Monday, April 7, 2014

Tanzania (Serengeti / Kilimanjaro / Zanzibar) Bonus Ethiopia February 2014

Everything you are about to read is true! Or is it? 

Pictures are broken into 3 groups, Safari, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar / Ethiopia (See sections below)

It has been over a year since I was in Africa. Maybe a better statement might be, it has been a year since I was exiled from Botswana. The main purpose of the this trip, to see if I might want to settle in East Africa, specifically Tanzania. Over the last year I visited many places in the United States and even though the United States continues it's decline toward a third world country the cost of living continues to be outside of my reach.

The big question for this trip, do I use my free flight strategy or not?

I decided that the best route for my journey was a 13 hour flight on Ethiopian Airlines from
Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Once in Ethiopia I would get a 2 hour connecting flight to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Back to my original question do I use my free ticket strategy?

I decided to pay for this ticket for one big reason, I had no idea what an Ethiopian jail would be like and did not want to find out. Thirteen hours is a long time to sit in economy class, but a business class ticket was an additional $6,000 which was slightly (about $6,000) above my budget.

How can we (Margarite and Big Ed would be joining me on this adventure) fly business class without paying for it. I came up with a solution, based on Ethiopian Airlines seating map, business class was relatively empty in particular seats 3A, 3C, and 4A where open. What I did next was ingenious. I put
the three of us in economy seats 33A,33B, and 43A.

I printed our boarding passes twice, the first time I printed the standard legitimate boarding pass. Clearly on the passes you see our seats were in economy 33A,33B, and 43A. On the second set of boarding passes I made a small modification. Using Photoshop I removed the first digit of our seat numbers. We were now seated in seats 3A, 3C, and 4A instead of seats 33A,33B, and 43A.

We used our real boarding passes until we actually got on the plane. Once on the plane we switched to our doctored passes and were escorted to the business class section which is like going from the 99% to the 1% in just 5 steps.

We were greeted by the business class flight attendant who quickly took our bags and handed us a flute of the best Champaign I have ever had. Shortly after take off we were served lunch which was a feast for a king. Our starter was a thinly sliced Filet Minion cooked to perfection. Our salad was a Caesar Salad hand made at our seats. For our main course, Rack of Lamb cooked medium rare with fresh vegetables and sweet potato purée. There were an assortment of desserts from homemade ice cream to cakes flown in from France.

Lunch lasted an hour and half. Once lunch ended the flight attendants handed out pajamas and slippers, I had never seen this before. In the front of the cabin there were 4 changing rooms with individual lockers. I took off my street clothes put them in my assigned locker and changed into a pair of very comfortable pajamas.

I returned to my seat which turned into a bed and I was fast asleep. We had taken off two hours late, it was just 2:00 PM in 8 hours it would be time to wake up in the time zone I would be living in for the next few weeks. My strategy to adjust to the time change without jet leg is to not sleep the night before the flight. This way I was assured a full nights sleep on the flight and complete time change adjustment.

I awoke at 7:00 AM Addis Ababa time. The flight attendant had just started serving breakfast, first
fresh fruit, then eggs done to order, for dessert French pastries. I think I need to go on a diet just from this flight.

After breakfast I went to change out of my pajamas and was shocked to see the changing rooms had been converted to showers. Each passenger was allotted 15 minutes to shower and change back into their street clothes.

What a great way to travel. We had a scheduled two and a half hour layover in Addis Ababa, with our two hour take off delay, and a strong tail wind our layover was reduced to 45 minutes. This actually turned out to be perfect. The Addis Ababa airport was like most small African airports, organized
chaos. We found our way to our gate with some help from the locals. As we boarded our flight I realized we would be flying a Boeing 787 Dream Liner, in business class. Flying the Dream Liner was like having a great dessert, business class was the cherry on top.

Our flight to Kilimanjaro was two hours and 30 minutes. We arrived a little past noon or about 16 hours after we departed Washington.

We were greeted at the airport by Freddie. Based on Freddie's driving, he was not Fast Freddie just Freddie. Freddie was a great tour guide pointing out all the sites from the airport to our hotel. We drove by the Tanzanite mine. Tanzanite is a precious gem stone only found in Tanzania.

It was a 45 minute drive from the Kilimanjaro airport to our hotel.

We will be staying at the Onsea House which is ten kilometers outside of Arusha. What a great place to hang after a long flight. The house’s unique name “Onsea” is a derivative of the local word for jaguar, one of Tanzania’s most magnificent creatures. The carefully manicured gardens include numerous fruit trees such as banana, lemon, lime, mango, papaya, passion, and more.

We were greeted with a champagne toast. Once checked in we decided a walk to town was in order. We had a 700 meter walk on the local road to get the main drag. We walked by many family run shops selling fresh produced grown in their yards.

Once we arrived at the main drag we quickly came to the conclusion that walking may not be the safest mode of transportation. We opted for Dala Dala or Matatus, this is a mini-bus that is designed to hold 10 people, legally can hold 15, the first one we got in had about 18 people, plus the driver and fare collector adding us brought the total passengers to 23, plus 2 chickens, a goat, a few sacks of potatoes and a partridge in a pear tree.

What a great way to travel, using the Dala Dala you really get to meet some great people. Every few minutes we stopped to let passengers off or pick up new ones. If someone in the back needed to get off everybody in front of them would have to get off the Dala Dala and then get back on before we
continued on our way. The road was two lanes, one for each direction of travel, though at most times there were several vehicles traveling across the road in both directions, plus stray motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.

