A Travellerspoint blog

January 2005

Serengeti with Manyara Sauce

Lake Manyara, Tanzania


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The last day of January was the first day of my 5 day Safari adventure.

Based on yesterday’s conversation with my representative at Kilimanjaro Crown Bird Safaris, today’s plan was to be picked up and drive to Lake Manyara. I would be in the car with two young Brits who had both booked their safaris separately, and potentially another couple people in the car, if someone else had booked.

But plans can change, especially when it comes to booking safaris. At 9am, someone from a company called Comfort Safaris arrived at my hotel. “You must be Greg from Canada,” he said. He explained to me that I would be going with them instead of the company I booked with. Skeptical, I asked if there was an additional charge for the switch, but they insisted that there wasn’t.

20050131 02 The Car.JPG

Already in the car was a couple from Poland. We went and picked up two more people, a German and an older Scottish gentleman. Apparently the two young Brits had disappeared. This, based on my internet research, is somewhat typical when booking group safaris.

A group safari is a safari where you go with other people that you don’t know. A private safari is where just you (and your private group go). For a single traveler like me, booking a group safari can save around $200 to $300 US. However, often companies will book a safari with promises of other travelers, but the other travelers aren’t real. In the worse case, this means delaying the safari until real travelers can be found. Luckily for me, I was getting the best case, where a couple of companies combine their groups to still provide the safari.

John, the Scot, was not happy with the change of companies though. He was promised a different itinerary with no more than 3 people in the car. However, after arguing and negotiations to ensure that he would get a window seat, he agreed to come. The cook, though, was relegated to the back seat with the German and myself.

John was an interesting character. I would guess that John was in his 50s, however he was doing a 7 month backpacking trip through East Africa. John was an “aging hippy traveler.” Hippy travelers are the kind of people who try and spend as little as possible on their trips, and take a very specific pride in keeping the costs down. They are the kind of people you met who say stuff like, “dude, the place I stayed in last night was a cement room, 6 feet by 6 feet. It had no bed or electric light, and there was no hot water, or really water of any kind. I think I contracted cholera, but at least it only cost me $1.50 a night.” Hippy travelers are also the kind of people who will try and make you feel bad for spending more than they do. “I can’t believe you WASTED $10 a night on a place with a comfortable bed and electric light!”

John was constantly complaining about the cost of things on the trip. The sodas and beer in the national parks were too expensive for him. “One US dollar for a soda? I have never paid more than thirty cents for one in the past 4 months!” We were in the middle of a national park in the Serengeti. I was just happy they had cold soda.

20050131 01 The Group.JPG

In addition to John the Scot, the German gentleman was named Claus. The Polish couple was Beata and Magic. At least, as best as I could figure, his name was Magic. Beata was a linguist of the first order. In addition to Polish, she could speak English, Swahili and Russian. As far as I know, Magic only spoke Polish. Thus, there is not much that Magic and I said to each other after our first exchange.

“Hi,” I said to him, “my name is Greg. And you are?”

“Mathic,” he replied.

“Mathic?” I asked.

“Mattress,” he said back.

“Mattress?”

“Bagick.”

“Bagick.”

“Magic.”

“Alright then,” I said, giving up on learning his name. And so for the rest of the Safari I called him Magic. I later learned, upon seeing him write his name for an airplane trip we later booked, was something like Macieck. But that wasn’t until many days later, and frankly, calling him Magic makes for a better story, so Magic he will stay.

Our guide was Joseph, and our cook was Diamond. That is the way with names here in Tanzania. Some of them are good biblical names, some of them are traditional names (like Mikeke), and some of them are just words that most of us wouldn’t consider names like Marathon or Diamond.

The car was a Toyota Land Cruiser with seating for 7. The roof had panels that could come off above all the seats, allowing us to stand up and take pictures and get good views of the animals.

20050131 03 The Car 2.JPG

And we were off to Manyara. It took me a long time to get that name right. I kept calling it Lake Marinara. Too much Italian food in my life, I suppose. Even with the name right, doesn’t it still sound like an Italian dish?

Me: “I would like the Serengeti with a nice Manyara sauce?”

