Sunday, January 10, 2010
We spent 4 days on the island of Zanzibar, visiting Stone Town historical sites and the wonderful beach village of Kedwa. We spent a full day snorkeling at Mnemba National Park and a lot of time beach combing for shells, taking pictures of the amazing blue water and nice local fishing boats, and swimming! There were these amazing old doors to most entrances in Stone Town. The whole island was without electricity because of the failed connection with the main land of Tanzania. Everyone was using generators, and only for a few hours in the mornings and evenings. Hence, it was a very uncomfortable hot and sticky tropical vacation. We spent as much time as possible on the beach, in the water, and walking around the town in places where there was a breeze. In both places we stayed was like sleeping in a sauna, seriously!Long sleeve shirts, shorts, big sun hats and glasses were essential to us in Zanzibar, as the weather was hot and the sun was strong.
We spent 9 days on safari, visiting Lake Manyara, the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park. We saw the big 5- elephants, rhinoceros, lions, leopards, and buffalo- amongst a lot of birds and many other animals. We had an excellent driver, Gaspar, who was very patient for Gordon's photography and knowledgeable of the animals and their whereabouts. We visited a Masai Village in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and a market town near the Tarangire National Park. I even bought a pair of the shoes they wear, made of motorcycle tires- they are not very comfortable- but some of them run marathons with these shoes. These birds, called Laurels, are brightly multicolored and were everywhere. This is the bee eater bird, a little larger than a hummingbird, but almost as fast. Masai Market A herd of elephants under a Baobab tree, which doesn't give much perspective to their actual incredibly enormous size. Masai boys This is the golden chested starling, one of the many busy birds of the forests. Horn billed birds This lion, perched atop a termite hill in the pouring rain, was constantly shifting to find a more comfortable position. The Masai women have a well developed talent of bead making; baskets, necklaces, bracelets. Masai child's trikeWhile at the Lobo campsite in the northern Serengeti, a pack of lions passed by our tent and at one point in the night a herd of buffalo visited us as well. We only saw 4 other safari cars in the 24 hours we were here, which is saying a lot since the central Serengeti is teaming with vehicles and it is impossible to see an animal and be left alone with it. This was the only male lion of which we were able to capture a decent picture. The males are usually hiding in the day time and very lazy. About 3 years ago there was a disease which wiped out all of the lions in the Ngorongoro Crater, we were fortunate to see one, and a younger of that. Just in front of him was a ditch with 3 lionesses seeking shade. This was the first herd of elephants we saw, after searching for them all morning. After leaving the best hippo pool we saw, just driving down the road, emerges these ginormous beauties to have a drink from the puddle in the road. We gently pulled over and they passed within just a few feet of our car. I was a little scared, they were so big! Elephants are very gentle in their movements and I love the way they swayed when they walk. While driving we passed a safari car with passengers who reported seeing absolutely no animals, except for some birds. We decided to continue down the road and then since we were discovering nothing interesting as well, we turned around and decided to just take our time and enjoy the birds and scenery. We stopped to photograph a bird on our left side and while Gordon was shooting, I decided to observe a bird on the right, which was just hovering over a tree. I was think it was strange that the bird (which had a very long tail) was not landing in the tree. I pointed out the peculiarly long tailed bird, so Gordon maneuvered his long and heavy lens over in the direction to look at the bird, and stated "There is a leopard in that tree!" And sure enough, our car moved about a meter more forward and we had a perfect view of this camouflaged lounging leopard. This was the best hippo pool ever, there must have been at least a hundred within this small bend in the river. Hippos made a sound that is somewhat like a mixture of a pig and a cow, difficult to explain, very distinct and loud. They have large teeth and are constantly yawning. Their mouths have a shape that makes them look like they are smiling, from ear to ear.
We ascended the Machame Route and descended the Marangu Route and complete the trek in 6 days. We conquered Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa and the highest point of the highest free standing mountain in the world, at 5,895 meters on Christmas morning at 7:00! This is the Machame gate, where vendors sell last minute stuff to tourists, which was a fortunate thing since Gordon misplaced his sun hat somewhere on the incredibly bumpy 8 hour journey between Nairobi and Arusha. This is where the adventure began- 4 days going up and 2 coming down. We had 4 porters and 1 guide. Some other groups of 2 like us had 10 porters and 2 guides, which were carrying portable toilets and tables with chairs. I am glad we decided to go cheap and simple. At the gate, porters have to weight their items, each is allowed to carry a maximum of 20kg. It was also within moments of this photograph that we realized our guide spoke a minimal amount of English. Our first night on the trek we stayed about 5 meters beneath this sign near the path on the left. This was our view of the mountain as we ate our breakfast. These men were smoking a questionable substance at almost 3,800 meters! On our second day we arrived at camp after walking 2 hours in the pouring rain. It was a colorful campsite with everyone hanging out their clothing to dry. It rained or snowed every day of our trek up and down the mountain. We collected our drinking water every day with our Katadyn water pump, worth every penny and ounce. Beginning our 3rd day of the trek, which was about 7 hours total, starting at the 3,600 meters Shira Hut up to 4,800 meters and then back down to 3,800 meters to camp at the Barranco Hut. Next Adventure (Portland, Oregon) shout out. Lava Tower at 4,800 meters, very cold and snowy. When we arrived at Barranco Hut, I had a headache from the altitude quick ascent and descent, and went to bed at 4:00pm after taking 400mg of ibuprofen and drinking a lot of water. the beauty at sunset This is a shout out to my Dad and Sister who love to stack rocks, there were awesome rock stacks all over the mountain lining the trails. On our way up to our final camp before the summit bid, surpassing the Karangu Hut where people who do a 7 or 8 day climb stay a night. Sunrise from about 5,700 meters. We started our bid at midnight, Christmas morning, from our camp at 4,800 meters. Approaching 5,100 meters we became delirious from exhaustion and altitude. Our muscles were sore from the prior 3 days of hiking and we had only 4 hours of rest during the night while climbing 7 hours from the day before. The guides continually say "pole, pole" which means 'slow, slow'. This phrase became annoying, so much that Gordon refused to buy tee-shirts with this phrase on it, as well as the phrase "hakuna matata" which means 'no problem'. We made it! Our trusty Merrell hiking boots and all. The mountain was crispy, with a fresh layer of snow from the night. It was a white Christmas of much celebrating to do with minimal energy. Now we had to go back down! Ugh. On the third day we were doubting if we could make it. But we persevered. Climbing a mountain is hard, the motivation and courage that one must have is indescribable. But, we did it! On the way down from Uhuru Peak, there were people still trying to summit who were a strange green color and vomiting, yet still going up! This is our last night on the trek at 3,100 meters elevation. On day 5 of our hike we were walking a total of 13 hours and journeyed from 4,800 meters to 5,895 meters and back down to 3,100 meters. Our legs were very tired and our beds felt good. It rained really hard this night and it was a slippery slide down another 1,400 meters to the Marangu Hut at about 1,700 meters. Kili Shout Outs! Denise Maxwell- we chewed gum most of our way up the mountain Sascha Hobyan- we saw people smoking at 4,600 meters elevation, remember Cuzco? Dad and Debbie- thanks for the hiking boots Cutlips- the footwear up the mountain was atrocious, nike could do some business there! Dooney- because we met an awesome Australian guy named Greg Dave Heath- to another mountain enthusiast relative Down Hill Doug- we thought we were going to have frost bite on our toes! Wilders, McDenkos, Saleems, Scholes, Ricks, Smith - thanks for wishing us luck