Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ginger's travels

At last I seem to have a slightly faster Internet speed. This morning I decided to pray about it as I need to be connected while out here on a remote mine site! And praise God who  never fails or forsakes us!

OK to all the kind queries and concerns about Ginger. This approximately eight-year-old cat was born in the valley in Kenya. He belonged to the maintenance manager (a German from Namibia) who left him when he and his family moved on and away from Kenya. Many people (expats especially) just pack up and leave their pets without making suitable arrangements for them. This is not a thumbsuck; it's a fact and I've written an article on the subject. My dear blogger friend, Kay from Alberta helped me with the piece at the time which was published in a South African  Pet/Travel magazine last year. Thanks again Kay!  

Anyway, back to Ginger. We could have left him with our neighbours, Borries and Theresa who have moved into our house after we left the valley. Or Ginger could have moved in with Johan who always kept an [extra]eye on the cats while we were on leave, although Stanley and Naomi were there daily for them. Ginger is also a free spirit and had the run of the camp. Before we arrived there he'd been fed by the Guest House staff and by Sue when they were home. He also went on long walk-abouts (like Mick Dundee!) and would just pitch up home after being absent for two-three days.

Yet Ginger became OUR cat last January when we inherited him with the house. I immediately dewormed him, then applied Frontline for ticks and fleas.  This  caused him to leave home and stay away for the next two days! At the end of February on our shopping trip to Eldoret, we dropped Ginger off at the vet and he had the "snip". I also made a wonderful friend in the vet,  Dr Shah whom I could phone from the valley with any queries or concerns I had regarding the cats; mainly about Ginger returning home with bite marks on his face and forearms and torn ears - he never stopped fighting even after being neutered -and ultimately asssisted with medical certificates and extra cages AND allaying my fears when we moved the cats last week.

As I said in my first post from here in Tanzania, Ginger went on one of his famous walk abouts two days before we were due to leave the camp. I never imagined he would. When I received the nifty travel cages from Dr Shah (the blue and cream ones in the photo below), I placed a tee-shirt in each and sprinkled a little catnip over. I'll not go into the properties of catnip here, except to say that cats simply go all ga-ga when they smell it. Ginger was no exception and he immediately got into one of the cages (fitted it wall-to-wall as he's our fattest puddy!) and rolled around on the tee-shirt.

A few minutes later I was at the kitchen counter preparing dinner, when he asked to go out. Unthinkingly I opened the door and Ginger walked out and up the lane. The next morning when he should have been at the door, there was no Ginger. It was Tuesday and we were leaving within 24 hours. Stanley and I walked all over the camp shaking the cat cookie jar (I've taught my cats to respond to this sound) but no Ginger. Later that afternoon, Stanley went off on his own, and even walked out of the camp gate down to the club although the security guards assured us that Ginger never left the confines of the camp.

I continued to search for the errant kitty until dark that night. We had the Last Supper with Borries, Theresa and Johan which was most enjoyable. But I kept going next door to check if Ginger had come home. Borries suggested that if Ginger  only returns after we'd left, he'd place him in the travel container and send him to Eldoret with the next vehicle.  Grant and I hardly slept that night expecting to hear Ginger call at our bedroom window, which he often did if he came home late.

We were up at 3am and as soon as I was dressed, I went into the lane to call Ginger. (woke the neighbours, no doubt!) No Ginger. We left at 5am with me hanging out of the window calling Ginger, Ginger at the top of my voice! Not a sign of the cat.

Stanley and the company driver, Zephania, helped us check the cats in at Eldoret airport and soon Grant and I were waiting in the boarding lounge. From where we sat, we could see the luggage trolley out on the runway and with two cat cages on top! While we waited for our flight,  Naomi sent me a text message and said when she arrived for work (we'd arranged for her and Stanley to work for Theresa and Borries) Ginger was waiting at the back door! I asked her to keep him indoors and through a series of telephone calls to Borries and Johan, Grant arranged to have Ginger transported from the valley as soon as possible.

The top and middle photos show Ginger in one of the cages (he fit better into the wooden one in the bottom photos) and seemingly quite happy ! Little did I know. He left the house shortly after this and disappeared until AFTER we had left the valley!

When we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, we were met by John who took Shadow and Ambrose and assured us they would be safe. I had no doubt, as Shadow had been successfully brought into Kenya last year by the movers, AGS, Frazers whom John worked for. Grant and I flew to Dar in Tanzania on quite a small airplane with Precision Air. The cats had to follow on a Boeing which could accommodate live animals.

