Tanzania

Day 76, 26th August 2009

 

Kahama:  308 miles

 

Q: Today we had to say our goodbyes to Joel and Hannah who are now going to head from Kigali towards Burundi … our route (with Chris, Sasha and the kids all in convoy) is taking us towards Tanzania so we can go to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro National Parks.

 

We were hoping to leave Kigali early so that we could get through the first 100km after the Rwandan/ Tanzanian border in daylight as it is considered to be another dangerous road full of "shiftas" or bandits. Unfortunately after changing some money and picking up some food for the journey plus the hassles at the border post, we only managed to get through the Tanzanian border after 5pm. There is a spectacular waterfall at the border crossing … so we stopped on the bridge in no man's land for a few minutes to take pictures. It would have been perfect had it not been for the constant drone coming from the Tanzanian side of the border … apparently, a guy converted from Islam to Christianity (or something like that) and has decided to let the world know all about it in an angry kinda way all day and all night. We were at the border for about three hours and he did not stop yelling down his mic for even a few seconds.

 

It got dark about 120km into Tanzania, so we assumed that we were going to be safe and dandy until we were stopped by an unofficial looking man holding up the traffic with a tree trunk across the road. He looked at us and said that it was too late to be travelling on this road and that we would require an escort. After a few terse words and continuing to ignore his "pay me and you can get out of here" gestures our little convoy was off again (plus no money being paid). Chris took the lead given his headlights light up the road like the sun.

 

We had asked at the border crossing if there had been any bandit activity recently and we were assured that there was nothing to worry about, so I recon that this guy was just trying it on. After a few more road blocks we finally made it into Kahama and found our place to camp for the night.

 

A: The place we finally stopped to camp at was called Golden Valley Hotel, a place some other travelers had camped at a few weeks earlier. We pulled up into the secure car park and a lady came to greet us. There is no camping ground here but it's safe and quite frankly the only place in town so it's the carpark here at the hotel or on the street. When asked how much it would cost for the two cars to stay in the parking lot and for the four adults and 3 kids to camp she told us it would be $40 per person!!!! Ahhh … what! When we asked how much a room was that too was $40 per person, this just doesn't add up!! A little confused, we left her to it without agreeing on anything and sat and had a drink at the bar. As we were having a cold one, a man called James approached us in a very abrupt and almost aggressive manner demanding to know why we wouldn't agree on the price!!! It was then that we discovered we'd been misinformed and it was in fact $40 for all of us...including breakfast … result!

 

Day 77, 27th August 2009

 

Mwanza: 183 miles

 

Q: Breakfast at the hotel was really good today. Boiled eggs and vienna sausages with coffee and mixed fruit juice … and of course some fresh pineapple. It was especially good as we had not really had a chance to eat much the whole of yesterday and had also skipped dinner given the time we arrived into Kahama.

 

Most of the morning we were chatting to Alex and James (owner and manager) of the hotel. Alex was once a potato seller and James was once a chef providing meals to over 5000 mine workers in the nearby gold mines. Gold mining is a big thing around here. I am sure that he likes the change as he now only has to make sure that 35 or so people are fed and happy.

 

The Smiths … or the Simpsons (who are now calling us The Foleys given the very large advert on our back door spare wheel) only poked their heads out of their Landcruiser around 10am. Everyone must have been shattered after the excitement of last night …  

 

A: Once the Simpsons were up, they had a quick breakfast while Andrew and I were getting the grand tour of the hotel by a very proud Alex. The hotel had only been opened four months and even the president had been to stay. He gets a lot of business from the mining workers that come from overseas so he is busy year round.

 

After a good three hours driving eastward, I began to see the deep blue water of Lake Victoria peering through the trees. The village of Mwanze was right on the waters edge and before heading to the camp we made as quick stop for fuel and food. A supermarket called U-Turn was programmed into the GPS as the best shop in town ... and most expensive too!! 5 pounds for a jar of mayo!!

 

Andrew did a little detective work to try and find us some fresh veggies and soon navigated us to a fantastic market near the centre of town. It seemed to be quite a novelty to have Mwazungus (foreigners) walking around the market and all the women were pointing and laughing at us especially one lady who thought it totally hysterical that Andrew and I wanted some of her deep fried Yam she was selling!! She was very sweet and gave us a particularly large toothless smile as we said goodbye.

 

By 4ish we were at the Yacht Club and began to set up for supper. The boys got the fire going and Sasha and I made good use of the fresh limes we bought at the market in our G & Ts.

 

The sun set and we sat around the fire toasting marshmallows while the Skyla and Leila did both mine and Andrew's hair for us. By the end of the evening, Andrew had three pigtails and I had acquired a hair accessory that looked a little like a cabbage had been planted on my head!! Beautiful ...

 

Day 78, 28th August 2009

 

Pimba Camp in the Serengeti National Game Reserve:  208 miles

 

Q: For 200 USD, you get … 24 hours in the game reserve plus a pitch in the public campsite that could do with water and ablution facilities. Nutz. Also, if  you come in from the Western gate (Lake Victoria side of the park), you have to drive almost 4 hours on 150km of dusty road to anywhere near where the animals are as the rains have been so poor over the last few years that there is only one area close to the centre of the park where you are likely to see anything.

