Saying Goodbye to Tanzania, blog 10
This is our last night at Njozi camp and we are treated to a beautiful sunset while sitting by the campfire. No rain!! The talented chef has prepared another wonderful meal for us.
We have more discussions with Dave as we dine including what can be done about curtailing the crazy behavior of tourists at the wildebeest river crossings. A few ideas include raising the prices for tourists, fewer camps, (in the last Ang’ata camp there was actually light pollution from all the camps around us), allowing only so many vehicles to be at the crossings, barriers to keep vehicles from getting too close to the river, and maybe the most sure fired one would be to ban Wi-Fi in all the camps. Paul and I were amazed that all the camps this time had Wi-Fi as we have rarely had Wi-Fi on our past trips. Of course, what we think doesn’t matter and we suspect that nothing will change to take the pressure off the wildebeest.
Paul and I heard the weirdest noises last night and we could not figure out what it was. No one else heard them including Dave. After breakfast the staff loads our luggage in the Toyota and we give our thanks to the staff along with the card/tip to Andre the camp manager. Jesse gathers the staff and hands out cloth uniform badges from his department (the badges are old ones that aren’t used anymore). The young men are delighted with them although the older Masai escort seems a bit befuddled as to what it is. The badge has a likeness of a bison on it and I wonder if the man can’t figure out what the animal is. Jesse asks for a photo of Jennifer and him with the entire staff. Once the photo session is over we clamber into the Toyota and George takes us on one last game drive.
George sees a freshly killed wildebeest a few hundred yards from our camp, he noticed the dead animal because its exposed stomach was glistening in the sun light. Gross. Now Paul and I know what we were listening to last night, the death struggle of the gnu and the feeding frenzy of the predators that killed it. Oddly enough there is no predators around the partly consumed carcass so we have no idea what killed the wildebeest. My best guess remembering the sounds Paul and I heard rumbling through the darkness would be lions but you would think they would still be in the vicinity. A mystery never to be solved.
It is a gorgeous morning as we drive along the river and back to the kopjes that were so quiet yesterday morning. The countryside is even emptier today, in fact I only took a handful of photos and none of them are of animals. George drives us around the area for two hours and we just enjoy the solitude and scenery of the Mara River and the rugged kopje country. It gives us time to contemplate on the past two weeks in Tanzania and the spectacular things we have witnessed.
It is time to go to the airstrip but we need not have hurried as our bush plane is late. The dirt parking lot is full of vehicles delivering departing tourists or picking up new clients. There are small planes buzzing in and out of this one runway air strip but our plane isn’t one of them. Poor George, he is anxious to get on the road as he has a long drive to Arusha where he will be united with his wife and children after an absence of a few weeks. All of us take a photo with our wonderful, kind, and ethical guide and then we ask another guide if he will take a group photo for us. We then give George the card with personal comments we have written along with our guides well-earned tip money.
Eventually our Coastal plane arrives and George with Carl’s help begins trundling some of our luggage out to the twelve(?) seater plane. George then waves goodbye to us and returns to the Toyota. Soon the plane is ready for us and the other passengers to climb aboard. We are greeted by two friendly young men who will pilot the plane to Kilimanjaro International airport. The zebra that was loitering close to the airstrip when our bush plane landed has moved to the safety of the tree line and we are good to go.
Earlier while waiting for the plane, I told Connie “don’t you dare cry because I will start crying too”. I lose the battle once we are in the air and my tears begin to flow. I turn my head to the window, partly to hide my tears and also to take one last look at the Serengeti. We fly over the Mara River and I see some hippos through blurry eyes. I also see wildebeest and zebra peacefully grazing on the plains. Soon evidence of civilization begins to show up in the round huts of Masai followed by a large city which I assume is Arusha. Mt. Kilimanjaro’s snowcapped peak shows above the clouds and then we are landing at Kilimanjaro airport.
Our tour company, Wild Source, has booked us day rooms so we don’t have to sit at the airport for several hours before our flight to Toronto. Kia Lodge is beautifully landscaped and I enjoy the multitude of birds that take advantage of the flowers, trees and bushes within the compound of the Lodge. We eat our box lunch that Njozi camp sent with us next to the swimming pool. Most of us walk laps through the beautiful grounds at some point during our four hours stay for exercise before the excruciatingly long flight home and then go to our rooms and shower.