Waiter: “Some Ngorongoro to drink?”

Me: “Now this is getting Selously silly!”

(Note, Selous is another game park in Tanzania that I didn’t go to, but it fit with the joke.)

Lake Manyara proved to be an excellent game viewing drive. We saw baboons, blue monkeys, impala, warthogs, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, buffaloes and gnus.

20050131 09 Elephant.JPG

However, by far the most common animal, and lake Manyara and all the safari sites was the fly. Flies were everywhere, and after a while you start to just get bored with trying to slap them away. And so you suffer with the flies.

20050131 07 Warthog.JPG

And now, a couple of notes on the text and pictures. I am not a zoologist, and therefore took everything that my guide said at face value. I repeat some of it in these pages. I assumed that my guide was telling me the truth. He may have been full of hot air though.

20050131 10 Giraffe.JPG

Also, I tended to get confused between all the deer like animals. There are impalas and great gazelles and Thompson gazelles and diks diks, and they all look like brown animals to me.

20050131 08 Impala.JPG

So, if you are an amateur zoologist and find mistakes, here’s what you should do: feel smug about how stupid I am, and keep it to yourself. Really, I don’t care and I am not going to change the text.

Posted by GregW 19:36 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

The ABCs of booking a safari

Arusha, Tanzania


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Today I booked a safari starting tomorrow. 5 days, 4 nights in the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara. I will try and post pictures when I get back, but that might not be until Toronto. Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting the pictures out of the camera and onto these African computers.

I am staying right now at the Novotel. The Novotel is full of people who booked safaris back at home, and thus have EVERYTHING arranged. The hotel seems to play on this, and tries and make the guest afraid of the ground beyond the hotel. There is a sign that reads something like this:

Don't leave the hotel.
If you need to leave the hotel, don't leave the hotel on foot.
If you are going to leave the hotel on foot, for GOD SAKES TAKE A GUIDE WITH YOU!

A guide? To walk in town? When the doorman saw me wandering out this morning and rejecting his offer of a taxi, he was very distressed. He gave me one of those looks that says, "you, sir, have no idea what you are doing, and the touts and conmen will eat you alive."

He pointed at my camera case slung around my shoulder. "Please sir, be careful. This is not safe out there."

I thanked him, walked into town and booked my safari.

Actually, to be honest with you, I didn't book the safari. I and up to 5 other people booked the safari. You see, when you go to book a safari in Arusha, you get all sorts of help. "My friend, you are looking for a safari. I know a good company. Let me take you there. You just check it out. If you don't like it, I take you somewhere else." And with that, soon you have a group of people leading you from company to company so you can compare prices and options.

And, of course, you are asking yourself, what are these people getting out of it?

I once had a boss named Ray Lui. Ray was a salesman through and through. He used to love using the acronym ABC, which he stole from the movie Glengarry Glenross. ABC means Always Be Closing. No matter what you are doing, you should be working on getting somebody to sign a deal with you. That's the salesman job.

And that it was my friends showing me around Arusha's safari companies were doing. They were getting ready to close. Close on what? Whatever they had. "Ely from the Block" (swear to god he told me that was his name) owns a curio shop that I took a look through after booking the safari. "Rasta Carlos" wanted me to go to Tanga after my safari instead of Zanzibar. "It's much nicer and much cheaper." Everyone is carrying around a roll of paintings to sell you on the spot. "Later, maybe after I get back from my safari," I would say, to which they would respond, "but they are very light."

And that it why it is perfectly safe to wander around Arusha as a tourist. Because there are SO many people who see you as an ATM full of American dollars bills ready to spill out on tours and curios and paintings and god knows what else. If anyone as so much laid a hand on me today, I am sure that I would have had 20 men come to my rescue, who would have then taken me to their shop where they sell authenic African carvings.

So after reviewing and rejecting all my friends offers of extras, I headed back to the hotel. And I took some pleasure in smiling smugly at the doorman and patting my camera case. I can take care of myself.

Posted by GregW 19:35 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

I’ll be coming down the mountain when I come…

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


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From great adventures come great epiphanies. And here is mine. I am not a high altitude kind of guy. Really, I'm not.