 

Anyway, on our 4 hour drive through to Pimba Camp we saw a few things but not much. It is very dry here which must have affected the number of animals roaming the plains of the Serengeti. The top performers today came from the baboons, followed by giraffe, ellie, a few hundred zebra and impala and springbok and of course pumba.

 

Tomorrow is an early start (5am) so that we can get into the park and hopefully on our way out towards Ngorongoro before lunchtime (when our 24 hours Serengeti time expires). Ouch.

 

A: The Serengeti for those who haven't visited other parks in Africa is probably quite lovely but we were totally spoilt by our experience in the Masai Mara in Kenya a few weeks ago. You could literally drive right up to resting lions and sleeping cheetahs where as in the Serengeti you quite rightly had to stick to paths but in doing so could be so far from the animals that even through binos you could barely tell the difference between a buffalo and a rhinos so after debating each time, we decided on a new breed called a rhinufallo!

 

Halfway through the day we came across a mass of safari trucks that had stopped next to a dry river bed, someone had spotted a male lion but none of us could where it was. We asked the other drivers and no one could tell us either the direction it was in or how long ago it was spotted so we hung around for a few mins before we set off in hunt for other less camouflaged cats.

 

Pimba was a lovely campsite with views across the savannah. We parked at a 90 degree angle to one another to create an enclosed area so we were shielded from two sides from any wild creatures that may venture into the camp! As we sat around the fire, we heard a strange noise and after investigating noticed thousands of tiny bats emerging from the tin roof of the ablution block. One of the little guys decided to hang around and stayed clung to the mesh window while I took a shower!

 

After a good meal, ice cream, toasted marshmallows and a chin wag, we got an early night in preparation for our very early start in the morning.

 

Day 79, 29th August 2009

 

Simba Camp in the Ngorongoro National Park: 96 miles

 

A: The 5 am start proved a little difficult for me this morning and my body just wouldn't react to any intention to get up! The sound of the whistling kettle followed by the smell of coffee does the trick though and after  a few minutes I emerge.  Andrew finds it particularly funny to make roaring noises at me when my lion like bed head mane appears from the tent!

 

We're off and keeping a very watchful eye out for cats.....three or so hours passed and we pulled over at a junction with Chris and Sasha to discuss which direction to take, just then Chris mouthed LION and just feet from his window were two lionesses relaxing behind a bush....luckily that stop wasn't a loo break or we may have found ourselves in a bit of a sticky situation … Grrrr!

 

Q: The cash flow gets even better … for 300 USD you get 24 hours in the Ngorongoro Nature Conservation Area, a place to camp (with no facilities to mention) plus a few hours into the crater the following morning. The added bonus is that the 100km road between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro is horrific … almost as bad as the one that we had to pass from Ethiopia into Kenya.

 

Simba Camp is on the rim of the crater and we were lucky to arrive early as the tourists flocked into the campsite around 6ish.  Just after dark there was a commotion over by the water tank close to the camp toilets and kitchen area where a very large elephant bull had popped by for a visit. He was not all too pleased with the entire tourist population of Simba's camp fighting over each other to take a picture. It was funny to see the local guys ducking for cover to find a safe place away from a potential 10 ton elephant charge whilst the mazungus (foreigners) were happy to jostle for a photo position. Incredible. No one was hurt thankfully and the elli made his way back into the bush blinded by the camera flashes.

 

Tonight Angel prepared something that we had bought from the market in Mwanza which looked like hairy spinach but smelt and tasted like grass. With chickpeas and rice mixed in it was pretty good and the boerwurst from the shop in Mwanza was very good too.

 

Just before climbing into bed … with cold wind howling all around us, we noticed a few zebra grazing in the darkness not more than a few meters away from our camping spot. If the zebra can get into the camp site, well … I am sure that a few inquisitive lions or leopards could do the same. Zzzzz ….

 

Day 80, 30th August 2009

 

Arusha: 124 miles

 

Q: At 5am the alarm went off (second day on the trot). Opening the tent into the darkness I was only able to see about 2 meters in front of my face. A very thick layer of fog had come over the campsite. It was still bitterly cold so I got the kettle boiling as soon as possible before we headed off for another early morning game driving. We were going down inside the Ngorongoro Crater this morning which is should be some of the best game viewing in the whole of Africa.

 

First we had to drop off Donkey at the park headquarters as given the steep 200 USD per vehicle to enter the crater, we had teamed up with the Simpsons to save some cash. After agreeing with the wardens that we were capable of driving ourselves around the crater without a guide we were on our way …

 

As we came closer to the entrance to the crater you could see the floor through the clearing fog and we were sure that today was going to be the day that we would see all the things that we had not seen so far on this journey - a leopard and lion cubs (which we missed in the Serengeti). After 5 hours, the most exciting thing we saw a couple of hyenas chasing a herd of buffalo. The hyenas were outnumbered, outmaneuvered and outsmarted by the buffalo.

 

The scenery in the crater is absolutely breathtaking, and it does feel like this is the one place on earth where you can watch all life co-existing, but … without our leopard sighting I did leave disappointed all in all. I would quickly go back to the Masi Mara or Chobe in Botswana before digging deep to see the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater again.

 

A: We had until 11:30 in the crater before we had to ascend back to the gate to go and collect donkey and exit the conservation area by 13:00. I'd agree with Andrew about the game and the price, these past two days have been very expensive and we saw very little, maybe at a different time of the year with more rainfall we would have seen more but the Masai Mara wins it hands down for me.

