with their own bathrooms. They also had a pool, pond, ping pong and billiards, a life size chess game and more! The bathrooms were awesome and very clean- in all we guessed this place hasn’t been around for more than 3 years.

We got checked in and for tonight we had a glamping tent, which was nice- but the bed ended up being hard and i slept poorly that night…but otherwise it was very nice, clean and had electric for charging everything. 

You should see the giant beast made from all the overlanders at each campsite, all vying for a plug! there are often 30 things plugged into a power strip each stacked on another like Legos- it is very impressive and cut throat 😉

We headed to the restaurant to see who was there where we found our friends, sans Paige and Kris.

Some of the people on this trip were on the last one with us. Actually the entire group had vowed to come back and do the gorilla trek in 2019, but only 4 of us did, which includes Mat. 

So before we met, Alma, Mat’s wife on her first trip to Africa, surprisingly and Jacquie from Brazil who this time brought her 16 year old son, Enzo- so it was great to meet him.

For new people to the tour- however most we know from MZ, we found Marina and her 19 year old daughter, Jillian, who foster with us; and Paige and Kristoffer, also MZ’ers but also close friends who moved to LA a few years ago. Mat’s childhood friend Dave and his wife, Janet, were also with us- making this a pretty intimate group of “known” peeps, which is always nice.

It seemed so surreal seeing Alma and Jacquie again and we were just so glad they could join again too. We all got ciders and hung around talking and getting to know each other (for those first meeting). It was getting close to dinner and I was getting hungry, so I was glad when the restaurant opened for service. We got veggie burgers with fries- which were really good and served on little slates, which was kind of neat. 

We hung around for a while longer after dinner when I started to feel a little off. I went to the bathroom and that is when things started to go awry. I didn’t feel sick per se, but everything was liquid and overnight things would get so much worse.

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