Africa Stories and Tips

Safari Day 1: The Journey Begins . . .

My travels always begin the same way. I plan for a year or more. Then, a few months before leaving, I begin a scavenger hunt to locate the items I need in the exact specifications I need them. It becomes a real obsession. The day of the journey is more of a relief than the beginning of travel. This time we probably went overboard in packing. We each had 71 pounds of luggage (the max for round-trip LAX/London). We each carried 30 pounds aboard (the max for carry-on). My camera equipment alone weighed in at 24 pounds.

But we had a plan for this cargo. First, we took old clothing that we could toss or give away along our route. That would not only help with the weight but leave room for souvenirs. I soaked all our clothing in permethrin to prevent insect bites. We bought a pair of socks for each day and tossed them after wearing (the cost of laundry in Africa is cheap but greater than the cost of socks). My wife came up with a brilliant packing idea. She bought several boxes of Hefty 2.5-gallon Ziploc bags. She folded all our clothes and placed them in the bags, then squeezed the air out, creating "vacuum packing bags" at a tiny fraction of the cost (this also prevented the permethrin in the clothing from dissipating). While the weight remained the same, we cut our volume by at least half. We arranged in advance with our overnight hotel in London to store some of our bags for the duration we were in Africa (there was no charge for this!). By doing this, we were able to make the round-trip London/Nairobi legs at 50 pounds/person (max for non-USA international flights). That left us with the problem of the 30-pound limit for flights within East Africa. We solved that when Vintage, Ltd. (our Safari operator) agreed to transport our excess luggage from our last land leg of the safari back to Nairobi.

So that was the plan. This is how we started the trip. At LAX our daughter ate a bad hot dog and began to vomit. Then British Airways announced an indefinite delay in our flight to London because of faulty hydraulics. Not a good start! We had planned to drop off our luggage at our hotel in London and take the subway to Kings Cross station so our daughter could see where Harry Potter was filmed. By being active immediately, we knew we would have less of a problem with jetlag. The flight was uneventful. We arrived in London 4 hours later than planned. As we departed the aircraft, the captain casually mentioned that all public transportation into London had ceased and that a taxi would be needed if heading into the city. As we lugged our carry-ons toward passport control, I saw several TV monitors showing fires, police, and people running in panic. I noted to my wife that it was a good thing we were not in that city. Then I saw a crowd ahead watching the news, and I had a sinking feeling. It was a terrorist attack in London! It seems we narrowly missed being part of the news by about the same amount of time we were delayed in LAX! Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day stuck in the hotel watching the news. Sleep was difficult. We made the decision to press on to Africa.

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