Our last day in Africa. We have nothing planned; we’re just killing time.
We had a leisurely breakfast. We had arranged that at 11:00, which was the check-out time for the hotel, we would meet a van from Peacock tours, which would drive us around for the day and then get us to the airport. We had about six hours to kill in the city.
I surprised the over eager cleaning staff when I came back from breakfast. My room was half cleaned. In particular, this means that all of the old towels were gone, but the new ones have not yet been put in place. Fortunately, I have my camp towel, which I actually never used on the mountain.
At 8am this morning, I had been in the hotel lobby looking for the breakfast room. There were a large number of tourists with a big pile of bags apparently about to start out on a safari. It was strange to contrast them with ourselves. They were eager and excited, about to start out on a big adventure. We, on the other hand, were through with adventures, and we just wanted to get back home. Of course, we were like them two weeks ago, but no longer. It makes me wonder what the people who do this for a living think and feel. Is it just a job to them? Or can they get excited for the sake of the tourists?
We drove from the Impala to a local ShopRite. There, just for a final bit of local ambiance, the power died for about 30 seconds or so. I ended up buying a bag of Tanzanian coffee. I could pay for it in dollars (1 dollar being 1000 shillings), but there needed to be a manager’s approval or something. Interestingly, there was a wire cage around where the cash drawer opens. This makes it more of a pain for the cashier, but I guess it prevents one from reaching over, grabbing some cash, and making a run for it.
We drove through Arusha. At one point, we heard something
being said over a loud speaker system. We heard it for some distance, and then
we realized that it was coming from a
right in front of us, that
had some large speakers in the back. We asked our driver what they were saying,
and he said that they were telling the people to pay their electric bills;
otherwise the power would be shut off.
We stopped at the
This is a rabbit-warren of
narrow walkways surrounded by
baskets, fish, and just about
anything you can think of. Two local youths volunteered to be our guides, and
after a quick consultation, we decided to take them up on it. However, the
number of our guides seemed to vary with time, often being 5 or 6. Some of them
were trying to sell us things. This whole experience was well above my comfort
zone. I kept a firm grip on my camera, and I didn’t dare take out
Our “guides” acted as intermediaries in some of the other people’s purchases, where they got their cut. They would take things off of stalls and show them to us and talk about them. They might quote a price of $3, but when we paid them, only $2 went to the stall keeper.
At one point, our guides explained that we had been through the men’s market place. Down this alley, next to this market place was the women’s market place. It wasn’t entirely clear, but our sense was that the “women’s” referred to the shop keepers—i.e. the women’s market had businesses operated by women. There also seemed to be a presumption that men would tend to shop in the men’s section and women in the women’s one, although this was not totally exclusive.
There was one of our “guides” hanging around with us who was trying to sell me a batik. He wanted $25 which was much too much in my mind. When we got back to the van, he asked for my price and I offered $10. He balked at that. Around then, I noticed that there was a fair crowd outside the van, and that I was the only one of us who was not already in the van. So I sort of panicked. I climbed into the van and tried to close the door. The batik salesman decided to accept the $10 and literally threw it into the van as the door was closing. I was flustered enough that I just opened the door and threw it back. I was supposed to tip our original two guides a buck each, but I couldn’t figure out which two they were in the crowd, so I did nothing. We drove off. It was definitely very stressful for me and not my favorite experience.
Then we went back (yet again) to the cultural center where some of us did some more shopping, but I just walked around. It was by then around 2pm, so we stopped for lunch. We first tried a restaurant called the Via Via, but it was closed. So we decided to walk down the street to the New Safari hotel (where Kevin had stayed when he came down off the mountain). Even in that short walk, we picked up two rafiki (friends) who were trying to sell us stuff. We let our driver go for two hours, and then had a leisurely hour long lunch. We had time to kill, so we spent the hour after that playing cards. The card playing was interesting in that we could remember most of the rules for many card games, but all of the rules for rather few of them.
At 4pm, we met up with our driver and were driven to the airport (a bit early, as the plane didn’t leave until 9ish). There, we found a financial surprise. We had arranged to pay $10 apiece (for a total of $50) for the driving, with the trip to the airport already taken care of. I am not sure if the $50 was for the company but not the driver, or whether it was for driving us around Arusha but not going to the airport, but in any case we each ended up ponying up an addition $10 (for a total of $50) for the driver. This doubling of the cost was very unexpected and left an unpleasant taste in our mouths.
Interestingly, we had to go through security in order to get inside the terminal (with an additional round of securityto get into the “concourse” (waiting room). We now have about three or four hours to wait in the airport.
There were a few shops in the waiting area, which had slightly better prices than the cultural center. We killed some time taking turns shopping. I ended up getting another tee shirt. We met an African guide who was working for REI. He was on his way to Seattle to visit the main office. He says that he has summitted Kili about 600 times.
I thought about taking pictures of the plane on the tarmac, as I had really liked the lighting when we had arrived two weeks ago. But if I tried from inside the terminal, I got too much reflection from the windows. If I went up to the window so as to minimize the reflection, then I couldn’t use the tripod and the exposure was too long to hold by hand.
I thought about taking some pictures after we had left the terminal building and were walking to the plane, but I wasn’t sure how the security folks would view my stopping on the tarmac, and digging cameras and tripods out of my carry on. I also wanted to make sure that there would be space in the overhead bins for my suitcase, so I didn’t want to take time for pictures. So I just enjoyed the view.
On the plane, there was a big, broad-shouldered guy in the seat next to me. I was not looking forward to the lack of space on the long flight up to Amsterdam (the plane flies from Kili to Dar es Salaam, where it stops briefly to exchange passengers, and then it continues on to Amsterdam). Fortunately, however, he got out at Dar es Salaam. For quite a while, I thought that I might be extra fortunate and have an empty seat next to me, but then someone boarded and took that seat, but at least they were a normal-sized person.