The fare for the ten kilometer ride, 500 Tanzanian Shilling the equivalent of 30 cents U.S.

On our arrival in Arusha both Margaret I were right at home, after a year away we were finally back in Africa. I could tell the chaos had Big Ed a little out of sorts. Our mission was to find an ATM and buy a SIM card for our phone.

The ATM was easy there was one on every corner. We withdrew 80,000 shillings about $50.00, this should cover us for the next three weeks, I LOVE Africa. Next chore, buy a SIM Card, easier said than done. After asking around we found someone selling them on the street corner, right on the side of the road. I speak most languages though my Swahili is rusty, fortunately the vendor was very helpful, unfortunately my cell phone battery was dead, fortunately the vendor had a spare phone he
used to set my new SIM. Fifteen minutes and 3,000 shillings later I had a SIM card that had 100 minutes loaded. I LOVE Africa! Everything went well, once I charge my phone I should have full service

We walked back to the Dala Dala station and grabbed a bus back to the Onsea House. When we were about a kilometer away from our road we noticed we were the only ones left on the bus. The driver
pulled over and said this was as far as we go unless we pay more money. Even though we knew the original fare should of gotten us back to our original stop, we agreed to pay the additional dollar.

When we arrived at our stop Margarite and Big Ed got out and started walking, they had no idea what would come next. I acted like I was searching for money in my pockets when Margarite and Big Ed were about 100 meters up the road I yelled, "RUN!", as loud as I could. They looked back and saw me running toward them at a full sprint. The knew I must of done a dine and dash, in this case a ride and run, they both started running. Looking back I saw the driver and fare collector just looking dumb founded. After a few hundred meters of running we saw they were not going to give chase. I hate when locals try to take advantage of tourist, little did they know, I do not
consider myself a tourist, as Africa is the place I consider home.

Once back at our hotel we took a power nap and then headed to dinner which was served at 7:00 PM. A very nice meal and a great sunset.

Day 1

We spent our first full day in Arusha. Our hotel is 10 kilometers outside of town. We had two places we wanted to visit

The first was the Shanga House. The Shanga House is a workshop for physically disabled and deaf
citizens who otherwise would be a burden on their families. At the Shanga House they earn a wage, learn a skill, and demonstrate that they are able to be independent. Tanzanian culture has not yet accepted this concept. The crafts were lovely jewelry, glass work, fabrics, etc.... There is also a restaurant attached which is where we had lunch. What a great place to visit and great experience.

The second place was the Heritage Culture Center, which is a huge tourist trap worth going to as long as you know it is a tourist trap. They
have great art in an art shop disguised as a Art Museum, the building is modeled off the Guggenheim in New York City. This art shop has the largest collection of African art anywhere on the continent (or so they say).

Today our transport of choice, the Dala Dala. Before leaving we told the receptionist at the hotel we planned to take a Dala Dala she laughed and said the Dala Dala is for locals, not tourist. We laughed back and said we are locals. She insisted on given us her phone number incase we got in trouble, but no trouble was found.

Day 2

Today we depart for the Serengeti. Kawaga, who will be our guide for the next 4 days picked us up at 8:30 sharp. No African time here (in Africa if a person show up within a few hours of their promised time they consider themselves on time, this is called African

Our first order of business was drop off some items we brought to donate to our porters. Rather than
cart around 10 pair of running shoes, many shirts, two pair of hiking boots, a down coat, and some rain gear, we decided to drop it all off at our guides office before heading off on Safari.

Once our drop off was completed we were off. We had what was advertised as a 6 hour drive to the Tanzanian, Serengeti. We left Arusha on a similar route as the one we took to get to the Shanga House. Two distinct differences: One - we turned south sooner (taking some local roads) so we passed by the Arusha Cock Tower. The clock Tower sits exactly half way between Alexandria Egypt and Cape Town, South Africa. Two, we made much better time
getting through town in a private car, than we did the day before in the Dala Dala.

Our route to the Serengeti took us west through Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Ngorongoro Carter is the center point of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest volcanic crater in the world, it is 19 kilometers across. The crater is so large it has it's own ecosystem. We stopped at the rim of the crater for a quick break and to snap a few pictures. We could see elephants, zebra, water buffalo, and wildebeest all roaming the crater floor.

The Masai tribe lives in this area, they are nomadic cattle and goat herders. As we continued our drive toward the Serengeti we saw many young boys tending to the family animals. We topped out at 7,500 feet in altitude which was at the craters rim. As we reached the Serengeti plains we were closer to 3,500 feet.

The road from Ngorongoro to the Serengeti was rather rough, a very bumpy dirt road. Once we hit
the plains we turned toward the north west and free wheeled it across the plains. We were sure glad Kawaga knew where he was going, to us ever direction looked the same.

As we crossed the plains we saw lots of wild life, gazelles, wildebeest, zebra, vultures and more. As we got close to camp we saw a pride of lions sunning themselves, a cheetah stalking a gazelle, and some elephants having their lunch.

When doing a safari your guide can make or break you, so far Kagawa was making us. Once we arrived at camp we were met with hot towels to wipe our hands and face and hibiscus juice to refresh ourselves.

We would be spending the next 4 nights at Chaka Camp. Chaka Camp is a moveable wilderness camp, the name for Chaka Camp was inspired by a traditional Swahili word “kichaka” which means “bush.” A high-end mobile tented camp, Chaka Camp is located in Tanzania’s Ndutu, though from May to November it is moved to the central Serengeti thus following the incredible annual spectacle of the blue wildebeest migration.