 

From the Ngorongoro, we headed for Arusha and to our delight spotted the asphalt road as we exited the gate. We stopped off at a few curios shops on the way to try and find Rourke a masai blanket he had been promised by his mum and dad. They had spent 4 days with a Masai tribe and Rourke (8yrs) enjoyed it so much he tried to convince Sasha to leave him there and even asked if he could have the branding on his cheeks just like the Masai boys!!! Having been denied both the above they agreed to a blanket...

 

We arrived a few hours later into the town which seemed bustling  with market stalls so we stopped quickly to buy some fresh veggies and fruit for this evening, After bartering the locals down from their Mzungu price I walked away with a handful of new potatoes, carrots and tomatoes...supper tonight we've decided is beef stew. We bought beef in Mwanza a few days ago and after BBQing it  last night, soon realised it was better used for stewing..

 

We first went to a place called Masai Camp which was described in the lonely Planet as the best pick, the facilities were line but the site itself was very dry and dusty so we followed the GPS to a place on a lake. We drove down a track and arrived at a lovely location right on the waters edge with enough space for our two cars to sit side by side. Chris drove the car onto two rocks found in the nearby garden to level it out but in doing so, raised the back entry step so high that they all had to run and jump to get in the back.

 

We got set up nice and quickly and went and sat by the lake to watch the sun set.. This is always the best part of the day for us when we can finally relax, driving has been a tough part of the day at times especially when you have to contend with careless minibus drivers and wayward pedestrians!!

 

The stew is totally divine even though it took over three hours to cook. Andrew bashed the meat before we put it in the pot with a hammer to tenderize it a little and it seems to have worked a treat.

 

We're leaving early again tomorrow so we can make it in time for the 16:15 ferry from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar so an early night again tonight especially after my performance over the past few morning!

 

Nighty night...

 

Day 81, 31st August 2009

 

Dar es Salaam: 418 miles.

 

A: The drive was tedious and it took far longer than the estimated time of 6 hours so we didn't arrive into Dar until long after the last ferry had departed. We also timed our entry into Dar City very badly and the traffic was horrendous so we decided to park up immediately at a spot just opposite the ferry terminal at St Josephs Cathedral. We were told about this place by Sasha who said they left their Landie there and it was well looked after for the 4 days they were in Zanzibar. We stayed in a great hostel called Safari Inn which was well organized for travelers and for ten bucks each we got a clean double room with en-suite with hot water and breakfast. They also organised our ferry tickets for the 10:30 boat tomorrow so we didn't have to worry about not getting on.

 

Both famished having missed lunch, we had supper at Chef's Pride just a stones throw away from the hotel. It was a popular place and space was limited and just as we were asked to wait, a young couple we'd seen back at the hotel invited us to join them at their table. It's always good to meet other people travelling because you get some really good tips on where to stay, places to eat and unmissable things to do.

 

I ordered pizza and soon the Italian owner came out, delighted I'd ordered his Special pizza. He took great pride in preparing it and you could tell it was delicious. A lot of love had gone into making it. Andrew had serious food envy.

 

Q: There seems to be a direct correlation between us arriving into a new city and hitting rush hour. Good thing that the whole way here I was surrounded by a two of my favorite things … Angel (of course) and the magnificent baobab tree. There were hundreds of them scattered along the road as we closed in onto Dar. They look like wise and thoughtful trees … I recon that they could tell you a story or two about the last 100 years. I am sure to look out for them again as we make our way back to Arusha in a few days time.

 

It is gonna be pretty odd sleeping in a hotel bed after spending almost a month on the road camping. I prefer our roof top tent any day … the mattress is more comfortable and at least I know that the sheets are dirty … but only because I have been sleeping in them.

 

So looking forward to swimming in the sea in Zanzibar. A long swim will clean my feet properly (a first for a long time) and will also rid me of the itch from them pesky mozzies.

 

Day 82, 1st September 2009

 

Zanzibar: 0 miles by car but a few by boat

 

A: It's been almost a month since we slept in a Hotel bed and I don't miss it in the slightest. It dipped in the middle so we kept rolling to the center. Poor Andrew woke up with a particularly sore back which he's managed to avoid since we left the UK.

 

After a tasty breakfast of two fried eggs, bread, a banana, coffee and juice we set off to the ferry port to finally make our way to Zanzibar. We chose the fast ferry which got us to Stonetown in just two hours. The approach to the island was so beautiful, the water turned from dark blue to bright turquoise.  The island's water front is fringed with old white buildings with beautifully carved wooden doors and shutters. Zanzibar is known for it's carving and carpentry and almost every home and shop has a traditional Zanzibari door. Intricately carved and a work of art, if only we could ship one back to the UK!

 

We made our way to the Pyramid Hotel which had good reviews and sure enough it was lovely.  Getting to our room was a bit of a challenge though, climbing a few flights of stairs which were so steep you needed both hands to crawl up to the third floor. Our room had a traditional Zanzibari bed among other antique furniture and there was a lovely roof terrace with views over the winding cobbled streets of Stonetown.

