December 28, 2014

Zanzibar, Tanzania

I woke up at about 08:00, had breakfast (spinach omelet, chapati bread, banana, pineapple, mango, orange juice, and coffee), showered, packed my bags, paid the rest of my tab at the hostel, and then walked out to the street with my luggage; I grabbed a dala-dala to Kwerekwe and from there, after looking for an honest taxi driver in vain, I was directed by a kind cyclist to which dala-dala I needed to take to reach the airport; I then rode this dala-dala to Zanzibar’s airport, reaching it after 13:00; I checked in, went to the departure lounge, and then waited a couple of hours before the plane was ready to fly me to Dar Es Salaam; when the call came, the passengers and I exited the terminal through the gate and we were bussed to the ATR 72 Turboprop aircraft operated by Precision Air; the flight took off at about 15:10 (ten minutes late, not too bad) and it took about twenty minutes to hop from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam (during the short flight we were treated to an excerpt from Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’); we touched down at Dar Es Salaam and I immediately made my way to the transfer corridor which brought me to the departure terminal; since I had many hours to kill until 20:40 – when my next flight (to Kilimanjaro International Airport) was scheduled – and it was too early for me to check in and receive the correct boarding pass, I exited the terminal, had a snack, grabbed some more cash at an ATM (preparing for having to pay for my Mount Kilimanjaro climb), and then walked up to a restaurant on the second floor of the airport, where I had fish and chips (not bad as far as airport food goes), as well as beer; while I ate my late lunch, I watched the first half of an English football match between Southampton and Chelsea (Chelsea had just scored before the half, bringing the score to 1-1); I then decided to switch venues, and walked back in to the terminal, checked in, and then walked to the departure lounge, arriving there at about 18:30, having two hours to wait until I was supposed to board the plane.

While waiting in the terminal, I had some more snacks and read some of Hemingway’s short stories. The flight I was to take was then delayed by thirty-five minutes (now the estimated departure time was 21:15); this didn’t sound so bad compared to the other Precision Air flight that was scheduled to depart for Zanzibar at 19:15, but was changed to 20:40; well, when 20:40 rolled around, a new announcement was made; the flight to Kilimanjaro was now to have an unscheduled stop off in Zanzibar and (guess what!) the 19:15-now-20:40 flight to Zanzibar was to be combined with the flight to Kilimanjaro; so I was now heading back to Zanzibar . . . what a waste of a day. We walked out to the ATR 72 Turboprop, boarded the aircraft, and the flight departed at 21:15; the captain apologized for the delay and unscheduled stop off in Zanzibar, telling us it was due to “operational reasons” (fuck you – we all know it was financial reasons, please don’t lie to us, just tell us the truth: budget airlines have to save costs everywhere to make their prices competitive and that we, the consumer, just need to accept that when we choose to fly with a budget airline, we accept the risk of being jerked around, given it up the ass, and treated like shit and as if our travel plans mean nothing). The flight then landed at Zanzibar at 21:35 and we waited on the tarmac for the Zanzibar-bound passengers to depart and for additional passengers to come on board; the plane took off at 22:10 – I would’ve been better off choosing the last available flight of the day (from Zanzibar directly to Kilimanjaro) rather than try to shave a couple hours off of my night by going to Dar Es Salaam; it appears that with budget airlines, it is always best to choose the last flight since you’ll end up waiting until then anyways as other flights are delayed and cancelled due to “operational reasons”. During the flight we were given the world’s smallest chicken sandwich and a shot of coke; at 23:20, we reached Kilimanjaro (an hour and twenty minutes later than scheduled); I then waited for my bag at the luggage carousel and of course it didn’t show up; I immediately jumped on the carousel and poked my head outside to ask the luggage handlers if that was all; I then waited around for another twenty minutes as the employees tried to figure out where my luggage had gone off to; well, it ended up arriving on the 16:30 flight from Dar Es Salaam; too bad Precision Air couldn’t put me on the same flight as my luggage (based on what I witnessed today, I highly doubt it was full and I’m not sure why it didn’t come up as an option when I purchased my tickets). Now that I had my luggage, I exited the airport; I was the last passenger out and there was little chance of sharing a ride with others now; also, the taxi cabs are way over priced for being in a third world country with cheap fuel; so I started walking, unfortunately the taxi drivers didn’t lower their prices enough and no other passing cars would pick me up; also, there was nothing near the airport in terms of hotels, restaurants, or life; so I walked back, figuring I would sleep in the airport until morning when I could take a cheap bus in to Moshi.

However, I did find out, while staying in the terminal, there was one more flight coming in tonight at 01:43; so I figured I should stay up until then and try to share a ride with another traveler. At 01:40, I walked outside to the arrival building and waited for the passengers to come out; I asked several tour company drivers waiting for their guests if I could ride with them, but to no avail (most travelers head straight to Arusha, not Moshi, over here); then I started to ask the passengers one by one as they came out; lucky for me, a female Ecuadorian dentist, coming here for volunteer work, and the charitable organization’s family agreed to give me a lift in to Moshi. We drove through the night in to town and it took about an hour to reach Moshi; then we tried to find the hotel I booked with, but it was dark, the driver (who was a pastor that runs the volunteer charity that helps to support 27 orphans whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS) didn’t know how to get there based on the pictures of the map I captured on my cell phone, and no one in town (strangely quite a few people were up at 03:00) had even heard of the place; the pastor/driver, bless his heart, was determined to help me out and kept trying to find the place even after I had already accepted his offer to stay at his place for the night; finally, at 03:30, he gave up, and we drove to his place in Mdawi, on the outskirts of Moshi and the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, up a rutted dirt road, next to the primary school for the charity’s orphans. We finally reached his place and the Ecuadorian dentist and I were shown to our rooms, which were actually quite nice and better than more than a few places I’ve stayed at during my travels. Finally, after brushing my teeth and trying to play with the resident kitten, I went to sleep some time after 04:00.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.