This authentic African bush camp has accommodations reminiscent of colonial tents of previous centuries. Several en-suite sleeping tents feature comfortable furniture as well as décor that was
designed and built by local Tanzanian artisans. All tents have large beds, a desk area, 24-hour electricity (solar-powered and backup generator), running water, flush toilets, and camp chairs on the tent’s “front porch,” allowing for game- viewing by day or night. Our first night a baby elephant walked right through camp, 20 meters from our front porch.

Dinner was served at 7:30 PM and a gourmet dinner it was, then off to bed. We were all beat, our scheduled 6 hour drive to camp was over 9 hours due to many unscheduled, but well enjoyed stops along the way.

Day 3 (Day 1 Safari)

Our first day of Safari in the Serengeti. Our wake call was at 5:45AM, mango juice and tea delivered to our tents. Breakfast of made to order omelets was at 6:15AM and we left for our game drive at 7:30AM. The one difference we immediately saw with the Safari in the Serengeti compared to other safaris we have been on, the crowds. South Africa and Botswana if we saw two or three other jeeps while out on a game drive that would be a lot.

At one sighting of lions we saw 25 other jeeps. This concerned us, as the crowds stress the animals. Kawaga agreed, so we kept our time at animal sightings to a minimum.

After seeing many spectacular animals including a beautiful Jackal, we return to camp at 12:00. Lunch of chicken salad, avocado salad and sweet potatoes was served at 12:30 all the food was
gourmet quality. Our afternoon game drive would depart at 3:30 PM, so we decided on a nap.

The afternoon game drive was as, if not more spectacular than the morning drive. We went out to the plains and found a Cheetah stalking a gazelle, clearly the Cheetah was not that hungry as it was not trying very hard to catch the gazelle. Kawaga handed us his binoculars and told us to look out on the horizon. "What do you see?", he asked with a bit of a laugh. As we took turns looking we all came to the same conclusion ants, thousands of them all marching across the plains.

Kawaga started the jeep and headed toward the horizon, he was laughing even harder at this point. As we got closer to the ants we realized they were actually Wildebeest, hundred of thousands of them, all
slowly moving toward us. Kawaga explained this was the great migration. As the rains come to this area so do the Wildebeest. We spent a good bit of time just watching in awe. This is what North America must of been like before most of the American buffalo were slaughtered.

As we watched the wildebeest, we had not noticed the skies were getting darker and darker, creating
very unique shapes in the skies. All of a sudden the skies opened up and the rain was coming down in buckets. It was getting close to dinner, perfect timing as we headed back to camp.

A well deserved hot shower, a great dinner and off to bed.

Day 4 (Day 2 Safari)

Today we asked if we could view some Pink Flamingos, the area we are at is well know for
both Flamingoes and Pelicans. Kawaga is such a great guide he obliged and took us to the waters edge, which is the border between the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Kawaga granted our wish. Feeding at the banks of the lake were pink flamingoes. Every so often one would stretch out it's wings to dry them in the sun, or a group would fly across the lake, what a great photo opportunity.

After viewing the flamingoes we headed for the plains. What we saw was indescribable, hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest as far as the eye could
see. They were all eating and slowly walking north on their great migration. At one point we saw two Hyenas following the herd. Kawaga explained this is the calving season, when the wildebeest give birth to their calves. While a full grown wildebeest is to large for a Hyena to kill, a new born is not. The Hyena's will follow the herd hoping for the opportunity to catch an unsuspecting new born.

Time flies when you are having fun, before we knew it, it was lunch time so we headed back to camp. Over the last few days it has rained off and on with the first night being a torrential down poor. This morning was the first morning with no rain and lots of sun, which allowed the ground to dry. It
had been a few days since we had run so we decided a 3 mile run was in order. One issue, lions! We were advised running was fine as long as we stayed within 10 feet of the tents. The distant from the furthest tents was 2 tenths of miles for a loop of 4 tenths of a mile, back and fourth we went, 7 and a half times. It felt good to be moving.

A cold refreshing shower and then back on game drive. This afternoon we went looking for cheetahs, we did not have much luck, but did stumble upon a pride of lions that had just taken down a full grown Zebra. What a sight, the lions
were quickly devouring the zebra. Clearly there was a hierarchy to the pecking or should I say feeding order of the pride. The male was not present, so the adult females ate first with the cubs to follow. Once a particular lion was full it would walk away and fall asleep, allowing room for another to step in and start eating. Watching all this eating was making us hungry so we decided to head back to camp for some dinner.

I had been sleeping very deep while on safari, it is very dark and the peaceful sounds of the animals puts me to sleep. I was surprised when I awoke in the middle of the night to what I thought was an earth quake. The entire tent was rumbling as if a freight train was going right through. This lasted for about fifteen minutes. I would learn the next morning that the lions had been hunting buffalo, and the herd of buffalo thought a run through camp might be a good escape plan. It must of worked as we did not see any lions eating fresh buffalo when we went out on our morning game drive.

Day 5 (Day 3 Safari)

Today we will be having breakfast out on the plains. What a beautiful way to enjoy nature. Before our
special breakfast we visited the pride of lions that had been eating the zebra the afternoon before. The males had returned and the entire pride was being lazy by the waters edge enjoying their full bellies. It was now our breakfast time, we found a spot in the middle of the wildebeest migration, set up our table and chairs, and enjoyed a fantastic view of the Serengeti.