 

After settling in and relaxing in the room for an hour or so, we took a stroll into town to go and explore the sights. The narrow alleyways are lined with colourful curio shops selling everything from kangas (a cotton wrap worn by women in Tanzania), kikoi's (a thicker plaid version worn by men in coastal regions) to beautifully carved picture frames. The pace of life here is very slow and relaxed and its easy to find yourself slotting into that way of life quite easily. The winding narrow streets are at times a bit like a maze but it's not too difficult to find your way out, the town is surrounded on three sides by the warm Indian Ocean so wherever you pop out it's easy to find your way home.

 

Sure enough we emerged from the town onto a beautiful white sand beach where we pulled out a pineapple we bought a few days ago and ate it in a secluded point by some rocks Its Ramadan here at the moment so there is nowhere serving food and we were advised out of respect we should not eat in public until after sunset!

 

We ended up in a place called Africa House for sundowners where we watched the sky slowly turn a vibrant shade of pink while lounging on luxurious day beds. This is the life!!!

 

Q: I like it here. If you are very hungry you must wait until about 6:30 in the evening and make your way to the main square on the waterfront where you will find a whole bunch of guys selling some very interesting street food. You can pick up anything from swordfish, tuna and squid skewers through to my favorite … the Zanzibari pizza. This thing is spectacular … it's a combination of chipati and a pizza that is fried in a pan. So good … plus it costs little more than a dollar. Pity they don't make them in very hungry man portions as you need about three before they touch sides. Angel took a shining to the fresh sugar cane and ginger juice that is made right in front of you by a man that has to work hard for a living ringing out long sticks of sugar cane for just a small glass of this juice.

 

Tomorrow we go on a spice tour which should be pretty interesting. It has been highlighted as one of the best things to do here and I am looking forward to the end of the tour where you go to the beach for a few hours to have a swim …

 

Day 83, 2nd September 2009

 

Zanzibar: 0 miles … a few in the daladala tour bus

 

A: Up early we had breakfast on the roof terrace, perfect until I spotted maggots in my orange I'd already consumed half of!! Today we've organised to do a Spice Tour so at 8:30 we were met by a guide and taken to join 10 others. The tour began in an area 20km or so north of Stonetown where we hopped out of the minibus and shown several types of unusual herbs and spices native to Zanzibar. A little further by car we went to another farm the produces spices such as cardamon, lemongrass, peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric and vanilla. We got to sample all of the spices and fruits one I had never come across before was the Jack fruit which looks pretty ugly from the outside, but tastes like a combination between pineapple and melon...delicious.

 

Lunch was also part of the deal and sitting on rattan mats under a thatched roof, we were served rice with all the spices we had sampled earlier in the day with vegetable coconut curry and fresh chipati. After an hour or so we set off to Mangapwani beach where everyone had time to swim in the clear warm water and relax before setting off back to town.

 

On the tour we met a few guys who were on a holiday for a month or so who worked in Sudan. Nick was from the UK and Christian from Poland. On our way back top town we suggested going to Africa House for a few beers so we all jumped off the bus and found ourselves a lovely spot on the terrace to watch the sun go down.

 

Just as we were about to leave I caught sight of a baby monkey running riot on the terrace. Turns out that he belonged to the owner's wife who is also a flight attendant on a jet so we chatted while the little fellow jumped on my head and played with my bracelet!

 

As with the baby elephant, I'm not allowed a little monkey either even after much pleading there was no backing down.....!

 

Q: No itchiness today after the swim … I hope that what has now become my gaping love rescue wound on my leg from the rafting in Uganda gets better quickly after a salty clean. Not that keen on starting up Killi with a hole in my shin. I think it should have had a stitch or two.

 

No guessing what I had for dinner today … another 3 of them Zanzibari pizza things. The guy who was cooking these delicious things was pretty pleased to see us as we brought everyone from Africa House with us. He must have made about twenty feeding everyone. I am hooked …

 

Next time we come to Zanzibar we have to go stay on the beach somewhere away from Stonetown. Stonetown is cool but I miss not having an empty beach close by for a swim.

 

From what I have read … the place we are going to tomorrow (Peponi) will be just what I am looking for.  

 

Day 84, 3rd September 2009

 

Pangani: 237 miles

 

A: Up super early this morning to get the first ferry to Dar so as not to spend the best part of the day in the car. We set off to a place called Pangani 350km north along the coast where we were recommended a place called Peponi Overland Resort.

 

So glad we came here it's so tranquil and serene. Our camp is right on the waters edge and no sooner had we arrived we were straight in the sea. It's low season at the moment so we've pretty much got the place to ourselves. We are here for two nights so plenty of time to do some much needed washing and admin … my least favorite activity … hand washing!! It's such a boring task and particularly dissatisfying when you are using brown water to try and wash white tops!! Whats the point!! They come out dirtier than before but just smell slightly sweeter!!

 

After three hours or so it's all done and our entire wardrobe is strung across the campsite flapping in the breeze, time for a G&T and some lunch!

 

Q: If there is somewhere in Tanzania that will make me come back … this has to be it. The campsite is practically on the beach in amongst the mangroves and there is hot water for a shower between 530 and 7 every evening … all of this will only put you back 5 dollars a night.

 

As the sun set, the tide went out and by darkness we cold walk almost 100 meters towards the reef beyond the shore break. With the light of the full moon it was easy to see hundreds of sand crabs busy digging their burrows and chasing each other about as they scavenged for food. I wonder if you catch about fifty of the little guys you can make a nice sand crab soup?

