28 February 2009

Day 2 of Safari

18 Feb
Day 2 of Safari

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, mostly around the highlands and Olduvai Gorge
gnu (wildebeest)
Thomson gazelle

Ngorongoro Highlands

Serengeti National Park
common flat lizard
agama lizard
spotted hyena
Thomson gazelle
lappet-faced vulture
superb starling
secretary bird
leopard, with kill
vervet monkey
olive baboon
ashe starling

Serengeti National Park

See photos on flickr

I'm typing up my notes from the trip and posting them with just some light editing. Each day will be a new post. (Some of these may not be much more than lists of animals we saw each day.)

26 February 2009

Day 1 of Safari

17 Feb
Day 1 of Safari

The final descent from Kili was relatively easy. We woke up early and hit the trail. We were the first people to register exiting the Mweke gate for the day.

Back at Springlands Hotel in Moshi we showered and got massages. We emailed our parents. We inquired about upgrading to lodging rather than a camping safari. They told us we were already booked for lodging. I fretted about it all night and went back to reception this morning to re-confirm. I insisted we had paid for camping, they insisted we were booked for lodging. More on that later.

We decided to spend Monday afternoon in Moshi. The vendors are much pushier than in Buj but we actually liked some of the artwork we saw, so bought it.

Clock Tower traffic circle, Moshi

Then a guy decided to be our guide. He and Mike discussed Burundi politics and he safely led us to Salzburger Café.

What a funny place! Bavaria meets Africa, plus a VW obsession. Food was pretty good. Nice to not be eating Zara food for a night.

Salzburger Cafe, Moshi

In the morning we confirmed our lodging safari. David showed up to be our driver and guide. We had a long ride out to Lake Manyara but it was worth it. Saw many animals. Elephants right up close to the car.

Waiting for the elephant to decide where to go, Lake Manyara Nat'l Park

Arrived at Highview Hotel and couldn’t believe our luck at Zara’s mistake. Beautiful and much nicer than Springlands.

Ate impala for dinner! It tastes like pot roast.

Saw fischer’s lovebirds while having a drink on the patio.

Animals seen in and around Lake Manyara National Park:
olive baboon
blue monkey
bushbuck – male and female
impala – harem, group of females
marabou stork
wildebeest buffalo
masai giraffe
vervet monkey
bird – lilac-breasted roller
dwarf mongoose
hornbill – black w/ orange beak
guinea fowl

See photos on flickr

I'm typing up my notes from the trip and posting them with just some light editing. Each day will be a new post. (Some of these may not be much more than lists of animals we saw each day.)

Summit Day!

15 Feb
Day 6 – Summit Day!

Barafu Camp (4,550m/14,930ft) to Uhuru Peak (5,895m/19,340ft), 7 km
Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp (3,100m/10,170ft), 23 km

We went to bed immediately after an early dinner so we could wake up at 11:00 pm. Wind whipped the tent all night long and I didn’t want to go outside. But I put on my layers and went to the mess tent for a cup of tea.

At 12:05 we started walking. It was cold, dark, and miserable. The headlamp illuminated the boots of the person in front of you and you just followed them.

About an hour into the walk my arms and legs stopped doing what my brain told them to do. I’d take 3 or 4 steps, stop, and Mike would give me a little push from behind.

My mind wandered. You have to let it if you don’t want to dwell on the discomforts. I counted steps in French and English. I sang to myself from the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack. I repeated over and over again, “We’ll be at the summit by 8 am” and “24 hours from now I’ll be warm and asleep”.

The hours dragged on. Step, step, step, push. Finally, surprisingly early, we reached Stella’s Point. Even at our slow pace we were less than an hour from the top, Uhuru Peak. I was exhilarated, but I still couldn’t get my legs to work. Step, step, step, push.

A few hundred meters from Uhuru Peak I put my poles away and grabbed Mike’s arm. I wanted us to summit together. He practically had to drag me, and he was having altitude problems, too.

We reached Uhuru Peak at 6:05, exactly 6 hours after we started. I couldn’t believe it took us only 6 hours! I thought it would take at least 7 and I had been prepared for it to take up to 8.

We summitted at sunrise, and the pink sky illuminating the glacier was gorgeous. I nearly cried, but I was too cold. We took some pictures and walked around, delirious with accomplishment.

The obligatory photo in front of the sign, with our assistant guide Jeremiah

But I didn’t stay long. Due to my Gumby legs the guide wanted me to start the descent ASAP. The assistant guide ended up escorting me whole way down, not letting go of my elbow until we got to the door of our tent. I just could not hold myself up. I saw two other people descending the same way, so I guess it’s not that uncommon.

Back at the tent we both crashed for about an hour. Then we had lunch and packing. We asked for a light lunch but a stew had already been made, so we ate as much as we could stomach.

The afternoon trek to the final campsite was long. But eventually it became very beautiful and pleasant. We descend from the summit and alpine desert zones through the moorland to the edge of the rain forest. The oxygen is great!

We decided to camp one last night. We thought about continuing on to the gate but our pace was so slow this afternoon we might not make it before dark. We will sleep well and get an early start in the morning. It’s not as crucial to eat the camp food for fuel, so we can snack on Lara Bars for the night if we have to.

See photos on flickr

I'm typing up my notes from the trip and posting them with just some light editing. Each day will be a new post.

25 February 2009

Fifth Day of Climbing

14 Feb -- 5th day of climbing
Sitting in Barafu Camp, resting up for the final ascent. We’ll wake up around 11:00 pm and start climbing by midnight.

Day 3 – Shira Camp (3,840m/12,600ft) to Lava Tower (4,630m/15,190ft) to Barranco Camp (3,950m/12,960ft), 15 km

Angela decided to throw in the towel. We set off for my birthday trek to Lava Tower and she set off for the ranger station for a ride into town.

The trek up was long. After lunch the first part of the trek down was steep, rocky, slippery, cold, and damp. I did not have fun. Then the terrain got flatter.

Mike had the porters sing "Happy Birthday" to me and they ate all my chocolate.

Valley after the Lava Tower descent

Day 4 – Barranco Camp (3,950m/12,960ft) to Karanga Camp (4,200m/13,780ft), 7 km

Steep climb with some scary rock scrambling. Up and down ridges, hard but a fairly short day. Arrived in camp early afternoon and burst into tears, coming down from the adrenaline of the rocky trek.

Day 5 – Karanga Camp (4,200m/13,780ft) to Barafu Camp (4,550m/14,930ft), 13 km

Very short day, but I think steepest so far. Up a gravely ridge, then flat, then up again to highest and most barren campsite. Windy, but toasty in the tent when the sun is out. Arrived around 11:00 am. Lunch was served at 1:00 pm. I’m losing my appetite for camp food but eating as much as I can. The fresh fruit is good.

As Tina Fey said to the writers on 30 Rock, "We as a group don’t smell so great.” I’m a little tired of being dirty, but it must be done.

Having mild headaches that up until today went away as soon as I stopped to rest. Felt weak on the trek today. Drinking plenty of water. Taking an Aleve and a multivitamin with snack every afternoon.

This morning when we started I realized that in 24 hours I’ll be at the summit.

See photos on flickr

I'm typing up my notes from the trip and posting them with just some light editing. Each day will be a new post. 

24 February 2009

Second Day of Climbing

I'm typing up my notes from the trip and posting them with just some light editing. Each day will be a new post.

11 Feb 2009 -- 2nd day of climbing

Yesterday was long. Something was mixed up with our tents and porters so we started with another group and met our guide at camp. Walked with an Australian girl who lives in Boston and two girls from Denmark.

Machame Gate, the very beginning

It started to rain toward the last hour which made us kind of miserable. But tea, popcorn, and dinner by candlelight cheered us up. Angela’s having a tough time and not having fun. We and the guide (Malisa) are trying to convince her to keep going, one day at a time.

Tuesday night slept surprisingly well. Woke up at 2 am to go to the bathroom and the full moon over the campsite was gorgeous.

Wednesday was a shorter hike, 9 km, but very steep. We went up,up, up, then down a couple hundred meters to rest and sleep at the lower attitude. I have a very mild headache that comes and goes. It might be from the cold. I’m drinking tons of water.

