Friday, 14 February 2014

AFRICA...Let the journey begin!

Finally, after hundreds of emails back and forth with our Tour Operator (TO), thousands of reviews read on Trip Advisor (TA), questions asked to friends and companies, hundreds of hotel enquiries, and so on...Jen and I are finally packed and ready for one of our most exciting and challenging trips to date. As I look down at our new duffle bags bought exclusively for our porters on the 6 day kilimanjaro hike, I realize this trip will be a mental challenge, as well cost more then we realize, but in the same breath, this is a once in a life time opportunity and we needed to take it!

Soooo, what is my biggest hurdle to overcome on this trip?...will it be the 5800+ meters of mountain to climb through forecasted rainy conditions, or will it be the black flies and heat on the following 4 day safari, or will it be the expressed safety concerns in Stonetown we have read so much about online directed towards first world tourists?  Nope...none of them! My focus will be to keep my expectations in check; which will be really tough because for the amount of time and money invested in this, we basically could have bought a car haha.

I've read Africa is a bit different then what we have previously experienced in trips.  We will need to put aside all the small annoyances we grew accustomed to here in Canada.  For example...I've read we should expect to have showers in cold water at least a few times, or have the power go out for hours or days....or have no TV at night before bed (heaven forbid right ;). These are just a few things I personally need to let slide after paying 400-$700/night for a room....but seriously....where is this money going? Who is the one getting rich off this?  Oops....already started to I should digress. lol.

Jen and I decided to head to the airport several hours early to take advantage of her Priority Pass and have a nice meal in one of the airport lounges.  After a $70 cab ride…our adventure has officially begun!


Jen surprised me by upgrading our flight to first class!  Nice little surprise for Valentines day:)…. I got her cupcakes hehe.  I am going to be so full of…of….everything haha.  Mind as well take advantage of it!  As I type, I'm watching the olympics (just saw Chan win the silver), having a Guinness, french onion soup, and observing Jen getting anxious over the upcoming flight over the ocean…priceless.  Always amazes me how someone who flies so much is so scared of flying;)

 Inhaling Pellegrino, Guinness, and soup….going to feel it later.

 Nice day for flying….hope its a sign of more to come!

The couple beside us was watching TV on their iPhone at full volume….awesome.

We have 20+ hours of flying to look forward to, first stopping in Amsterdam for a few hours, then straight to Kilimanjaro. This will be our first time on KLM, and with what I've seen on the reviews, should be a good flight....I hope.  There are personal TV's on each seat, but apparently the shows are not near as good as Air Canada.

First plane we take to Amsterdam…330-200

The second leg of our trip….330-300…a big boy.

This also gives Jen and I some time to organize all the paper work that comes with a trip like this.  For example, at one point of the planning, we had to take the scary plunge of wire transferring a large amount of money to our African TO…talk about trust….and a bit scary.  This is why we needed to review dozens of blogs online, TA reviews, and so on, just to trust this company fully with our money….yet we are still waiting on our receipt lol…but I'm pretty sure this is typical slow African business.

Another funny thing about Tanzania is currency.  Many steps of our planning/booking seemed to work on different currencies!  For example, our Zanzibar resort quoted us in Euros, our TO quoted us in US, and all the restaurants and operations quote in local Shillings…fun.

We are expecting lots of rain…and lots of bugs.  We were advised to separate much of our stuff into plastic waterproof bags….not fun.  Try stuffing a large Burton puffy jacket into a small bag, then transfer it into a little duffle…ugh, but Jen was able to stuff her AK Jacket basically into a sandwich bag…insane.  Jen also wanted to buy special mosquito spray…didn't want to take any chances.  We had to drive to MEC to get the highest deet possible….but at least the name brand is called "Bens" :)

Well, off we go.  Our next blog should be the night before the hike (3 days).  We will be well hydrated, and probably a bit nervous.  Hope my knees hold up, hope the weather holds, hope the altitude doesn't get the best of us….hope!  (a line from one of my favourite movies "Shawshank Redemption").

Cant wait!

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