 

I am going to sleep all day tomorrow in the hammock and hopefully buy some fresh sea food from a local fisherman for dinner.  

 

Day 85, 4th September 2009

 

Pangani: 0 miles

 

A: I was woken early by the high tide and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, not a bad way to start the day! We had breakfast then went for a dip before the tide went out then took a stroll to collect shells. We spend the afternoon reading and blogging and lazing in the sun.

 

We ordered lunch at the bar, fish and chips for Andrew and a ciabatta for me and ate it on the beach under a palm tree. As we were eating a local fisherman approached us and asked if we'd like fish this evening from his catch. Andrew ordered an octopus which arrived just after at 4 ish and not being familiar with how to prepare it asked if they could do it. The fisherman took it to his sister's home where she partially cooked it with beautiful spices and fresh lime and just after 6 pm delivered it to us in time for supper.

 

Q: I am not sure if anyone I know has been presented with a whole octopus (still blinking at you) and then told that you now need to do something with it so that it becomes remotely edible. It was a much better idea to ask someone else to deal with it and sure enough, just before dinner, it arrived in a neat little plastic bag - chopped, fried and seasoned. Yum … although maybe a little too rich and given that Angel was not a big fan of the whole idea, there was way too much for me to finish. I had to put on a brave face during my fourth helping. Our camp guard was pretty pleased though … octopus leftovers for his post dinner snack. Next time we will go with the fish option. 

We head for Arusha tomorrow to face Mount Kilimanjaro. Other than the waves waking you in the morning (hardly a bad thing), it really is an unspoilt paradise.  Just leave me here with a fishing rod and I am sure that I will be just dandy for a few months.  

Day 86, 5th September 2009.

 

Arusha: 315 miles

 

A: We set off at 8ish from Peponi and on the way got a message from the Simpsons to tell us Chris had reached the summit of Kili last night and they were on their way south along the same road we were on. A little after an hour we met up and Chris gave us the details of his climb. It sounds tough but hopefully we'll all make it.

 

Q: All day we tried to contact the SOS Village in Arusha to get the directions to the village for our visit this afternoon, but for some reason the number we have for the project manager was not working. Pity … I hope that we can make up for missing this visit in Zambia.

 

Simon (my brother … aka Boet), Allan (aka Dillerman) and Peter (aka Dirtyman) arrived today to join us on the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. It was really good to have them with us as we sat around the fire at our Lake Deluti campsite talking about the past few months and also about the next week as we tackle Kili.

 

I am a little nervous about this trek up Kili … some say that it is not that hard, and others … I think others are more truthful in that they tell you that it is a pretty difficult mountain to summit given that you have a very short period of time to adjust to the altitude. I am worried about the cold more than anything, especially at night as our sleeping bags are only good for temperatures to as low as PLUS 2 degrees. It can get as cold as minus 15 at night so I recon that we had better take all our clothes up the mountain just to wear while we sleep.

 

We are leaving donkey at Deluti in Arusha as the manager assures us that he will keep it safe for when we get down from Kili in 6 days time.     

 

Day 87, 6th September 2009

 

Mount Kilimanjaro (day1): Machame Huts 7 miles on foot!

 

A: Allen and Peter got picked up by our climb organiser the porters and guides at 7:30 am and then headed over to us so that we could get to Machame Gate for 10. We'd packed all our gear the night before and thankfully Si brought us some essentials from the UK to keep us toastie on the mountain ... thermals, thick socks and fleeces.

 

We got onto the bus and greeted the many men who would be our porters, guides and chef for this next week. Our guide was a wonderful man called Michael, his assistants were Simon and Deo, the chef was John and our waiter was Msafiri. In addition there were a number of porters which all together, including us, meant that there were 21 of us heading up the mountain today. The porters would carry our bags as well as water, food and equipment for the next six days up to the altitude of 4600m where they would await us to summit and descend back to the camp before dropping a further 1000m to the last camp of the trek.

 

There were well over 70 people starting on the same route as us today and everybody had to register at the park entrance before you could begin. Our climb would take us up the Machame route which has a slightly higher success rate than many of the other routes mostly because you spend an extra day on the mountain allowing you to acclimatize to the altitude before attempting the summit climb on the morning of day 5.

 

We began to ascend with Michael our guide making sure we went pole-pole (slowly slowly). Michael was very informative and pointed out flowers and trees endemic to Mount Kilimanjaro en-route to our first camp. 

 

We were given a packed lunch before we set off and at 2 pm we sat on a big fallen tree and tucked into a cheese sandwich, a chicken leg, a boiled egg, biscuits, an orange and some fruit juice. Recharged we began the final push to camp and arrived at 4:30 where after we signed in at the registration office had hot tea and coffee waiting for us. It was all set up by the time we got there only problem was our tent was on a bit of a slope which until it was time to sleep wasn't an issue.

 

he only way to freshen up here is to have a baby wipe wash (not the best but the only way to avoid smelling bad for the next week) so after a quick wipe down and removing the black fluff and dust combo from between my toes. Allan, Peter, Si and I took a walk to check out the other camps and see if anyone was getting a better deal than us. We officially have the best spot in the camp, content with our find we headed back where Msafiri served up supper which was vegetable soup for starter and fried potatoes and beef stew for main. It was lovely and we were all quite surprised at how tasty it was. So far so good!!!

