It was the famed explorer Roald Amundsen who said “adventure is nothing but bad planning.” I have always tried to live by that thought and to prepare as much as possible. It is one of the reason I give my clients so much detailed information. I want to make sure every possible detail is addressed. However things can happen and for that reason I strongly encourage clients to buy travel insurance. You never know what can happen.
Before this trip to Africa to research tourist opportunities in Uganda and Rwanda and to attend the college graduation of my Maasai friend, I looked at every detail, checked and double-checked my plans and made sure everything was in order.
As I landed in Amsterdam on the first leg of my journey I checked to see what gate my flight to Nairobi would be leaving from. I was disappointed to see that the flight was cancelled but thought nothing of it as I was sure there would be a later flight. Then I heard from one of the very helpful KLM agents that “there had been a fire at the Nairobi airport” and that I was to go to the transfer desk for further assistance.
While waiting in line I searched on my phone for news of the fire (technology can be a great tool) and saw the photos. This was not just a “fire” – the entire international terminal had been destroyed! I knew I was not getting to Nairobi anytime soon. I really felt sorry for all those people who had scheduled safaris as they were going to miss a few dates and I also felt sorry for the tour operators who I am sure were busy with contingency plans. I was glad that none of my clients were stranded. I at least dodged that bullet!
I immediately went into alternative plan mode. I decided the best course of action was to get myself to Tanzania and then I could use my contacts to make my way to Kenya. There were no flights to Tanzania that night so along with everyone else on our flight I made my way to the KLM-provided hotel with a nice survival kit (toiletries, t-shirt and socks). I did not want to be stuck in Amsterdam however so before I left changed my flight to Tanzania the next day.
I landed in Tanzania, stayed the night next to the airport (it actually felt good to be back on familiar Tanzania soil) and enjoyed a nice Tusker beer to celebrate making it to the African continent. The next day I was driven 2 ½ hours to the Kenyan border at Namanga. Then my Maasai friend Patrick and a friend of his met me and drove me another 2 ½ hours to Nairobi. While 5 hours in a car may not seem so great at least I made it well ahead of others who were still waiting to fly to Nairobi. I missed only one day of my trip. I was happy and grateful for friends and colleagues in Africa as my ground partner Steve got me into the Tanzanian hotel, and Patrick saved the day by getting me a ride to Nairobi.
Things happen and you just have to take a deep breath, think and not panic and you will get through it with the kindness of others.
But buy that travel insurance!