If you look out your window, you will see Mount Kilimanjaro!
Day 1: An earlier flight, a missing bag and my first Maasai
After an almost two day trip from JFK to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), via Heathrow and Dar es Salaam, only one of my two bags arrived in Moshi at the airport! Luckily, my mother always reminded me to carry a change of undergarments, a bathing suit, tooth brush and book so I wasn’t entirely out of luck for the first two nights. Also, I had my hiking boots and pack with me in the cabin so at the very least I could climb a day or two before I needed my bag, in which ALL of my cold gear was packed. Because the adventure of missing one bag just wasn’t fun enough for me, my flights were also changed, which brought me to the airport about 6 hours ahead of schedule, with no driver/friendly face to be found. More on this in a moment.Simply, it’s always an adventure!
En route from Dar to JRO, the pilot announced, “Passengers, please look out your window and you’ll see Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.” Upon hearing this exciting proclamation, I instinctively looked down, as my brain knew I was in an airplane, thousands of feet in the air. Much to my surprise and terror, I had to cock my head UP to see the snows of Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. Thankfully I masked my shock and found comfort in praying for a brief moment, “Lord, please protect me. What have I gotten myself into?” It was in those first few moments after looking UP at a mountain from an airplane window that the magnitude of the climb really set it. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I thought myself so smart in choosing the “Around the World” or “Kilimanjaro” options on the cardio machines during my daily morning and evening workouts. Alas, the time had come to hear “Karibu Tanzania”, 19,340 or BUST!
When I arrived at JRO amidst the throngs of Gore-tex clad climbers, khaki/linen-wearing safari goers, and the bright fabrics of the women’s dresses, I breathed in the warm Tanzanian air. Still quite in shock that I was there, I couldn’t help but recall the words I mentioned to my mother as a young teenager, announcing my desire to live/work in Africa. As I squinted my eyes once I emerged from the cabin and descended the metal steps, it was surreal to finally be in a place I had only ever seen in my dreams.
Well, I gathered my one bag and walked through the arrival crowd, searching for a “Karibu Elizabeth” sign with nervous hope. Though the driver who was slated to meet me at JRO was not there, for I was quite ahead of schedule, I managed to get through to the Kili Climb group in Moshi and they assured me I could take a taxi to them. Scrambling and fumbling through my papers with contact names/numbers, I felt a fool for not knowing any Kiswahili. *Note, I HIGHLY recommend anyone traveling to any country to at least learn a few simple phrases. While being a pretty face has gotten me quite far, verbal communication is immensely helpful! : )
Anyway, as I hopped inside the white taxi with red crushed velvet-like interior, I suffered from sensory overload. Never before had I seen such beautiful clouds, skies, trees and people; and in such vivacious colors, too! I couldn’t take pictures quickly enough so I assured myself, “These will be recorded in your memory forever even though there’s no physical picture to confirm it,” as I set my camera down and tried hard not to blink for fear of missing something. As the taxi sped along the tarmac, I not only caught glimpses of Kilimanjaro’s icy peak, but also was entranced by the young children watching over herds of goat and cattle with nothing more than a stick. I felt I was in a story book. Because I love you too much, and also cherish the fact that you return to read these entries, I will not scan the sketching I attempted in my journal to remind me of the beautiful things I saw on this drive! I don’t want to jeopardize future visits! In the forty minutes it took from JRO, I felt as though just a second, maybe five, had passed. Exiting the taxi, I walked through the gates of Springlands Hotel to meet some of the most fantastic and amazing people I have ever known. Truly, my journey of inspiration had begun!
Terminal 21 at Heathrow airport, where I was assured my bags were en route from JFK and would seamlessly make it to Dar then to JRO.
Dar Airport…and the empty baggage claim area!
Walking into the JRO Airport
Along the drive to the hotel…
(Owned/Operated by Zara Tours)
The banner I carried in my pack from JFK to Uhuru peak. The names of family/friends who had fought cancer were listed as well as special notes of encouragement from loved ones.
More on Journeys of Inspiration can be found by visiting: http://joiacs.webs.com/