 

With the sky clear of any clouds Michael came to point out the spectacular view around the corner of neighboring Mount Meru and behind us the towering Kili ... it's just magnificent and you can see the large glacier consuming one side of the peak.

 

Q: If there is a large sign outside any shop or park entry office in Africa stating that they accept VISA don't always believe them. We could not pay for our park entry fee on our cards as the VISA machine was not accepting international cards today. Good thing that the guy from the tour operator was ok with paying for our entry fees (almost USD 2000) onto his credit card … we will pay him back when we get back down (if we get back down).

 

Just before heading off Allan and Peter found a guy that was selling wooden walking poles, so they bought a few as we needed to others to think that we were look a little more serious about our week ahead.  Not sure what it did for our kudos, most of the climbers that were heading up the mountain today looked very professional all with top of the range climbing gear. Ski poles are the in thing. 

 

Day 88, 7th September 2009

 

Mount Kilimanjaro (day2): New Shira Camp 5 miles

 

A: Geeez, the sloping tent proved to be a great big pain in the rear ... literally! We spent the entire night hitching ourselves up from one end of the tent to the other as we found ourselves in a heap at the bottom. We must have got just 4 hours sleep in total, all of which was disturbed by the continual disappearing act to the bottom of our sleeping bags!

 

Breakfast was hot tea, coffee or milo ... toast, eggs, fried frankfurters with strange bright pink speckles in them and Blue Band margarine (supposedly one molecule from plastic), luminous red jam and peanut butter. Not the ideal slow release breakfast but it's only me that moans ... the boys seem to love it!

 

We set off by 8 on a shorter trek of just 7 km, this time taking us out of the forest and into an open rocky terrain covered in heathers. There were just a few steep climbs but nothing too taxing. Peter incurred a slight problem today and after less than an hour walking we heard an "Oh dear" come from behind. Peter decided to hike in a pair of old school Timberlands which had served him well for over 15 years. Today however they decided to give in and pretty much fall to pieces. It began with the front of his soul peeling off followed moments later by the entire thing dropping off!! We'd spent the first part of the morning jesting at Allan about his gators (sleeve type things that cover the top of your shoes and calves to stop dust going in your boots) but they saved the day for poor Peter who had to utilize them to keep his soul in place along with an old shoe lace used to secure the front toe part.......

 

An hour passed and we heard another 'OH NO", you guessed it, the other had dropped off, not a good day for poor Mr Dirty Goudes. We did have a good old laugh though purely because Peter spent the entire journey from Arusha to the Park Gate telling us how great his footwear was and how our new Merrells were rubbish in comparison to his super stylish numbers!!!  Ahhh....

 

Q: At 3000m just above a tropical rainforest it is still very cold. Not only is the sleeping bag no good for cold weather … it is also way too small for me to fully fit in and get comfortable. Cheap sleeping bags from Decathlon designed for UK summer music festivals are not designed for these harsh mountain conditions.

 

My Angel powers up the hill ahead of everyone with her head down whereas I am the slowest in the group by a quite a margin. Our little team of climbers has to wait for me every half an hour or so to catch up. This is all part of the plan. Keep it slow on days 1 through 4 and then turn into a power house on the day that is needed come day 5. I am really worried that the altitude will kill me off before managing to reach the top so I am taking it real slow … Michael recons that there is a 100% chance that we will all get to the top.

 

Every time you look around you see something really spectacular up here. The views are incredible.

 

Day 89, 8th September 2009.

 

Mount Kilimanjaro (day3): Barafu Huts 7 miles.

 

A:  A lovely flat and lump free sleep last night but it's getting colder with every foot we climb and last night was particularly bitter. Sleeping in several layers along with my down jacket was the only way I could keep warm. Andrew suffers a little with the size of the sleeping bag, his shoulders are too broad and he gets so far in then can't move any of his limbs, I literally have to zip him in at night and let him back out in the morning!!

 

We're well above the clouds now so the view is magical. The peaks of the surrounding mountains poke through the clouds while Kili looms behind us.

 

Q: Today the trail took us up to a height of 4300m to a place called Lava Tower where we had lunch. From the Lava Tower you drop 1000m to the campsite for the night at a place called Barafu Huts. This is supposed to be the only part of our climb that we should "smell the mountain" … as Michael puts it. To me "smelling the mountain" equals a massive headache. Other than in an airplane, this is the highest place I have been to. It was not that bad to get there as the incline was very slow throughout the morning, but the way down was tough on the knees and legs as our muscles were only used to going up rather than down. I think we were all totally shattered when we got to the campsite and I needed a little snooze before dinner arrived … which surprise surprise was our chef's favourite - packet soup (this time a veggie version with floating carrots), vegetable stew and rice.

 

It was at dinner that it became apparent that between us we only had one painkiller each. Now … this is not such a good thing given that we were most definitely going to suffer from headaches given the thin air, so after rationing our miserable supply to half a tablet each to help us sleep we made our way to our tents.

 

My head was really thumping …   

 

Day 90, 9th September 2009

 

Mount Kilimanjaro: (Day4) Baranco Camp 8 miles

 

Q: Today was the day before our summit attempt and for some reason everyone seemed to be in good spirits. I was not so happy as my head was still thumping from the night before plus I had read last night that only three out of four people who go to Kili actually make it to the top. Eh? That is not great odds given that there are five of us in our group which would mean that at least one of us is never going to make it.

