Mark's Kilimanjaro Trip

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Chapter 3:
Travel and Arrival in Africa

On Friday, September 16, 1994, a taxi pulled up to take me to the shuttle station in Wall township near where I lived in Belmar, NJ. The shuttle took me to Newark airport, where another shuttle took me to JFK airport in Queens. I was early and KLM didn't have many agents working yet, so it took awhile to get through check in. However, I was glad to be early. I had no slack in the schedule if I missed my plane.

From JFK I flew to Amsterdam, KLM's hub. I had a layover of around 2 hours. Amsterdam airport has the greatest duty-free shops I've ever seen! I could've bought any camera in the world, it seemed like, if I'd only known what to look for.

From Amsterdam I boarded a 747 to Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. The plane was fully loaded, which I found surprising. It turned out that a lot of the people were actually going to Nairobi.

We'd started to taxi when the captain came on to say we were going back to the terminal. Apparently, the flap motor on the port wing wasn't working. He said the backup motor appeared to be OK, but we were getting the primary fixed anyway. There was a heartfelt murmur of approval from the passengers, me included. The repairs took about three hours, but I slept through them.

We didn't land in Tanzania until after 11 pm, local time. Kilimanjaro airport was a small, one-story building made mostly of wood. It seemed underequipped to land a 747, but I guess the runway was long enough. Thankfully my luggage had arrived intact and the driver who was to pick me up had waited.

One neat thing about the announcements on the airplane, they weren't in English first. I'm used to multilingual announcements, but English is always first. Since KLM is Dutch, the first announcement was always in Dutch. I found this convenient. You always were given a warning that an announcement was coming because of the Dutch announcement first.

Anyway, the driver took me to the hotel. He had to wake up the hotel operator, who had gone to bed. There was really nothing on the highway between the airport and the hotel, just one closed gas station, a BP, I think. No restaurants, convenience stores, or any lighted buildings at all, just the highway linking points itself.

The stale air on the plane has exacerbated the scratchy throat I'd had before the trip started. I can feel myself start to get sick. It would be good for me to rest for a day or two, but I start up the mountain the next day.

In the hotel room, which had hot water in the shower, I could hear some kind of local life form making a metallic "dinking" sound, rhythmic like crickets. It was cold in the room with the window open, so I closed it, then wrote briefly in my journal. It was 1 am. I'd been traveling about 20 hours, plus there was an 8-hour time difference.

I had to get up at 7:30.
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