While we were having dinner at the hotel in Dar that night, John phoned me and said Shadow and Ambrose had missed the 5.30 flight on Wednesday evening. However, he had them in his home and said they were booked onto the 7am flight on Thursday morning. At 11am the agent in Dar phoned me and said I could collect the cats at the Swissair port. Grant was busy in meetings at HO so I took a taxi and went off to the airport. I was allowed into the cargo shed where it seemed as if I was in a cattle market! Although there were only three live animals (our two cats and a Black French Bull Dog) there were people milling about and calling for information. Hectic. I greeted the cats who howled at me in fear (cats are very sensitive to noise and they had almost had enough of it!) and then the State vet whisked me away to her office while she checked through the documents. Although I signed for the receipt of two live cats, the import permit had THREE cats on it. She made a copy of this document for me to collect Ginger in Mwanza later that week, and I took the cats and returned to the company HO.

The cats remained in the cages in a small office while Grant completed his business. At 3pm (think we'd been on the go for 36 hours at this point!) we drove back to the airport. What a noisy and busy departure hall. There was much shouting and jostling as we made our way through the Xrays and into the queue for Mwanza. Fortunately Marnitz, the new production manager,  carried one of the cat cages and when we weighed all our luggage together, the excess charge on three tickets wasn't too  exhorbitant!

Arriving at the teeny weeny Mwanza International Airport, we waited on a concrete platform and shortly our luggage and the cats were handed to us without any red tape involved. We stayed at the Tilapia Hotel on Lake Victoria. Our bungalow-type room was perfect as we didn't have to walk through reception with cats in cages! We were able to let the cats out in our room for the night which they loved.

The cats stretch a leg or four (!) in our bungalow room on the shores of Lake Victoria

The next morning, we drove to the mine site, a two hour drive with the cats in their cages on the seat beside me.
Ambrose lay on his back and stretched his paws through the bars of the cage, top and bottom photos. Shadow, centre,  slept all the way to his new home!

They soon found their special spots in which to relax and unwind after travelling for three days from one East African country to another!

For Shadow, Ambrose and Grant the journey was over. The cats relaxed in their new home while Grant went off to work. For me, I still had to get Ginger.  This meant that I had to return to Mwanza on Saturday. A company driver took me back to the airport at 11.30am when the flight was expected. I was in constant contact with John in Nairobi who had collected Ginger at the airport, cared for him overnight and checked him onto the flight to Dar. There he was transferred directly to the Mwanza flight, which eventually arrived at 1.30!

All good and well. I had visions of waiting on the concrete platform and to be handed my cat as before. This didn't happen. An airport official spotted me lurking under the sign which said "Unofficial entry prohibited" and told me to wait in the arrivals lounge. Well, not a lounge by normal standards, just an open veranda which was jam-packed with people entering the airport to depart for various destinations. 

Mwanza, like Maun in Botswana, seems to be the hub from which tourists can fly daily to Kilimanjaro, the Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. The airport was thronging with European tourists waiting for their connections or safari guides, and African locals flying to remote areas in Tanzania.

The lady official told me go through security to the Precision Air offices as "there is a procedure to follow" I put my handbag and the document file throuhg the X-ray and was ushered into an office where it seemed as though chaos reigned supreme. A clerk pointed to a chair and said "wait". Eventually a kind gentleman asked me what I had come to collect. I told him I had a cat on the flight and also two trunks (which were the least of my worries!) He said he'd go and find out. He disappeared in the direction of the runway. When he returned, he told me my cat was safely in cargo arrivals with two black trunks. He told me to go to the cargo office and collect all there.

I walked out into the blazing sun and found the driver who drove the vehicle to the cargo shed as I'd told him he had to load two heavy [total weight 60kg]  trunks. When I reached the hole in the wall which is the cargo counter/office, there was no-one there. A man sitting on his bicycle said they'd gone to lunch. Frank, the driver and I waited until 2pm when the official returned. I gave him the weigh bill numbers and he immediately read Grant's name and address from some forms in front of him. Then he said I had to return to the Revenue office as there'd be duty to pay on the cat and the trunks. I left Frank at the counter and dashed back to the airport building. There I had to enter through the X-ray again and was escorted to the revenue office beyond. When we arrived at the door, it was locked and the man accompanying me said they'd gone to lunch until 3pm!

