Traveling to Tanzania is no small task. It took months (six months to be exact) to get ready for this one week adventure all the way across the world. In those months I read about the area, Arusha, in which I was to visit, gather all the supplies needed for this adventure, and visit a travel medicine doctor to make sure I don’t come home with any disease prevalent in East Africa.
After all, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit a part of the world few people have the chance to see.
The African adventure began at 7:00pm PST at SeaTac Airport for a red-eye flight to 10:15pm to Dulls International Airport on a Sunday evening. The ride to the airport was uneventful for a Seattle evening, and got to airport in record time.
But things were not going to be uneventful for long……
Seattle Washington to Washington DC: Worse Start To A Trip
I feel TSA hates me at SeaTac airport. No other airport TSA has ever made me feel horrible as the TSA agents at SeaTac. Seriously they hate me. One minute everything is going just great and next I’m having a full body pat down all over my cell phone! Thank goodness the guy (yes it was a male who did this pat down!!!) decided not to explore certain places I should not mention.
After finding nothing I was let go to board my flight.
But it still gets better! Getting told by United Airline’s gatekeeper “I’m in timeout” because there was a backup on boarding the flight. After awhile it got old when he went further in saying “don’t mess with me.” He was joking I hope because of a 10:15 pm, I really had not brain complicity to comprehend if he was. I joke about it, but in a way, it bothered me for some odd reason (at the time United was in deep water over an incident involving a passenger being dragged off an over booked flight two weeks before!). Eventually I boarded the flight only to find out how worse it would get from there.
To make matters even worst, economy class is horrible with all of us in our group crammed like sardines in the back of the plane near the toilets. The turbulence was horrible for a red-eye flight, jolting anyone out from a little nap. At one point I did become sick enough to not know if it was low blood sugar, low blood pressure, motion sickness or the stifling heat from all the bodies crammed in a metal tube. After eating a whole Pro Meal Bar and drinking some water, I began to feel a little better and no longer felt like I was going to pass out. I will not be flying United Airlines’ red-eye anytime soon after this experience. No one on the plane got any sleep except the guy in the same row as me by the window who snored all the way from Seattle to Virginia. He must have been a frequent flier to have that talent.
When we all arrived in Virginia (Washington Dulles International Airport) no one got any sleep, all of us were at Starbucks as real true Seattleites fashion and hoping the next flight would produce some sleep on the way to Ethiopia. The layover was five hours long of staring out the terminal windows at a beautiful sunny day in Virginia (and warm too apparently) with flatness for miles. Trying not to be perplexed by the souvenirs being sold with the word “Washingtonian” which is weird since this is what people in Washington State are called, and getting a few winks of sleep in the airport terminal floor.
Washington DC to Ethiopia:
Thirteen hours of flying across the world at this point and you wonder how is this possible to be going forward instead of going backward? The flight was uneventful (unlike the red-eye) and I slept through most of the thirteen hours to combat the jet lag enough to function for the next few traveling hours to Tanzania. On the plane’s flight progress screen, the flight took us over Spain, Portugal, Egypt, part of Morocco, and Sudan. All those countries below ready to be explored in the near future. On the flight, I was in a row with a woman who was traveling back home to Ethiopia from the states, and she informed me it was winter time in Ethiopia. No snow on the ground except in the higher peaks (the plane flew over some white peaks, mountains?) and it looked mostly arid desert. Snow is unheard of in these parts of Africa, or so I thought. The airport Addis Ababa is at the foot of Mount Entoto and near the city of Addis Ababa. The airport is an open, sparse hub for Ethiopian Airlines.
As soon as I stepped into the terminal, the humidity and heat hit me. Reminded me a little like stepping off the plane in Honolulu Hawaii. It was here I first encountered a semi-squat toilet and learned toilet paper is not flushable in this country, but instead has to be put into a little trash bin by the toilet after use.
After waiting four hours for our group’s flight to Tanzania in the airport terminal, we boarded the flight, and I can say I have stepped on Ethiopian soil while walking across the tarmac to the waiting plane. I was very much glad to have a whole row to myself which meant I could look out the window when the plane arrived in Tanzania.
Ethiopia to Tanzania:
The flight was interesting because it was four hours and they fed us all lunch. Surprise! Once the plane touched down at Kilimanjaro International Airport, it was one of those scenes out of the Ladies Detective Series where there is a huge commercial plane next to a small town airport in the middle of nowhere Africa. As soon as I stepped off the plane the humid heat hit you full on. And being at the end point of travel all my traveling companions agreed we stunk of body odor and need to shower so bad!
Getting a travel visitor visa took a while to complete especially in the humid heat with no cool air to relieve. Most of us girls had rosy red cheeks from heat by the time we all reached to window to hand over our passport, visa application, and our $100 USD (must be a $100 bill, not five $20 bills, or pay in Euros or higher weighted currency, and not Tanzanian shillings) to the immigration officer. Then after approval, get the real visa stamped into the passport at the visa verification line before picking up our luggage. It’s a process, a long one when there is a huge plane full of people, and I think next time I will apply for the visa prior to leaving the US. After all of us successfully got through visa line, we all boarded a bus to head to our hotel in Arusha.
Green Mountain Hotel, Arusha Tanzania:
Our drive to Arusha from the airport took little over an hour passing what is considered in America as slums where garbage dump is next to a muddy river bank, people rummaging around in it, dogs roaming around, people walking along the road carrying large bundles of stuff home, fields of maize or corn, and crazy driving like never seen in the USA. This is what would be called poverty with muddy dirt roads leading off the paved roads into muddy red dirt roads with shacks crammed together. It is very different from what you see in the America.
Our group checked into a small hotel in the middle a busy neighborhood outside Arusha proper. Green Mountain Hotel is where we all staying for five of the nights we were in Tanzania (other was a Lutheran hotel at the end of our trip). Once checked in I crashed for three hours before dinner from all the jet-lag with a much-needed nap. Which did not help later when it was time to actually go to bed. Dinner was a gathering of all of us eating family style, and meeting four new members of our team. After dinner it was off to figure out how to use the shower and then crash again for bed.
Flights: United Airlines (Seattle to Washington DC) & Ethiopian Airlines (Washington DC to Tanzania)
Hotel: Green Mountain Hotel
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