It is a good thing we set the alarm; our wake-up call never came Having showered last night, we only needed to jump into clothes. Ron called for someone to come for our bags, but then we had to wait in the lobby for the taxi scheduled for 5am. It was only 4:40am. When the taxi called to say it was there, the security men carried our bags out to the car. The ride to the airport was only twenty minutes, but then it became surreal. At this hour of the morning, it is still dark out. When the driver pulled into the parking lot and shut off the engine, we did not know where we were. For all we knew, we were kidnapped and were waiting for ransome notes to go out for our collection. Our flight was scheduled for 6:30am, the ticket states you must be checked-in an hour before and gates closed fifteen minutes prior to the flight. It was not until the driver offered to go see what was happening since there were no lights on in the termimal, we didn’t realize we really were at the airport.
When the driver returned, he said the only people there were security and nothing was open yet. He was kind enough to allow us to stay in the car. What was especially strange was not not one car joined us for the next twenty minutes. Surely, there had to be other tourists flying this morning who believed the hour rule was enforceable. By 6:00, we ventured out and took in front of the TanzAir check-in desk; the next desk Excel Air had a Muslim woman agent working by oil lamp and on her mobile phone. At 6:20am, an agent came to check us in. After receiving boading passes, we had to accompany our luggage when the put it through the scanners. I guess if it were suspect, they wanted to cut down on the time it would take them to hunt us down in the miniscule airport and do an immediate incarceration.
When our luggage passed inspection, we were given a card to fill out for leaving the country. Seeing how the rest of the infrastructure works, I am sure these cards a dumped into some pile somewhere never to be referred to again. Their sole purpose is intimidation of the passenger. We were immediately passed through Customs, and then sent to security, followed by the boarding area, a room the total size of our apartment. There is a departure tax payable, but TanzAir includes it in their fares, so we were able to pass just by showing our boarding passes. It was now 6:45am and no signs of boarding.
Finally, we were called and told to follow a security person who walked us to the plane, a Cessna. It was so tiny, they loaded our luggage into the wings. The ceiling was so low, I thought Ron and I were going to have to crawl in on hands and knees to get to a seat. With only 5 passengers on the plane, we had our choice of seats amongst the ten available. There was no barrier between the pilot and seating, but with only one pilot who was getting on in years and overweight, I thought I should watch every move he made just in case one of us was called on to land the plane if he had a heart attack. Just like in the movies, I was waiting to be the hero of the day. After we were in the air my confidence in his last heath report must have kicked in, because I fell asleep.
Landing, we ended our journey far, far away from the real planes or in reality jets. It was like we were in a toy plane and landed at the toy airport, but real people were able to go to the real airport. Hustled into a van, a worker took us through the lines. She tried getting us through Customs faster by speaking to the supervisor, but the 5 passengers held passports from 3 countries. He sent us to the African Nationals line, which was pretty quick. I had fears of having to buy another Visa since we did not have a multiple entry Visa, but it was a non-issue. While we were wating our little airport helper asked me what I presents I brought her from Zanzibar. When I lied about not buying anything, she suggested I could give her a token of appreciation for all she has done for us. It was worth a few bucks for her help in getting from Toy Town to Big People’s Land, so she received $3. The radar signals must have gone out at that point. Another one in security gear came over to help us find a taxi, which he negotiated in Swahili. I think we paid extra to include his commission from the driver.
We arrived at the Castle Royal Hotel Mombasa by 10am, never expecting to be able to check-in so early, but we were able to after all. This is our downgrading in service, now at a three star hotel. It is nice, but not lavish as we have come to be used to. Our first room was smallish with twin beds, not a problem, but it did have a minor musty smell. There is supposed to be wireless Internet in the rooms, but I could not connect. They sent us an IT guy, but he could not get the signal either. We walked the halls with the computer on, but no luck. The decision was made to change our room. This is much larger with a double and twin bed, a large balcony, and it sits at the top of the stairs on the first floor. This is the first hotel we have been in that has an elevator, now that we don’t need it. This is also the first hotel that has not had mosquito nets over the beds.
A nap was in order. I picked up a cold from Zanzibar with the hotel turning on off the electricity during the night. First we were cool with the fan going, then dying of the heat when it went off, then freezing again when it went back on. That combined with fumes really did a number on my sinuses, so I was not feeling too well by the time we arrived.
After some sleep, we were able to walk to the Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Fort Jesus, and Old Town. Being Saturday, there was not much open, except the fort, but the heat was a deciding factor for climbing to the top another day. We wound up taking a tuk-tuk back and had dinner at the hotel. The salad was the best I have had on this trip and the four cheese sauce over penne pasta was delicious, steaming hot, and overly generous.