After the game drive, we were dropped at the beautiful Arusha Coffee Lodge for lunch. Most of our party had arrangements for the five hour drive to Nairobi, Kenya for their flights home. Maryanne and I didn’t have to leave for the airport until late, so opted to spend time at the much more comfortable lodge rather than go to the airport. This left us spending another couple of hours at the lodge with our least favourite people from our group, who were also flying out of Kilimanjaro later.
Arusha Coffee Lodge, where we dallied and watched monkeys eat from the Avocado tree
These particular people were a pair of young newlyweds on their honeymoon. I could go on for hours about them but I won’t. Suffice it to say they were snobs and complete narcissists and we had to spend two of the longest hours of our lives after the others left of listening to them talk about how wonderful they are and watching the wife fly into a rage about how every breeze was messing up her hair. She doesn’t do outside eating. We are so glad we will never see them again.
Our tour company wanted to take all four of us to the airport together but Maryanne put her foot down. Their flight was four hours before ours.
Two hours later the guy showed up and said we should get going because, even though we were really early, the third world ticket agents have a bad habit of closing the ticket counter with three hours to go and stranding people who were late. Our driver said, “I’m sorry. I know it is very early, but it is a Tanzanian thing. You don’t want to be late.”
Once we got to the airport and I already tipped the bastard, we found out his story was all B.S. I think he just wanted to go home early and just made it up. The ticket counter actually opened up three hours before the flight, two hours after he dropped us off. Since the flight only stops in Kilimanjaro on the way to Dar es Salaam, there were only about fifty people to check in. They didn’t even start clearing seats until an hour and a half to go.
We didn’t make it. The agent explained that there were no seats for two days. He was very nice and offered to help negotiate a better fare for the hour cab ride back into town and suggested a few decent hotels. By then, Maryanne had already gone online and found most hotels wanted around $150/night. The only one near the airport, the Kia Lodge, wanted $250/night. This actually made everything a close tossup as a cab ride into town runs about $50 each way. The KLM agent, generously helped us, offered us his personal cell phone number so we could check loads on the Monday flight, and said he could help us negotiate a cab ride into town for us for $30 (rather than the $50). The hotels in town were supposed to be decent but not in a particularly good area.
We were sitting there wondering what our fate would be for the next couple of days when the very last passenger checked in, the Honorary Consul for The Netherlands, and offered to make a couple of calls on our behalf. A couple of minutes later, he got us a room at the Kia for $150/night. The van was on its way. Not ten minutes after leaving the airport, we were given a room complete with fresh petals scattered on the bed. What luck.
The KIA lodge is beautiful. It consists of lots of open, airy buildings with thatched roofs set amid tall bushes of bright colored flowers. The staff is as friendly as could be and the restaurant has a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro itself. Our room was clean but had a mosquito net that was not up to the job. We augmented it the second night with our own. The bed was also rock-hard. We didn’t notice this the first night, but by the second, we felt like we’d slept on a flight of stairs. We had nothing to do the last day for the ten hours between check-out time and heading to the airport so we are hanging out in the shade by the pool on chairs that are way more comfortable than the bed. If we get too hot, we nip downstairs to the bar for a coldie.
Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance - as seen from the dining room
Our flights home are looking pretty good for now. If everything goes as planned, we’ll be at my mother’s house in 34 hours or so, 25 of which will be flying.