Friday, January 11, 2008

Tchau Mozi and Kilimanjaru Fly By

In the morning to no great surprise I find there is still no running water, so I enjoy another bucket shower. I’d hate to live somewhere where bucket showers were the only option – you really need running water to feel truly clean. Bag packed, I walk down to the mCel building where I may or may not be able to find a chapa to the airport. I don’t have very much money left, about 30M, so I’m nervous that I wouldn’t be able to afford a taxi even if I wanted one. Gulp.

Walking around a bit, people direct me along a road, and I end up at a junction where I wait for some time, before someone suggests I should get into the back of a truck. This drives for some time, filling up until jammed, and I start to get suspicious – I didn’t think the airport was so far – trying desperately to remember the map in the Southern Africa LP (but not mine) of Pemba. But true to form, it was, and they drop me right in front of the airport. Price? 5M! Yay, I have some spare money for breakfast.

It’s way too early for check-in though – the airport is in fact two rooms – the check-in room with three desks, and a departure lounge room. Only cleaners about at the moment, sweeping the floor of dust and bugs, of which there are plenty about, mingling with the flies for my attention. Eventually things get going, and I check in, get my boarding pass, tag my bag, then hit a block – the airport tax office is closed – the woman hasn’t turned up yet! And whilst waiting for that, the security women turn up, so I have to take my checked luggage back to the entrance to have it inspected – the usual farce of opening a couple of zips for them, they look under one t-shirt then nod and give me the “checked” sticker. It would appear they don’t actually have an x-ray machine, quite impressive for an international airport.

Eventually the tax collection person shows up, and I hand over my 500M (11 pounds) to get a small sticker put on my board pass. Good. Now through passport control, he examines then stamps my passport. I notice he has a drawer open next to him with a few dollar bills in it, and I wander why. THEN I find out – he asks for 3US$. For what exactly? He answers in Portuguese. The fact of the matter is that I don’t have any money left! I open my wallet. I have a 20M note. No dollars. I have some Malaysian Ringgit but I doubt that’s going to cut it. Not his problem apparently. What the (cough) do I do?

I could go back out and withdraw more money from the one ATM in the parking lot outside, assuming it’s working. If it’s not working? Taxi back into town? There are no taxis! I rummage through my pockets, finding another 5M. How much is the charge in Meticals, I ask him? 60M. And Rand? 17 Rand. I find another 5M in the bottom of my bag, and remember that I have some rand coins somewhere. More rummaging produces exactly 8 rand in coins. 30M plus 8r. He accepts it.

How utterly stupid of the Mozambican authorities to spring that on passengers at the last minute. Why don’t they give you some warning? Or include it in the airport tax charge which you’re told about in advance? Or, like most civilised countries in the world.. include it in the damn taxes on the ticket?? There are already taxes on the ticket, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to arrange to have this fixed fee added on. Anyway, a nasty sting right at the end of my Mozambique trip which leaves an equally sour note to my antibacterial hand-wash being confiscated in Sydney!

Needless to say, there’s not much to do in the lounge, especially with zero money. Plane turns up at 9:40am and almost leaves on time. We’re heading to Nairobi first, but apparently won’t have to get off the plane. The flight is uneventful, the stewardesses beautiful! I bag an extra sandwich off some Indian women across the row from me – I’m hungry! I chat with Christy, an Australian girl sitting next to me, she’s going to Dar to avoid Kenya given the current troubles. Shortly before Nairobi there’s some excitement on our side of the plane. Looking out it is apparent why – Kilimanjaru!!


Kilimanjaru, the peak that Jina has told me I have to climb. Damn, no beer at base camp then down for lunch then! The mountain is snow-capped, and looks very impressive, rising out of the planes with such enormous scale, and grace. It actually doesn’t look that hard a climb, and supposedly isn’t – the main issue is acclimatising to the height – going from sea level to almost 6,000m is no mean feat especially in 4-6 days. Bear in mind it is a couple of hundred metres higher than Everest Base Camp which takes about two weeks to reach. And of course, with altitude, you just never know how you will react before you get there. Everyone feels the effects differently, and even what one had for breakfast could make the difference. But the key question now, as Tilman would have asked is: Will it go? And as Tilman would affirm, you never know whether a mountain will go until you’ve rubbed your nose in the snow! Even at three degrees South of the Equator!

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