December 29, 2014

Moshi, Tanzania

I woke up at 09:00 today and read for a while before the Ecuadorian dentist and I were served breakfast (chapati, slices of bread, jam, mango pieces, and coffee). We then waited for the pastor to come and take us in to town, meeting some of the orphan children while we waited; it does make me feel bad to be spending so much money traveling while these kids and others have almost nothing; unfortunately [for my soul], I’m too stubborn and want to see my world tour completed as planned; so I’ll continue on – a damned fool is what most people would call me, but I wouldn’t write myself off as damned yet. We then met up with the pastor and left for Moshi after 10:00; on the drive down from the foothills, the dentist and I were disappointed to see nothing but clouds covering Mount Kilimanjaro; also, during the drive, the pastor commented that I looked like Jesus on account of the beard and long hair (I’ve been called Santa Clause in Malaysia and Thailand, Chuck Norris (yeah, I don’t see it either) by an imposter Masai man riding in a dala-dala in Zanzibar, and now Jesus by this pastor in Moshi . . . haha . . . how the world sees me . . . now if I can only imitate Jesus Christ in thoughts and actions). We then drove in to town and once again searched for the hotel I had booked with; now in daylight, it was much easier to see where we were on the map and in no time I directed the pastor where to drive; we drove right down the street where the hotel was but didn’t see anything that resembled the photos I had seen of it and there were no signs (the pastor told me that the reason why many businesses here in Tanzania don’t have signs is to hide from the strong arm of government); also, once again, everyone we asked had never heard of the place, so we gave up. The pastor then called a tour agency I was planning on using for my Kilimanjaro trek and safari and in about ten minutes they met us by the side of the road and they drove ahead while we followed them through a bunch of dirt roads and back alleys to their office, far away from the town’s center, and nestled in a slummy neighborhood; the pastor didn’t feel too comfortable being here (and he’s the one from around here!) and it didn’t look legitimate to me (perhaps they are faking it all?), but I figured I would check their operation out and at least humor them on the possibility of me choosing their company; inside the tour agency’s building it looked a little more legitimate (a couple of printed out certificates were hung up, some computers and a printer on desks, and a few portfolios stuffed with papers), but still more like a hit and run operation (hit travelers for cash and then run, abandoning the building that has no markings or signs); all I know is there were excellent reviews online, but, of course, if something looks too good to be true . . . Anyway, after having one of the staff pull off information from their website (no brochures nor pamphlets in their office . . . maybe they’re pretending to be the tour company I had hoped to contact?) and tell me the earliest tour I could join would be on the second of January, I decided to leave and told them we might be in contact (or not); I then got back in to the pastor’s van. The pastor then drove me to a tour company he knows and trusts that is located in the center of town and has plenty of signs (it is a permanent operational base) and success pictures posted on their walls, as well as pamphlets, maps, and brochures – this company, through their setup inside, the information they provided, and the staff’s general demeanor completely sold me and it wasn’t long before I felt comfortable doing business with them; the tour agency we had just come from was the complete opposite and I couldn’t trust them at all based on their operation. This tour company in town was able to set me up with a Mount Kilimanjaro climb starting tomorrow and a safari beginning once I finished the climb; also, the prices were pretty cheap from what I’ve seen through all my research online (. . . if something looks too good to be true . . . well, I’ll find out, won’t I? – I will type that I trust the pastor to be a good man and wanting to set me up with a reputable tour company; however, I should note, later on today I checked their name online, but only found one review (a five-star one) . . . a bit strange for a company that has been around for some time and that receives a decent amount of business . . . hmmm). After arranging the tours, the pastor drove me to a nearby ATM to grab more cash; then we went back to the tour company and I paid what I could now (the rest will have to come later – I can only pull out so much each day). The pastor then, finally, took me to the hotel the tour company is putting me up in (a nice place with clean rooms, a restaurant, and a pool); I thanked him, gave him some cash for all he had done to help me, and said goodbye to him and the Ecuadorian dentist, wishing her a good year of volunteer work (that poor girl, having to put up with going to sleep late last night and wasting four hours of her life just now (her one day off before going to work for 364 days) as the pastor drove around, all on account of me). I then checked in to the hotel, had a couple of beers (Kilimanjaro Lagers of course!), showered, and then typed out some journal entries. After 19:00, I had dinner (a vegetable pizza, chicken strips, and more beer). I then bought some bottled water to fill my camelback and to take with me on the hike. I also packed my bags, readying myself for the hike tomorrow before going to sleep.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.