Bidding Adieu to Africa

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Wow! I can’t believe I’m finally writing up this post. This will be my final post dedicated to talking about the African Adventures that we recently had. There really isn’t all that much to share in this post either, as the day was dominated by a really long shuttle ride to the airport and then whoosh, we were off! However, it will give me a chance to perhaps close out with a few of my final thoughts on the overall trip. I’m not sure how that’ll turn out yet as it will possibly just make me want to pull out my credit card and charge up my next adventure right away. Isn’t credit great? I’ll try to resist the urge for a little longer, but rest assured, there will be many more adventures by ActiveSteve in the coming year(s). No map to share either, but I can at least point you to a few photographs that were put up onflickr. Read on if you dare for the rest of my tale.

When you last tuned in, I was wrapping up my New Year’s celebrations in the warm air of Arusha. I’m not exactly sure what time I actually turned in, but it was pretty early in the morning by then. The popular consensus was that I’d sleep in, but I surprised even myself when I managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to join the rest of the ‘team’ for breakfast. Our shuttle wouldn’t be arriving until 1pm to pick us up, so we had plenty of time to finalize our packing and relax on the property. I took advantage of the time to also buy and fill in a couple postcards. I’m pretty bad at writing actual things like that, but decided it would be nice to send a couple out to my family. Sarah and Mike actually had plans to go Tanzanite shopping with our guide from the trip Naiman, as he lived pretty much next to our hotel (I’ll try not to read into this too much, but his Uncle actually owned the property on which the hotel was located too!)

Once breakfast was wrapped up, I basically finished off the last of my re-packing to be airline friendly, including packing up my various weapons and souvenirs into my checked luggage. I was then faced with the prospect of trying to kill time. Hmmm, what to do. Well, I first chose to wander the little gift shops in the lobby area, with little success. Deb had wandered down as well, and was waiting for some laundry to be done, so we just hung out in the lobby chatting. I also walked around the resort grounds trying to soak in the last of my vacation time in the sun in the quiet of the various trees around the place. Although the pool looked really tempting, I didn’t want to pack up a wet bathing suit, so I passed on that. Others headed for the Internet cafe, but I didn’t really care to connect with technology at that moment (plus there were only 2 machines, taken up by Jody and Dylan).

Eventually, as we were killing time before lunch, Deb and I walked over to a garden area to sit at a table and hang out. That’s when I noticed that there were actually several monkeys in the area. Cool. I like monkeys. Oh, isn’t that cute, there’s a monkey right above us. Oh, he must have hit a branch, as there seem to be sticks coming down. Wait! Is he throwing them at us? Nah. Now what’s he doing? Is he spilling water from something? What the?! He’s pissing on me from high above!! I was lucky enough to recognize what was happening and dive out of the way with no time to spare. The little bugger was getting all territorial and peeing on us (well, it appeared mainly me!). He managed to get a little on my daypack, but none on me. Close call. We decided to move away from that spot, and headed back to the path. However, there appeared to be several more monkeys now, and the looked intent on chasing away my throwing more sticks. Deb decided she’d had enough, so we retreated back to the Internet room for safety. That was really weird, but also yet another memory that I will likely always keep with me about my last morning in Arusha.

I was pretty excited and shared our tale with John, who wanted to see the monkeys and maybe snap some pictures. Of course, when he went back there, wouldn’t you know it, no more monkeys. Was it something I said? I swore up and down they were there, and pointed out the sticks and ‘liquid’, but they didn’t come back right away. No matter, time to head back to our normal eating spot on the balcony and order our final meal before hitting the road, and taking that dreadfully long ‘shuttle’ ride back to Nairobi. Things just seemed a little different during this meal. Everyone was now realizing that this was it. The end of the adventure. We would soon all be heading our own ways, returning to whatever individual existence we all had. Some would continue on their travels (Deb was off to Egypt, Dylan and John off to South Africa) while the rest of us headed ‘home’. We knew we’d eventually have to say goodbye, but assumed we’d have the next 7-8 hours in a shuttle together.