20050126 0..to Roll.JPG

23rd January

Day one was a nice hike. After lunch at the gate, we headed out through the cultivated foothills of the great mountain and then through the rain forest.

20050126 04 Porter.JPG

Generally it was a pleasent hike, only two things worth really writing home about.

The first was when we were walking up through the fields of corn and other crops planted on the hills. The children would come out and greet us with that most beautiful of greetings, "Gimme chocolate." Most of our crew ignored the requests, but Dorrian, he of the big heart, couldn't resist the little imp in the Spiderman T-Shirt, and so Dorrian gave the child a piece of chocolate.

But the child didn't pull away and eat his chocolate, no, he put it in his pocket, looked back up at Dorrian and said, "gimme chocolate." Enterprising youths, are they not, realizing that a break to eat the chocolate now would cut into their available time to acquire more chocolate. And, if they keep going, maybe they can get enough chocolate to sell to their friends! These kids should be on the Apprentice, I tell you.

20050126 0..up Shot.JPG

Later that night we set up camp, and part of the crew went off to bed. But some of us were not sleepy, and decided to play some cards. So myself, Andy, Ann and Tom set up a table outside and played a few rounds of hearts. From where I was sitting, I looked up over a grove of Aspen trees (or Aspen like trees, at least) at the mountain, whose white snow-covered slopes were glowing in the near-full moon light. It was magic.

20050126 0.. 1 Camp.JPG

24 January

The morning hike was fine, but an afternoon rain came in and did not let up all afternoon, making the hike completely miserable. My waterproof pants are not, I discovered, actually waterproof, and eventually even my rain ponco was no longer able to hold out the torrent of rain. Soon everything I had on was soaking wet.

20050126 0.. Clouds.JPG

I was also starting to feel the effects of the altitude. I got a headache and shortness of breath. I also felt a little dizzy at times.

I debated taking Diamox, which is a drug that helps with high altitude sickness. You can either take preventively or as a cure when symptoms start to show. My symptoms were quite mild and much like symptoms others in the group were feeling, so I decided to skip the Diamox for now.

25 January

Happy Robbie Burns Day, Andy.

20050126 1.. Mikeke.JPG

Today was a good walk in the morning, but I was moving slower than the rest of the group. Peter (a paying member) and two of the guides, Happyson and Bernard stuck back with me as the rest of the group pulled ahead of me. I was feeling okay, I just couldn't imagine my legs taking me any quicker than I was moving. I probably pulled into camp about 20 - 30 minutes behind the rest of the team.

20050126 14 Secondias.JPG

In the afternoon we went on an acclimitization walk. This is were we walk up a few 100 meters higher than the camp and walk back down. This is to get your body used to the higher altitude, but allows you to sleep in a more oxygen rich environment.

I was fine going up, but as soon as we started back down, I felt incredibly dizzy. I stumbled twice, but luckly was grabbed by Maria and pulled back from the edge. Let me tell you, if you are walking along a ridge with rocky drop-offs on either side, feeling dizzy and stumbling = a bad thing.

Slyvester, one of the guides, came to my rescue, and lead me down the ridge holding my hand the entire way to make sure I wouldn't fall off. Back at camp, I conversed with Happyson. He suggested that I take a full Diamox tonight with dinner, a half one in the morning and we will see how I was doing.

I went to bed, but it was soon obvious that I wasn't going to get any sleep. As soon as I lay down I started to cough, and it wouldn't let up at all for the entire night. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I started to hear a crackling from my lungs. 6:30am came way too soon.

26 January

High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is a condition that occasionally happens to indviduals ascenting to higher altitudes, especially above 8000 ft. Pulmonary edema is excess fluid in the lungs, either in the lung tissue itself or in the space normally used for gas exchange (oxygen for carbon dioxide). Fluid in the lungs renders them unable to perform their normal task, and thus the victim cannot get enough oxygen. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, weakness, easy fatigue (especially when walking uphill), and difficulty sleeping. If you place an ear to the victim's chest, you may hear crackling or gurgling noises. The symptoms worsen at night. Confusion, collapse, and coma follow. The victim may show a fever of up to 101.3° Fahrenheit (38.5° Celsius). Without descent, the prognosis can be as sever as death.

