31 March 2004: 6am start from Kate’s, city lights competing with the dawn which was setting the mountains aglow in a very soft, warm rose. Pushed through on to an earlier flight, ignoring my gut instinct which was literally screaming at me, I allowed my backpack and sleeping bag to be booked right through to Nairobi. I guessed that’d be the last I’d seen of my sleeping bag. With a 4 hour wait for the connection in Jo’burg, I had time for an i-fix in a very civilised smokers’ lounge, latte served free of charge to warm my fingers and ease them back into motion – cigar smokers should be isolated, Robben Island has some free capacity, I believe.
After clearing passport control in Nairobi, I rushed down to the baggage reclaim area and was delighted to see my sleeping bag being trundled around on the conveyor belt, until I realised that it was the only thing left on the belt! I wailed at the BA girls that my life was in that backpack and I wasn’t leaving without it. I stuck my Taurean horns in fast – yes I’d fill out their form, but no I wasn’t going back to the hotel or on to Tanzania with the promise that my bag would find me at some indetermined time in the future.
Two hours later I was still sitting in the BA office awaiting a return call from Jo’burg when suddenly one of the BA girl s whizzed in with a scrap of paper and asked me “is that your name”? YES!!!! I could’ve cried but hugged her instead. I didn’t like to think that it was only my perseverance which ensured the return of my bag – having promised that they had checked all trollies and transit baggage to no avail, how come it suddenly turned up? Anyway, I shut up, took it gratefully and headed downtown to the Terminal Hotel.
I’m thinking this little baggage incident was a short sharp reminder to listen to that little inner voice in future – will do! Now I’m sitting in a bar next to the hotel with a well-deserved Tusker, trying not to worry about my daypack with laptop, etc. all left in the safe custody of Jacob at reception.
01 April 2004: Thanks to heavy rains which battered the roof and dripped down the inside wall of my room, together with the couple in the next room apparently candidating for some Guinness Book of Records title, I was up and out at the break of dawn.
I jumped on the Impala Shuttle bus, looking forward to a few hours’ sleep, only to find my backside soaked through in minutes – although the windows were impossible to open for air, the rain obviously had a secret route and seats and walls were more than wet. Never mind, things could be a lot worse – I could actually be out in the rain like the thousands of poor Nairobians we passed on our way out. Some were rummaging through heaps of steaming rubbish in the gutters, others, smartly dressed for work, were trying in vain to avoid the huge sprays of dirty water jettisoned by every passing car. It was a black, grotty (to put it in good ol’ English terms) and miserable out there. There’s nothing like incessant, heavy rain to magnify filth and poverty, particularly in built-up areas. Oh yes, and to test brakes … we bumped into a car as the driver fought with the bus n the heavy traffic. After 5 minutes of discussion and swapping of information, we continued. We, the passengers, no longer completely trusted the vehicle or its driver, which made sleep even more difficult.
Fortunately that was the only incident and within an hour we had left the depressing streets of Nairobi behind. The road to Arusha passes through the bush, with its beautiful acacias, and the occasional small village. Spots of bright red and orange drew attention to the many Masai boys and men tending cattle, the latter often being the cause for violent braking.
Finally we arrived at the Impala Hotel in Arusha! I probably made a great FIRST impression on my Mondo Challenge colleagues by rushing straight past them to hug Gaby and Doug, Gaby being the main nagging reason for my now being in Africa:) Aurelien and John were understanding enough, letting me disappear off with my friends for a wonderful Indian lunch at the “Big Bite”. At 4pm I met up with John again, who took me through Arusha, showing me the various facilities and explaining something of the culture I was about to be confronted with. This serious business was wrapped up with a cold Kilimanjaro at the AICC Club, where I met Angie, Richard and Henrik, 3 other volunteers. Apparently I had unwittingly met two other volunteers at my hotel in Nairobi before leaving this morning. Paul and ?? were on their way to hospital, Paul in crutches, after their vehicle had been run off the road by a drunken driver. I am finding Africa already a small place.
Despite the heavy rains all day and night, the Kilimanjaro Villa Guesthouse was unable to offer even one drop of water from any of its taps, so I was lucky to be able to shower at Gaby and Doug’s. The toilets everywhere are pitholes … somehow I can’t help thinking of Sylvia.