I returned to the cargo counter and said I had to wait for the customs officials to return from lunch. Frank and I sat waited another 30 minutes when the man behind the counter said he'd go and check up for me. I suggested to Frank that we go to a kiosk near the airport building and buy a soda. We both sat on the concrete in the welcome shade of an acacia tree and sipped iced cold Pepsi's!

Presently a very smartly dressed man walked up to me. He was holding the weigh bill and other documents pertaining to Ginger and the trunks. He said that the consignment had been cleared in Dar the day before and I should never have been made to go through the whole procedure again. He apologized for the inconvenience, shook my hand and said I was free to collect my cat and trunks and leave. Phew!

Twenty minutes later with Ginger on the back seat and the trunks in the rear, we made our way through the city of Mwanza and headed for home.

Clockwise from top: the streets of Mwanza, Ginger dozing in his cage on the back seat of our vehicle, Ginger steps gingerly (lol!) onto Tanzanian soil, and one of Ginger's favourite spots is on top of the wardrobe in our room

We arrived at 5.30pm, let Ginger out in the house and by the time he and the other two had greeted each other (the cats always box each other when they meet!) he had found his special spot on top of the wardrobe in our room. As for me, well, I was totally and utterly exhausted and spent the whole of Sunday just lazing about with my feet up!

A special note here: for anyone wanted to transport animals anywhere in the world, always use a good agent (as we did for the third time in two years!) and be assured that the airport staff are EXCELLENT with live animals. They transport the cages from check-in to the hold with great care, they notify the pilot that he has live animals on his plane so that he adjusts the air pressure in the hold and they make every effort to get your pet safely to its destination.

I'm just pleased it's all over...


  1. Wow, JO! What an ordeal. I am happy it was a happy ending for your and Ginger. Now everyone can relax and get comfy in the new home. Enjoy and have a great day.

  2. Thank you for telling us about the cat's transportation. You are a such a thoughtful and caring owner! Happy Landing.

  3. M goodness what you go through for your cats is amazing, You deserve a medal and the best seat in heaven.

  4. What a day, but that sounds just like Africa to me :) Glad you, Grant and the cats are all safe and sound. Take care. Diane

  5. I'm so relieved, Jo! I was with you each step of the way, and felt the frustrations that go with travel in Africa. It's just as normal as getting up in the morning to be told that you cannot stand here under this sign...or sit and wait here...go back to the first place you started...but they are out to lunch...etc. and etc., ad infinitum...until you are finally told that you were cleared hours ago. Oh my. Patience is a quality one must have to live there. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Where's the kiosk? I need a cold pepsi!!! ☺

  6. Now I push a sigh of relief ! what an adventure ! I am happy that Ginger finally arrived, the poor thing !
    I admire your patience, I think I would have gone beserk in the airport calling for the Manager of the Mangager of the Manager up to the President of the airport, lol ! In mess making I am a specialist, ask Mr. G.
    Nobody can say that you don't love cats !!! (and animals in general of course)What a story !

  7. Good Lord Jo!! What a trip!
    SO glad Ginger is now with you and you are all safe!!
    Thanks for letting us know! A relief, indeed!

  8. WOW! Ginger had more of a travel adventure than the rest of you. What a story. I can't even imagine trying to move from country to country with pets. But you are getting good at it, and so are the cats. Glad everyone is back together. And that your internet is better.

  9. OH My Gosh, Jo... What a hassle you had getting Ginger.... BUT--since it all worked out well, I am glad that you have all three of your babies and that all are fine....

    Now you can relax and enjoy your new surroundings.

  10. Well, Jo, I would have gone through the same for my cats when I had them, and I know Dick would do the same and more for Lindy. I'm just glad we aren't planning to take her to Africa.
    What a wonderful story, however. I think you should be writing another piece for that pet travel magazine.
    Now, make sure you're rested up before you tackle that kitchen renovation. I'll have new news about ours tomorrow night after Dick meets with the cabinetmaker again.
    Hugs to all three cats, this time especially to Ginger, from their Auntie Kay.

  11. Whew! that was quite the ordeal but I'm glad Ginger is now safe and sound with you. Take care and rest up before getting into more adventures my friend :-) Hugs. xx

  12. Jo, you have the patience of Job! What a long-drawn-out and exhausting experience. But I'm so glad it turned out well in the end. Ginger looks just fine.

    How long will you and Grant live in Tanzania?


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo