Dear Meredyth,

I just arrived back in Botswana after 10 glorious days in Tanzania! Despite a really long layover in Nairobi, the travel was all pretty painless. Honestly, I would sacrifice many, many more hours of discomfort and annoyances if it meant going back. Tanzania was a wildly interesting place; the people were really kinda and fascinating, the foliage was beautiful, the markets were crowded with food stuff, crafts, shoppers and vendors. Tanzania is the Africa I dreamed about when I applying to Peace Corps.

I arrived in Arousha a day before Mary Ann got in, so our guide company set me up with a local town tour guide to show me around. Isaac, my guide/Maasi tribesmen/ painter, asked me what I wanted to do that day, I told him I wanted to see the best things about Arousha!

This is where he took me:

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Then we stopped to get a few of these:

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Avocados the size of my face!

Mary Ann arrived that night, but unfortunately her baggage did not. We had one day before we started the climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the airline assured us that the bag would arrive that night and someone would bring it to our lodge. So we tried to keep our minds from stressing about it by hiking a small hill outside Arousha to get a really good view of the town. So we hiked up, looked down, then realized that we were famished. How would we make it through 8 days of day long hikes when this short one left us spent? Well, we didn’t know but it was too late to turn back.

ImageIsaac took us to a lunch, an outside seating area serving local Tanzanian food. We has ‘ugali’ (similar to polenta but not as tasty), spinach, chicken and beans. It was a good lunch, eaten with our hands only.

After the long walks, big lunch, heat of the day and jet lag sleepiness, we headed back to the lodge to try to meet with our mountain guide, Harold, and try to get updated on the bag. Harold was not too worried about the baggage, I think he has seen many bags lost and many bags delivered just in time. We talked about our adventure starting the next day, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, 6 days up, one night at Crater Camp, and two days back. He also told us that it would be us and two other ladies (girl group, woot!) on the climb. We breathed a bit easier after he talked with us, if he wasn’t worried then I guess we shouldn’t either. Ya know what? That dang bag showed up at 11pm. It was like Christmas.

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The next morning we set out for our adventure! Me, Mary Ann, Dena, and Liz were all smiles and excitement about climbing the tallest mountain in Africa!

ImageI’ll spare you the dirty details about each day, we all got a lot dirtier with each day, but our spirits only grew each day we saw a new part of the mountain. We became a little family, supporting each other, sharing clothes/medicine/snacks/stories about home. Our wonderful guides were really patient with us and took great care of our our well being.

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Mary Ann and I when we still looked fairly clean! After a few days of overcast skies the clouds parted for us to get a sneak peak at our near future!

ImageAll four of us reached the top, Uhuru peak! The top was freezing but we had the heat from 4 hours of climbing straight up to keep us warm at the summit.

That night we camped out in the crater, sleeping in the arctic between the volcano’s ash pit and a glacier. It was the coldest night of my life. Luckily, Mary Ann and our guides are much better at packing than I, the sleeping bag liner and hot water bottles kept me warm(ish) at the top. Mary Ann, like a good Canadian, had the best sleep of her trip so far that night…

When we reached the end of our hike at Marangu gate we had two big priorities: a really good shower and beers with our dinner.

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We separated to our rooms to get ourselves clean and put on fresh clothes. After 8 days of camping, hiking, baby powder and washcloth bathing, we arrived at dinner looking completely different, very civilized.

We toasted our great success with Kilimanjaro beers and a little bit of internetting too.

Saying goodbye was harder than I expected, even though I would see May Ann in a week it was odd to not have her around, despite the short time I spent with Dena and Liz we had become really close. Who would be there to joke with or help me keep my chin up with out them? The mountain itself was hard to leave. Image

Climbing Kilimanjaro was one of the hardest things I have ever done, so I was happy to be finished. Although it was a challenge, the mountain also showed me that I can push myself further than I ever dreamed. I will look back on that week and think only of the beautiful sights, the love and support from the girls and the guides, and the awesome moment I reached the top with these people.

I hope we climb a mountain together someday soon.

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