We climb into the Kia Lodge truck and the driver takes us back to the airport which is a five-minute drive. When we walk through the door the employees impatiently demand we show our passports plus proof of travel papers, then we are told to put our luggage through the initial screening machine. We walk around to retrieve our bags and a young woman thrusts a form at us and says we should fill it out as we wait in line to get our plane tickets. Paul and I have problems getting our tickets for some reason but finally the needed tickets are spit out of the machine. Geez, I hate this part of travel. We have to get our passports checked again, then our luggage goes through a stricter security check before we are free to go to the waiting area.
The flight is on time and we get to Addis Ababa early. Instead of the horrid domestic terminal we had to wait in on our way to Tanzania, this is a typical international terminal with restaurants and shops and lots of people. There are several flights that leave from our gate within twenty or thirty minutes of each other so we get into the waiting line before we want too. As we shuffle along through the aisles formed by silver rails Carl quips that now we know what cattle feel like when you herd them down working alleys to the chute, (this is very paraphrased, Carl said it much more succinct than this). Boy is that a good analogy.
Paul and I visit with a young woman on her way home to California who successfully climbed Kilimanjaro. The personable woman was quite proud and even said she would probably climb the daunting peak again if given the chance. She also told us that the company took some of them on a three-day safari. When the woman was telling us about the animals they had seen she included tigers in her list. We assured her that she hadn’t seen tigers, which made her laugh and to admit she didn’t know the animals very well. The Californian also said one of her group asked their guide what the dumbest animal in the park was and the guide without hesitation replied “humans”. That made us all laugh.
Jennifer and Connie are frisked after they walk through the screener even though it never beeped. I also saw a few other women being checked too, hmm wonder what that is all about. Paul and I are in line to have our tickets scanned so we can enter the waiting area when an uniformed woman pulls us out of the line and grabs our passports. This woman also snatches several other people’s passports and carries them to a table where she begins copying information from them onto a sheet of paper. To say the least all of our mouths are slightly agape as there was no information given to us for this action. The brusque woman did return our passports thank God and we proceed through the ticket booth and into our gate area. The rest of our group is waiting for us as they managed to sneak by the passport confiscating woman.
Our flight is late but when they call for passengers going to Toronto we all dutifully line up in the zone lanes that match the zone that is on our ticket. There are five zones and we are all in zone four. When our lane is allowed to make our way down stairs we have to laugh as most of those that were ahead of us are standing outside waiting for the bus to arrive to take them to the plane which is sitting out on the tarmac. So, we all dutifully stayed in our zone only to be packed together on a bus where once we get to the plane it is a free for all. Holy Smokes, people are pushing and shoving to get to the steps that lead up to the plane. It is definitely every man for himself. We all make it aboard in one piece and settle into our assigned seats.
I think we are in the air for fourteen hours and there are lots of children around us. One of those kids takes great delight at shrieking in a very high-pitched voice off and on for much of the flight. Amazingly, with the benefit of ear plugs, Paul and I both sleep for several hours of the flight. I’m afraid our friends didn’t manage to get hardly any sleep.
We land in Toronto and the airport workers are organized, friendly and polite. Because we have several hours to wait for our departing flight, Jennifer has set up an interview for a Global Entry Pass which will allow her to bypass the endless waiting lines when you come home and have to go through customs, plus it gives her precheck for domestic flights. It makes sense for Jennifer to do this as she is a frequent air traveler. The rest of us wait in the terminal and when Jennifer joins us twenty minutes later, we make our way to our departure gate which is far away from the bustle of the main terminal. We all agree that we are craving a hamburger and conveniently there is a restaurant near our gate that specializes in burgers. We enjoy the excellent burgers and an hour later we are boarding our plane destined for Kansas City.
I think most of us slept for a good part of this flight, it helps that no shrieking children were on this flight. We collect our luggage, hurray everybody’s suitcases made it here, and wait for the Park Air Express shuttle to pick us up and deliver us to our cars. We say goodbye to Jesse and Jennifer and the four Millers climb into Connie and Carl’s car and we begin the final leg of our journey on our way to Wabaunsee county and home. We marvel at the change in the Kansas countryside. When we left we were in the grips of a terrible drought and two weeks later it looks like the Garden of Eden.
So that is the end of our adventure to Tanzania. A wonderful, exciting trip that we got to share with four of our friends. Paul is already thinking about where and when we will return to our favorite travel destination. I can’t wait. Later, Nancy