Tanzania and Amsterdam, 2008

I'd dreamt of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for years, and finally my savings and vacation time combined such that I could start planning the trip for real. Cris and I booked through World Expeditions for a Kili climb and a safari extension, and they subcontracted us out to the African Walking Company. I can't say enough good things about AWC, make sure that your local tour company uses them if you're going to book a climb! We put down a deposit on the trip months ahead of time, and spent the summer hiking and camping in New England in an effort to prepare. It was still a very challenging trip, but worth everything that it took to get there.

Sept 11-12: Fly from Boston to Amsterdam to Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, on KLM and Precision Airways.
Night of Sept 12: Kia Lodge, by the airport
Nights of Sept 13 and 14: Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort, Marangu
15 Sept - 20 Sept: Climbing Kilimanjaro!!!! :)
Night of Sept 20: Moivaro Coffee Plantation in Arusha
21 Sept - 25 Sept: 4 day safari, 1 night at the Octagon Safari Lodge, Karatu, two nights at the Tarangire Safari Lodge then back to Moivaro Coffee Plantation and on to the airport.
Sept 25-26: Fly from Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam, 8 hour layover in the city, then fly to Boston, on KLM then Northwest.

Pictures and movies.

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You can also read Cris's version of the climb here (in reverse chronological order), or get the full trip entry by entry:

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Thu Sept 11/08 - BOS-AMS

I worked from home today, not liking the idea of lugging my backpack and suitcase on the T to work and then to the airport. I got a lot done, but in my breaks, I still wasn't able to find my Petzl headlamp nor my blue hiking socks (both things that I use all the time for winter biking). Mysterious. I knocked off at around 2:30 or 3pm to clean up and do final packing. Cris texted me soon after I got out of the shower - he was at Logan! He'd ended up mishearing me when I said to get there 3 hours ahead of our 7:10pm flight, and he got there at 3pm instead. I called a taxi and it arrived quickly, but I just had time to put out the garbage, and double check the house for windows or burners left open. The taxi driver was talking to his mom, but hung up when he came up the steps to throw my suitcase in the trunk. I'd used my medium grey one, since my hiking poles fit in it (and not in my red roll aboard), and collapsed my big green waterproof bag in the bottom. I'd use that one as my porter bag on the hike. There was a smell of ganga in the cab, but it was faint. The driver went quickly but not insanely, thank goodness. I looked out for it on the way into the airport, but I didn't spot the 9/11 memorial that they'd dedicated today. I saw Cris right away and we hopped into the short check in line (there was a large group in the long one). We had paper tickets, so manual check in was required. I was sick with nerves that the clerk would say that my backpack was too big to carry onto the plane, but she didn't say a word. I'd put everything that was essential for the Kili climb in my pack, just in case my suitcase got delayed. Our bags were checked through to Kilimanjaro airport. *crossed fingers* We'll have to get boarding passes in Nairobi as they've only got a baggage agreement with them, not a boarding pass one. The security line was long, but moving quickly. We ended up flagged for extra screening, but it was less stressful: the lady was nice, less crowding and rushing in that area, and the swab didn't barf on my dirty hiking boots. The screener found an old tea bag in my pocket - it had gone through the wash. Oops. Found our gate, there were lots of seats but we were > 2 hours early. We went over to Hoolihan's to get food, we had a bit of a wait but the food came faster than advertised. We took our malarone (anti malarial pills) with it, starting them the day before getting to our semi-infested destination. I had a salmon salad, the fish was oddly crispy, the salad was okay. Went back to our gate, via Borders so Cris could get a book, to sit and wait for boarding. I realised that my trip to Tampa had scarred me wrt plane delays, I kept expecting an announcement of a delay or cancellation. The flight was listed as still on time, so far at least.

