The Roof of Africa - Getting There
The flight is long coming from Italy, yet only about half as long as trips from the US. We got in around 9pm, strong winds pummelled us as we walked from the plane to the terminal. Once inside you join the flood of people headed through the immigration check. You stand in line for window 1 to pay for a visa. They direct you to window 2 where you stand in line to get a visa. Then it’s on to window 3, where you stand in line to get your visa stamped. A mix of all kinds of people, all ages, all nationalities, all tired, all just wanting to get through to the luggage wait. Of course there are a lot of people who already have visas, who only have to wait in the last line.
J had collected our luggage by the time I got through all the lines. We headed outside and found Bob waiting for us. Yes, Bob. He was our driver. Frank was also there, and we would get to know Frank much better over the next week. Frank was chief guide on our trip and would lead us up the mountain. It’s about an hour drive from the airport to Arusha, where we were staying, so Frank talked to us about the next week. He asked about our gear, making sure we had everything we needed (the company offers some rental gear). We found out there would be 5 other people joining us on our trek.
As we drove into town, we headed past the hotel J often stays in for work before turning off on a dirt road. Bob warned us the road would be bumpy. He told us he calls it the African Massage. It wasn’t any bumpier than some of the “roads” my dad used to drive us on. Just have to take it slow. The lodge greeted us, gave us a room key, and helped us drag all the luggage to our hut. Yes, hut. The room was half of a little hut with a thatched roof and mosquito netting around the beds. We somewhat settled our stuff in and headed to bed.
Our first full day in Arusha started nice and slow. We headed to the breakfast at the lodge, upstairs in the main building. They had fresh fruits – papaya, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and (J’s favorite) little bananas, Along with sliced cheese, breads, butter and jams. They did eggs and meat on request, and sometimes would put out a few hard-boiled eggs. Coffee and tea were set up with a separate carafe for hot milk.
Every breakfast I had at the lodge included a slice of bread with butter and papaya-ginger jam. This is my new favorite jam, even beating out strawberry. I must find some of this stuff, or learn now to make it.
The front desk called a driver for us, to take us to the supermarket and coffee shop. They have a driver that works for them specifically.
Side note time: Tanzania is very British, including driving on the left side of the road and having the driver’s side opposite of what we are used to. Even with that against me, I would never drive in Tanzania. The motorbikes take more risks than Italians, and the bus drivers just seem to push their way in wherever they want. I was perfectly happy to let someone else drive.
So, we went to a local supermarket that was kinda like a tiny walmart. They had a little of everything. We exchanged some US dollars for Tanzanian shillings and started shopping. First stop? Bottled water.
You DO NOT drink the tap water in Tanzania. Not if you don’t live there, and even then it would be better if you didn’t. The water has all kinds of nasties living it that will make you miserable. So you drink bottled water, you check to make sure the seal is secure (waiters should not open the bottle before showing it to you), and you generally avoid fresh fruits and veggies that get washed in water. Fruits with a peel, like those they were serving at our breakfast, are OK because they are protected by the peel or rind. Things like lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, are generally avoided unless they have been cooked, either sautéed or boiled.
We grabbed a couple other small items and headed over to the nearby coffee shop. J has been raving about this coffee shop since his first time there. The coffee beans are all grown and roasted in Tanzania. They have a couple different roasts. I ordered a cappuccino so I would have something to compare it to. I drink a lot of cappuccinos in Italy.
J was not exaggerating. That was an amazing cappuccino. Seriously, It was superb. Sylvester, the driver, showed up right on time and we headed back to the lodge to rest up. We spent a lot of time by the pool at the lodge. That’s where you get the best wifi signal, and the weather was gorgeous. It was warm and humid, but not oppressively humid. The lodge has large, rustic tables and benches around the pool. During the day there’s a snack bar and waiters that serve you poolside.
Dinner was at the lodge, up in the dining room we’d had breakfast in. The dinner menu is limited; a soup, two or three options for dinner, and a dessert. The pork rib was a little tough, but beet and pumpkin soup was divine.
We went to bed a little early, trying to get plenty of sleep before the next, big morning.