Saturday – August 28, 2010 –
This morning we had to get up at 3:30 a.m.! It was going to be one of our most logistically-challenging flight days. Thankfully, our concierge Yusuf arranged for a taxi driver named Avril to pick us up the night before at the Bay Hotel.
After the 30-minute drive to the airport, our flight left at 6 a.m. for Joburg. I slept almost the entire flight! After arriving at OR Tambo Joburg, we walked through a few shops before our South African Airways flight left at 10:20 a.m. for the long flight to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I slept some more and had a good chicken lunch. Along the way we flew over Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi before arriving over southern Tanzania. Africa is just so vast!
Before landing in Dar es Salaam, we saw the Indian Ocean for the first time. The Dar es Salaam airport was old and outdated, but the people were nice. We landed and went through customs where security was also tight. Then we had to go back through security for our second flight of the day. We watched Tanzania national television and tried to understand Swahili during a long layover. Our Precision Air flight left 45 minutes late around 19:15 p.m. for Kilimanjaro International Airport. We sat at the front of the twin turboprop and received a free beverage and cashews on the flight. The flight attendant wore a very colorful suit and hat.
Upon arrival that evening, it took a while for us to collect our luggage because two other flights arrived when we did. Our driver met us outside security holding up sign that said listed my surname. After loading up in the vehicle, he drove us about an hour to the Arusha Safari Lodge, on the outskirts of Arusha, in a small agricultural community called Usa River. The community sits just below Mt. Meru, Tanzania’s second highest mountain (and Africa’s fifth highest mountain). The hotel included gardens, a pool and views of both Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro on a clear day.
The primary industry of Usa River is agriculture, with large vegetable crops sent to Europe. Additionally large coffee plantations add to the area’s charm. However, in recent years, a coffee crisis had badly hit coffee growers. Many of them have been transitioning to subsistence farming for their livelihood.
We saw a number of people walking along dirt roads in the dark with no lights! It was truly bizarre and these roads were rough. Our driver said they had no buses so they were walking miles from work to their homes!
Upon arrival at the lodge, we were greeted with juice and checked into our lodge hut with a thatched roof. It was nice with mosquito nets and framed beds. The owners were a young French couple and they provided everything needed. After a very long day we went to bed after packing our the gear we needed for our upcoming safari into our new REI duffel bags. We would be leaving some of our luggage at the hotel to pick up after the safari.