I discovered that, when traveling through the Dark Continent, it’s best to assume things will routinely go wrong, seemingly bizarre happenstances will be treated as the status quo, and life will go on as it has for countless centuries.
My Mt. Kilimanjaro climbing buddies and I ran smack into a bunch of Africa happenings and found the best way to deal with the setbacks, scares and strangeness was to shrug one’s shoulders and quote Leonardo DiCaprio ‘s character from ‘Blood Diamond,’ who’d say, "T.I.A., baby. T.I.A." (T.I.A. translates to ‘This is Africa’).
And, boy, did we have plenty of opportunities to use the T.I.A. phrase, including:
– Battling with Hummer-sized spiders in our hotel rooms.
– Only showering between the hours of 6-9 in the am and pm. Because hot water simply wasn’t available the rest of the day.
– Greasing the palm of any retailer as a ‘thanks’ for not paying sales tax.
– Periodic car breakdowns during the photo safari caused by rough roads and rougher drivers.
– Interruptions in electricity as a hotel or airport switched from one
power generator to another. Ever been in a pitch dark airport terminal?
How about showering when all the lights die? Surreal.
– Armed security escorts to walk one to and from the hotel room while
on safari. Baboons, water buffalo and some sort of strange rat-like
rodent were everywhere and known to attack guests. A machete-wielding
Masai warrior helped ensure one made it to one’s room in one piece.
– Townspeople descending on any tourist who ventured beyond the
confines of the Arusha Hotel. Friendly, but aggressive as hell, the
locals were intent on selling us everything from week-old editions of
USA Today to torn, dirty African ‘artworks.’ The words ‘no thanks’
apparently aren’t in the Tanzanian vocabulary.
All told, Africa was a sensory overload of sights, sounds, smells and
sensations. It’s unlike Europe, South America, Montclair or
anywhere else I’ve visited. The best advice I’ve heard is to take
Africa as it comes, not overreact to its strange ways and, when in
doubt, just smile and say, "TIA, baby. TIA."