Yup, we boarded quickly and took off on time. My backpack fit easily the long way in (er, short end inward), though Cris had to adjust it as the bins over the centre seats were too high for me. We're way in the back, row 30, but Cris has the aisle seat and I've got a quiet girl on my right. Lots of Emerson students, possibly the group from check in. I didn't have a vegetarian meal reserved, but the general choices were chicken and a vegetarian curry with rice pilaf that was decent (and really hot). The bun was nothing-bread and the salad was sad. I saved the cheese and crackers and oreos for later (the oreos were found days later, never eaten...) I was still full from supper at the airport. The flight attendant serving us is scary-nice, but she started from the back, so we get served early. Each seat has a screen with movies on demand, and a wired remote in the arm (it sat sideways I kept hitting the light switch on it). There are boxes under the seat in front of me, but I've got mostly enough leg room. Need to try and sleep, it's past 2am Amsterdam time (need to figure out how to set my new cheap watch, too - left cell phone and palm pilot at home). Luckily, we all get pillows and blankets (my head is a bit cold from the vents (I'd shaved my head before leaving)). Getting tired, been reading "Nightlife". The purser came through to say hello to everyone.

Fri Sept 12/08 - Amsterdam-Kilimanjaro airport

Breakfast was missing: drinks and a granola bar were all that were on offer. They woke us up over Ireland to 'feed' us, I kept my noise cancelling headphones on until the last minute. We landed in Amsterdam in thick mist, the students all cheered. Twice, on touch down, and again at the welcome message from the flight deck. We had a bit of a wait to get off of the plane, and the kids started trying to freak each other out wrt the vents going off. I plugged my ears, my mild claustrophobia didn't need it. We came in at an E gate, and were going out again at F9, bit of a walk, but we had 2 hours and there were no barriers as we weren't staying in the EU. We sat a bit, I got up and brushed my teeth, then went back to the intersection of the E and F concourses. Upstairs there was an open restaurant called Pier 01 where we sat down and had an expensive breakfast of yummy yogurt and cruesli with honey, and Lipton's tea (not so yummy, but sugar and cream helped). They billed the restaurant as as beach bar, fabric sails were suspended above the tables. Apparently we were in the new section of Schipol. Lots of guys in hiking clothes with packs. We took the elevator down (the pirate bar, okay ship themed one, next to the breakfast place was closed, but it was just 9am). Walking back to our gate, we got engulfed by a crowd of buff Scotsmen in kilts, oh the horror. :) I just had time to visit the rest room and they started herding us into the gate's security line, and then right through to the gangway. This time we've got a pair of seats next to a window, much nicer, but no air vents. Snappy dressers in the line. My pack doesn't fit as well in the outside bins, they're not as deep, but no one's complained so far. Mist has turned to light rain, but no delay yet (unlike Boston Logan in the same conditions). Can't quite believe that I'm sitting on a flight to Kenya! Cris says that we should be able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro on the approach to Nairobi - hope it's not dark yet!

I saw a bit of the desert (Khartoum? next to the Sahara) out the window - bright! And dust storms! Keeping the shade closed mostly. Finished my first book, Nightlife, torn between starting Twilight Watch and watching a movie. They gave us ice cream! :) Unfortunately it hit my stomach with a bit of lactose intolerant pain, but it didn't last long. Regret not filling my water bottle, but couldn't bring it past the gate security point probably (at least we got to keep our shoes on). In our last time zone now, 5pm. Need to take next dose of Malarone with a meal, but still 2+ hours to go. They fed us :) soup and salad and tea. I ended up watching a movie after all, Madagascar. The sun's going down, I opened the blind and saw lightening in the clouds below us, we're going between 2 storms. The in seat video monitor offers the option to send emails for $2.50 each, passing on that.

Nice smooth landing in Nairobi, but it's dark. Could see orange and bluish lights of the city, with a hint of hills, but no details. Quick debarking, and we found a transfer desk to direct us to the Kenya Airways transfer desk. Small line, but we got our boarding passes (despite my minor worry that we were in the wrong line, since we were booked on Precision Airways), and were directed two gates on to #4. The boarding pass says PW and the right flight number and time, so I stopped worrying. It's a very linear airport, lots of hallways rather than open spaces. There's another metal detector to go through. A pair of missionaries are talking in the seats next to us, across from the gate. 8:15pm.