Once breakfast was complete we were off to find some wildebeest cows given birth. We found some hyenas which meant we were close. We continued our drive and noticed more and more cows with wildebeest babies.

All of a sudden Margarite noticed a wildebeest cow giving birth, what a sight. Within minutes of the calf being born it was trying to stand, within a half hour it was walking, which quickly turned to running. What a great experience. Two days before we saw lions right after they had killed a wildebeest and today we saw a wildebeest being born. We continued our search for calves being born.
While on this search we saw, elephants, giraffes, and even a warthog. We stumbled upon a cheetah and it's cubs hidden in a den.

It had started raining again and it was close to lunch so we headed back to camp.

During our afternoon break we had another torrential down poor. I now know where the saying, "it's raining cats and dogs", comes from. These rain drops were as large as a large cat or small dog. The rain caused a lot of flooding.

By 3:30 PM the skies were still overcast, but the rains had stopped. We decided it was time for
another game drive, this would be our last in the Ngorongoro conservation area.

As we drove out of camp the dirt or should I say mud roads were very slick, the jeep was sliding around like a car on ice. To avoid a washed out area of the road Kawaga went off road and quickly got stuck in a small ditch. The right rear tire was hanging in mid-air and the rear differential was sitting on the ground. We were high, but not so dry.

Kawaga quickly realized we were not going to be moving anytime soon, without some help. Luckily we were only about a quarter mile from camp. Kawaga returned a few minutes later with
another safari vehicle and the camp work truck.

With a little digging and tying all three vehicles together we were able to free our jeep. We created a caravan so to speak. The work truck, the safari jeep and then us. All cabled together all pulling together.

It worked! back on the road again.

We headed down toward the lake, Kawaga was very careful not to get stuck as we navigated the mud roads which were more like small rivers. The wildebeest were crossing the lake at a narrow section, lined up in pairs, thousands of wildebeest
running through the lake. This is a sight no camera or description can do justice.

From the lake we headed up the far bank, we stayed with the jeep that had pulled us out. Safety in pairs (just like the wildebeest), the chances of getting stuck ahead were high.

We came upon a cheetah with 5 cubs. What a sight, the cubs playing with each other being mischievous. There were maybe 8 to 10 other safari jeeps watching the cubs. As the group started disbanding we noticed a common theme, jeeps getting stuck.

As the water from the rain soaked the ground it had become even softer and slicker. We were confident in Kawaga and his driving skills. Our buddy's jeep who had helped rescue us was not as skilled and quickly got stuck. We went to help, he was only about 100 meters away. A few other jeeps came over to help. Big Ed and I were more spectators than helpers. As we watched the rescue we realized we were standing 100 meters from a female cheetah and her cubs. As we continued to watch
the rescue we hoped the cheetahs were not hungry, or if hungry, would notice the guides had a lot more meat on their bones than us.

Once the jeep was free from the mud, we all decided a caravan back to camp would be prudent. We had another fantastic dinner and then went to pack as we would be departing in the morning for the next leg of our trip.

Day 6 (Day 4 Safari)

We departed at 7:30AM not quite retracing the route we took to get to camp. With all the rain Kawaga felt it would be better if we did not cross the plains on our return trip. About half way through our journey we stopped for lunch and had some fantastic African Red Bananas.

We also stop at the Shanga House to buy a few gifts then stopped in the centre of Arusha for some supplies. Big Ed needed an extra set of batteries for his flash light and I needed a cable for my GPS watch. Fortunately my Swahili had improved over the last few days. We found the people of Arusha to be very helpful and quickly found Connie's Electronics. Connie's was like a Radio Shack on steroids. Quickly the owner i.e. Connie, located both the batteries and cable we needed. I think if we asked for parts to build a short wave radio he would of being able to supply us.

From downtown Arusha we headed towards Arusha National Park. Our next stop was to meet our guide that would be guiding us up Mount Kilimanjaro.

We met Msuri (our guide) for our hike briefing, after quick introductions we got down to business.
Msuri explained we will be hiking the Machame Route. Normally this is a 7 day, 6 night route, we will be doing it in 6 days, 5 nights. Msuri had heard Margarite always likes to push herself so he wanted to make the hike more of a challenge for her. I guess Big Ed and I do not get a vote.

After the briefing Kawaga took us for a game drive through Arusha National park. Another fantastic view of nature. We got a glimpse of the Colobos Monkey (Black and White) which is only found in this area. Another fantastic bonus was seeing pink flamingos lining the banks of Big Momella Lake, it was like a blanket of pink surrounding the lake.

What a great end to 4 days of safari where we saw the following animals and birds.

Predators: Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Laughing Hyena

Animals: Wildebeest, Thompson Gazelle, Grand Gazelle, Mongoose, Slender Mongoose, Common Jackal, Black Jackal, Zebra, African Water Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe, Bush Buck, Heartbeast Impala, Mice, Eland,Blackface Velvet Monkey, Baboon, Fox, Warthog, Waterbuck, Colobos Monkey (black and white), Hippopotami

Birds: Dark Eagle, Pale Eagle, Fish Eagle, Marshal Eagle, Vulture, Marabou Crane, Starling, Love
Bird, Ostriches, Pink (lazer) Flamingo, Pelican, Redneck Spurfowl, Ginny Hen, Egyptian Goose, Augur Buzzard, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Black Smith Plover, Crown Crane, Bulbul

We were welcomed at the Hatari Lodge like we were royalty, Champaign reception with caviar. Our rooms were spacious and very comfortable.

