In the winter of 2019, Henderson Productions took a small group to Tanzania for a 14-day adventure.   This blog series tells the story of the trip and our fellow travelers.  Using our network around the world, we curated a tour to give us local connections and experiences beyond the normal tourist choices.  For more information about our upcoming trips, subscribe to our newsletter.

Mount Kilimanjaro in the mist

The illusive Kilimanjaro from the airport

… said the flashing trivia on the airport screen.  The outbound flight in Dar es Salaam was classically delayed more than 3 hours.    We had plenty of time to wander the small shop, grab a bite in the passable cafeteria and catch up on journal writing.    It wasn’t our preference but we have learned to roll with the punches when things happen out of our control.

I took a bathroom break where the cleaning girls told me they “love this music” which the rest of our group have been referring to as a bad elevator track from the late 80’s – which, to be fair, it might actually be.   I thanked them for liking American music but told them I doubted this was really their favorite.   They might be 20.

From 10 thousand feed above, Arusha was uneventful due to cloud cover.   There’s a blue sky to the west so I expect the cover is related to the volcanic heights of the mountain region and not an indication of the day’s weather.   It’s well verdant below with a visible red clay peaking through.   Lots of small farms and fields dotted with trees.   Occasionally a clearly manmade field is visible, or a great rock-climbing hillock is seen.  Wouldn’t expect to see animals here but was hoping for a glimpse of illusive Mount Kilimanjaro.  I did see skinny Lake Manyara before the ground turned very brown and then again verdant and forested.

“It only takes one at the front of the herd for a great baggage migration.”   – V, an apt description of our visit to Kilimanjaro airport.

We were met at the airport by our three land rovers and guides before snuggling into our moving homes.  Our drivers Miha, Frank and Johnson were ready to load us up and get started.  I had prearranged the combinations of who was in each van for the journey thinking we might be able to change each day but the drivers prefer to get to know their charges so we shall give it a day in this configuration to see if we settle in.

Off we went at the country-wide maximum speed of 60 mph, to the grumbling of our drivers, passing relatively industrial airport areas and learning a little more about Johnson.    He’s originally from Dar – at least for the last three generations when his grandparents moved there from the tribal home of the Bari people in the 1950s.   Now he lives with his wife, six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, in Arusha because the work is here.  He went to college for three years to study animals because “this is what I always wanted to do.”   Refreshing to meet someone fulfilling his goal.   He won’t say he’s competitive, deftly dodging my insensitive “who is the better guide?” with “we are all the best.”   Fair enough.

Maybe it’s true but it was V and M in another van who spotted our first animal and won the honor of the giraffe walking right across the road in front of them as the rest of us turned around and came back.   Twiga/giraffe – one of our first words learned turned out to be the first we saw!

The three drivers communicate on radios including a quick stop to check lug nuts on ours and purchase sweet red bananas for another.   Johnson grabbed some as well and we sampled the unrivalled sweetness as we continued down the road.    It took about an hour to reach the Arusha Sheraton for our boxed lunches and a quick pee break then another half hour to the National Cultural Center where we picnicked in their terraced restaurant on chicken salad sandwiches, pasta salad, banana, water, juice box, big caramel brownie and a cold beef samosa.   It was almost 3 PM so the quantity was excellent but I, at least, waddled around the gorgeous art gallery in a building perfectly designed on the outside to represent a Masai shield and inside the circular nature of their tightly knit family units.   L and I loved it and marveled at the motifs and color combos thru galleries loosely grouped into “Capturing the Soul”, “Lion Alley”, “Elephantia”, etc.

Bonus – didn’t buy a thing.   Not once was I tempted though I captured others on camera at the jewelry counter buying a new bracelet with a tanzanite stone.