Passing Over

Once again, the sounds of silence were not to be had. Noise, noise, noise from next door. Six in the morning is an ungodly time to have eat breakfast. My digestive juices don’t start flowing until 8am at the minimum even if we did get up at 5:15. Joseph would be waiting for us at 6:30 as we have a “long” day ahead of us, but he leaves us at the Tanzania border to be greeted and continue with a different guide/driver. The rendezvous was set for 10am, but that did not happen. For the first time, Joseph lost his way and could not find the right way to the border. Of course, since there are no street or directional signs anywhere, it is reasonable. He stopped 5 times to ask directions. People either seemed to not know or gave the incorrect information.

By 11:20, he finally had us parked in front of Kenyan Immigration Offices. The young officer had us fill out a short form and stamped our passports. A short drive across a lot had us in line at the Tanzania Immigration Office where we lined up with the rest. A young officer asked us where we were going. Duh, we are in the Tanzania office, we are coming to see you. He gave us each a short form to fill out and then told us to skip the line moving to the second window. After asking for US $100 for EACH of us, we had our one year, multiple entry Visa for Tanzania. Pointing out that there was some mistake, we were told it was $50 each and we only wanted a single entry Visa. No mistake, due to some treaty or other the US and Ireland of all places no longer get single entry, but only multiple. The cost is the same, so trying out a brogue would not have helped at all.

When we left the office, Joseph was antsy, ready to turn us over to Anwar, our new driver/guide. We moved our things from a room van to a less roomy, less comfortable jeep. Anwar showed me the sign he had ready. It showed “Run Shmitz and Ryan James”. I asked Anwar if this were a transitional vehicle, but darn it all, it is all we get until we fly off to Zanzibar. Anwar is young, friendly and I am sure we will enjoy him. His English is moderate, so it takes some getting used to his accent. He was telling us that Tanzania has over 144 languages with Swahili the official one. Kenya has 44 languages with Swahili and English as the official languages.

So bear in mind, we left the lodge we had stayed at for three nights, at 6:30. We road the bumpy, rutty, pitted, roads until getting out of the car when Joseph had to fix his shock absorber, and then not again until we received immigration. Climbing back into the jeep at 11:30am, we were cramped in there until we stopped for lunch along the way. We had an hour of reprieve, before continuing onward. In Tanzania the roads are paved, a real blessing; however, there is a speed bump every fifty feet. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. Ride, ride, ride, doze, chat, ride. We reach the gates of the Serengeti National Park. This is an extension of the Masai Mara National Park on the Kenya side. The two are separated by the countries borders. The Serengeti is the size of the State of Connecticut, so that will give you an idea of the size of the country. Tanzania is the largest country in Eastern Africa and includes Zanzibar, which is an island.

Once we reached the park gates, we said good-bye to paved roads and back to the bounce by the ounce. Anwar kept stopping to show us animals along the way to the lodge. We had to remind him we had been on numerous safaris this trip and others in the past. As much as we appreciated this, we really wanted to get back on two legs and out of a vehicle. Miles and miles away, we finally reached the lodge by 7:00 pm. I thought for sure if the park was the size of Connecticut, we started in NY and drove to the MA border in the time it took us to get here. We are staying at the Serona Wildlife Lodge. People here are not nearly as friendly as any of the places in Kenya. Even  driving here, we received nasty to hateful looks from those we passed on the street, but this was similar to our reception here. There was nothing warm or welcoming about it; in fact, they could not find our reservation. It finally turned out that it was due to Run’s Shmitz’s name being misspelled. After wiping some of the dust off with the wet towel given upon entering, it went from sparkling white to dusty brown within minutes. Later, jumping into the shower, another coating turned the tub into earthenware.

Interesting note, we found that all of the places we stayed at in Kenya as well as this one and a number of others are owned by Indians, India Indians, though the land is leased only. The properties here in Tanzania are still owned by the government, but Indians run the business and Chinese laborers do the construction. This place is huge, but still under construction. My eyes sparkled when I saw an Internet Cafe sign, but they lost their luster when I looked in the window to see there were desks, but no computers. The gift shop is empty and the fitness room has all of the newest equipment stuffed into one corner. 

We are only here for one night, so we will survive. Interestingly, for as upper class as this is portrayed, the buffet is the smallest of any place we have stayed. I also am curious how places in countries like this receive their star rating. Under normal circumstances, to reach a 4 or 5 star, certain requirements must be in place. These include a phone and a television in each room for starters. Not one place has had these, though a television would be rather pointless, but a phone would be helpful with wake-up calls.

At dinner, we had a funny event. Eating away, a young person of the staff comes to our table and stands between Ron and I. I asked if there was something she needed, but she moved her head in Ron’s directions, but he was not paying attention to her in the least. When I said something, she  started in saying “Sir, you forgot to sign for your drinks from the bar.” The receipt book she had in her hand had whiskeys on it and 12,000 shillings as the amount due. We both said we did not order any whiskey, nor did we have anything from the bar. She walked away confused and disappointed. You know how it is; all white men with white hair and beards look alike. Of course, she was confused.

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