11:45 p.m East Africa Time Wednesday, Jan. 16 – Royal Malaika (means “Angel) Beach Resort in Mwanza, Tanzania, on the shore of Lake VictoriA.
Well, we finally made it to Tanzania at about 7:50 p.m. East Africa Time this evening. We left Boston at about noon EST yesterday for the 12-hr.+ flight to Dubai. However the Emirates flight was completely pack with a very international clientele, and the gate agents required some of our group to gate-check their carry-on bags. (They didn’t require me to do so – not sure why). Emirates’ service in flight was excellent, with at least a dozen and a half male and female very attentive, attractively dressed and fashionably groomed and coiffed attendants from 14 different countries and a. American captain. We had two good meals, watched a lot of movies and/or slept during the flight, arriving in Dubai at about 8:15 a.m. today (Wed.).
Our trip through security at Dubai was a breeze, although I was held up due to having in my backpack an unopened bottle of red wine from the preceding flight that had rolled under my seat when an attendant dropped it, and that Jay had found after we landed and handed to me. After removing it from my backpack, a female security officer
photographed it, my passport and my boarding pass and confiscated the wine. Oh well, easy come, easy go.
The Dubai airport is huge and impressive, with tons of upscale shops touting all the famous brands of goods of every kind. We must have walked at least a mile or a mile and a quarter before we got to the Emirates gate for the flight to Dar es Salaam with about an hour and a quarter before that flight. Jay took some more photos of the group at the gate, but Anthony and Scott missed the first few after stopping at a MacDonald’s on the way to the gate.
The 5-hr. flight to Dar es Salaam was uneventful, with the same type of good food and service by the same sort of Emirates flight attendants that we had had on the prior flight. We arrived in Dar es Salaam pretty much on schedule at about 3:00 p.m. East Africa Time. Then the trip got really interesting.
At the Dar es Salaam airport, which was what you might expect it to be, we had to queue up with something like a hundred fifty or so other passengers and spent about an hour waiting in two lines in an un-air-conditioned (temperature about 90 degrees F and humidity at about 90 %) crowded room to buy our visas to enter the country of the United Republic of Tanzania. The first lines in an un-air-conditioned (temperature about 90 degrees F and humidity at about 90 %) crowded room to buy our visas to enter the country of the United Republic of Tanzania. The first line took us to a counter where we produced our passports and our completed customs forms, got finger-printed and paid our $100 fees for our visas. That took about an hour. The second line we waited in to receive our passports back with our visas stamped in them. That took about another 45 minutes.
While we Americans waited to get our visas, Fr. John went to start collecting our 28 or so checked bags from the baggage carousel. When we finally had our visas, we went to the baggage claim area, where we learned from Fr. John that one of our checked bags didn’t make it to Dar es Salaam. It was one of the four that Fr. John took on the trip, and it has vestments for priests and a large monstrance destined for Fr. John’s bishop. We collected all the claim checks from everyone and then compared them to the baggage tags on all the bags present, which Fr. John had already loaded onto five luggage carts, to see on which claim check we needed to report the missing bag. Then, while Fr. John and Anthony went to report the missing bag, the rest of us unloaded all the other bags off the carts and out them on the customs conveyors to be scanned and then took them off the conveyors on the other sides of the scanners and loaded them back on the carts to take them out of the airport terminal building and through another entrance to the building to get to the domestic-flights ticket and bag-check counter. This was the counter where we had to catch our domestic flight from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza.
Before we could go to the next counter, however, we had to go through more security scanners, unload the bags off the carts again load them onto the next security scanner conveyors, empty our pockets, remove our belts and shoes, collect our bags
On the other sides of the scanners, reload them onto new carts, and haul them to the ticket counter.
What happened at the domestic ticket counter was bizarre and confusing to us Americans. Fr. Matthew Bulala, Fr. John’s friend in Tanzania who had assisted Fr. John in making many of our travel arrangements, had pre-purchased our airline tickets for the flight to Mwanza and had prepaid for us to check bags. Due to a combination of circumstances in which Fr. Matthew had underestimated
the number of bags we would have, many of the bags being heavy, and some of us having to check our carry-ons, we had to pay additional baggage fees, check bags by weight and number with each passenger, and not according to whether the bags being checked belonged to us customers, and negotiate the additional fees. By the time we finished everything our flight to Mwanza was boarding, and we hurried to the gate.
Now happened a few of the most humorous and comical events of the trip. At the gate, I decided to make a quick detour to a nearby food vendor and bought a soft drink and a bottle of water. Anthony and Scott decided buy beers for the flight. I then thought I should try my first Tanzanian beer, although I’m really not a beer drinker. So Scott bought me a beer as well, and then the three of us rushed to the gate only to be told that we could ‘t take our beers and my soft drink to the plane. Anthony, Scott and I then guzzled a beer each, and Scott gave to a stranger a fourth beer he had bought.
Then with less than a couple minutes before the shuttle bus was leaving to take us from the gate to the plane, Scott discovered that he had misplaced his boarding pass. After hurriedly looking around the gate area and back at the cash register area where Scott had paid for the drinks, we persuaded the gate agents to allow Scott to go through without his boarding pass. But they told him that he had ti wait fir all the other passenger to board, since we all had assigned seats, and we wouldn’t know what seat Scott could take until all other passengers were seated. Scott apparently understood the agents to mean that he couldn’t board the shuttle bus till all other passengers boarded the bus, so he lagged behind all the other passengers. When Anthony, Fr. John and I had just gotten on the bus, we watched with alarm as the bus driver took off while Scott was still walking down the stairs from the gate area to the tarmac. The bus went around two planes of other airlines to our
plane, and as we left the bus we watched Scott walk from the stairway in what appeared to be a path to one of the other planes that we had passed. I stagyes to run across the tarmac in a diagonal path to where we thought Scott was heading, but one of the airline employees stopped me and told me I couldn’t do that. Fr. John explained to the employee what had happened to Scott, and the employee rushed back across the tarmac himself to rescue Scott. The next thing we knew, the shuttle bus was returning to our plane with Scott as its sole passenger. Thus Scott made the flight with us to Mwanza.
The flight to Mwanza was smooth and uneventful, but when we collected our luggage at the tiny Mwanza airport, we discovered that a second bag was then missing. It was a garment bag that Jill had brought with some of the cloth that she was going to leave with the local women whom she was going to teach how to sew. Fr. Matthew had met us by then with four vehicles to transport us and our bags from the airport, and we had to gather all the claim checks again to determine on which claim check we need to report the newly missing bag. That scene was pretty comical, as we inspected the tag on each bag as we loaded it into one of the vehicles and compared it to the claim checks we had. Unfortunately, because Scott had
lost his boarding pass, which had some of our claim checks, we
couldn’t determine fir certain what claim check was the one we needed, so we simply gave the supervisor a description of the bag and hopes that it would show up later, as we are also hoping regarding the bag that didn’t make it to Dar es Salaam.
Finally we loaded into three of Fr. Matthews’ vehicles dir the fairly short drive to our hotel in Mwanza, the aforesaid Royal Malaika Beach Resort. (Google it for more info.) It’s a very nice hotel, and at 9:30 p.m. after we had all showered, we had a delightful dinner in the open-air restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and one of the largest in the world, eating a lot of Tanzanian dishes, drinking a lot of Tanzanian beers (Serengeti and Kilimanjaro brands) (Anthony, Fr. John and Scott drinking the mist
If the beer),
and discussing our plans for tomorrow. Now it’s off to bed for me in my lovely, spacious and delightfully air-conditioned hotel room.
Louis Leonard Galvis
645 Stonington Lane
Fort Collins, CO. 80525