Often we take long, complicated trips including varying climates and degrees of formality. Packing for them can be challenging. This trip was a packing challenge as well, but for different reasons. The combined weight of our suitcase and carry-on cannot exceed 33 pounds. It took less than ten minutes to fill up the duffle bag that OAT, the trip provider sent us. But are we bringing the right things? Will we need a water purifier? Have we packed the right medications for whatever ailment we might get? How will we keep the camera batteries and iPads charged?
Tanzania and Kenya require visas. Usually we drive to the consulates in downtown Chicago, hand delivering our passports and verifying that forms have been filled out correctly. Tanzania and Kenya only have embassies in Washington, D.C. OAT encouraged us to submit our passports during the time period when we were still in Canada. We mailed in our passports as soon as we crossed the border in Maine. A few days later we got an inscrutable email from the visa company, indicating that something was wrong with our applications. Long story short, the background in our photos was not light enough. We could apply for the Kenya visa online, a recent development. After we scanned the passport, photos and flight itinerary, the applications would not go through. No one at the embassy ever answered the phone. Finally, I figured out that I had scanned the documents at too high a resolution and the files were too large. Re-scan, resubmit; twelve hours later the visas were ready to print.
So now we can turn our attention to getting excited, looking forward to all we will see and learn. The Emirates flight stops in Dubai and so shall we. We've never been there and the photographs of the architecture and affluence look awesome. It will be unbearably hot, but it will give us a chance to begin adjusting to the new time zone. We're not sure how easy it is to get around, so we've scheduled a few tours. It is a shopping mecca, but our pockets are probably not deep enough. If we do purchase something we can leave it behind in Nairobi and pick it up before we fly home.
Of course, the biggest attraction on this trip is the animals. It will be amazing to see them on their own turf rather than confined in a zoo. Dire reports about poaching and land encroachment make us wonder how much longer they will be there for us to see. We’ve gotten an email from our local African guide Fred. It included the following, “On this trip we will visit a traditional Masai village near Amboseli National Park, Here will we experience what it is like to live a more primitive lifestyle than you are used to, where their daily food is mainly blood and milk. You are welcome to try this.” This is one of those trips where I will say to myself, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”