Looking back I can see I’ve left out some bits and pieces of my story thus far, so I’m going to try to go back and fill them in now.
To begin, my trip from Arusha to Kampala was fairly uneventful, but interesting none-the-less. I had been told by Precision Air to get to the airport 2 hours in advance. When I got to the airport the security staff couldn’t for the life of them figure out why I’d come to the airport 2 hours in advance.
The safari company picked me up at the hotel and at the time, I thought the driver was completely insane. We were going at mad speeds with people dodging in and out in front of us and I was afraid we would kill someone or get killed in the process. However, now that I have been in Kampala I can see that the drivers in Arusha are, in fact, rather sane and safe in comparison.
At the time I arrived at the airport there was a somewhat long line to get thru security as there is a flight about to leave for Zanzibar. I note many of it’s passangers arrived about 20 minutes before the flight, not 2 hours. Grrr.
Anyway, they confiscate all open water bottles and any liquids in hand-luggage, same as in the US. I was a little surprised at this, being a rural tanzanian airport, but I guess they follow the US and UK’s lead on stuff like that. I had a stack of pens that I keep on hand to give to kids if approached, and the airport security guard was quite enamored of them. She opened one up and wrote with it and was admiring it, so I offered one to her, which she was quite pleased with. She then didn’t search the rest of my bag so missed the little bottles of lotion and stuff I had in my carryon. A fair trade, I believe!
Once thru security they sent me to the “international terminal” where I was the only person there for about an hour, with no one else but airline staff who were cleaning the floors. I had $2 in tanzanian money left over, so I bought postcards. After an hour a woman who worked at the airport comes in and asks me why I’m there. I said I was going to Entebbe and she said I needed to go into the other room (aka the “domestic terminal” which really were just two halves of one large room) where I was pleased to see other passangers. It wasn’t that I was obscenely early (well, I was, but not as much as I’d thought) it is just that I was sent to the wrong place.
Eventually the flight arrived from Nairobi and we boarded. It was a 50-seater prop-plane with about half the seats filled. It was an old plane, I’m guessing 20+ years, based on the condition of the seats, which folded forward flat if pushed them down as you passed.
Most of the people on the plane appeared to be business professionals, mostly African, with a couple of Indian, Japanese and two Brits behind me who sounded just like a character in a movie that I can’t place. One african guy was wearing an indian suit (I don’t know the name, but a very long top over pajama-like pants) that are pretty common here, but the thing was the fabric was in fact advertising the German World cup. It was very odd.
It was funky to hear the safety directions in Swahili. The did then run thru them again in English,but they were abbreviated. Fortunatley, I already know how to fasten my seatbelt.
We flew 1+ hours to Mwanza where there was drink service and a boxed lunch containing an apple, a cold hot dog, a napkin, and a toothpick. At one point we flew over Ngorongoro Crater, which was very cool. At Mwanza (city on the Tanzania side of Lake Victoria) almost everyone departed, much to my surprise. Only a couple of people got on, and there were maybe 6 of us who flew the additional half hour to Entebbe.
Upon arrival I got my bag, paid a $50 visa instead of the $30 I’d been expecting (me: do you have a student rate for visas? him: yes, $50. me: isn’t that the main rate not the student rate? him: $50. me: here you go). Again, I believe in wanting to please the security staff.
I then went outside and eventually found my driver to the hostel I’m staying. A moment of panic as I didn’t see him and got bombarded by taxi drivers, but then all was well. I asked him if we could stop at an ATM on the way, but he said unfortunately he had to bring me back and drive out again to pick someone else up, but then offered to drive me later (which is cool, as normally you can’t use hostel drivers as personal taxis).
Talk about driving like a madman! I literally had to put my backpack on my lap so I could grip the underside without him seeing. I had to stop instinctively clutching my hands up to my eyes. The hourlong drive was interesting. Again, the level of poverty is astounding to me, though last night I was talking with an amazing 20-year-old from Denmark who spent a number of months in India and said he was surprised at how the poverty here isn’t that bad compared to India, so I guess it’s all relative.
Eventually I made it safely to the hostel and got my room. Later we went to two banks and I found one that took my atm card, which was a huge relief. I had some anxiety that none of the banks would take my ATM card and then I’d be really screwed.
I spent the rest of the day at the hostel just relaxing and later getting dinner. I met a lot of interesting people, as described in my other email. Some of whom I got to know better on the trip I’d take the day after next.