Once our driver arrived, we loaded up our gear and made the short trip to the shuttle transfer station. That was when Jody and I found out that we’d actually be put on a different bus than the rest of the crew, as we were going straight to the airport, whereas everyone else was spending at least part of the night in Nairobi. Geeze, that meant that we had to actually say our farewells on the spot. I found it pretty difficult and a bit emotional as well. In two and a half weeks, we’d gotten to know each other quite well and form some pretty strong connections. In a way, it felt a lot like the end of a summer camp when you’re a kid. You’ll remember the experiences for the rest of your life, but you’re not certain whether you’ll ever them again with these people.Unfortunately , there was little we could do other than just say ‘bye’, and get on our bus. It was already quite crowded, and Jody and I each took a single window seat, one in front of the other. It was blazing hot at the moment, and we knew it wouldn’t be a very fun ride.

It took a while before we finally left the depot, and it was exactly as we thought. Bumpy, hot, dusty, and slow. However, as it turned out, we were given two final opportunities to see Cantrailia again. First stop was at the Tanzanian-Kenyan border where we happened to arrive at the same time at the passport controls. So, we all got through that as a group more or less, then walked together as a group physically across the border to the other passport control. I suppose in a way, it was perfect that we’d all cross together again, seeing as that was one of the first things we did as a group at the start of our journey. We joked and laughed, and actually guessed we’d see each other one final time at the ‘Paradise’ gift shop down the road.

Well guess what? We did! Even though our shuttle left first, the other bus also caught up to us, and while we had a 10-minute break there, the other bus was told they’d only have a 5-minute break. However, it was just long enough for us to all pour out again and laugh about the meeting, and wonder if we’d actually ever get rid of each other 🙂 However upon leaving that shop, we knew that would be it. We were now finally on our own once again, starting the long trip home. I was totally bagged from the night before, and ended up dozing a lot of the way on the bus. By the time we got close to Nairobi again, it was dark out, and the skies had opened up and were pouring rain on the roof. We really hoped they’d covered the bags well, as otherwise, we’d have pretty soggy luggage to check in.

The airport and flight home were pretty much as you might imagine. Long and boring. Luckily, they were also pretty uneventful. I pretty much avoided alcohol the entire way back (quite different from the trip to Africa, where I had wine after wine). I opted to just listen to a lot of music, try to sleep, and just lose myself in my own thoughts. On the stopover in Zurich, I did make one key purchase in the form of my first real bottle of Absinthe, which although I managed to get into the country, I’m still not 100% certain it is legal here! We had a few other travel related matters to attend to in Zurich and Toronto, but they are pretty much irrelevant. At the end of the travel, it turned out we’d been on the road for over 40 hours from that final lunch in Arusha. Ouch! I was supposed to go to work the next morning, but decided catching up on emails and such would be better done at home, so I opted to work from home that day.

And that pretty much wraps it all up. So apart from the little thoughts I shared in the post above what else could I say to summarize the trip that I haven’t shared in previous posts? Well, I’ve been asked that a lot by people who use the general question ‘how was the trip?’. How do you answer a question like that? The trip was 17 days. The things I saw and the emotions and things I experienced can not be summarized in a 5 second response. Hence my long posts. A lot happened, and while the general answer will always be ‘it was awesome’, that just doesn’t do it justice. Tanzania was an amazing country. The people appear to have so little, but are very warm and exceedingly friendly. They would also seem to be very determined and devoted. The land and the sights left me wanting nothing more. We saw mountain peaks, vast plains, and all the biodiversity contained in those environments. My travel companions were absolutely outstanding, and I’d travel with them all in a heartbeat. Sure we had different quirks and personalities, but together, our sum was a great group. I will miss them. The only weak link in the entire trip was ironically the company that organized the whole thing. However, for all the other reasons listed, I have no intentions of complaining as I got out of this trip everything and more than I really expected. After all, this is adventure travel. You take the good and the bad, and are ultimately responsible for making it the trip you want, which is what I’d say we did.

My only other final thought is that at the conclusion of this trip, I have once again confirmed just how much I love the outdoors and life, and long to be nearer mountains and have crazy adventures. Tough realizations for a cubicle-bound city dweller, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. My thoughts have started drifting to Nepal and the Himalayas, or perhaps back down to South America, or any number of other destinations that I haven’t been to. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to contentedly stay in Ottawa before I seek a big adventure. However, you can be sure that when I do undertake an adventure like that, ActiveSteve .com will the place to get all the details! Hope you enjoyed all my stories as much as I enjoyed reliving and writing them for you. The next few posts I’ll probably get back to my race reports and random activity stories. Until then, here’s hoping that you can make all your own dreams come true!

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