Went through as they switched the gate sign, changing it to Kilimanjaro, but they boarded the flight to Dar es Salaam first. I had to go out to the bathroom, so I left my boarding pass with the agent at the metal detector/gate. Our flight was delayed about 40 minutes, it was fairly casually announced, a flight attendant walking through the departure lounge and asking after passengers going to Kilimanjaro. It was a fairly small plane, a turbo prop with two by two seats, we ended up fitting our packs in the seats behind us as the plane was mostly empty and the overhead bins were tiny. We had to walk across the tarmac for a bit to get to the stairs up into the plane. The landing in Kilimanjaro was a bit bumpy, it was too dark to see anything but grass growing next to the runway, and some lights. Walked along the tarmac and into the terminal, it was almost empty and they were turning lights off behind us. I filled in an arrival card and got quickly through immigration (we'd sent our passports away for visas ahead of time, but there was a booth open before immigration where we could have done it on the spot). I was so relieved to see our bags waiting for us, safe and sound. A driver was there with a sign (yay, first time!), and he and another guy helped us get our luggage to a van where they loaded it into the back on top of the spare tire. A flight attendant was also staying at the Kia lodge, she came with us and chatted to the guys on the drive over. The lodge is right next to the airport, but down a dark and deserted road. The guy in the passenger seat eventually leaned over and turned on the van's headlights for the driver, and I felt much better. :) We turned on to a dirt road with a gate flanked with cacti and a man dressed in Masai robes opened the gate for us. Up to the main lodge, filled in yet another form (while a light bat swooped in and nabbed an insectile snack), and then they helped us carry our stuff to room 16, a freestanding thatched hut. The main room is dominated by a bed surrounded by mosquito netting. First order of business - shower! Andy my first tooth brushing using bottled water. My technique will need a bit of refinement. Really hot water in the shower, felt wonderful. Had developed a bit of a headache from the turboprop engines. It smells organic in here, lots of wood and woven plant baskets. Th trail to our room branched a lot, we had the open air dining room pointed out to us and it looked like an open lounge of sorts. It's past 11pm though and I don't feel up to exploring tonight. It's been a long day that started in the air over the UK. But yay! We made it and so did our stuff. Now the fun part will be finding out what I forgot to pack! I think I didn't transfer some stuff from my regular toiletries kit... oh, right, it's probably in the water bottles to save space...

Sat Sept 13/08 - Kilimanjaro Airport to Marangu

Pictures from the Kia lodge and KMR.

So very quiet here! Had a good night's sleep, through to 8am. Cris feeling a bit rough, he slept a bit longer. Repacked so ready to transfer to KMR. Took pictures of a bird hanging out in the cactus outside our room window. Went out to the restaurant for breakfast, open air buffet with tonnes of birds flitting in and out, and one blue one landing on our table for a bit. Cereal with milk, passion fruit yogurt, Tanzanian tea (a lot like Lipton's unfortunately, would be nice to get some whole leaf to try), OJ, all consumed while looking out into the courtyard. After breakfast, we stopped by the front desk to ask about our transfer - they've got our room number, the driver's not here yet. Checked out the gift shop, the young woman hovered a bit. Lots of "I Climbed Kili" t-shirts. Also postcards of Kili and Zanzibar, but didn't get anything then though. We climbed up the stone steps to the pool - nice views and breezes. Not too hot today (low 20's?), sun and cloud switching off. Saw some lizards up there, and could see the airport and surrounding mountains, but no glimpse of Kili. Our room is actually only 1/2 of the building, I spotted the path around to the other door this morning. Watching the birds in the cactus, aloe and tree outside the room window - there was a black bird with a brilliant red chest and a patch of bright blue on it's head, with a long curved beak, reminiscent of a hummingbird. 10am.