 

The first part of today's climb was straight up a cliff face which took us up to over 4000m in the first hour. The view from the top was magnificent. The rest of the day was up and down all the way until we made our final climb of the day to Baranco Huts which is where we would have a quick 3-4hour sleep before waking up at 11pm to head for the summit in the dark at midnight. 

 

The campsite is perched in a valley high above the cloud line with the summit of Kili visible above your head. Not a bad place to fall asleep …  even if it is just before you start the steep ascent in the early hours of the next morning and if you ignore the scraps of used toilet paper that are scattered everywhere around you. Seems like that at this height it is too much of an effort to go to the toilet.   

 

A: We walked today for over seven hours, mainly uphill so by the time we had reached Baranco Huts, we were all finished. With legs like jelly, aching bodies and fuzzy heads we were no use to man or beast so Michael lead us to our tents where supper was soon served up and we all climbed into bed for some much needed sleep.

 

Day 91, 10th September 2009

 

Mount Kilimanjaro: (Day5) Mkwera Camp 18 miles

 

Q: We did it … ! All of us made it.

 

Our summit time onto Uhuru Peak, which is 5895m above sea level and at the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro (which is the highest place in the whole of the great African continent ... !) was 7:30am exactly … well that is what the official log book shows. 

 

Slacking on days 1 through 4 was the best plan by far. Other than being bitterly cold I felt ok all the way up … maybe a little woozy once we started our descent. Allan delivered his previous night's dinner for us all to see at about 4am, Angel almost lost her fingers and nose to the cold at about 5am and Si decided to slow to an even slower pace than our early morning crawl speed. 

 

Reaching the top of Kili is not easy. The cold, the thin air, the lack of sleep and your aching muscles all take their toll. Without our guides Michael, Simon (who sang most of the way up) and Deo (who carried everything we dropped) there is no way that we would have made it up there. 

 

If you thought going up was hard, well … going down is just as tough. From the summit at Uhuru you make for Baranco where you rest for a few hours (until about 1pm) from which you are then marched a further 10kms downhill to Mkweru. Not much fun but so worth it when you get there as they sell beers at this campsite for the pricey sum of USD 4 each. I suppose someone should make money for carrying them up the mountain.

 

A: We slept for a mere 4 hours when Michael woke us for coffee and a pep talk before the summit. We were advised to go pole-pole, put on as many layers as we could fit and drink plenty of water. I thought I had it all sorted especially when I emerged from the tent with exceptionally warm hand and feet but soon the heat was lost and so was the sensation in my fingers. Toes and nose. Not to worry, I'm sure I'd get the feeling back in them as we begin to climb......

 

The pace was slow but often came to a grinding halt due to groups ahead of us stopping. This wasn't a problem until the standing around caused the numbness in my extremities to spread further. I began to have images of the end of my nose getting frost bitten, not to happy with the idea I shouted for them to move aside if they wanted to stop, very irritating given I was bitterly cold and very tired.

 

The first point you reach prior to the Uhuru is Stella Point which sits at 5750m, it was here we watched the sunrise which was so welcomed after walking in darkness for the previous 6 hours . It thawed my poor frost bitten body out too so the final push to the top was a little more pleasant.

 

The final climb looking back was quite amusing, Si was told to lead the pack and every ten paces, he would stop, bend over and place his head on the top of his walking stick. Funny thing was, we all did the same and for the final 45mins, it became a ritual. Si thought he was inconveniencing us but in fact we were all happy to pause to catch our breath which at roughly 17,500ft is quite difficult, the air is so thin and you gasp and gasp but are still lacking much needed oxygen.

 

We were exhausted but so glad that we had pushed on to the top. After quickly taking photos and resting for ten minutes we gathered our belongings together (and Allan who was fast asleep sitting on a rock) to start the descend back to camp.

 

The route down took us over fine gravel stones which although was easier than the up, was tough on the knees and thighs. One good thing was we immediately felt the effect of the thicker air. Exhausted, each one of us at some point took a tumble on the way down but managed to avoid injury. I managed to sink both my feet, toes first into the loose gravel and going at speed isn't going to have the best outcome. The rest of my body continued forward and I was soon flat on my face eating dirt! I had to giggle, I must have looked ridiculous ... camp is calling … loudly.

 

I'd never been so happy to see a camp as I did today. Within ten minutes of arriving, I was Baby wiped, changed and snuggled in my sleeping bag. We all thought that being our last day the chef would pull some delight out of the bag for us but no such luck, stew again ... yuck. Confident there was going to be nothing I'd miss out on, I went to sleep.....

 

 

 

Day 92, 11th September 2009

 

Arusha: 9 miles

 

Q: WW2 could have happened right next to our tents last night and I don't think that any of us would have even known … after yesterday I think everyone needed to sleep.

 

It took longer than we thought to get off the mountain and into the van that was waiting to take us back to Arusha. Before going back to Arusha we needed to find a bank that would accept our VISA cards so that we could pay back our tour operator who paid our park entry fees as well as get the money together for the tips we wanted to pay to our team that took us all the way to the top of Africa.

