Queen of Sheba Packing
I think I mentioned that my mother is convinced the African safari we are about to embark on actually involves stepping back into the set of King Solomon’s Mines, where every bwana is assigned two dozen native bearers. Because my mother is clearly no respecter of modern luggage limits. And she is convinced, although the brochure and the price have made it pretty clear that this is a safari built around stays in upper end hotels, that we are actually going to what they used to call Darkest Africa — a land where soap, toilet paper and Kleenex are unheard of. We’ve been warned to pack for the weight limits of the in-country Land Rover and small plane transfers. Having taken my share of small planes island hopping in the Caribbean, I know there is no option in these situations to skirt the limits by paying an overage fee. If every passenger is over the luggage weight limit, the planes can’t get airborne. In my travels, I’ve watched more than one passenger have to unload clothes from a suitcase into a trash can until the weight limit is met and they were finally allowed to board. My mother is not buying this. She’s latched on to the fact that KLM is allowing us 30 pounds per person on the international flight over there. Which is why she showed up with a suitcase weighing over 50 pounds.
My mother is also not a respecter of technology. Especially such things as The Weather Channel app which tells me that where we are going — which is Tanzania, which by the way, is in Africa near the Equator and currently in midsummer — daytime temperatures in the last week were in the upper 90s with nighttime temps in the 70s. That’s why she’s packed a winter coat, a down vest to go under that coat, a khaki safari coat (which she lined for extra warmth), a windbreaker, a raincoat, two heavy weight sweaters (such as you might wear in Tahoe on a ski trip) and assorted cardigan twinsets. We were warned that the sun is hot and we should wear long sleeves. Which is why she also packed four heavy canvas weight long sleeved shirts. Did I mention the two pair of long underwear? And the undershirts? Because, in my mother’s world, layering, as you and I would know it, is impossible. So even though she has packed several T-shirts, for some reason, they can not be worn under one of the long sleeved shirts. They are only allowed to be worn on their own. So special undershirts — which look to be the same weight and material as the aforementioned T-shirts — because they are in fact T-shirts that my mother has chosen to designate as undershirts — must also be packed. So that she has twice as many T-shirts as you would think she needs but some can only be worn under things and some are allowed to be outerwear. Understand that the T-shirts that are designated outerwear can never be worn UNDER a long sleeved shirt even though they are, in many cases, the same weight, brand and color as the T-shirts that have been designated as undershirts. This is all key because there are going to be times in Africa in mid-summer when you might need to put on long underwear, a heavy weight long sleeve shirt, a Tahoe weight sweater, a down vest and a coat in order to venture out under the Equatorial sun.
Mind you, these are just the packing challenges relating to clothes. I would like to ask the rhetorical question of my readers: how many manicure kits, sewing kits, flashlights, alarm clocks, gel shoe insoles, and AAA batteries might be needed on a 2 week trip? Personally, I wouldn’t take any of these things. Maybe some of you might think one of each would be enough. My mother believes one of each. And a back up of each. And a back of the back up in case the back up fails.
My next worry are the drugs. Yes, an 80 year old is going to have some prescription medicines. These are the least of our worries. At a conservative estimate, if my mother took an aspirin EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR for the entire two weeks of our trip, she would not get through half the aspirins that she’s packed. Ditto Tums. Ditto eye drops. Ditto Lunesta. Ditto Senokot. Ditto Dramamine. Ditto Contac. Ditto half a dozen more over the counter medications. What are the chances we can get an entire wheeled carry-on filled with pharmaceuticals through customs on two international flights and NOT be flagged as drug dealers?
Do we really need to take multiple tubes of triple antibiotic creme, six packages of band-aids, a tourniquet and a snakebite kit? My mother is convinced we do. Actually, I agreed with her on the antibiotic creme and had packed my own tube. I offered to share so we only need one tube between us. But Mom is convinced we will need to slather our entire bodies with antibiotic creme EVERY SINGLE DAY in order to emerge from Africa with our lives. Well, should there be a catastrophic event such as war, revolution or natural disaster, we’ll have the supplies to start our own clinic.
We’ve been advised to carry Xerox copies of our passport, ID, and printouts of our e-tickets and perhaps our shot records. At most, this might be seven pages. My mother has taken this to the next level, by printing out every copy of every email the travel agent ever sent us, including attached articles about Africa and printouts of every linked article she ever referred us to. I’m not sure how many pages this adds up to, but I do remember when Nancy Pelosi hefted the complete draft of Obamacare over her head at a press conference. I think it was significantly slimmer than the great thick sheaf of papers my mother is packing. Oh, and that’s in addition to the three guidebooks, map of Africa and Swahili phrasebook.
Well, to cut a long story short, two days of wrangling and packing and we were finally ready to board our plane. But not before weighing the suitcases and finding, miraculously, that my mother’s main suitcase now only weighed 21.7 lbs. And that was including a safari jacket, another jacket and a down vest. It also included my mother mutter under her breath that she’d better not be chilled once we got to Africa because I wouldn’t let her pack sufficient gear.
It’s probably bad form to say “I told you so to an 80 year old.” But as we stepped out of Kilimanjaro airport — at 9PM Arusha time — into a muggy 80 degree African n;ight, I just couldn’t resist. But we’re here now. All suitcases arrived with us.
Let the adventure begin.