We were getting spoiled by the treatment and quality of both food and service we have been receiving.

Day 7 (Rest Day)

Today we opted for a 3 hour nature and village hike near Hatari Lodge. Makili our guide was very
knowledgeable and spent a lot of time explaining why different things occurred in nature. A very enjoyable hike.

This afternoon we organized and packed, tomorrow is the big day.

Safari Pictures

Day 8 (Climb Day 1)

No matter what if you ever plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro DO NOT use Duma Explorers, as you read this you will find out why. They were great for the Safari, but not the mountain.

We were told by Msuri we would be picked up at 9:00 AM. (remember up to this point everything
had been going like clock work no Africa time for us.) The explanation on the pick up time made sense. We had a 2 hour drive, it would take the porters an hour or two to weigh in. That would take us to some where between 12:00 and 1:00 o'clock. Msuri said we had to be on the mountain by 2:00 PM at the latest because it was a 5-6 hour hike and he wanted us at camp before it was dark. This sounded great.

As 9:30 AM came and went we started to worry. The owner of Duma Explorer is Stacy Readal. I had her cell phone number so I started to call and text with no results. The staff at Hatari lodge also called the Duma Explore office and had the same results, no response.

Finally at 10:30 Kawaga and Msuri showed up. The were very apologetic and explained traffic and
rain caused the hour and a half delay. The plan was to drive fast and make up the time. We arrived at the Machame Gate at 12:00 PM we had 2 hours to weigh in the porters. No problem, we were ready to go at 1:00 PM. At least we thought we were. Msuri / Duma Explorer had not paid for our permits yet. We were told the rangers credit card machine was broken but would be working shortly.

1:00 PM .... 2:00 PM .... 3:00 PM we were still at the gate. We found out they do not let you start the hike if it is past 5:00 PM. At this point there were three groups that had not departed. We noticed other groups had departed during the time the credit card machine was supposedly broken. We asked Msuri about this, and the answer we got was that the debit card they had did not have enough money on it to pay the permit fee. He went on to explain that Stacy's husband was going to go to the bank with cash to put more money on the debit card. It would take less then, 15 minutes, it was 3:45 PM. We decided at 4:00 PM we would abundant our plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Margarite went to talk to the park ranger and
found out they take credit cards. It was now 4:00 PM and the debit card was still not working.

We made an executive decision we would pay the permit fee with our credit card. What we did not know was this fee was $2,100 U.S. We had no choice! Like I said never use Duma Explorers.

We departed on our 9.5 kilometer hike were we would gain 4,000 feet in elevation at 4:15 PM, 3 hours after our best case departure 2 hours after our worst case departure. As we started the hike we passed a group off kids from the United States doing a gap year traveling around the world. They were hiking very slow, some of them were in just shorts and sandals. It gets dark at 6:30 - 7:00 PM. Fortunately Margarite, Big Ed and I, are fit people, we covered the distance in 2:48 minutes getting to camp just as it was getting dark. As we hiked the temperature got colder and colder. We did not have any warm weather gear with us (the porters had it), since we were pushing ourselves we stayed warm and only
got cold as we got to camp. If we were not fit (like most of the hikers) and it took as the 5 - 6 hours who knows what type of condition we would of been in when or if we arrived at camp. Our assistant guide Michael stayed with us the whole time though we had to share our energy bars, he had no food with him. Msuri could not keep up with us, though we need to mention he started about 15 minutes behind us.

What we did not know is how day one would effect our success. Acclimation is key to a successful Kilimanjaro climb. To acclimated properly you must go slow. We certainly did not go slow. In fact Michael said he never saw guest do
the first day as quick as we did. At one point in the hike Margarite who was setting the pace said, "pole pole!", which means slow down in Swahili. Michael yells out, "she says, pole pole, but she does not do pole pole"

While the day was pretty much a wash and cost us an additional $2,100.00 U.S. We did see a few ferns and moss covered trees as we hiked at lightning speed.

Our guides and porters are doing a nice job, besides not being 100% honest with us about the debit card situation, they have been working hard to make us comfortable. They even carried a portable toilette up for us.

Dinner was vegetable soup, fried tilapia, vegetables and potatoes. For dessert fresh bananas.

Sleep came rather hard for Margarite and I. For me, I was still steamed about how terrible Duma Explorer is to deal with. For Margarite her mattress pad was a little lumpy. Big Ed seemed to sleep great.

Day 9 (Climb Day 2)

Our wake up call came at 6:30AM with hot tea and a wash basin to freshen up. Breakfast was porridge, follow by eggs, sausage, potatoes, and beans. They clearly wanted us to get fat.

Leaving at 8:30 AM we hiked from Machame Camp (3,000m/9,840ft) to Shira Camp (3,840m/12,600ft). Elevation Gain: 840 meters, 2,760 feet. Although considered to be the easiest day on the Machame Route, today’s trek included many uphill sections. There were many viewpoints from which we could see the plains and forests below and Kibo and Mawenzi peaks above. We truly
notice the change in vegetation as we gain altitude. The trees diminish in size, giving way to Kilimanjaro’s famous high altitude plants, Scenecio kilimanjari and Lobelia deckenii.

We stopped for lunch on the trail, great food again, more then we could eat so we shared with the porters. The porters are incredible some in only shorts and sneaker carrying 44 lbs of supplies for the
camp, many times balanced on their head, plus their own supplies. This includes the portable toilette

We arrived at camp at 1:30 PM a much more acceptable time than the day before. After a quick nap we went exploring. What a very cool place you can see how the terrain was created out of the lava flows.