In the morning, after being barely able to walk to the mess tent, Happyson determined that I should go down. I was showing definate symptoms of HAPE. Frankly, I was happy. I couldn't even have imagined trying to climb to the next camp, even though it was only a climb of less than 400 meters. At this point, I was so tired and dizzy and short of breath, I just wanted to go down. The plan was for me to descent as far as Horombo camp (800 metre down) and wait for the rest of the team there.

Paul was assigned to get me down the mountain. Paul is a great guide and without him I probably wouldn't be writing this right now. I just wanted to say that, because in the telling of the story to follow it may seem like I am making light of Paul or questioning his methods. That is only because as it was happening to me, my perception of the whole thing was a bit off. He did everything he should of, and I thank him for it.

The first thing we did in going down the mountain was to climb up. Unfortunately, Mawenzi Tarn (4330m) where we spent the night was in a bit of a valley and the only way out was up. We started the hike, and about half an hour in Paul was obviously distressed.

"You are moving very slow. We will make Horombo very late at this pace. I think perhaps I should have a stretcher met you, and we will take you right down and to the hospital." And thus plan number 2 was born. I was getting off the mountain totally today.

To meet the stretcher, though, we would still have to make our way partially to Horombo and the paths of that route. That would mean working our way around the Mawenzi peak, which to me meant at least half a day of staying at altitude and climbing up and down ridges to get to the other side of the mountain.

Paul enlisted some help, and together the two of them carried me in a drunk man carry. I was in the middle with my arms around the guides on either side of me. They would guide my steps and set the pace, and I would blather on like a drunk. It was a position, I am ashamed to say, that I have taken up before, not due to altitude.

This is where a struggle of the wills started. I wanted to sit and rest. Paul wanted to get me down. I know he was willing to pull me down the mountain if he had to. But I was conscious, and thus made it much harder to accomplish that. I would keep pleading for a stop, and when we stopped, I would stretch the stop out much longer than Paul wanted. "You must get up," he would say, "resting is no cure, only going down is."

Sure, I would think, then why aren't we going down?!? We're going across this mountain! We are actually at a higher altitude than when we started this morning!!!

Because of being still above 4200 metres, my symptoms were getting worse. Soon, in addition to my coughing, I was spitting up gobs of yellow-brown liquid from my lungs. My legs were so tired, I could barely take 3 steps on my own without wanting to sit. Paul often ended up dragging me for 20 or 30 feet just to make sure we at least made some progress between my constant rest stops.

Finally at 2:30pm, approximately 6 hours after setting out, we reached the "saddle" and started our way down. One of the guides with us ran ahead to find out where the stretcher was, and we continued to walk.

About an hour later we met the man in charge of the stretcher - one of the Kilimanjaro Mountain Rescue Crew. The only problem is, he didn't have a stretcher. There wasn't one available. However, they were working on getting one. I voted to stay where we were and wait for the stretcher, but the Mountain Rescue Crew had other ideas. They were going to get me down the mountain if they had to carry me.

And so, they tried to carry me. First the main Mountain Rescue ranger (I don't know if they are really called rangers, but I am going to call him that) tried to carry me on his shoulders, much like a father might lift his daughter to see the Santa Claus Parade. He tried to lift me, and got me about 3 inches off the ground.

"How much do you weigh?" he asked.

"About 200 pounds," I replied.

"What is that in Kilos?"

I did some quick math in my addled brain. 200 pounds. 2.2 pounds per kilo. 100 kilos is a safe number. "100 Kilos."

He then made one of those sounds that indicates that he thinks I am full of horse droppings. "More like 120 kilos." Great. Bad enough that I am having to give up on my dream to climb Kilimanjaro. Now you have to make me feel fat.

They tried a few other ways to carry me - me sitting on two mens interlinked arms, me sitting on 4 mens interlinked arms, me lying across the interlinked arms of 8 men. All of them, apparently not enough to support my 120 kilo mass (maybe I weigh more at altitude - I don't know).

So, we went back to the old standard. We walked, me between two guides.

Finally, around 4:30, when I had been walking for abour 8 hours, the stretcher arrived. The stretcher was a board with side-bars, mats and straps for carrying me, and the whole thing was balanced on a single wheel. Like a unicycle with a bed for a seat. They strapped me onto the board, but my too fat frame made it impossible to fit both my arms inside the bars, and so I had one arm hanging over the side. But that was as good as it was going to get. With 4 men manning the device, they started rolling me down the mountain.

The problem was that there were no shocks on the stretcher, and the mountain is very rough. My head was bouncing up and down like a rubber ball, and soon I was developing a bad headache. Which, I wasn't sure, should I attribute to altitude sickness (it is one of the symptoms) or this constant banging?

Just before dusk (6:30), there was a grinding noise and the stretcher keeled over to the side. Apparently, the wheel had fallen off. Just like with the shock on the truck, there was some arguing for a while until someone picked up a rock and beat the arms holding the wheel back into shape and reattached it to the stretcher. I was strapped back in, and we were off again. However, the wheel would get progressively worse the entire night. It fell off two more times, and by the time I got off the stretcher, it was angled over on it's side at about a 30 degree angle. That, I thought, is not great for tread wear.

Finally, aching head from the banging, and aching muscles from being confined, I was able to crawl out of the stretcher and into the waiting ambulance at 11:00pm at night, 14 and a half hours since setting out in the morning from Mawenzi Tarn.

But the night was not over yet. Because I was still short of breath and had been coughing, Paul wanted to take me to the hospital to get checked out. But first, the ambulance had to drop off all the guides and Mountain Rescue Rangers who helped me off the mountain. So I sat quietly as we drove around Marangu and Moshi towns dropping everyone at home.

We arrived at the hospital sometime after 12:30am, which means that as I was walking into the hospital, somewhere near the top of the mountain, the rest of the group was starting their walk up to the summit. I wished them luck on one of the plentiful stars in the sky, and walked into the doctors office.

The doctor checked me out, gave me a shot and a prescription for Dexamethasone, a steroid that is used to treat HAPE. They figured I was well enough to go, and so we headed back to the hotel. This was around 1:30am. Given that I hadn't slept the night before, I was incredibly tired, and this was the best news I had heard all day.

But one last curve ball would be thrown my way. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a hyenna. The driver stopped, turned the car around and pointed his headlights at the hyenna. Everyone in the car watched the hyenna. Everyone, that is, except me. I, I was staring at the driver, trying to use my vast mental powers to crush his head. I WANT TO GO TO BED!!!!

Finally, 2:30am, I crawl into bed at the Kibo Hotel, and with just a slight cough, am able to fall asleep.

Aftermath

So, that's my mountain adventure. That is why, you can see, that my great epiphany is that I am not a high altitude kind of guy. This experience, along with my troubles in La Paz, Bolivia, have convinced me that really, truly, I need to take up activities that happen at or around sea level. Like water polo. So I think my next vacation will be a water polo retreat in the Bahamas.

And now a serious note. It wasn't until I was down the mountain and talking with some of the rest of the group that I realized how serious things were. The Mountain Rescue Crew trying to carry me without the stretcher of course plays like farce in this story, but they did that because they felt that getting me down BY ANY MEANS as quickly as possible was what was needed. The others in the group climbing with me said that for the morning I departed, the group was silent, realizing how serious the entire endevour of climbing a mountain close to 6000 metres high is.

So, for all their help, I offer my thanks (and apologies if I offended in the passage above at all) to Paul, Happyson, and the rest of the porters and guides of African Walking Company, The Kilimanjaro Mountain Rescue Crew, The staff at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Clinic and the ambulance drivers for getting me off the mountain when I was truly sick. Thank you for saving my life.

---

Back in Marangu, Tanzania and The Rest of the Group Report

Just to close out what happened to the rest of the team. Everyone in the group made it to Gillmans Point, which is on the crater rim of Kibo, the big peak of Kilimanjaro. For that, they all received certificates.

In addition, Tom, Andy, Audrey, Jim, Ann, Maria, Dorrian and Peter made it to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the Kibo crater rim, and thus the highest point in all of Africa.

