Let me catch you up…

So about a week ago, I found an excellent deal for a flight to Kilimanjaro airport, near Moshi, on the Travel Cuts website. $1619, taxes in.  Now, most flights to Africa cost somewhere over $2000.  To Dar Es Salaam, it’s generally $2300-2500, somewhere in that price range.  So this price?  Unheard of.

Of coruse, there’s always a catch.  The earlier I could leave would be July 31, and I would have layovers in Washington D.C. (overnight), and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before landing in Moshi two days after leaving Ottawa.  (To be fair, part of that two days is crossing so many time zones)  As for leaving…the two dates I tried didn’t affect the price.  August 31 or September 4, both were valid.

I ended up going into the travel agency, rather than book online.  I have booked online, and had no problems, but I wanted to see about staying in Addis for a few days.  I’ve never been to Ethiopia, and I figured if I was going to be there anyway….just do it.  It added about $100 to the total price – an extra $30 to stay in Addis for three days, and then another $70 for dealing with a real human.  For me, it’s totally worth it to pay that money to see a new city. 

So here I am, with a ticket to Tanzania, leaving July 31 and returning September 4.  I decided a few days extra would be a good thing – that way I’m not rushing to climb Kili, do a safari, get to Zanzibar…I can take my time to see Moshi, Dar, maybe fly to Kilgala, Rwanda for a few days. 

So I’ve got a ticket, and it’s now a reality.  I’m going to Africa, I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro. 

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Ottawa Travels?

So a few weeks ago, I received two tickets to the Ottawa Travel and Vacation show, in the mail.  I have no idea why.  I mean, I went last year, yes, but I didn’t sign up for a mailing list or anything.  I entered a contest for a free trip, though, so maybe I got a consolation prize?  A “sorry we’re not sending you away, but we will make you totally jealous by giving you free tickets to a fair that will showcase all the fantastic places we aren’t sending you” prize.
Doesn’t matter.  I decided to take my mom, ’cause she’s always fun, and she has strong arms to carry all the brochures I was going to acquire.  (Tip #1: Always plan ahead by bringing someone who will be useful.  Either for carrying things, or having really sharp elbows to jostle people out of your way.)
It was held at Ottawa’s new Convention Centre, right downtown.  When we walked in, we decided to start on the left hand side (the side we were closest to) and work our way aisle by aisle.
Aisle one was Europe.  Different countries had booths, of varying size (Seriously Italy, step up your game.  And France, tone it down a little.  That’s compensating for something.  Also, tip #2: Don’t be fooled by the size of the table, or the crowd in front.  Especially in Ottawa.  The cruise ship tables were overrun in retirees in runners.)
I did pick up a few pamphlets in Europe – namely for Poland, and the Baltic States.  I have yet to visit any of those countries, and I am (not literally) dying to see Latvia and Estonia.  Perhaps I’ll be able to swing through the Baltic States plus Poland sometime.
After Europe, we ended up visiting Africa, where I got lots of info on my upcoming trip to Tanzania.  I also got to talk with some wonderful ladies from Kenya, which is fortuitous, as it might make more sense to fly into Nairobi, as it is closer to Mt. Kilimanjaro than Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.  We also got to talk with representatives from Côte d’Ivoire, Lesotho, and Uganda.
The next aisle had exhibits from Asia, the Caribbean, and adventure travel (think Arctic Tours).  The countries from the Caribbean tend to be different from your typical resort destinations – Turks and Caicos for example. (Tip #3: This is a great aisle, because Cuba brings out the rum.  By this point, you’re ready for something to take the edge off.)
The last two aisles represented North America – one aisle for the US, and the last one for Canada.  Or rather, the last half aisle was Canada.  The other half was allllll Newfoundland.  And a bagpiper provided by Nova Scotia. (Tip #4: Newfoundland is great for freebies – pens, magnets, and salt-water taffy)
I often come into contact with people in the region who are unaware that there is a world outside their home-work corridor.  Alternately, their idea of “travel” is a resort in Cuba or Mexico that they’ve gone to every year for the past 5 years, or Florida to visit their snow-bird relatives. I was happy to see that the travel bug is still alive and well in the Ottawa area. 

