View from the balcony of the hostel
Januay 4th, D-day
Journey stared at just before 8 am when I left the house and walked to the bus stop, utterly convinced I have forgotten everything that might be important. Half an hour on the bus crammed full of Denton’s finest was more than enough to remind me why I was desperate to leave the country.
I arrived at Manchester Picadilly station more than an hour before my train ws due to leave and my friend Derin was there to meet me.
After an hour of drinking tea and chatting I said my goodbyes and jumped aboard the flash looking Virgin train to London. Fortunately it was an uneventful, un-delayed trip, followed by some monster rucksack acrobatics on the tube. I arrived 6 hours before my flight was due to leave, but used the time to check all the news on Kenya, ensure there was no way they would dare cancel my flight and shop for books to read.
The walk to work.
At this point I would like to mention the curse I have suffered with since childhood. Beyond the usual bad luck I seem to suffer with (see Kenya), big burly men at airport security seem to really take a shine to me and my ability to make metal dectectors go off despite not carrying anything vaguely mettallic seems to be a good excuse for them to commence some sort of rigourous foreplay. After becoming intimately aquinted with Heathrow’s very own Robocop, it was time to go. I left with a feeling that I had been used and an odd sense of guilt that came from knowing I would never call him…
By the time I got on the plane I was knackered and promptly fell asleep, only waking when I got a sturdy trolley crushing my leg everytime food or drink was served. When I was later woken to put my armrest down and buckle my seatbelt for landing, I looked out of the window to see a truly awesome sunrise. I made a concious effort to absorb it, as it turned into full daylight in less than 5 minutes flat.
Once landed at Nairobi, I pretty much walked through passport control (I stupidly talked myself into paying for a visa, d’oh) I set about thinking of ways to kill time before my connecting flight to Kilimanjaro. I had 12 hours to kill. So I found a café, bought a tea (my first in Africa!) and tried to read my book. After an hour or so, I got bored and fidgety and decided to stretch my legs. Walking out of the terminal building I was approached by many men trying to convince me I needed a taxi.I homed in on the one wearing an Arsenal shirt and I decided to ask if there was any chance I could go to Nairobi. I was assured it was very quite, no trouble today and he could give me a short taxi tour. I jumped in and we drove. At every road we crossed or corner we rounded my driver gave me some sort of info or story about the place. However as I was staring out the window I was barely taking in a single word. Whilst there were too many people visible to call it a ghost town, it was eerily quiet. Everybody we passed stared back. The feeling was not hostile, but tired and worn out, almost hopeless. We had been driving for about an hour that seemed like minutes when we came to a police/army roadblock and told in no uncertain terms “there is nothing for you here, go away”. So we did. On the way back to the airport I wondered what all the closed shops, burned out buildings and near empty streets would have looked like barely a week ago before the violent protesting that broke out over the elections. As an outsider I felt like I was letting these people down. We know the truth in the western world, but here, the polulation are being shut off, censored and controlled by the military led by someone who has kept himself in power by obvious corruption. On arrival at Nairobi airport, it was as though I had walked into another time. It seemed so lively and vibrant now, much more so now I had seen the city that it serves in its current state. It no longer seemed such a bad place to spend the next 9 hours. With so much now playing on my mind I found it very difficult to relax, so decided to introduce myself to some of the Local beers at the gate 14 bar. Although it failed to clear my head, it did help me doze off for a precious few hours sleep. Eventually, my Precision Airways flight to Kilimanjaro was called. We were walked across the tarmac to a very old and rickety looking plane. Baring in mind my luck so far on this journey I definitely felt a little queezy getting aboard this ancinet propeller driven thing to fly around Africa’s biggest mountain. It was a good 30-40 odd years old, and it must have been at least 20 since it had had a wash. The seats were blue leather, but torn, worn and stained. The engine started slowly (something to do with twisting rubber bands I think) and we started to climb shakily. To say we hit some turbulence would imply that there might have been a point during the flight where there wasn’t any. But as the plane swung around for landing, Kilimanjaro itself came into view. It imediately lifted my spirits, and I was transfixed by the magnificent sight. It seems to have its own little ecosystem, as for miles around is just arid desert and clear blue skys, but around the mountain there is masses of trees and greenery, and its very own halo of clouds. The explosion of colour, rocks and snow is just breathtaking.
After a clenchingly bumpy landing, we arrived at Kilimanjaro international airport. My luggage turned up seconds after I did (it later turned out that this is not a regular experience, and I was one of the lucky ones) and it tool nearly a whole 2 minutes to get a visa and through passport control. 20 minutes later I was picked up and bundled into a safari jeep and we headed to the hostel where I was to be staying. By this time night had fallen and I got my first taste of Tanzanian driving in the dark on the tarmac road to Moshi. The rules of the road appear to be flash your lights lots, use your horn all the time in an angry fashion for no apparent reason, indicate in any manner that pleases you and overtake everything. Getting air from hitting speedbumps at tremendous speeds and veering onto the verges also seem very popular. We turned off the main road onto a track that would be deemed too harsh for a mostertruck rally and after hitting my head repeatedly on the roof, we arrived at the hostel.