From the time I left Minneapolis airport to the time I arrived in Dar es Salaam at the Amariah Hotel, 40 hours had passed. Best part was, nothing went wrong. When I arrived in Addis Ababa International Airport, my eyes were heavy, but my spirit was high knowing the 14-hour flight from Chicago had finally ended. Luckily, I did not have to wait hours in Addis Ababa airport for the next flight.
I have to say the best part about writing this post is that I do not have to dull you with the “terrible plane” experience or the “how can I find my lost luggage” at XYZ airport because chance would have it that it was as smooth of an international travel experience as one could ever hope for. So, United, Ethiopian Airlines, Chicago Airport (never thought I would thank you), among others, thanks for not screwing anything up! Now to the good stuff…
Dar es Salaam, well before I talk about that entry, boy did all the people on our flight from Addis Ababa to Dar get a real treat – a crystal clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit. As soon as the announcement came that we would be passing near it, the plane came alive with everyone from the wrong side of the plane moving about to try and see the site that so many people have on their bucket list. The site was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Just imagine, 19,000 feet of rock piercing through the sky displacing clouds like there was a magnetic field repealing anything that wasn’t part of the main structure.
When you see photos of Mount Kilimanjaro, it is usually from the human perspective atop of the summit, above the clouds unable to really see the magnificence of the mountain. Now, I have to admit, I have never been to the summit by foot (at some point this will happen), but never before had I seen a mountain from 38,000 feet that looked as if you could sky dive right onto the summit in a mere matter of minutes. Even though this moment passed quickly, it is one that will stick in my mind as my initial welcome to Tanzania.
Now onto to Dar! When our plane finally descended beneath the clouds, a vast coastal city opened up into view. Its sprawling nature was something I was not prepared for. It looked as if the city limits never ended, just house after house with random “skyscrapers” mixed in-between. But once I focused my eyes back to the coast, I saw the beauty of the clear, blue waters of the Indian Ocean contrasting almost perfectly with the dynamic colors of the buildings, roofs, and houses of Dar. The sun shone brightly through breaks in the clouds further illuminating the bright colors one might associate with the Caribbean.
When I finally exited the airport and headed to the hotel, I was met by busy streets, dirt sidewalks, and miles and miles of homes, shops, and restaurants without any rhyme or reason. I noticed the fruit and corn stands I read so much about, each looking so appealing that I wanted to jump out of the car and immediately eat the bright oranges, freshly fallen coconuts, and recently picked corn.
25 minutes later, my bags scattered around the room, and my face planted in the pillows, I fell into what felt like the deepest sleep at the hotel. What felt like 5 hours was only 10 minutes when a friend of mine who had arrived a week earlier knocked on the hotel room door. I was exhausted, and my mind was foggy, but all I wanted to do was explore my new home. We took an uber, which in Dar is extremely cheap and makes a person wonder how uber drivers make money…. We arrived at Coco Beach, which when you look at the things to do in Dar always makes the top of the list. It is a very busy public beach with soccer games playing in every which direction, horses riding up and down enticing visitors to put their kids on top and take a photo for a small fee, and food huts offering both beer and tubes that can be used to float in the ocean. At one end of the beach are some rock cliffs where so many locals were hanging out. While a bustling place, it was also very relaxing knowing my life as a beach bum had just begun.