The Rwanda Keyhole trip is only about 2 weeks away. After months of preparation, it’s basically here.
We have everything in place. Immunization shots. Documents of approval. Visas. Plane tickets. Schedule of events.
Now what do we expect?
I went on a couple of pretty monumental trips before. The first one was when I flew into Tegucigalpa, Honduras for a back-roads tour of some towns including Danli and surrounding villages. I love back-roads vacations – especially ones where you can see the true culture of a country. I much prefer back-roads trips than predictable all inclusive resorts.
I read about landings in Tegucigalpa, but it was far more ridiculous than I had imagined. What was even more crazy was the takeoff, as the pilot turned on full jets (while still turning) towards the runway to just get the plane in the air before we would hit the mountain.
The other adventurous trip that I went on was Mexico. I took my wife and 2 kids and drove a rental car from Texas into the heart of Mexico. We stayed in an old Spanish silver mining town called Real de Catorce which was unlike anything I have ever been to before.
The point is – is that no matter what you can anticipate in a back-roads trip it’s never exactly what you think. Backroads trips always lead to the unexpected – which ultimately leads you to the best memories.
Now if I were to imagine what flying into Africa is like, it would go something like this:
We approach the runway after a long flight through a terrifying electrical storm. The lightning had struck one of our engines and left it sparking and smoking. It’s getting on in the evening – possibly close to 9:00 PM. The beat-up propeller plane groans and complains as the wiry grey-haired pilot steers the plane towards a vacant airport in the middle of a field. He’s wearing an old in a faded red muscle shirt and his face is weathered like a topographical map. He mumbles through his missing teeth in some kind of unintelligible native-tongue cuss word as he attempts to command the stubborn plane. Around his neck is a leather necklace with what appears to be a lion tooth or a bone of some sort. My wife and I cling to the rickety aluminum framing of the plane as it lurches and shifts from side to side as we descend.
“We made it!” I yell over the whir of the propellers and whistling wind leaks of the plane. “WHAT?” She yells back. “I THINK WE MADE IT!” I yell a little louder. “We’re not down yet!” she hollers back.
The plane drops a sudden 12 feet and lands hard on one wheel. The pilot wrestles with the steering controls, and handles the plan as we waver back and forth.
The plane finally coasts to a stop as the pilot turns off what’s left of the engines. My wife’s face was white and I took some time to regain my composure.
I step out of the old plane and look around. A silhouette of an Acacia tree reveals itself my eyes get used to the darkness, then further images of hills, mountains and an old Land Rover. Through the dusk I could see a skyline of rocks, trees and a distant mountain. In the distance to the North I hear a roar of a lion while in response an elephant trumpets to the South. Monkeys chatter in a nearby tree and a swarm of vultures ascends from the distance.
We make our way over to the Land Rover and our pilot opens the door for us and helps us with what’s left of our luggage. Off to the local village we go and…
OK enough already. I think it’s better if I throw out all expectations as this trip will be completely different than what I can ever imagine!