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Published: July 14th 2008
Jambo (Swahili for "hello"),
We arrived in Tanzania after a two day battle with Nairobi and Kenyan Airways. It seems the baggage handlers were on an unofficial holiday and failed to put our bags on the plane a couple times. After getting through that issue we took a short tour of Dar Es Salaam. We went to a huge fish market right on the coast. Although our sense of smell has not been the same since, we had a great time and enjoyed seeing a wide variety of fish and shellfish. Sean, I made a couple contacts for you, Africa Wild will be under way shortly.
After the fish market we were driving along the coast in a taxi and I took a picture of the beach. We were suddenly hailed down by a "policeman" waving a badge. Unfortunately our taxi driver had not been through this ordeal before and pulled over to open the floodgates for corruption and bribery. I was sitting in the backseat and after a few swift moves two dudes were sitting on either side of me and telling the taxi to drive. At this point B and I both remained calm; however I was
prepared for a bush knife or tribal spear to be hurled in my direction at any moment. Once we offered the guys some dinero they began haggling for more (luckily they did not know that we had been in Egypt a few weeks back and our negotiating skills are on point). We asked to see his badge and at the first hesitation we smelled a rat and told the guy to get out of the car. After a bout of yelling we had successfully recomandeered the cab and were on our way. The sad thing is we were expecting this kind of issue in Nigeria and although we had not completely let our guard down it quickly reminded us that we are still in a third world country.
That evening we took a short flight north to Kilimanjaro. Our bags arrived the next morning and we were off to the mountain with our guide (Anderson), assistant guide, cook, and seven porters (apparently they thought we were going to bring more stuff, our bags each weighed less than 15 lbs and our daypacks, which we carried, were around that weight also). We began our trek along the Shira route with
aspirations of reaching the summit in 6 days time. Each day was spent walking up a mountain (as can be expected when climbing to the highest point on the African continent). Not really that interesting except watching the flora and fauna change from thick rainforest to complete desert as our elevation increased. B and I entertained ourselves by counting how many times we went to the bathroom in a day (we had to drink water continuously to combat acute mountain sickness). I think the record was something close to twenty. We walked an average of 6 hours per day. Nights were spent enjoying the amazing food prepared by our cook and resting. On the 5th day we reached Barafu Camp (elevation 15,000 feet). We arrived in camp after an eight hour day of uphill climbing. After a quick supper we went to bed around 9:00 pm to grab a few hours of sleep. We awoke at 11:00 pm and began our final ascent in below freezing temperatures (camelbak was completely frozen 15 minutes after exiting the tent). When we left the camp we could see a neverending string of headlamps criss crossing up the slope of the mountain (it was
going to be a long night). Once underway the altitude and fatigue began to set in. Each step was harder than before and the concentration required to strategically place each foot up the hill with as little exertion as possible was nerve racking. The gravel slope on which we walked on was not helping either as each third or fourth step mockingly sent us slipping back down the slope.
Now I should also mention that over the past week leading to the final ascent we had walked past graves, stretchers and people being carried down the mountain because of the affects of mountain sickness. On our final walk up the hill we passed people puking, crying, and falling to the ground. At this point I think it is fair to say that this was one of the hardest physical activities of my life. I was so drained and delusional that the mountain seemed like it was getting higher as we walked and I believed the prospect of reaching the summit was unattainable. When we finally reached a false summit (Stella Point, approximately 1 hour from Uhuru Peak, the true summit) we realized that noone else was around. At first
I thought we were lost, our guide was whistling and flashing his light to try and find another trekking party. We realized that we had passed all the other climbers on the way up and we were in position to be the first group to reach the summit even after leaving up to an hour later than some groups (apparently this is a pretty big accomplishment and we had celebrity status for the rest of the day back at camp, first ones up, first ones down).
Our summit group consisted of B, Anderson (guide), Moses (asst. guide), and myself. The other porters stay at the camp for the final ascent. About 200 yards from the peak (a 15 minute walk) we turned around and realized that Moses was nowhere to be found. After calling for him numerous times he stumbled out from behind a glacier and was completely out of it. He could barely walk and although this was very disheartening for B and I since this was our first time on the mountain and Moses had done this a number of times before we reeled him in and headed back uphill. At 6:15 am we reached Uhuru Peak
and the highest point in Africa. We took a few pictures in the dark as the sun had not risen yet. As the sun began to rise we began our decent and saw some of the most breathtaking views of craters, glaciers, peaks, and valleys. The colors that we saw on the snow and in the sky were unbelievable. The sense of accomplishment after walking up a mountain for 6 days was indescribable (only about 50 to 60% of climbers reach the summit).
We reached camp two hours later, relaxed for an hour, had some lunch, and then walked another three hours downhill to another camp where we spent the night. This was an adventure that I will never forget. After the trek B and I were talking and the question came up whether we would ever climb Kilimanjaro again. We both quickly came to the same conclusion that we would never do it again. However, a few minutes later we thought about if one day our kids asked us to climb with them and we agreed that we would have to climb. On that note, I plan on hiding any pictures or evidence of this entire event ever
Below freezing and not even on the mountain yet
occurring and noone is allowed to mention that this happened from this point forward. Just kidding, this was extremely hard but extremely rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenge and an adventure.
The night we got back to town we drank about 20 beers and ran wild in the town of Moshi. I don't think the locals have ever seen anything quite like what we showed them that night let alone the fact that we had been on a mountain for a week without the comforts of showers, toilets (a hole in the ground was the only option), or cold beer.
We spent the next two days trying to recover from a brutal hangover while on a Safari in the Serengetti National Park. This was really cool and we saw a bunch of animals - giraffes, elephants, blue monkeys, vivid monkeys, baboons, impala, wildebeest, zebras, hippos, gazelle, rhinos, snakes, birds, and lions. We actually saw a pride of lions devouring a zebra 5 feet from the truck. One of the coolest things I have seen in my whole life for sure.
Well, Africa is coming to a close. We head to Australia
tomorrow morning. We will be traveling for 36 hours straight (Kilimanjaro to Dar Es Salaam to Johannesburg to Perth to Brisbane). We are both really looking forward to OZ and especially relaxing on the beach and enjoying the surf. We will touch base in a few days. Hope all is well with everyone.
Ashante sana, tuta onana tena (Swahili for "Thank you very much, until we meet again")!
Craig and Brandon
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