I've been a bit worried about this day since it was the day we would separate from our tour group and head off on our own, ultimate destination home. We were scheduled to take a bush plane from the Serengeti to Arusha, saving ourselves a full day drive on the lumpy, bumpy roads. We said good-by to Mohammad and Amos, the Land Rover drivers who would be driving back to their home town without us. Fred knew the plane would be late, so he took us to the ruins of a nearby fort, built by the Germans in the early 1900's. That was a long time ago and the ruins were dilapidated, but it was easy to conclude that those German military folk had built themselves a mighty fine outpost complete with a huge swimming pool and dance hall and verandah overlooking the Serengeti. Then Fred took us to the grassy landing strip and entertained us further by throwing rocks at the grazing zebra to get them off the field before the plane arrived. It finally landed at 12:30 and was a beautiful aircraft only about a year old. It was fun to fly over the areas recently traveled. The Ngorogoro Crater was especially obvious. We could pick out the lake where we had a picnic and watched the hippos doing nothing much. Then we came to a huge swathe of farm land. When Fred had told us that the animal's traditional migration routes had been interrupted, it was crystal clear how huge the problem is from the air.
But by then I was beginning to worry a bit more. The group was flying out of Kilimanjaro airport at 10:30pm and our flight was at 6:20. They had lots of time; we did not. We had flown into the small Arusha airport, but the Kilimanjaro airport which handles international flights was an hour away. We inhaled lunch at the hotel where our group had day rooms, said a quick good-by and jumped into a taxi.
The airport was mystifying. We went through security outside before we could get into the building. Then we went through another screening after checking our bags. Each time Ken practically had to get down to his skivvies before they would let him through. Turned out his glasses were the culprit. All the international flights seemed to leave from the same tiny lounge and there was no one there to talk to. A disembodied voice came over the PA every so often announcing planes ready to board, which were sitting here and there near the runway. As we taxied down the runway we caught a quick, but impressive view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, much more snow covered than when we saw it last, since so much snow has fallen the last few days.
I was a little worried that the visas in our passports only allowed one entrance into Kenya which we had already had, but a cursory look at our passports and we were waved back into the country. Kenya and Tanzania have some regional connections with one another, so that may have made a difference as well. Once again we were thrilled to see the man from Longview Suites holding a sign with our name on it at the exit from the airport baggage hall. We aren't sure why, but the ride to the hotel that took less than 45 minutes last time, took about two hours. There was no accident or road repairs, but the traffic simply did not move. We were pooped when we finally arrived at Longview, but the staff was so kind and welcoming. They delivered a freshly made pizza to our room and had the bags we had stored in the room already as well. A good night's sleep and we'll be ready to tackle that 25 hour trip home. Being in business class should help immensely.