Lauren met me at my condo at 8:00, just 15 minutes shy of our taxi's arrival. While we were so excited, we were intently focused on maneuvering a giant dog carrying crate that I had promised to bring Rhiannon -- my friend working and living in Moshi, Tanzania. She had ordered what I would refer to more as a horse troff than a dog carrier because she is set to leave the country in December and has taken in one of the local dogs while living there -- a sweet, happy mutt named Mush.
Mush's massive dog crate!
Once we loaded the gear into the taxi, we were off to the airport. It was a cloudy morning in Vancouver, which was a perfect send off as we headed towards hot and arid Africa. We had less issues than anticipated checking the giant crate at the airport, so we found ourselves some Starbucks and settled in at our gate.
Our first flight was an hour-long hop over to Calgary -- followed by two eight hour legs: one to Amsterdam and the second to Arush, Tanzania. Oddly enough, the first flight was the worst of the three. WestJet is never particularly friendly, but today they were both unfriendly and slow. They took so long fetching beverages and snacks for the front half of the plane that by the time we were descending into Calgary, they shut down the service short of even saying a cheap "hello!" to five rows -- one of which we were seated in. We laughed about it, shrugged it off, and made our way to our next gate.
The next leg to Amsterdam, with KLM Airlines, was wildly better. As soon as we got on the plane we were greeted by an energetic and sarcastic attendant who didn't lose her sense of humour once the entire flight. We were also lucky enough to have an empty seat in our row of three, which meant plenty of leg room and space to spread out. We watched a few movies, chatted, and tried to sleep -- not to either of our success. The attendants brought us two meals -- the first of which was mashed potatoes, chicken, salad, cheese, crackers, and a brownie...and of course, red wine. Another meal came a few hours later, for breakfast, complete with an eggplant sandwich on organic bread and some yogurt. We thought it a bit aggressive if we kept pounding back the wine...so we grabbed a coffee instead. I don't know if it was the complimentary earbuds, blankets, travel magazines, wine...or the great selection of on-flight entertainment, including a touch screen interactive globe with fun factoids about hot travel destinations...but whatever it was, our spirits had been lifted from the crappy North American flight we had earlier.
Our third leg, to Tanzania, was also fairly easy. We had stopped in Amsterdam airport for a drip coffee and a few desserts -- a pannekaken and a warm apple cake. Then we raced to catch the final boarding call after getting lost trying to source out the washrooms. We made it, just barely. This time, the flight was quieter. We both managed to get a bit more sleep...probably because we were hitting our exhaustion points.
Having caught a cold a few days ago, the pressure changes, humidity, and stress of travel was aggravating the whole situation. By the end of the last flight I could hardly breath. Luckily, I came stocked with all the remedies you could imagine...so with a bottle of filtered water, epsom salts, and a few other cold remedies, I was able to drain out most of the problem. Stay tuned for a blog on how to take on a stuffy nose...and win.
We touched down and exited onto the tar mack. Instantly the air was heavier -- warm, humid and loud with the chirping of crickets.
When we landed, we had to apply for our tourist visas -- a process that took significantly less time than the two-and-a-half hours it took me to get through the work visa line the last time I was in Tanzania. With our receipts in hand, and stamps on our passport, we naively thought we were home-free. We had no glaring complications, errors, or mishaps...barring a few new coffee stains on our pants and nearly missing the last boarding call for our Tanzania flight...but at this point there were no major hiccups and we were all smiles as we were confidently striding towards the exit.
Here I am...happy that the crate caused no problems...or so I thought.
Then...security saw the giant horse troff.
Of course, we were pulled aside, asked to leave the crate, and ushered into the office. $100 USD in "importation fees" later, we finally were free to go. Rhiannon was outside, equally pissed off as I was about the unnecessary and random charge. She was standing with our driver Juma. We loaded our luggage into the passenger van and took off toward our bed and breakfast. Rhiannon filled us in on all the things going on with Give a Heart to Africa - the women's business school I taught at in 2016 that she manages -- and some of the changes coming down the line. It was pitch black outside, as it was nearly 10:30 p.m. by the time we left the airport, so we just listened intently and casually chatted for the rest of our drive.
Before heading to More Than a Drop -- the non-profit career/skills training centre that doubles as a bed and breakfast -- we dropped Rhiannon at her house. It was a lovely two-bedroom bungalow located on the back of a very wealthy woman's compound. It was too dark to see anything, but apparently the landlord loves to garden...and it was confirmed by the sweet smell of fragrant flowers wafting across the night sky as we said our goodbyes. She will be picking us up tomorrow afternoon and taking us to visit the women's school.
Finally, we pulled into the bed and breakfast. The security guard led us to our rooms and we unpacked. The accommodations are lovely -- a welcoming room outfitted with two beds, draped in mosquito net, and decorated with traditional Tanzanian details. It is clean and charming.
After indulging in a few late night snacks -- some nuts, dates, and candied ginger I had stowed in my suitcase -- we are now all settled in. Tomorrow we will be visiting the women's school, after a morning of exploring our new home for the next little while.