Kenya

 

May 26 & 27

Somehow we were able to fit three large boxes of children’s clothes and school supplies destined for African orphanages, three backpacks (two twice the size we normally take on our travels), three carry-on bags, Tracey, Michael, Sherrie, Terry and Carter in his car seat, into Tracey’s car. With so much weight it was slow over speed bumps at YVR (Vancouver International Airport).

We had a visit and then said goodbye, Michael for two weeks and Sherrie and Terry for nine. We were off to Africa! ... but it was going to be awhile before we got there ... a 10 hour flight on a full Air Canada plane from Vancouver to Heathrow, London, a 9 hour layover in Heathrow ... and a 8.5 hour flight to Nairobi, Kenya. That would get us to Africa, but upon landing we still had a 6 hour bus ride across the border into Tanzania where Moshi, near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro was our destination.

(May 27 ... Happy Birthday, Stephen).

At Heathrow we transferred from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4. We scouted out a place to settle in for several hours and were not being too successful when Michael discovered a quiet area near Gate 4. It was outfitted with chairs, a few coffee tables and two styles of lounges. We took three of the empty chairs and waited for a lounge to empty. Michael was able to get one in a corner. Within a half hour Terry and Sherrie were able to occupy two together. What a great find.

The flight to Kenya on Kenya Airways was most pleasant and less crowded.

May 28

Breakfast on Kenya Airways was two small buns and orange juice.

Upon arrival in Nairobi we passed through customs ... a simple and quick process since we had attained our visas ahead of time. We waited for our luggage and wondered if it had made the transfer. Michael’s large backpack came first and we breathed a sigh of relief ... and then waited.

 

Our arrival notes said that the Riverside Shuttle to Moshi would be outside the terminal and would leave at 7:30 am which meant we had less than an hour between landing and bus departure. There was only ten minutes to go before the 7:30 departure when Terry and Sherrie’s packs showed up on the conveyor belt which snaked through arrivals. Still no boxes in sight. While Terry and Michael inquire about our lost luggage and stayed with the pieces we had, Sherrie went in search of the bus. She didn’t find it. It was taking considerable time to process the lost luggage forms (which apparently had never left Heathrow).

While Sherrie watched the luggage and Terry continued with paperwork, Michael went off in search of more bus information. The man who had allowed Sherrie a one time exit and reenter, said, "Relax. Take life slow. It will all work fine."

He was right. Michael came back with news that the Riverside bus was not going to show up until 08:30; Terry completed the documentation with a very nice lady who assured him our missing luggage would be delivered to the hotel in Moshi tomorrow.  Touts, who did not believe we had prepaid our ride with Riverside, eagerly guided us to the reservations clerk standing outside and vied for the position of "finder" in order to collect the commission ... which they were disappointed in not getting.

Luggage was passed through the bus window and stacked on the back seat while we found a place to sit. This was just temporary, the driver told us, as outside the airport we would be transferring to another bus. Our western imagination pictured a large touring bus. At a gas station the luggage went back through the window and up on the roof of another van style bus. We were able to claim three of the last four seats which were in the back row of the bus. Snuggling in we had two day bags and Sherrie’s backpack on our knees and Michael’s narrow backpack behind Sherrie’s head. Extra aisle seats were folded down and what space was not taken by human bodies was filled in with other people’s luggage.

The morning was heating up, Terry shifted to adjust the seat belt holder (no seat belt) digging into his back side, and the fellow just in front closed the window as a defence against the penetrating road dust. Five and three-quarter hours to go.

Through the dust streaked windows Sherrie attempted to snap snippets of life in Kenya and some of the scenery.

During the trip we were handed blue cards to fill out - why, we weren’t sure as we already had our visas.

   

When we got to the Kenya side of the border we lined up at one of the windows. Finally getting to the front of the line, we passed the lady our blue cards and our passports. She said something we did not understand, pointed to a yellow card and shooed us away like silly children. As we started to fill out our yellow cards the Riverside Bus driver told us he was going to drive the others in the bus across the border to start the process of getting their visas, "you just walk across," he said. The lady accepted our yellow cards and stamped our passports.

During the transition from one country to the other, no one outside the immigration buildings looked at our paperwork; the border gates were wide open and people were walking back and forth including a horde of hawkers. "Look. You buy, very nice, two for $10, four for $20. Okay, two for $5." "Free!" two others said, "I give you sandals free." Michael slowed down so as not to step on any toes and hawkers swooped in and circled him like lions around an impala as he continued to navigate baby steps in the direction of Tanzania.

 

 
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