Friday, December 18, 2009

MY AFRICAN TRIP CONTS. Nov. 12th, 2009


We left Amboseli at 7:30 a.m. for Tanzania. We drove for several hours until we reached Arusha for lunch. The restaurant was another lovely place with African atmosphere. We chose to eat out in the courtyard among the lush vegetation and flowers. The service was impressive and the food very good. It was not a buffet luncheon so we were all able to sit at one table and get to know the other twelve people that were not in our van.

Tony, our guide, told us what to expect when we reached the border-crossing checkpoint. He said it would take time, because the officers did not rush for anyone. He said we would have one more stop before reaching the border for a pit stop and, of course, to shop. We went through several small, very poor towns, and I was in awe waving at all the children with their big smiles. I wanted to take them all home.

When we reached the border we had to have our paper work filled out and our passports ready. The lines were not as long as I anticipated and all was going smoothly until I got up to the window and they would not accept my two fifty dollar bills. No one told us they had to be dated 2005 or newer. So I had to scramble and find someone in our group who had newer fifty-dollar bills. Of course, no one did because most of them did it by mail. Betsy and I chose to pay at the border. Finally after a panic attack, and seeing myself stuck in this horrible border town for the rest of my life, Tony came through and had two newer bills. I later found out they wouldn’t accept the older bills because of all the counterfeit money that plagues all of Africa, especially Kenya.

The border-town was really a mess. There were goats and cows walking about. There were people shoving their wares in your face. A very old Maasai woman grabbed my arm before I could jump into my van for safety. She wrapped a beaded bracelet around my wrist and said “For you a gift” I said I don’t want a gift but, I will be happy to pay you for it” and I handed her four dollars. She kept saying no “a gift, a gift.” So I said “thank you” in my naïveté. Then she asked me if I had a camera, which I was holding, and said I could take her picture if I wanted to. I thought that was kind of sweet so I did and then showed it to her. Then she said, “The gift is free, but you must pay for the picture.” The scam finally dawned on me, so I handed her five dollars, but she said “one more dollar” I gave her that, and she said, “one more dollar” I gave her another dollar. At this point all I wanted to do was get back to the van. She asked for another dollar and I said, “NO I will erase your photo” and high tailed it back to the van.
We arrived at spectacular Ngorongoro, which is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. We got to our hotel at 6:16 p.m. and dinner was served at 7:30 p.m. I went to the bar at 6:45 p.m. before dinner to watch the local Maasai band and dancers. Betsy decided to unpack and rest before dinner. We finished dinner at 9.p.m. and went to our room exhausted to wait for the 5:30 a.m. wake up call. MORE TO FOLLOW…

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