At 3:30 AM we saw the college kids (the ones we passed on day 1) coming in two hours after us. We asked them what time they got in the night before. The told us they broke into three groups, the first group got in at 9:15 PM over two hours after us, the second groups 10:00 PM, and the last straggler after being helped by the rescue team, 10:30 PM. Though we are not 19 years old we are fit and happy we are, we would of been even
happy if Duma explorer was a better company.

Day 10 (Climb Day 3 )

Today we hiked from Shira Camp (3,840m/12,600ft) to Barranco Camp (3,950m/12,960ft) Total Elevation Gain: 690 meters, 2,264 feet. Although this up and down day ends with an elevation gain of only 110 meters, by early afternoon we had climbed 690 meters to a height of 4,530 meters before beginning your descent to Barranco Camp.

Today was crucial for acclimatization, especially with the speed we hiked the first day. After breakfast we hiked east on the Shira Plateau before reaching the junction for the Shira and Lemosho Routes. We Continued on through the barren landscape before stopping for lunch at Lava Tower the highest point on today's hike. After lunch we descended quickly to Barranco Camp. Both Big Ed and Margarite had slight headaches, I was feeling lethargic,
but no headache. Msuri suggested we all drink more water and go for a little walk. We all felt better after following Msuri's instructions.

Another day of amazing porters doing a great job, carrying all our stuff as well as their own stuff. Making our comfort their number one priority.

Day 11 (Climb Day 4 )

Today will be our fourth and fifth day of hiking, you will understand in a minute.

We left Barranco Camp (3,950m/12,960ft) to Barafu Camp (Base camp)(4,600m/15,100ft) Elevation Gain: 650 meters, 2,133 feet. The day began with an hour and a half scramble up the Barranco Wall. In some places we had to use our hands to pull our bodies up. After reaching the top, we hiked through fairly level terrain before making a short but steep descent into the greener Karanga River Valley. On the way to Barafu, we could see several of Kibo’s glaciers as well as the junction that connects the descent route, Mweka,
with the Machame trail.

Although the trail to Barafu Camp, passes through the alpine desert with little vegetation, Barafu Camp offers stunning views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.

We arrived at camp at 1:30 PM we immediately found our tents and went to sleep.

Tonight would be our summit night. Our waiter woke us at 4:00 PM for an early dinner. We were all feeling good and getting excited about the final summit. After dinner it was back to sleep. We had maybe 4 hours before we would be woken up (11:00 PM) to start the final accent.

At 9:30 PM Margarite woke me, she was violently ill. She was throwing up into a zip lock bag. Everything she had consumed in the last 24 hours was coming back up, lucky for us we had large zip lock bags. She
looks over at me and says, "I feel like crap, but if you want me to I will still summit." I explained that would be up to her and the guides. All of a sudden we hear wrenching and convulsing coming from Big Ed's tent, it was now his turn to lose it, not only his dinner, but lunch and breakfast.

It appeared both Big Ed and Margarite simultaneously got hit with altitude sickness. We had a quick team meeting and it was decide that it was not worth the risk for Big Ed and Margarite to continue up the mountain.

Our guides would split up, Msuir and a porter named Anaeli would take me up the mountain, we would be departing at Midnight. At first light Michael and a porter would take Big Ed and Margarite down a level to Mweka Camp.

At Midnight Msuir, Anaeli and I said our goodbyes and headed up the mountain. We were leaving Barafu Camp (4,600m/15,100ft) and heading toward Uhuru Peak, the highest level in Africa (5,895m/19,340ft).

For 6 hours I followed Msuri up Mount Kilimanjaro. While not physically challenging, this was a extreme mental challenge. My guess is over 400 people were summiting that evening. The full moon was so bright it cast shadows, we had head lamps to light the trail, but they were not needed.

Msuri had a very simple technique, go very slow, and make deliberate steps. For 6 hours we put one foot in front of the other, I always tried to step into Msuri's foot print. Anaeli followed me, the three
of us where like a human train, the little engine that could. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."

Other groups were going faster than us, but taking more breaks, their strategy quickly failed and after a few hours, we were among just a few hikers heading for the summit, the other hikers were far behind us going slower or stopped for a break.

Most of the hikers we passed looked far sicker than Big Ed and Margarite, some even throwing up on the trail, their guides practically pulling them up the mountain.

At 6:00 AM we reached the crater rim at Stella Point, 6 hours after we had started. As we looked back we saw most of the hikers that we had passed were far behind us.

We now had a short slightly up hill hike to the summit, Uhuru Peak. We were at the top of Africa with the moon setting and the day just starting. As we reached Stella Point the skies became overcast.
We continued to the peak, we saw a few hikers already on their way down. Once at the peak we took a few pictures and then started our decent, the weather had turned from ok, to bad. It was now snowing and the wind gust felt like they would blow us off the mountain. As we turned back from the sign marking the peak, I was shocked to see hundreds of hikers coming around the crater. It looked like some kind of death march. Not one hiker had a smile on their face, several were throwing up and many were being physically dragged by their guide.

We returned to base camp (Barafu Camp) 3 hours after summiting, 9 hours after we started this night hike.

