We arrived to Kilimanjaro International Airport amidst the mass of other travelers coming to vacation here on safari or climbing Kilimanjaro. The airport here is quite small and having to pass through immigration can be quite daunting at times. And then there’s customs…more on that in a moment.
Having your visa ahead of time can make a huge difference as the line to obtain your visa here is massive which is why I always make sure we have ours well in advance. A thoughtful tip from Thomson Safaris who brought me here in 2009.
Every visit here (this is my twelfth) something changes just a little bit. A barrier here or there or new lines. This year, though, they asked everyone to pass through customs with our bags when I usually walk through the “nothing to declare” line. Perhaps it was the large hard sided Pelican case that caught their attention this time. The case carried our EEG machine that was donated by the EEG department at Penn and is one of the main objectives of our visit this year – we have a tech coming and Danielle and Lindsay are going to focus on epilepsy. Now I have brought lots of donated equipment with me on each trip and have never had an issue before – Danielle and I brought five large Baxter IV pumps with us in 2013! This time, though, they explained to me that I needed to have a letter or certificate from the ministry of health to bring the machine in whether it had been purchased or donated and, of course, that hadn’t been done. They brought over a gentleman who was very nice, but also very adamant and thus began our lengthy discussion as to what to do. He eventually brought me over to his office where we sat down to discuss things and during this time I was constantly deciding whether we should leave the machine and get the documentation later, but without a doubt, I wasn’t going to give him a bribe as I had decided that well in advance. At one point I walked back out to get a letter from my luggage and told Danielle that I’d meet her in the parking lot with the others when I was finished and she said she wasn’t going to walk out of the airport without me. That’s dedication! Honesty and common sense prevailed and they were eventually willing to accept the letter of introduction I had from FAME and give me the necessary documents without any transfer of money. I thanked them profusely and we were on our way.
Tumaini Cottage in Arusha was our first stop here and what a pleasant surprise. Tumaini means “hope” in Swahili. It is a little Oasis in the sea of humanity and traffic that is Arusha and when we pulled through the gate, exhausted from our eighteen plus hours of travel, Andy had tall glasses of fresh squeezed and cold fruit juice waiting for all of us and our drivers. Places like this are those that you remember, use over and over again and recommend to any friends and fellow travelers coming after you. I finished packing my stuff for Kili and settled into the wonderfully soft bed for a well deserved nights rest. Pendo will be here with the boys to visit with us before our hike and pick up clothes and shoes I brought for them from the States, and then we’ll be on our way to the mountain to begin our adventure.