Lay on the bed and read until the heretofore unnoticed phone rang, the front desk saying that our ride was here. A Masai man intercepted us at the end of our lodge path and took my suitcase from me, and then a groundskeeper materialised and took Cris's duffel bag. We returned the key and walked out onto he front porch to see a green van and a white land rover, the latter with the hood up and a guy half buried in the engine. "The white one is yours," we were told. Okay... with a bit of help and a match (?!) they closed it up and we were on our way. They'd loaded the bags in the back seat, I kept glancing back to make sure they weren't about to brain me. They didn't shift much. We went out past the airport and turned right along the road to Arusha (I think). Our driver swapped between cautious, pulling back into our lane when cars started to approach as he began to pass, and daring, passing bikes and motorcycles closely. It was a two lane road all the way, with roundabouts in Moshi. As we started out, there were more bikes on the road than cars, but as we passed through more towns, more trucks, SUVs and cars appeared. On bikes I saw: Masai with shepherd's sticks, a family with dad pedalling, mom side saddle on the rack with a baby in a sling. A guy was walking a bike with a house door strapped to the back. Piles of sticks (firewood). It seemed like people were cutting down dried corn stalks and bundling them in the fields lining the road. Lots of small roadside markets (from one woman on a crate to 10 women with other wares piled up) and then a huge one teeming with people. Lots of small stores, a few bars. We stopped in Moshi to exchange US dollars for Tanzanian shillings, but the first bank only did exchanges for customers, so we hopped back in the Land Rover and went up the road to a bureau de change for ex. An English guy was on his cell phone, sitting on a bench next to the teller windows, trying to get his lost bags, but only one guy was at the cash window. Cris was served at the traveller's cheques window, me at the cash. We both changed $300US for 342,000 shillings. It was way too much local currency, as it turned out, as almost everywhere preferred to take US dollars (and most of our trip was prepaid anyway). I came home with over 1k in shillings after 15 days, since I couldn't find anywhere to change it back on the way out of the country. :/ The exchange rate was different if we used $100 bills rather than $20's, kinda sketchy. I was proud of myself for remembering to look to the right first when crossing the road from the bank. Back on the road, we stopped at around noon to do the exchange, and had 45 mins to go. We passed two groups of school children in uniform, walking by the side of the road: green skirts/pants with yellow tops, and red bottoms and white tops. More groups of kids together now, too, before we'd just see 1 herding goats. I saw lots of donkeys, cows, and goats, loose but ignoring the road. One pickup that we passed had a guy with a brown curly haired goat in the back. Tonnes of packed full mini buses. It probably helps that there's only one main road running through that area, skirting along the mountain. Saw tow donkeys hitched to a full cart, a woman urging them up an incline with a switch. We dove down into a valley and over a bridge. Lots of people collecting water in big yellow jugs. Lots of people with things carried on their heads too, including one woman almost buried under bananas on the stick (her friend was carrying the leaves). Our driver pointed out the towns we passed through, and where Mt. Kilimanjaro was lurking behind the clouds. He gave us a heads up as we turned down the road near Marangu - 3km of dirt road ahead until we got to Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort. Rocks and potholes more like it. After I slammed my shoulder against the door (no seat belts), I braced myself and settled in. It was faster than I expected - he had no fear of flat tires as we climbed up. Another gate, opened by a green clad guard this time. Another form at check in, and a parade of staff to take our stuff up to room 104 on the second floor. We look out over the pool and have a mountain view. Much more western in style, with an LCD tv, soaking tub, shower, 2 toilets, wardrobe, desk, table, and chairs - it's a huge room, and we've got our own balcony. Lots of amenities, but there's a charge for most (internet is reasonable, will send emails when get a chance).

Plopped our stuff down and went downstairs to get lunch (was about 1pm). Sat by the pool at a low table, as other guests had claimed the regular ones. Bit of a wait, but the sweet and sour fish was good, with fried rice. Sadly left the cucumbers and tomato on the side untouched as they weren't peeled. The bar was jumping, but we went back upstairs. They're building another wing next door, saw stripped trees propping things up. I started to write things up, but when I paused to take my vitamins, I started feeling dizzy, so I lay down. Chilly so went under the covers then fell asleep. Cris joined me for a nap from 5-6pm or so. Then up again and unpacked, so can repack into the correct bags. One more night here, our trek briefing is tomorrow and then we go.