Congradulations to all! Even though I didn't make it all the way up, I feel like you guys carried me up there anyway.

We had a hell of a piss-up at the bar of the Kibo Hotel, let me tell you!

- - -

I was given, as I mentioned, as subscription for dexamethasone. For those of you who remember the movie Vertical Limit starring Chris O'Donnell, "Dex" is the drug that is so highly valued to save his sister, but the evil dude in the film is hoarding it for himself, even though he isn't sick.

I bought 2 tablets of 8mg each, enough to last me 4 days. It cost me 200 Shillings, which is around $US 0.20. Chris O'Donnell should do his shopping in Tanzania.

Posted by GregW 19:12 Archived in Tanzania Tagged travel_dangers Comments (3)

Day One on the Mountain

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa


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"As wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Mount Kilimanjaro." - Ernest Hemingway

Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5890 metres, is the highest peak in Africa. It also has the distinction of being the tallest free-standing mountain (i.e. not in an mountain range) and the tallest "walkable" mountain in the world. Today, the 23rd of January 2005, I will start my attempt to ascend to the peak of Kibo, the tallest point on the mountain.

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A Short Geology and History Lesson

Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, just south of the Equator. To the west lies the Great African Rift Valley, created by tremendous tectonic forces which also gave birth to a string of other volcanoes. One of these, Mount Kenya, was originally much higher than Kilimanjaro.

The three summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi are all of very recent origin. Shira and Mawenzi both have suffered considerable erosion and only jagged peaks remain. Kibo, the central, youngest and highest peak has survived as an almost perfect cone.

20050123 01 Kibo.JPG

It is unknown if any of the natives in the area had ever climbed the mountain all the way to the top. Europeans first arriving in the area heard tales of brave souls sent up the mountain to bring back the silver on it's slopes. They reached the silver slopes and gathered up the silver, but upon coming down the mount found the silver had turned to water.

Dr. Hans Meyer was the first European to summit the mount on the 5th of October 1889.

Interested to learn more? Click here.

The Route

I will be taking the Rongai route. Rongai is the only route over on the northeastern side of the mountain, starting close to the Kenyan border. It is not as popular as other routes, probably because it was closed for many years due to border skirmishes between Kenya and Tanzania. The route has re-opened (no more skirmishes) and is gaining popularity.

Day one is a 3 to 4 hour climb from Rongai village up to Moorland camp at 2600m, a rise of 650m. The climb is through a pine forest, emerging eventually into the moorland.

Day two is a 6 to 7 hour trek rising 1000m up to 3600m to the Kikelewa Caves camp.

Day 3 climbs from Kikelewa Cave to Mawenzi Tarn Camp, a rise of 730m to 4330m in 3 to 4 hours. On this climb I should see the giant senecios growing in an almost alien landscape.

Day 4 climbs across the saddle between the Kibo and Mawenzi peaks, rising 520m beforing decending 100m and ending at 4750m. The trek takes about 4 to 5 hours. The landscape at this high altitude is alpine desert. It's an early night to bed as the summit attempt is early the next day.

Day 5 starts very early as the drive to the summit happens at night, however, it will be a full moon so if the night is clear we should have good light. We leave the school camp probably around midnight for Gillman's point at 5735m above sea level. This will take 5 to 6 hours switch backing up the loose volcanic scree.

Arriving at Gillman's Point the Park Rangers will award you a certificate, but the real goal is still 2 hours ahead, Uhuru Peak at 5896m above sea level. Somewhere in here, the sun will rise and I will (assuming I am still alive and on the mountain) see the sun rise over the clouds.

After a short stint at the top, the descent starts right away. From the summit, we descend 2016m to Horombo Huts at 3720m altitude. All told, the summit and the descent will take anywhere from 9 to 15 hours of hiking.

The final day descends us back to Arusha at 1650m.

So, that, in a clinical, dull nutshell is the climb. The more important and interesting stuff should come in about a week, when I get on here and tell you how it ACTUALLY went.

Wish me luck!

