Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kilimanjaro - Day 3

It took 13 very boring hours, but the morning of August 27th we finally arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Since I was in the very front of the plane I got off the plane within just a few minutes after landing and waited on the tarmac to be told where to go.  After about 20 minutes when everyone got off the plane, those of us who were going to Mombasa or Kilimanjaro were told to board a bus to the terminal.  The bus took us literally 50 yards to the entrance of the terminal (not sure why we didn't just walk - would've been much faster).  The terminal we came to was a very small and old-looking place and I was glad I only had a two hour layover there.  I got my next boarding pass from the only Ethiopian agent in sight, got through a short security line and after finding my gate (which wasn't difficult - there were all of four gates there) I sat down to wait for my next flight.  

We boarded our next flight very much on time and left the somewhat dirty terminal behind

It wasn't until almost 2 weeks later that I learned that there's another, much more modern, terminal in Addis Ababa.
Flight to Mombasa was what you would expect from a flight - boring.  The entire two hours in the air I saw very little in terms of roads or towns - it was a very flat and empty landscape

The closer we got to Mombasa the more interesting it got.  Nice looking beaches, nicer looking neighborhoods - I guess what you'd expect from a beach-resort town.

We landed in Mombasa for a quick refueling stop (and let some passengers off) and after about 45 minutes we took off again for a short, 40-minute flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport.

We arrived in Kilimanjaro shortly after 2pm local time.  Since there were all of 20 of us on the plane we quickly disembarked and made our way towards the small and old looking terminal.

Upon entry to Tanzania a proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is required (thankfully I got one a couple weeks before my trip) so I had that quickly checked by the customs employee and made my way to get an entry visa to Tanzania.  Getting the visa was just a formality (one that cost me $100) and not five minutes later I was at the baggage carousel impatiently waiting to see if my two bags made it to Tanzania with me.  To my relief both my bags came up fairly quickly and I was on my way out of the airport to meet up with Nixon who was hopefully waiting for me somewhere at the airport.

To my surprise I was greeted at the airport by Nixon along with Nigel and one of Nixon's friends.  After quick pleasantries we loaded up my bags to Nixon's Toyota (which was really a Lexus with a Toyota logo all over it) and were on our way out of the airport.  I didn't realize what an adventure driving to Arusha would be!  Took me about two minutes to realize that a seatbelt is a requirement in the streets of Tanzania.  Driving was extremely chaotic - it wasn't uncommon for four to six cars trying to squeeze between each other on a small two lane road.  Truly nerve wracking, but seemed like Nixon knew what he was doing so I just tried to sit back and relax (very difficult when you're passing a car and come face to face with a bus traveling at over 50 mph).  One thing I noticed very quickly is that there were speed bumps EVERYWHERE.  Literally every couple hundred yards there was a nasty speed bump right in the middle of the road that caused all cars to come to almost a complete stop.  This made the 40 mile drive take far longer than it had to.

Nixon seemed like he knew what he was doing - or so I hoped
After a little over an hour we have finally arrived at our hotel in Arusha - Le Jacaranda.  We made plans with Nixon to meet up for dinner later on that evening and we went our separate ways.

Since Nigel had already spent a night in Tanzania he took me to the room Nixon had booked for us.  I was planning to take a quick shower, change and then me and Nigel were going to walk around and explore Arusha.  I quickly changed my mind about the shower, for quite an obvious reason:
He might look small in the picture, but sure looked big in real life!
With shower now out of the question I quickly changed into clean clothes and was ready to see what Arusha was all about.  The plan was to first find a money exchange to get some local currency and then just randomly walk around and see what's there.

We left our hotel and before we could even get 100 feet away from our gate some random guy came up to us and started chatting with us - how we were doing, what we're up to and normal pleasantries like that.  I figured this was some guy Nigel met during his last 24 hours in Tanzania, but I quickly realized (and was confirmed by Nigel) that neither of us had any idea who this guy was.  What I also didn't realize (and Nigel did from his vast "experience" in Arusha) is that this would be only one of very many people who would approach us on the streets of Tanzania.  These people, all of them guys in their twenties, tried to do anything to make a buck: they were all artists selling oil paintings (mind you all the paintings had the same exact style - hard to imagine twenty different people coming up with the same ideas); there were "guides" willing to show us around Arusha for a tip (which they didn't say up front, but that's what they were after) and finally there were others trying to show us local souvenir shops or book us a Safari.  We relentlessly said no to every single one of them, but for most it would take 10-15 minutes for them to finally leave us alone.

