Touching down on the Kilimanjaro tarmac, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. After my 30-some hour journey, I was in the last stretch and couldn’t be happier.
As the propeller plane bumped to our final stop, I struck up conversation with three Aussie girls in the rows ahead of me.
“Tomorrow! I can’t wait!” one of them enthusiastically replied, turning around to face me. I noticed she was reading the same book as me, A Man Called Ove.
After my flight path from Melbourne, Australia, I could not fathom leaving for Kilimanjaro tomorrow; to be completely honest, the thought turned my stomach.
We chatted for a few moments and I wished them luck as we exited the plane down a narrow set of stairs, both of us assuming we were parting ways.
As I crossed the sweltering asphalt and entered the airport, I was asked for my Yellow Fever Vaccination card by a stern looking officer. This card is something I always carry in my passport, ever since I traveled to Kenya a decade ago, but had not been prepared to display for Tanzanian authorities.
Before I found myself at this particular point, I had been crossing my fingers that the immigration process went smoothly. Various Tanzania online forums had recommended endless, but varying advice for forms, pictures, and money to have available upon arrival; in all of these forums, this vaccination card was never mentioned.
My anxiety started growing; what other unknowns were awaiting me? I tried to force the thought from my mind.
“Go to that line,” she muttered and pointed to a growing line of tourists queueing in an adjacent line, while pushing my passport and various papers through the small opening in the glass.
This process continued, admittedly more animatedly, with the following officer, and then I was shuffled to the third and final line. At this point, I was glistening in sweat. I hadn’t wanted a shower this badly since, well, my last long flight. A whole two weeks prior…
Finally, I got my official thud – fancy passport stamp – and a quick karibu – or welcome – and I was allowed to pass. Hello, Tanzania!
As I entered the humble baggage claim area behind the immigration cubes, my anxiety kicked into full force. “You may have a stamp in your passport, but that will be all you have!” it cackled in the back of my mind.
A quick glance on the already stopped baggage belts, and the harsh reality set in. My backpack, filled with my precious hiking gear, wasn’t here.
In all honesty, I can’t say I was mad. Or upset. Or anxious. Or sad. I was past the point of emotions.
T.I.A. I kept repeating to myself: This Is Africa (a phrase also, quite fittingly, applied to Asian travel). It’s unfortunately to be expected. I just needed to figure out who was in charge and, from them, find out where it is and when it’s coming.
Suddenly, I turned and saw the three Australian girls enduring the same reality. Although we could both be upset with the situation of lost baggage, they didn’t have one very important factor on their side: time. That tricky little devil. My heart fell for them.
Their faces turned from entertained (I’m sure ‘T.I.A.’ was bouncing around their heads, too) to completely devastated. Who could blame them? They had about 24 hours before they began a 7 day trek that spans all climate zones, and one of them was wearing flip flops. Fuckkkkkk.
We filled out the mandatory forms from Precision Air, a discount, regional airline who had delivered us to our present location. With the twelve year old who was running the show, our confidence did little more than wilt in the heat, much like our bodies.
Again, I wished them luck as I left with my freshly stamped passport and my small carry-on backpack. At least I had my malaria medicine in my purse?
The best part about low points, is generally, you can only go up from there.