I was finally on my way to the Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti! Even though I had just got back from a trip a couple of days earlier – my second visit to Zimbabwe – this was a trip I was looking forward to! I had barely sat in my window seat aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Lagos, Nigeria when one of the cabin crew came over to my seat and asked to see my boarding pass.
I love window seats because it affords me the chance to take aerial pictures, so I had checked in online ahead and secured the seat I wanted. I stared at the man and produced the paper he asked for. Maybe someone is claiming I’m on their seat and he needs to verify I’m seated in my rightful seat. People do that and some refuse to move when the rightful owner of the seat arrives until an airline official comes along to request them to move.
I looked away as the fellow seem to scribble something on the paper.
I turned to him, wondering what the problem was. He had a soft smile as he continued. “You have to move, please.”
What was that? Before I could get the words out of my mouth.
“You’ve been upgraded to Business Class” he smiled as he handed me my boarding pass. I grinned at him trying to hide my surprise, and sneaked a look at what he scribbled on the boarding pass. I retrieved my hand luggage from under the front seat while the young men sitting next to me made room as I got up.
We arrived Addis Ababa around 20:00hrs and waited at the airport for the connecting flight to Dar es Salaam. We left Addis at 23:00hrs. There were no special treats on the Addis-Dar flight, but I’m already a lifelong fan of Ethiopian Airlines.
We touched down at the Julius Nyerere International Airport the next morning at 02:35. Going through immigration and getting visa, I eventually found the S!TE Team desk outside the airport. However, the bus had left to drop off some arrivals while I was still going through immigration, so I had to wait a while for it to return.
I eventually got to my accommodation, Sea Cliff Hotel & Casino on Msasani Drive. My cabbie was a nice guy called Fortune. We chitchatted as he drove me to the hotel. I took his number when we arrived, promising to give him a call when I need his services to see town. After checking in, the only thing on my mind was sleep.
I got out of bed in the afternoon around 15:00hrs, and went to have lunch at the Karambezi Restaurant of the hotel. I looked around and discovered we were nestled on a cliff off the ocean. Yeah, the name was apt – Sea Cliff.
The Pre-S!TE BBQ was scheduled for later in the day and about an hour later, I got a call from reception to come downstairs. There I met the other participants sharing the Sea Cliff Hotel with me: Max, Kojo, Aurelia, etc. – we were five in all. Our chaperon was a middle-aged Tanzanian named Vumbi, which means ‘Dust’ as he told us once on the bus. As the driver drove out of Sea Cliff premises, Vumbi informed us we were picking up some other people along the way. Our first stop was the nearby Sea Cliff Courts, a sister facility and after which we went to Double Tree by Hilton. By this time the bus was alive as we got to know each other and we drove down to the Headquarters of the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) on Laibon Close where the event was scheduled to take place.
On arrival, we were served fresh coconut juice as we watched a cultural troupe rehearsing. Later on as we mingled enjoying the evening, some known faces showed up like Jayesh, Farzana, Cephas along with Mark and some others.
Musical and cultural entertainment was provided and short speeches were given by the Chairman of the board of the TTB Justice Thomas Mihayo, and the MD Devota Mdachi. There was lots to eat and drink too. Some time after 21:00hrs, Vumbi came to gather us and we left for our hotels.