If I was to describe what it was like to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, this is what I would say. Do not shower for 4 days. Cut 6 pieces of duct tape, cut a half inch round hole in the first piece of tape. Each subsequent piece of duct tape reduce the hole by 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch. Start hiking with a crowd of people in 20 degree temperatures with the first piece of duct tape over your mouth. Hike as slow as you possible can. Every hour add another piece of duct tape over your mouth. By the 6th hour you
should have all 6 pieces of duct tape covering your mouth and you are breathing out of the smallest hole.

Continue your hike, but now each hour remove 2 pieces of duct tape, until you no longer have any duct tape over your mouth. By doing this you will know exactly what it feels like to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.

During the hike I had been concerned about Margarite and Big Ed, seeing so many hikers sick reminded me of them. Once at Barafu Camp I wanted to continue on to Mweka Camp to check on Big Ed and Margarite. Msuri insisted I get some sleep and sent Anaeli ahead to check on them.

Think about this Anaeli a porter finds out 9 hours ago, instead of sleeping he is going to help me get to the summit, then when he gets back to base camp instead of a nap, he has to run and check on Big Ed and Margarite.

Day 12 (Climb Day 5 )

After a few hour nap Msuri and I headed to Mweka Camp (3,100m/10,170ft) This was a scheduled 3
and a half hour hike we did in 2 hours. I am not sure who was happier to see who. Typically getting to lower altitude brings quick relief to altitude sickness. Big Ed and Margarite were feeling slightly better, though still having a hard time keeping any nutrition or hydration in their systems. Margarite was sick, but Big Ed was twice as sick if you know what I mean, double trouble.

We were back in vegetation and our porters found a great spot to set up camp, it was like we were in the middle of the jungle away from other hikers.

Msuri suggested for our last days hike, we head out early. The queue for the hikers to check out of the park can get long, sometimes as much as a few hours.

Day 13 (Climb Day 6 )

After a good not sleep for me, and a little bit of sleep for Margarite and Big Ed, we left camp at 7:30 AM , for our descent to Mweka Gate, which will be the end of our trek. Our last hike on Kilimanjaro
was a beautiful one, passing through Kilimanjaro’s cloud forest. Margarite got a head of Big Ed and I. The trail was slippery and we were not as sure footed as Margarite.

Once the trail dried, Anaeli and I did some trail running. The difference between us, I had a 10 lb day back and he was carrying over 60 lbs of gear, on his head.

We finally caught Margarite with 15 minutes to go. We did the hike in under 2 hours. All three of us
(Margarite, Big Ed, and I) were checked out prior to 10:00 AM and ready for showers.

That was not to happen. The Duma Explorer vehicles did not show until 12:30 PM close to 3 hours after we had arrived. Like I said do not use Duma Explorer for your Kilimanjaro Hike.

We headed back to the Hatari Lodge for a quick refresh before our next adventure. What an oasis, real showers, flush toilets, and while we were away they had installed wireless internet. Dinner was fantastic slow cooked barbecued lamb. Margarite and Big Ed had their appetites returned and enjoyed their entire meal.

With Big Ed heading back to the United States, I asked him to take my hiking gear with him, this allowed me to travel very light to Zanzibar.  

Our Team

 Kilimanjaro Pictures

Day 14 (off to Zanzibar )

We woke up to rain lots of it, we did not care, we had a roof over our heads, no more tents. Our ride
to the airport was scheduled for 11:00 AM. At 8:30 AM I got a call from Stacy Readal, the owner of
Duma Explorer, she tried to explain what went wrong, but had her facts all screwed up. She did not even know we had to pay the permit fee. Her excuse was she was sick, which in business is not an excuse, especially when poor service may mean death to your clients. She promised the rest of our trip will go perfect. Since our ride to the airport was the last item her promise was not so large.

The same driver that brought us back from the mountain picked us up for our ride to the airport. Ebenezer and what a great fellow he was. Though the Arusha Airport is tiny, it was also
confusing. Ebenezer grabbed a porter and assigned him to us. This guy stayed by our side until we were safely tucked in our seats on our flight to Zanzibar.

We are staying at the Emerson Spice Hotel, what a special place. There is a lot of history, the Emerson Spice was once used as a palace for the sultan of Zanzibar. We arrived around three went for a quick walk exploring Stone Town, before heading for drinks and dinner.

The Emerson Spice has a great roof top restaurant, at 6:00 PM we went there to watch the sunset and have a margarita. We were offered a 7 course tasting menu for $30.00, what a great way to get a taste of Zanzibar. Twenty one different items each better than the last, all scrumptious.

Another night with a bed and shower, it was easy to get use to this after 5 nights of camping and no shower.

Day 15 ( Zanzibar Day 1 )

We woke early went for a short run, though we quickly found out, not early enough. Traffic and
running in Zanzibar do not mix. After breakfast we hired a guide for a few hour walking tour of
Stone Town, appropriately named, as the buildings are made from stone. Zanzibar is a very cross culture town. Though 90% Muslim, all religions and ethnic backgrounds are welcome and can be seen in the different architecture, and places of warship.

The walking tour was educational learning a lot about the history of Zanzibar, from being controlled by sultans from Iraq and Iran to being a protectorate of England. For a long time spices was a major export as well as Zanzibar being a route for eastern Africa slave trade. We visited the original slave trading center.

We had lunch at the roof top restaurant at Emerson and Green which is the sister hotel to our hotel the Emerson Spice, the food was very tasty. Zanzibar is know for their spices and the chefs sure know how to use them.

Now some afternoon R&R.