Before setting out to explore we decided to grab some lunch.  We found a nice looking place, Africafe, and set out to have a very nice meal (with the best mango juice I have ever tasted!).  After lunch I exchanged $100 into local currency (which ended up lasting me for the rest of the trip) and we were set to explore the town some more.

It didn't take long for more "hassles" (as the locals call them) to bother us, but they would give up when they realized we were not willing to spend any money. When we finally thought we got rid of the last "hassle" the biggest creep of them all showed up.  He randomly came up to us and just started walking with us (without saying a word).  He would occasionally answer a question that I would ask Nigel (not sure why) and would try to steer us towards one place or the other.  We figured he was trying to be our "guide" for the day, but since he didn't really talk, we did our best to ignore him.  It took many unsuccessful attempts of trying to lose him until he finally got the hint and left us alone (took good hour of trying though).

With nobody in tow we decided to check out a local market.  It was quite an experience to see it.  You could buy everything you could ask for - clothing, furniture, spices, fruits, vegetables, even meat butchered in front of your eyes (I didn't see it, but Nigel told me he saw a pig being butchered to pieces in the middle of all that chaos).

All of this felt very unsanitary so it goes without saying that we didn't purchase any of the local delights (small sardines seemed to be the favorite).  After about two hours (and an attempt to sell us some weed later) we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel - mostly because we remembered we were supposed to meet up with Nixon in the evening.  It was good we got back when we did because Nixon was just leaving our hotel when we got there.  

For dinner we got invited to a BBQ at Nixon's friend house, so we headed over to a different part of town to do just that.  It was interesting to see other parts of the city from what we've seen so far.  Arusha is not exactly a nice city - it's dirty, crowded and very poor (not to mention that drivers don't care about pedestrians at all - I almost got hit by a car on my first attempt to cross the street).  It didn't get much better in the area where Nixon's friend (and Nixon himself) lived - kind of even got worse - no paved roads, trash everywhere - kind of depressing.  Nixon's friend's house, however, was a different story - while the outside street wasn't very appealing, the inside yard and house were very nice and we gladly sat down to some quality food and some local brews.

We spent about two hours there and filled up with food and drinks (I had my first taste of Kilimanjaro and Safari beers) we decided to head out to a local club: The Empire.  The Empire club is a hangout for a lot of white people who visit or live in Arusha.  They had live music and very lively atmosphere.  We found a nice secluded table outside and spent the next couple hours drinking more Kilimanjaro, having some more food and just having a good ol' fun.  I was introduced to Tanzani'a "Evil Spirit": Konyagi.  It was nothing more than a very cheap tasting gin, but apparently it's one of the most popular liquors in the area (probably because it's very cheap and available everywhere).  Took me just one shot to remember that I hate hard liquor so I stuck to my new favorite beer: Kilimanjaro.

One thing I learned about Arusha: they don't have enough power.  Literally.  At different hours different parts of the city would have their power shut off so that there was enough to go around for the remaining parts.  This was a normal thing that happened every day so locals were very used to it (also, no running water for days at a time).  Most establishments like hotels and bars were ready for the inevitable power outage and they had generators ready to kick in when the power went off.  We were "lucky" enough to experience those power outages on a number of nights, including our first night in The Empire club.  Generators took over within seconds of power going out and the night went on like nothing ever happened.  Except for the bathroom lights.  I'm assuming they were trying to save some electricity so in the bathroom they simply set up candles - kind of weird.

After The Empire club we went on to another place, the name of which has escaped my memory (not like there was much left from that memory at that time).  Some more beer has been consumed, some more jokes and stories shared.  There was also that jean jacket that will haunt me for the rest of my life
I am not 100% sure what time we got back to our hotel, but I do know that my first day in Tanzania was a little more than I had expected.  So far, after the short delay hiccup, the trip started out great.


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