We arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport well after dark. There are no gates, so we deplaned onto the tarmac and walked in to get our visas. Everyone was in a chipper mood — we had arrived, we were up and moving around (which was awesome after two long flights), and we were ready to begin our adventure!
While waiting in line, however, the power went out and the terminal went pitch black. But this didn’t seem to faze the customs officials in the least. They all popped out their flashlights and went back to work (which led us to believe that this might be a fairly common occurrence).
After boarding small buses, we headed for the hotel. It was dark on the way, but with the help of the stars, we could just make out the silhouette of mountains. (To be fair, the driver said they were hills, but to a Houstonian like me, they were mountains.)
On the way to the hotel, we were all treated to an “African massage (which is what they call a long drive on a bumpy road)” before arriving at the hotel at around midnight local time.
In the morning, we met our drivers for the duration of our stay. Stephen, my driver that first day, told us that Arusha, the closest town, meant “cloudy” in Swahili. This proved an apt name as we could barely make out Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance through all the clouds as we hit the road.
We spent the day traveling, stopping periodically to investigate this or that as we made our way to a second hotel just outside Lake Manyara National Park. The journey taught me that road markers are just suggestions, really … no need to actually pay attention to them.
We stopped to have a beautiful and delicious lunch at a banana plantation. Lunch felt like home because of all the butterflies. The butterflies, of course, didn’t recognize me, but I definitely recognized them from their relatives living in the Cockrell Butterfly Center.
After settling in at the hotel, we listened to a talk from our guide Robert (and we’ll talk more about him later, because he definitely needs his own post!), ate a delicious dinner, and then went for a nature walk with a select few, where we learned about the flora and fauna on the top of the crater.
No luck seeing a nyoka (snake) yet, but we were told that there are cobras around — so keep your fingers crossed.
Kwa heri (see you soon)!