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Dar-es-Salaam by Default

I have decided to record all the travel journals I have on my computer under this category, so bear with me.  The following short travelogue describes an unexpected addition to our Kilimanjaro trip:

After five exhausting but exhilarating days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa only a four hour aeroplane journey separated us from home and a well deserved rest. Right? Wrong!

Our flight back to Johannesburg, South Africa, stood waiting for us on the runway of the little Moshe airport signalling the end of another adventure.  Wearily but happily we climbed aboard and proffered our boarding passes to the lone airline stewardess who shepherded us in through the door.  With a casual wave of her hand she informed us that we were bound for Dar-es-Salaam and that we might as well sit wherever we liked since we would be changing planes anyway.  Confused but compliant we all found somewhere to sit in the shabby little craft, but it was almost surrealistic to hear a passenger on an aircraft plaintively asking the stewardess where the plane was going to.

The journey to Dar-es-Salaam was uneventful other than the dispensing of in flight coffee and tea which took place shortly before our arrival.  Predictably the cups had to be retrieved abruptly as the plane began its descent, most of them still half full.

As we prepared to land in Dar-es-Salaam the pilot’s voice was heard over the intercom requesting all passengers for Johannesburg to remain on the plane.  At this the stewardess looked most annoyed and told us that we all had to leave the aircraft as soon as we arrived.  After a while she wandered forward and a few minutes later the pilot changed his mind and asked us all to disembark at Dar-es-Salaam where we would change planes for Johannesburg.

According to the departures board our flight to Johannesburg was scheduled to leave at 9.35am.  This time remained unchanged on the board throughout the day.  The orderly line at the security check out soon disintegrated as tired passengers settled themselves on the floor in various nooks and crannies around the departure lounge which was conspicuously short of seating.  Apart from one or two vociferous complaints about connecting flights most of us resigned ourselves to the wait and made ourselves as comfortable as we could.

At about 11am our breakfasts were duly wheeled off the plane on airline trolleys and we were invited to eat them at the airport restaurant.  We were then informed that our plane would be departing at 11.45am and we all trooped obediently through security again.  No plane was visible through the windows other than the one in which we had arrived, which was still sitting forlornly on the tarmac where we left it.

After about three quarters of an hour we were told that there was a four hour delay and the would-be passengers started to filter back to the restaurant.  The Olympics were being aired on TV at the time and most of us grabbed a seat within viewing distance and settled in for the duration.  One of our company came back from a stroll around the airport to announce that a plane was apparently now due at 8pm and was being flown in from South Africa to fetch us.

Quantities of beer and cider, purchased at the restaurant, resulted in a decidedly mellow crown who were quite content to sit and watch the Olympics until someone decreed otherwise.  This decree came at about 2pm in the form of an offer by the airline of short term accommodation and refreshments at a resort in town.  A hair-raising bus ride over questionable roads took us, an hour later, to a seaside resort where a full buffet lunch was served and we were given rooms to rest in.  So there we were at 4pm, lying looking out at palm trees and the sea just a few metres from the glass sliding doors and wondering exactly where and when our trip was going to end.  The official arrangements had the buses collecting us at 6pm to be back at the airport and ready to embark at 8pm but official arrangements, as we had experienced, were anything but cast in stone.

True to form, although the buses arrived as scheduled, once we were all aboard nothing happened.  Someone from the resort wandered from bus to bus looking for a key to one of the rooms.  Someone else searched the buses looking for a passenger named Bruce.  Our driver climbed in and out intermittently and finally it transpired that there were a few people left who could not fit onto the buses and no-one wanted to take responsibility for them. Unanimously it was decided to squeeze them all into our bus and, half an hour later, the now dangerously overloaded bus lurched back towards the airport.  On the way we passed a couple of bands playing from the back of trucks, and endless small lit up shops and stalls lining streets filled with cars, trucks, people and animals.  A vibrant, if chaotic, country!

When we finally arrived at the airport we were rushed through by stressed officials who uged us to hurry! hurry! because the plane was waiting for us.  False alarm! The abandoned plane still stood unattended on the otherwise empty runway.  So – back to the restaurant, back to the Olympics, and back to the wait.

8.55pm – an announcement! Our flight will now be leaving at 10pm.  Little reaction from those who heard it.

9.30pm – ‘Food cards’ in the form of used boarding passes were handed out.  Unfortunately the airline ran out of cards, which, as it turned out, was irrelevant, since there was not enough food left to go around. Harried restaurant waitrons tried to cope with the sudden deluge of people waving cards which they were unable to honour.

And then, finally, almost anti-climatically, at 10.30pm a Nationwide Sabena aircraft landed and we all climbed aboard.  The smiling, welcoming hostesses were greeted as long-lost friends and when the pilot announced our destination as Johannesburg he was rewarded with a spontaneous round of applause.

March 6, 2010 - Posted by | Travels |


  1. That’s a real hec of an experience. And Dar es Salaam Airport even does not have ar conditioners to feel a liitle relax.

    Comment by Parag | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. Dawn
    Reading your story on the trip home after Kili made me think back to that wonderful trip. It was really very interesting. And the trip home could have been a mere matter of boarding a plane and landing back in Jhb. But that was not to be. The trip home was almost as intersting as the climb itself.

    Comment by Peter | May 2, 2010 | Reply

    • You are right, Peter, only one of many treasured memories of the trips/hikes we have all done together.

      Comment by wordsworkinc | May 3, 2010 | Reply

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