Shira Camp, end of day 2

See photos on flickr.

Day 1: Machame Gate (1,290m/4,890ft) to Machame Camp (2,980m/9,780 ft), 18km
Day 2: Machame Camp (2,980m/9,780 ft) to Shira Camp (3,840m/12,600ft), 9km

21 February 2009

We made it!

We made it to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, at 6:05 Sunday morning, 15 February. It was hard. But awesome. We were at the peak for sunrise.

Then we were on safari for several days. We're still in Tanzania, heading back to Bujumbura on Monday.

We're enjoying some modern amenities after our time on the mountain and in the Serengeti. Chocolate is much cheaper here than in Bujumbura.

09 February 2009

Zero Days Until

I can't sleep so I thought I'd work on one last post before we go. My alarm is set to go off in about two hours. I'm sure I'll go back to sleep for a bit. Also, I'm a champion at sleeping on planes so I know I'll get plenty of rest over the next 24 hours. Tuesday morning we start our actual climb up the mountain. We actually don't live that far away from Mt. Kilimanjaro, but Bujumbura isn't exactly a major airline hub so it will take all day to get there. We have two short flights. We'll spend more time in Nairobi for our layover than we will actually flying in the air.

I woke up just before 2:30 a.m. with a headache. OMG! Altitude sickness! Malaria! No, wait, I'm safe in my bed in my house and I drank a very tasty red wine this afternoon, followed by a glass of champagne before dinner. (Everyone wanted just one last drink before we left!) I probably just need a glass of water. So I'm up now, drinking some water and wishing the satellite worked so I could watch some CNN before I'm out of touch for two weeks.

As soon as we get to Nairobi I'm buying a Milka bar from the duty-free shop. I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now. It's going to be such a nice change to be in touristy, more modern cities for a few nights. I actually hate Nairobi airport, but I'm willing to appreciate it for some of its first-world comforts, like Milka bars.

I think I'm on the verge of rambling, which is probably a sign that I should go back to bed.

See you all on the other side of the mountain!

08 February 2009

What have I gotten myself in to?

I'm nearly all packed up. Seeing all the gear laid out at once made me a tad panicky. What the hell am I going to do with all this stuff? And why am I going to do it? At freezing temperatures on the side of a ridiculously high mountain? Gaiters, first-aid kits, hand warmers, trekking poles, mittens, mitten liners, extra socks, snack bars,... it's all piling up. Then factor in trying to fit all this stuff into the new airline baggage weight requirements. It seems like an impossible puzzle.

My four (4) jackets: wool, fleece, down, and gortex. And I decided to stuff them all into my carry-on, just in case.

I told my mom last night my mantra is "Thinking bee! Thinking bee!" It started yesterday with trying to pack. It will continue until I get to the top of the mountain.

Brief panic again this morning when our ride to the airport showed up. Huh? We're supposed to leave tomorrow morning. The tickets are right, right? Right? We hope so. We don't have them. The guy from Mike's office who handles travel and was supposed to arrange our ride to the airport has them. I guess if they're wrong, he'll handle that too. Oddly, that's something I'm not even worried about right now. 

05 February 2009

Welcome to the 21st Century

After two weeks of watching a guy walk around our house, walk around our property, drive away, come back with some other guys to walk around, drive away again and return with a giant metal rod sticking out the back window of the car that was eventually bolted to our roof, we have the internet in our house. And wouldn't you know it, today is a Burundian holiday, so we have the whole day off to sit at home and revel in this novelty.

We're telling ourselves it's okay to be lazy today. It's a holiday. We're going to be leaving very soon to spend 2 weeks in the wilderness. We can spend a day doing nothing. 

(And it's not entirely a day of nothing. I played tennis this morning with a friend and then Mike spent a couple hours hitting against the ball machine. Then we ate tacos. That must count for something, right?)

Seriously, this internet antenna looks like salvage from a Russian satellite. Or maybe a Marconi tower.

**I forgot to mention that yesterday we made our very first Skype call. It was to my dad. It was so awesome! I can't believe we can talk across the oceans for free.