Went downstairs at 6:30, found out that dinner wasn't until 7pm, so bought 15mins of time on the computers, just had time to post to LJ, and sent a private note through there, as I didn't have time to install PuTTy. Then went into the bar as Cris finished up his post, and got a gin and tonic. Sat by the edge rather than the wood burning stove, Cris went and put DEET on as mosquitoes were out and it was open air (bamboo/banana thatched roof again). Much more relaxed after my drink. Went into dinner at 7:30, they were reminding us that they were ready. We were in first, but a pair of British women, a pair of men and a couple from Ireland also joined our table. We may be hiking w/the women, the quieter one is nice, also a cycle commuter. We chatted after the meal as her friend talked to the guys. The talkative guy has been all over, he shared stories about Patagonia and Bombay (think he's also named Chris). Dinner was buffet style, the fried rice appeared and worked well under the chicken tandoori. Peas and spinach was good too. Turned out that dinner was included, we just paid 1500sh for 1.5L of water. Glad we got to talk to people, was feeling like we'd been antisocial. Chris said that the Chagga village and waterfall are nearby, refuse a guide if one offers. Ended up taking 2 hours over dinner, and remembered to take Malarone even. Signed up for breakfast at 9am. The two guys are starting their trek tomorrow. They had their briefing (1 hour) in the evening before dinner. Read for a bit and then took a nice long hot bath. The tub is a bit short and narrow, and I didn't fill it up the whole way, but it has a sloping back and I was able to soak and relax nicely. Put on my sweater over a t-shirt and sleep pants as it was chilly. At 11:30pm the lights all went out. I was able to find the room torch and put batteries in it, and Cris found his headlamp, but we still just went to sleep after trying to turn off all the lights. At midnight or so, the power came back on and we found that we'd missed the overhead light. Oops. Luckily there's a second switch by the bed, so Cris hit it and we dozed off again. I'd blown up one of my camp pillows to put under my knee, it did my back good I think. Some loud animal sounds woke us in the night and then the pool filter was banging during someone's 6am swim. My attempt to reset my watch alarm was successful at least, that went off at 8am.

Sun Sept 14/08 - Marangu

Lots of noise around 8am as the day's hikers took off. I washed my face, applied sunblock and DEET and changed (t-shirt under shirt, still a bit chilly) and chivvied Cris out of bed at 8:30am. Cloudy today. Couldn't find a room safe, it was the Kia Lodge where I'd spotted it. Should probably figure out how to close the window in the bathroom, lots of noise coming in from the stairs (yay, tile) (shoved it closed from the outside when coming back to the room). The waterfall by the pool is on this morning too.

Went down for breakfast just after 9am, sat with the British couple, Russell and Faye, and then the two London girls (Sophie and Juliet) joined us later. The French group at the end of the table didn't interact with us much. Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit (I had Cris's pineapple), and I made my own tea this time. There was also a cassava/yucca porridge that Cris tried, but it wasn't looking too appealing to me that early in the day. We closed out the breakfast room again, and ran into a local guide (other than the one the waiter told us about unprompted) hanging in the hall but we dodged around him. Up to the room to get our coats and hiking boots, and even though it was grey out, I grabbed my hat. Turned out to be a good idea, as it got sunny as we started down the road from the hotel to Marangu. I was the first out the door and realised that I'd forgotten my sun glasses, so I ran back up for those and to use the bathroom one more time (too much tea at breakfast!), but I skipped finding and donning my knee brace. We turned left first, outside the hotel gate, and went to the Chagga Live Museum. The "special guide", John, started giving us the spiel until the official guide showed up, not too long. Got a description of the traditional Chagga house they had built, with cows kept inside to keep them safer from the Masai. Pineapple bushes around the hut kept snakes out. Burial practices were interesting, the father at least was buried in his sleeping skin and sitting on his stool right under the earth by the bed. The bed wasn't used for 10 years, until they dug him up and put the bones in a tree. When we came out of the hut, after sitting o n the opposite parent's beds (I was sitting on the father's, Cris was on the mother's further from the door), I spotted a small spotted grey cat that liked like the serval that some friends have, but it darted onto the other side of the banana fence and I couldn't get a picture. A young goat was free in the enclosure, eating fallen leaves. In the museum room, we got to see lots of traditional implements, bowls and the scrapers to make them, spears (the Masai one was iron tipped, they'd discovered smelting ore and guarded the secret jealously). The banana spacing tool was confusingly named, it was used to dig up the plant to move it to a better place. 3000 shillings for the tour.