Posted by GregW 19:09 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Faded glory in the shadow of the mountain

Marangu, Tanzania

sunny 25 °C
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The Kibo Hotel in Marangu, Tanzania is often described in the guidebooks as having a "faded" glory. The lobby bar and dining hall are decorated with the trappings of romantic Africa - spears and shields hanging beside skulls of dead game animals on a bamboo wall. The place used to be swank, witnessed by the fact that President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter stayed there in 1988 to tackle Kili, as well as the "Aga Khan's personal representative." I have no idea if the Aga Khan spent the night somewhere else, or simply sent someone to climb in his place.

So the Kibo Hotel is where I started my adventure. Or should I say expedition. Sounds much better, a mountaineering expedition.

I had a day to kill, so I wandered the 1 kilometer into Marangu town. I wanted to go and see the Kinukamori falls, about the only attraction in Marangu other than the entrance to Kilimanjaro National Park. The falls are the mythical place where a young woman who was pregnant was going to jump off so as to not bring shame to her family. She changed her mind and turned around to go home, but was frightened by a tiger and fell off anyway. That's karma for ya.

20050121 1..i Falls.JPG

I tried walking there on my own, but soon was lost. There are no signs directing you anywhere in Tanzania. Poor tourist infrastructure I was thinking when suddenly a man and young boy came up beside me and started talking. Soon they were leading me to the falls, and I realized that Tanzania has a fantastic tourist infrastructure. It's just that you have to have someone to guide you to places. But it is always so easy to find a guide.

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This is so common a practice that one day (after the climb) I was wandering into town with one of the mountain guides with me when an old man (obviously tipsy) came up and started walking beside us. He asked where we were going, and jumped ahead saying he knew the way. Well, so did we. When we got where we were going, the old man asked for money for "guiding us." Obviously my mountain guide friend refused politely. Or at least it sounded polite, it was all in Swahli. But I am sure he wouldn't be mean.

That night I went to sleep to a buzzing. I turned back on the light to find a large fly buzzing around my room. I grabbed the closest thing (the gideon bible) and started chasing the fly. Unfortunately, the faded glory of the Kibo Hotel also includes 15 foot ceilings, so I was no where near being able to hit the bugger. After a 10 minute exhausting chase, I had to give up.

"Alright, Mr. Fly, here's the deal," I said, watching the fly who had settled on the ceiling above my bed, "I am going to sleep, you go to sleep too, and we will continue this in the morning."

Amazingly, it worked. I woke up in the morning, and the fly was still in the same spot as the night before. When he heard me stir, he flew straight for the door and landed on the floor in front of it. I walked over, opened the door, and he flew out.

That, my friends, is the elegence of the Kibo Hotel. Even the flies are gentle creatures.

--------

The next day, I met the rest of the team on the expedition.

Our guiding crew is lead by Happyson (prounounced, Hap-son). He is assisted by guides Paul, Mikeke, Slyvester and Bernard. Our chef, or stomach engineer as he says, is James. Marathon is one of the porters, and our waiter most nights. We will also be accompanied by around 35 - 40 porters.

The paying customers are Tom. Tom is my roommate for the trip. 21 years old, this is the last blast in his 7 month around the world journey. Amazingly, he starts soon at Accenture, my old company, so I gave him what I hope are some decent pointers on how to get ahead in the company. As long as no one tells him I have been stuck as a senior consultant for 5 years, everything should be okay.

Jim from Glasglow is the senior Babu of the group (babu = grandfather, a name given to Jim by the guides). He's from Glasglow, and is on this adventure with his two grown kids, Audrey and Andy, and a friend of his Len.

Rounding out the group is Ann (Virginia, U.S.A.), LeBleu (NYC, USA), Maria and Dorrian (Welsh) and Peter (Ajax, Ontario).

The morning of the 23rd, we loaded up into a bunch of 4WD vehicles and started the 3 hour drive to the gate we were entering by. Half way there our 4WD dropped a shock. The driver got out, and after arguing with the navigator for a few minutes, they waved a passing truck over. They borrowed a wrench from the truck, removed the shock, threw it in the back of the 4WD, and we hopped back in and drove on. This, I would learn, is standard Tanzanian fix it behavior.

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And with that, we were off on the mountain.

Posted by GregW 18:59 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)