Tan-zany!

I found out, a little over two months ago, that my job would be cut, and my contract not extended past March 31.  (see this post, where I was optimistic of my travel opportunities still.)

I’ve never been out of work; in fact I’ve rarely worked less than 2 jobs at the same time; so I wasn’t too nervous about making ends meet.  I knew that I would always have a job that would keep a roof over my head, and food in my belly.  What might have to change, were some choices that I’ve made.

I would have to get a roommate.  Living alone is a luxury that I can afford because of the job I currently have.  With a cut in pay, there would be no way I could afford the rent on my apartment by myself.
I would have to cut back on travel.  I’ve been fortunate indeed, that I have been able to take two trips a year for the past three years.  This has been, in part, because I get four weeks of vacation annually – three weeks, that I am encouraged to take in the summer, and an extra week between Christmas and New Years.  Another reason would come back to pay.  I get paid enough money that, by cutting back on other things (I don’t have a car, I try to use minimal hydro to cut down on my bill, I rarely eat out, etc.) I can save up enough to travel more frequently that some of my other counterparts. 

The other sacrifice I would have to make:  sell a few of my belongings, give notice on my apartment, and move back in with my mother.  That would have made travelling possible, but would seriously have cramped my social life, as my mother lives a good 45 minute drive from…..well, everything.

So there I was, two months ago, faced with the prospect of delaying my trip to Tanzania.  I knew that what I had in my fund would have to be put to a more “adult” use – bills.  I knew that what I had in my bank account would have to be used for the same purpose.  I was still set on going, just perhaps delaying by a year.

In two months, a lot can change.  Well, in two months nothing can change, but I was lucky in that it did.  The department that I had been teaching at, offered me a casual contract for three months.  While this might not sound like the best-case solution (and I will admit, it is not) it is somewhat advantageous.

I had been planning to go to Tanzania in August.  As it stands now, my contract is set to finish at the end of June.  I can move my trip forward by one month with no problems.  I haven’t booked anything, and July means that I will catch the end of the migration in the Serengeti.

I had the fortune of receiving two free tickets to Ottawa’s travel and vacation show two weeks ago (The whole show will be another blog post – it was that cool).  I took my mother, and one of the first booths that we stumbled on (once we got through the Europe aisle we seemed to have found ourselves in) was…..Tanzania.  (Actually, first was Kenya, then Tanzania.  Followed quickly by Côte d’Ivoire, where we were plied with coffee.  But I digress)

There was a diplomat from the Tanzanian High Commision, who engaged my mother and myself in conversation.  One of his first questions was “When are you planning on visiting my country?”  (“Hello, sign!” I said to myself)  I talked to him about my plans to visit in July or August, and he gave me several brochures, pampletes, tour books, and not only a business card for the company that they recommend (Zara Tours in case you were wondering) but also his business card.  He told me to call if I had any concerns or questions.

From a quick glance at the website, it seems like an ideal company for me to contact.  They arrange group Kili climbs, so I wouldn’t have to find a group to join, I would automatically be attached to a pre-arranged group.  As well, they organize safaris (two words: camel safari) or trips to Zanzibar.  Dealing with one company for all three parts of this trip is, in one sense, appealing.  I would only need to deal with one company.  No need to worry about contacting another person/company once I am in Tanzania.  (On the other hand, if I have a bad experience with them for one part, that might colour my experiences in the rest.)

Now that I know I will be working until at least June, I’m going ahead with this trip.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be contacting companies and getting pricing.  I’ll be tracking down a good deal on airfare, and I’ll see if I can’t spend a few days on an extended layover in either Dubai, Doha or Addis Ababa, all cities that I might have to fly through to get to Dar Es Salaam.