Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons..... Go To Paris?

I did not mean to leave the last story as a cliffhanger. Honestly by the time I do all my trip research online my time is always almost out. And Zanzibar internet was pretty much impossible to find. That story seems so old now. So much happens in a day.
Obviously I made it out alright. Finally on the outskirts of town this cute Swedish couple flagged us down for a ride. I can not tell you my relief when they got in. It was one of the scariest rides of my life. Sometimes the shuttle drivers have fun by racing each other. He was going like 100 miles an hour, that is no exaggeration. Fortunately my cute Swedish couple spoke Swahili and they were yelling at him to slow down. He did a little but it was still ridiculous.
Spent the next couple of days at this amazing beach resort, but sick in my room the whole time. The first dinner was miserable. I was really sick at dinner and looking at all the cute couples and families around me in this really pretty restaurant right on the beach. It was so horrible. I just wanted to get my check and get out of there. I adamantly decided we humans are NOT meant to eat alone. It is really a sad experience and we are social beings. We are meant to have community and, at that moment, sick, I did not feel like I had any community.
The next morning I was at breakfast, alone, again, and this girl came up and said hello. Then she looked at me and was surprised to see I wasn't who she had thought. So she sat down and had breakfast with me anyway. Her name was Precilla and she was from Australia. One less meal alone. She had just come from Rwanda and Uganda and was basically doing my itinerary backwards. She was with a group but she was still a wealth of information about safety, where to go and what to do. So you will be glad to know after this, between Precilla and the cute Swedish couple, I did not eat another meal alone on Zanzibar.
I and the Elli and Daniel (my new Swahili speaking Swedish friends) were going back to Stone Town on the same day so we decided to look into a taxi, hoping it would be much safer than the shuttle and hopefully between the 3 of us not too much more expensive. We did end up taking a taxi and somehow got paired up with yet another Swedish girl, Karin. It was still fast but MUCH safer than the "shuttle". This was a great way to arrive back in Stone Town because we could go in a group to the ATM and to get ferry tickets (much safer). And we could drop our packs and take turns watching them so we did not have to carry them around.
Fortunately Karin was taking the ferry at the same time as me back to Dar. She was out of money and could not get any money from the ATM (happens all the time here). I ended up buying her ticket for her and we decided she could just pay me back in Dar. This was kind of to help her but also for selfish reasons. This instantly gave me someone to arrive back in Dar with and funnel through all the port chaos with a companion which is really much safer.
The ferry was ridiculous. People were pushing and shoving to get on and it was like being up front at a rock concert. I was concerned that maybe they regularly oversold the boat and that was why it was such a mob scene to get on so I had to join in. This is Africa and that is definitely something that would happen. I am pretty claustrophobic so it was really scary. Finally got pushed through to the other side and on to the boat. As it turned out everyone that had a ticket for the 1 o'clock got on. A lot of us had to sit on the floor and it was packed but honestly it was ridiculous. So everyone knew they were getting on but this is just what they do? Crazy.
Anyway, uneventful night in Dar then what was suppose to be 9 hour bus ride back turned into 11 hot sweaty hours back to Arusha. Back to Arusha Backpacker hotel, my safe little haven.
So, on to the lemons part. I realized pretty darn quick after getting here that there was no way I was going to be able to stay in Africa for 4 months. Definitely not mentally and no way financially. I was ok with this, I will still see and do what I really want to do. When I booked the ticket over here, not having a clue as to what to expect, 4 months just seemed like a good amount of time. So I knew for 4 months I did not want to stay exclusively in East Africa so I figured flying out of South Africa made sense. How this made sense since I had absolutely no plan whatsoever I am not sure, but it did at the time. When I booked the ticket they told me I could not change the places but I could change dates for a $250 change fee. So I just booked it thinking if worse came to worse $250 was something I could handle. So now that I know basic costs of things I did a little trip financial planning and figured I could finish up in Uganda then take a flight down to Namibia, do a tour there then end up in Cape Town for a bit then head to Johannesburg to catch my flight home. I figured I would be able to afford to stay til maybe the end of January.
Today was my day to put all the travel pieces together. First thing I had to do was get my flight date changed. I had checked the flights online last night so it seemed like no problem. Well apparently flights have skyrocketed and besides the $250 change fee I would also have to pay the difference in the price of the flight. This came to a grand total of $1800!!! What!!!! Panic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If I have to pay $1800, plus I still have to pay for a flight to South Africa (which is not cheap) I would basically have to go home, like, RIGHT NOW! I really did not know what to do. I went and got lunch cause I needed to think. There was no way I could afford to go on with my trip and pay the change fee. There is also no way I can afford to (or handle)staying in Africa til April. I was very panicky and felt trapped here.
Well, they say travel of this sort is all about being flexible. So I had to face reality and start looking at my options. Basically for $1800 I could buy a whole new ticket home from just about anywhere in Africa and by pass having to pay the fee to fly to South Africa. So I got online and started looking at my options. So after 2 hours of researching tickets there was no way I was going to get home anytime soon for under $1200. I researched every option - separate tickets, one to Europe then another home, everything except hopping a ride on a cargo ship. So I found a reasonable ticket from Uganda to - guess where -PARIS!!! Then another reasonable ticket from Paris to San Diego. Soooo, since I was already going to Paris and it was two separate tickets, why not stay for a few day. I have always dreamed of flying to Paris for the weekend - and now I am. So I fly from Uganda to Paris on January 15 then from Paris to San Diego on the 20th. I am extremely disappointed about having to cut my trip this short but really by biggest disappointment is not going to Namibia. I had already decided on the tour I was going to take. I have seen pictures of the enormous sand dunes there and had dreamed of seeing them. But southern Africa will have to wait.
Crazy change of events but that is unplanned travel.
I guess the moral of the story is - never let Amanda be your travel agent.
Its all crazy and weird but I don't regret anything. Paris in January will be freezing but I will have the time I did not have before to really check out the city.
So I had another "Not alone" breakfast this morning with two guys from the hostel and we are suppose meet for dinner tonight. I have decided I am going to make a big effort to not eat alone the rest of the time I am in Africa. It would be a good challenge for me to have to approach people a little more but well worth the effort I think.
I miss home already, where ever that is.
I fly to Rwanda tomorrow and have a permit for gorilla tracking on the 27th. Everyone who has done it says it was one of the most amazing things they have ever done.
Can't wait but NOT excited about flying "Rwanda Air" :(


  1. When you went to Africa you were flying by the seat of your pants and doing a great job of being flexable so hang in there. You are still on a great adventure.

  2. I, for one, am saddened that you won't get to do all you wanted to do. But, am also glad that you'll be coming "home" and feel safer (or at least more familiar with your environment.)

    You're amazing and so able to confront your fears and challenge them.

    Love You!!! Dad