 

The porters are absolutely incredible. It is quiet sobering to see a guy hop past you on the way up carrying food, water, tents, baggage … gas cookers, tables, chairs while all we have to deal with is our daily requirement of water and a small lunch pack. They always greet you with a smile even whilst straining under 25kgs of your garbage on their heads all the way up and down Kili. I don't think that I would last a morning as a porter … tough guys with big lungs.

 

A: Andrew, Si and I decided to camp again at Lake Diluti so after spending the afternoon shopping and visiting the Tanzanian Park Headquarters to dispute a fine we incurred in the Serengeti, we picked up Peter and Allan from their swish hotel and had a big BBQ and some well deserved beer. By 9, I was too tired to contribute to any conversation so I left the guys to it and threw my limbs into bed.

 

Day 93, 12th September 2009

 

Marangu: 114 miles

 

Q: My Angel really likes snakes and they really seem to like her too. Ha … I don't think I need to say anything more about today.

 

A: We picked the guys up from their hotel and headed in the direction of Kili Airport. We had plenty of time to kill so we stopped of at a snake and reptile park which was on the way. We were greeted by a very sweet girl who firstly showed us a sand snake which was the only one they had that you could actually handle. I was first to hold it and noticed when it was time to pass it on, Andrew was last in the queue .. It did the rounds and came back to me, wrapping itself around my wrist and head, I had no idea I'd like a snake so much...!!

 

We dropped Allan and Peter off and headed to a village called Marangu to Coffee Tree Camp for the night before Si heads off tomorrow. We didn't get there until long after dark and it took us over ten minutes to find someone to let us in. Once parked up, I made us a quick supper, we were all still tired from our previous weeks adventure so we were in bed soon after. Zzzzzz!

 

Day 93, 12th September 2009

 

Moshi: 81 miles

 

A: We were woken this morning by a young boy sweeping up the fallen leaves in  the garden. He sang so sweetly though that you couldn't get mad at him. The owner was a very lovely old man, so jolly and friendly and he insisted on showing me around his coffee plantation and vegetable patch while holding my hand the entire time. His brother owned the adjoining Hotel so we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast there before finishing off some admin then heading to the Airport to drop Si off.

 

Q: Sad to see Si off at the airport, but we need to get moving South again if we are going to get to Malawi Lake to spend a few days relaxing before meeting up with Mom and Dad at Victoria Falls in Livingstone.

 

Mom and Dad have been married 40 years this year … phew, and have gone back to Victoria Falls where they spent their honeymoon all those many years ago. I hope we are not crashing the party.

 

We arrived pretty late into Moshi after stopping at the supermarket to pick up some food. Our campsite was not the greatest … we actually parked up in the parking lot of the Keys Hotel which cost us USD 10 for the night. Not great but we are planning on leaving at dawn tomorrow to try get as far as Iringa which is a long way away. The satnav recons that it will take us over 12 hours …

 

Day 94, 13th September 2009

 

Kizolanza (Iringa): 584 Miles

 

Q: 5am the alarm woke me up … but that was ok 'cause today we finally get to leave the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. I feel like we have been in this area for over a month and that we have long outstayed our welcome.

 

Driving early in the morning is the only way to travel in Tanzania. The really large trucks and buses have not started their journeys which makes a Tanzanian road almost wide enough for us to drive along. It is quiet terrifying when a large bus comes swooping around a corner towards you with the back wheels crabbing totally out of control. Only after a flash of your headlights and a very cautious approach can the two of you pass alongside each other. I would never travel in a Tanzanian bus … they are certainly not road worthy and the drivers are totally un-phased about the possibility of having a massive accident.

 

Before you arrive at Iringa you pass through a valley called Baobab Valley. It is one of the most remarkable things that I ever seen. Imagine driving through a forested valley of ancient baobab trees which continues for about 75km. We arrived at the valley for about 4pm, so the sun had started to cast long shadows which certainly made driving through the valley even more spectacular. There is no explanation as to why these thousands of Baobab trees have rooted themselves in this valley but I am very glad that they did. A couple of times we stopped to take pictures, but unfortunately we knew that we needed to carry on moving as there is nothing worse than driving at night …

 

A: We managed to make it through to Iringa while it was still light so the journey although long was very pleasant. The campsite we headed too was called Kizolanza. It is an old farm house that also boasts excellent organic food grown at the farm. While setting up camp, Mark the manager came over for a chat and told us that there was a set menu for supper if we'd like to join them. After checking out our finances we splashed out the USD14 each for supper and it was really worth it. We were met at our site by a staff member who escorted us to the restaurant, there was a man playing bongos as we approached and were shown to our table.

 

Supper was divine. Spinach soup with freshly baked bread followed by chicken with veggies and a tomato sauce and finally chocolate fudge cake and freshly brewed coffee ... heaven!

 

A few things about Tanzania that is important …

 

1] Park entry fees will blow your budget and don't expect any facilities at any campsites where you pay 30 bucks to stay. The sunsets are worth it though.

2] Beer costs a healthy TSH 1300 (about a dollar) in a can or USD 4 halfway up Kili.

3] Fuel ranges from TSH 1550 (for high performance BP) to TSH 1350 per litre which burns black from your exhaust.

4] Reaching Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro is tough. I would rather run another marathon than climb Kili again.

5] Tanzanian buses are roller coasters and should only be travelled in if you are looking for an exciting and life threatening experience.