My heart was heavy as I exited the Kilimanjaro airport on Tuesday morning.
I had endured an arduous flight path from Melbourne, Australia (by way of China, Vietnam, and Kenya – oh my!), been informed my backpack filled with my invaluable hiking gear was lost by Precision Airlines, and undergone a dubious immigration check. Travel gods, have mercy on me already!
My plea was thankfully heard, loud and clear.
I received his information from a woman named Beth, a friend of a family friend (slightly less sketchy??), as she had visited Kilimanjaro many times and had constantly relied on Abdul for accommodation bookings, tours, and rides from the airport and around town.
His daughters went to university in Canada (obviously a family man!) and he was somewhat of a figurehead around Arusha, the city where our Kilimanjaro tour departed.
I was sold. Abdul, you’re my man!
In our very brief communications, he told me he would pick me up from the airport and book me in at a lodge in town. Sounded like heaven to me, so I sent him my flight itinerary and literally never followed up. Because why would I do a responsible thing like that?
Walking out of the airport after my tumultuous morning, I realized this lack of a backup plan could quickly become a massive issue.
I never confirmed with Abdul regarding the pick up, never checked with the lodge to ensure a reservation had been made in my name, never changed any money into Tanzanian Shillings on the off chance he wasn’t there, and had no access to the internet. And I call myself a world traveler…#FACEPALM.
Pathetic, I thought to myself, and, indeed, that is exactly how I looked: dragging myself, sans luggage, into the Tanzanian sun looking for my Internet friend, Abdul. Seriously, I can’t make this shit up.
Well, hope springs eternal, because who was waiting right out front? My main man Abdul! (Internet friends for the win! Am I right?!)
Tanzania: 4628194, Nikki: -91773
Fortunately, I was beyond caring, and it was quite obvious I meant no ill will. We exchanged (culturally appropriate) greetings and moments later, we were in his jeep, windows down, heading towards Arusha. Finally things were falling into place.
Upon request, Abdul stopped by a Vodacom kiosk, the national telephone provider, and helped me purchase and set up a SIM card. As a solo female traveler (and probably more accurately, a millennial) I don’t like being without internet access.
Usually used for accessing maps or in emergency situations (including, but not limited to posting killer Instagrams), I felt that having my own number for dealing with my lost luggage situation would prove handy. For $8 USD for my own Tanzanian number and an entire month of data, why the hell not!
After a long wait (because, remember friends, T.I.A.), my phone was set up and we continued down the bumpy road onto Ahadi Lodge.
Upon our arrival into the gated compound, we were greeted by the receptionist smiling from ear to ear, “Karibu! You are so welcome to Ahadi Lodge!”
I melted, and not from the mid-afternoon heat; I couldn’t have come up with this scene in my wildest imagination. It was heaven. I wanted to hug this new woman, but fear not, this time I refrained.
Seeing I was in good hands, Abdul, quickly offering a handshake before I tried to hug him again, said goodbye and drove away.
The receptionist showed me to my room and insisted I eat before napping, a very wise suggestion as my “nap” turned alarmingly coma-esque.
Tonight is my last night here at the heavenly Ahadi Lodge. Every meal is better than the last (I’m going to be too fat to hike Kili when I leave tomorrow), the staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, and the pool is generally all mine. For $60 USD/night with the incredible, three-course meals included, how could I feel that I didn’t luck out?
I’ve read three books since I’ve arrived and spent a good bit of time journaling and blogging. I even got my luggage today – only two days late! (I’m not being facetious, I genuinely believed it would not come that quickly.)
Ahadi Lodge has been an absolute haven for me. I am quite positive that there is nothing I could ever do to repay Beth for putting me in touch with Abdul, but I will most certainly try.
So, people, the African tides are turning! Tomorrow marks the first day of our KE Adventure hiking tour of Kilimanjaro, so cross your fingers that the tides stay on our side.
And if you’re ever heading to Kilimanjaro, hit me up and I’ll put you in touch with my main man, Abdul, so he can be your internet friend, too!