I had a non-eventful flight up to New York, landed at Kennedy and caught a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline. We landed at terminal 4 and we were leaving out of terminal 7. Fortunately I just followed Harlan and Terry and didn’t have to over think the process. We met up with our group headed through security. At this point I’m realizing that a carry-on with wheels is a genius idea that I did not happen to have before I left. My carry-on is quite heavy. (A point that will come back to bite me later as I board the plane) After security our entire group congregated at the gate and we spent the time getting to know the people we would spend the next 12 days with.
We were flying KLM to Amsterdam and apparently they have carry-on weight restrictions. Most of the others in the group had their carry-ons weighed when they checked in. Not me. I was pulled out of the line to weigh my bag and purse. I use the term “purse” loosely. It was more like a small overnight bag packed with ipad, documents, wallet, snacks, a book, camera, and anything else I thought I might need on the flight. Needless to say I quickly went over the 26 lb. limit and my carry-on had to be checked. I was told I would see it in Kilimanjaro. Not being convinced I made a mad scramble to grab anything necessary in case I ended up with no luggage. I managed to pull a ziploc bag with some clean socks and underwear. Hopefully my luggage makes it to Africa or things were going to get real interesting, real quick!
There’s nothing like the feeling of screaming down the runway on a Boeing 777. Loved every minute of it. We settled into our overnight flight across the Atlantic. I was in the middle seat of the side section. I quickly discovered two things. Sleeping on a plane, at least in the economy section, is almost impossible, and if you have personal space issues the economy class is not for you. I was sandwiched in between 2 wonderful people in my group and we became quick friends. We had to out of necessity! We landed as the sun was coming up in Amsterdam. My body said it was still 1:00 AM. Time to find some European coffee!
After stretching our legs for a couple hours we were on board for our longest flight. Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro would take about 9 hours. Sean our trip leader suggested that we try our best to stay awake so that we would adjust better to the time difference. No problem….we’re still in economy, there will be no sleep for me.
I managed to either be assigned or trade for a window seat on all of my daytime flights. The aisle seat makes it easier to get up and move around, but again, taking into account I’m a traveling newbie, I loved being on the window. During the course of the day I saw the Alps, the Pyrenees on the Italian coast, Sicily, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Sahara desert. It really puts into perspective how beautiful our world, God’s creation, really is.
The sun set and we landed in Kilimanjaro. The song that KLM played on board after we landed… “Happy” by Pharrell Williams…and we were! This was a smaller airport and we had stairs to get off the plane. Stepping outside we were hit with a warm wind. Palm trees were swaying and the excitement was evident! We walked into an airport with no air conditioning, but full of ceiling fans that keeping the place cool. The floors were wood. The entire place screamed, “You are not in America anymore!” Miraculously both of my bags appeared on the carousel. We headed out to 2 buses. Our luggage got strapped to the top. I had visions of my suitcase flying off into the unknown, but credit to our drivers, they knew what they were doing. We made the 45 minute drive to our hotel. I remember even the air smelling different, like burning wood. I’m sure due to the fact that this was how a lot of the cooking was done. We unloaded at the hotel and sleepily made our way to our rooms.
After a cold shower (hot water would be hit and miss) my roommate and I opened the window, turned on the fan, crawled into bed, lowered our mosquito netting and collapsed. Sometime in the night a bird or something that we don’t have in Indiana made a noise outside. I woke up a bit disoriented and had this very real thought, “Whoa! You’re in Africa!”