Monday, March 15, 2010

Greetings from Moshi, Tanzania!!!

Beth and I made it safely to Moshi and, in about 13 hours will begin our ascent of Kilimanjaro! We spent most of Saturday touring around London and actually decided to "pump ourselves up" for the hike by catching We Will Rock you (a musical based on Queens' music). Both Beth & I were pleasantly surprised within how much we enjoyed it, especially since it kicked off with a sci-fi twist and was based in 2325. We both wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but ended on our feet when Bohemian Rhapsody closed out the show. We rushed back to our hotel to catch the tube to LHR - only to be met with madness in the Virgin Airline check-in area. Numerous flights were departing and I was quite convinced our flight to Nairobi was going to be the trip to hell. We were pleasantly surprised when we boarded our plane to know pretty much everyone had seats/rows to themselves, which made the 9 hour flight a bit more enjoyable. The only complaint would have to be the couple that was directly behind me made out for the first 1.5 hours of the trip and then continued to do so as soon as they finished breakfast the following morning. Even the sound of a jet plane can't cover loud smoochers.

We made it through Kenyan customs with no issues, despite the warnings of corruption at the Visa desk and luggage handlers trying to swipe your bags. We caught a taxi to our hotel, which was in the Nairobi city centre and hit our only occurrences of "scamming" while there. We paid our taxi driver at the airport (via a government official) and upon arrival at the hotel, he attempted to receive payment again. Fortunately, Beth was on the top of her game and was able to "gently" reminder him that we already had done so. When we entered the hotel, we were a little baffled to see a metal detector at the entrance .. but even more so when we were able to push our luggage over the side without being scanned and to continue walking through even if the detector went off. Guess the pure presence could deter would-be thieves ...

We spent the day in Nairobi being tourists. Enjoyed the Nairobi Railway Museum and walked around, visiting City Hall, Parliament as well as the Memorial Gardens from when the US Embassy was bombed, killing over 250 Kenyans. As guide books suggested we head home before dusk, Beth & I decided to enjoy a dinner at the hotel - and a few grown-up cocktails as well. Between the Fulham/Man U game and then the Irish music that was playing afterwards, we called it a night relatively early in preparation for the big hike.

Riverside Shuttle picked up us up at the hotel at 7:30, which left us no time for breakfast before our departure. We picked up several other passengers on our way, including a group from the UK and Canada as well as several natives. While waiting at the second pick-up point, we considered grabbing a snack before we left - but never actually picked up anything as we were concerned the shuttle would leave us. Instead, we were able to entertain ourselves with the one British woman being continually hassled to purchase various goods ... and after saying repeatedly she had no cash, finally succumbed to have them leave. Occurred multiple times, by multiple street vendors - which kept the rest of the shuttle safe from hagglers.

We left a little after 8:15 and didn't stop until 1:00, which - in hindsight - was a good thing we didn't get any breakfast/liquids. We drove through several Kenyan villages and side-roads (detours off the SMOOTH highways ... and on dirt roads ... bumpy & dusty in open windows), arriving at the boarderound 1:30. The actual crossing of the border was very simple, especially since we had picked up the visas in the UK. Continued through the mountains of Tanzania, arriving in Arushi around 3:00 and Moshi around 4:30. I have lots of pictures to share, but since we're limited on the Internet time, just thought I'd provide the high-level details now. More to come, don't you fret!!!!

Check-in went smoothly, and we met with our guide (TOM) at 5:00 to debrief about the plan for this evening & tomorrow. Kate & I have already packed (6:45 PM here) and are killing some down-time before dinner at 7:30. Breakfast starts at 6:30 AM tomorrow and we need to be ready to leave by 8:00 (bus departure at 8:30). We still have a few things to rent from the equipment store but other than than that, we're re-hydrating, resting and getting excited for the 7-day climb that starts tomorrow. We'll be back with an update on Tuesday, March 22 - so until then, hold tight! Thanks again for everyone's support on this; it means the world to us!!!

Signing off from Tanzania,


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