For dinner we decided to venture out. We decided we would have a drink at the Sunset Bar which is in the African House Hotel. The African House Hotel sits right on the beach facing west, thus the Sunset Bar. After a drink, some awesome spicy guacamole, and a rather dismal sunset (overcast skies) we decided it was time to move on. Sticking with the beach theme we decided to try Livingston's for dinner, named after the famous African explorer Dr. Livingston. This restaurant sat directly on the beach in fact the main dinning area was the beach. Very cool. The menu looked rather boring, though the meal was far from boring. We both ordered an avocado mango salad that was so flavorful our mouths started watering as the waiter neared the table. While we opted for different fish dishes, we both ended up with barracuda. You know you are at a restaurant
that serves fresh fish, when you order a type of fish and the waiter says, "We did not catch that
today." The barracuda was fresh and spicy, just perfect.

It was approaching 8:30 PM we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. Zanzibar is know to be very safe, though there are many dark ally's, it does not make sense to take chances with a mugger or pick pocket. Our hotel staff recommended not to be out after 9:30 PM by ourselves. The walk home was fine though Margarite had some anxiety which I am sure was the residual effect form this situation last year in Dakar.

Day 16 ( Zanzibar Day 2 )

Each morning our hotel offers breakfast at the roof top restaurant. Breakfast includes a plate full of 
local fruits as well was eggs made to order. A great way to start the day. Today we are taking a spice tour, we have the same tour guide as we had for the Stone Town tour, Simai M. Haji with KV Tours & Travel.

We were picked up and driven to a small demonstration farm, 14 kilometers out of town. While a little hokey it was well worth the $40.00. Simai M. Haji was just as knowledgeable about, spices, fruits, plants, and trees, as he was about Stone Town.

We sampled many spices, not just the spice, but the bark, root, and leaves of the plants. We even got to see how an iodine plant is milked. The grand finale was a farm hand free climbing 150 feet up a coconut tree, retrieving two coconuts for both Margarite and I.

He then, cracked open the coconuts and served us fresh coconut milk. We also had fresh mango,
water Mellon and a few other fresh fruit.

After our spice tour we headed back to our hotel. We decided to skip lunch as we were full from all
the fresh fruit. The afternoon was very exciting.

A haircut and shave were in order. It had been month since I had had either. I had heard the New 7 Ganga Barber Shop had a great reputation in this part of the world. I decided to give them a try. What a great cut and smooth shave, I felt like a new man.

Next on the list was a Women's Sewing Co-operative, Upendo (Means Love). This is a small shop that is half work room, which gives recovering women sewing skills. The women then sell their wears in the retail section of the shop.

After wondering Stone Town for a few hours we headed back for showers and dinner. Why a shower, two reasons after a week of
no showers, we were taking them as often as possible. It was 90 degrees and 90% humidity! Just sitting around you sweat.

We decided to have dinner once again at the Emerson Spice Rooftop Restaurant. We found out the format was the same, 7 courses, though each course was different each night. Tonight's meal was just as fantastic as the first night.

Day 17 (Zanzibar Day 3)

Our last day in Zanzibar, we had a few to-dos on our list. The Zanzibar coffee shop is a well know shop around the corner from the Emerson Spice, Margarite had wanted to pick up some coffee to take
back to the states.

Next - spices, how can you come to Zanzibar and not take home some spices, so off to the market we went. What a fantastic atmosphere. You could buy anything from a slaughtered cow, to Brillo pads. We bought some local spices.

Next - the Sultans Baths - back in the day the sultans had built elaborate baths. We took a quick tour.

Time to leave, Margarite is heading back to the states I am not sure where I will be going.

I spoke to soon, Margarite has a connection through Addis Ababa, I decided to hitch a ride and we would spend a few days tour the city. Ethiopian Airways is owned by the Ethiopian Government. To help with tourism Ethiopian Airways will give you a free hotel and meals if you choose to spend a day in Addis Ababa. Not one to pass up a free meal we took advantage of the offer.

Day 18 (Ethopia)

We stayed at the Addis Ababa Hilton, Margarite only had the day so we decided to hire a tour guide
and get the nickel tour of the city. After a short run and some weight training in the Hilton Gym, we showered had lunch and were off on our tour.

Our first stop was the cathedral, Ethiopian has many religions with Christianity being the largest, followed by Muslim. The church was fantastic built in the 1930's. The emperor and his wife are entombed in the church. The last prime minster of Ethiopia has his grave site on the church grounds.

From the church we visited the Ethiopian National Museum. The highlight of the museum was visiting Lucy. Lucy is the oldest human remains ever discovered. In theory we all come from Ethiopia.

Next stop the Grand Market, blocks and blocks of markets, anything and everything you could every
imagine wanting to buy. Goods were being delivered, via truck, car, minibus, taxi, donkey, even balanced on people's heads. What a crazy place.

Our next and final stop was on the outskirts of the city up on the hill. The owner of the tour company
had a 5 story home over looking the city, we were invited up for both the breath taking view and a traditional coffee ceremony.

We learned coffee was first consumed in Ethiopia in a town known as Kaffa. Margarite had to get back to the hotel as she would be flying out tonight. My schedule was still open so I thought I would chill at the Hilton as long as Ethiopian Airways was picking up the tab.

Zanzibar / Ethiopia Pictures



1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is Bill the Canadian who was Manager of Hatari Lodge while you were there. I hope all is well. I had Ed's email address but have lost it. If you could please send it to me I would appreciate. Bill Cunningham