01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: A smashing Easter 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

A smashing Easter


We set out on our Easter safari, after many hours of packing for five (in spite of the fact that we were planning to stay in catered lodges, so theoretically it should have been easy). Mr W grudgingly made the packed lunch (a triumph on my part!) as I flew around like a crazy thing remembering first aid kits and swimming nappies. At 9.10am we set off, not bad for a gentle morning start. At 9.20am, with a deafening boom, we dodged a heavily laden cyclist on a particularly narrow stretch of road and clipped the wing mirror of an oncoming matatu shattering our driver’s window and showering us all in shards of glass. My eldest said, indignant; ‘there’s glass in my book now!’ I found glass down the back of my low rise trousers and in my pants. ‘It’s ok! Not too bad!’ exclaimed our driver. We drove on a little, weighing up our options; ‘Easter weekend at home/cancel trip’, ‘spend some fruitless hours looking for someone to mend the window on Good Friday’ or ‘go home, swap cars then continue on our way’. So we decided to do a three point turn, return home and swap cars. Fortunately we now have two 4x4 cars.

The changeover took one hour exactly. We planted the three children in front of Cartoon Network, gave our long suffering gardener a dustpan and brush and shook glass out of our pants, then transferred all of our bags to the other car. We were planning to cross the Kenyan border so had to remember to transfer passports from glove compartment to glove compartment and importantly, to find the correct log book for the relevant car (exporting a car, even for a short trip, is an extremely bureaucratic process. Original log books must be held by border officials whilst you are out of the country). Karen BP petrol pump attendants were bemused to see us return so soon and fill up yet another 4 wheel drive with fuel. Same family, same luggage, different car.

At the Kenyan border, an official was kind enough to point out that no only would it cost $50 per person to enter Tanzania (as each of our family is required to hold their own British passport, rather than have children listed on the passports of their parents), Ker-ching $250! – but the three British passports I had (at great length) recently renewed, had no Kenya residents/dependants passes inside. Silly me. Having jumped through the most profligate hoops to get the passports up to date (through the British High Commission) and ready for our trip (providing certified photos, cash £200, original birth certificates etc.), I had smugly tossed the old ones into a ‘redundant things’ file and left them at home, without considering that there were no permits in the new ones. Ker-ching $150! – that would be another three visas required to re-enter Kenya, as we were now lacking proper documentation to show that all of us were residents. Sigh. This time, we also remembered to buy the obligatory Tanzanian car insurance for the driving to and around Arusha. We’ve been caught out by local police on this one before.

In spite of a shaky start to our safari, we had an excellent Easter weekend. Pooling together chocolate with our friends in Tanzania, we realised we had a completely sickening number of eggs for our six children, so the night before Easter we four parents decided to eat a packet or two and think it over. After the Easter egg hunt the following morning we told the heavily laden children that they must offer each of the hotel staff an egg from their stash, which they grudgingly did. Much to their disappointment, each member of hotel staff gratefully accepted and soon we were no longer in danger of having vomiting kids in the car journey to Arusha National park for an Easter picnic lunch.

On Monday morning, we waved goodbye to our friends who were setting out on the eight hour drive back home to Dar es Salaam, and received a phone call from them ten minutes later. They had hit a cow and in spite of doing their best to avoid it, had killed the cow and damaged the bonnet, wing and headlight of their car. Apparently the cow was acting a little crazy. Possibly it was suffering from ‘Rift Valley fever’, a bovine epidemic that is rife at the moment (East Africa’s version of mad cows’ disease). They managed to hobble on with their journey and got home safe. Meanwhile, we managed to re enter Kenya after buying three more visas and doing a lot more form filling and fruitless explaining.

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