As we went back by the resort gate, some guys had picked up a chameleon on a stick and started toward us to show it off, but I dashed away, not willing to be macho and risk attaching a "guide". I got us turned the right way at the end of the driveway, and as we joined the road down to Marangu, a group of guys was working around some cars, and a boy and a young man started tagging along with us. The boy turned back, but the teen stayed with us the whole way down to the paved road - I found it very annoying as he would dart in front of us all the time and we'd always be staring at his back. A fair number of cars, trucks, and minivans/buses went up and down and we'd step to the side of the road. No rhyme or reason as to which side, more determined by the side of the road the vehicle driver felt was the smoothest. We were briefly engulfed by a crowd coming out of church. We stopped briefly on a bridge to look at the rocky river below, but when a jeep crossed as well, I could feel the bridge sway a bit and decided to continue on. We managed to lose the teen near the end of the dirt road, when we stopped to look down over a ravine to Marangu. He went off right toward the village, Cris went left to the Marangu Gate to try and get a walking stick, and I turned back, as the road to the e gate went up a hill and I didn't want to stress my knee going back down it (plus, I'd already walked 3km, and the gate was another 6km or so onward and I was feeling lazy :) okay, not like over extending myself before starting a 4 day walk up a mountain). We later found out that a quartet of our fellow climbers had hired a guide and gone on a four hour walk around the hotel and village. Going back by myself was fine, lost of "jambo"ing. :) A trio of guys was ahead of me most of the way, at one point, one paused to pee off the side of the road. The intersection by the turn for the hotel was bare this time, but I trusted in the signs for the KMR and Chagga live museum. Through the gates and up to the room for a pee and a drink. Stretched and read a bit, then got hungry and came down for lunch. Chicken tikka for 10K shillings and another big bottle of water. Ate by the pool at a table and wrote while waiting for food. French group here, but only one interaction with the one who speaks English. Took me about 40mins for the walk back, so expect Cris at least 1.5 hours after me. Rinsed my t-shirt and short sleeved shirt with the hope that t they'll be dry by tomorrow to pack away. 2:40pm.

Was able to apportion things between the bags easily enough. Cris came back as I was finishing up. We read for a bit, and he told me about his walk - he got a metal walking stick. We went down to try and use the jacuzzi but they didn't have it warmed up and it would take 4-5 hours. So we tried the sauna, but it took 2 people to turn it on and then one t o come back and turn it on again... Also had to wait 5 mins for it to warm up before we were allowed to go in (glass door we could see out to the pool area), and then another 10-15 before it actually got hot enough to break a sweat. Took a shower down there in the pool bathroom, and then heard Cris saying (the walls didn't go up to the ceiling) that the briefing was starting. Rushed to get passport and insurance info and then sat to find out that we were waiting for more people. Cris went to look up his insurance info, so I took notes for him when the briefing started:
9:30am start from here, get to the first camp site at 3 or 4pm. There's a safe here for valuables, can leave passport here. Dry at start, start with convertible pants, bandanna for dust. 2 hours drive to the start. Leave room for lunch in my day pack. Bring 2L of water, buy here. Day 2 will be 6-8 hours. Get more water at lunch on day 2. Porters will put our bags in their waterproof bags. Bury toilet paper, don't burn, go at least 10m away from water. Trash bag available in the mess tent. The mountain has toilet facilities, but use their tents. Eat at least 2 meals a day, careful of loss of appetite. Summit day: start at 12:01am, split into groups depending on pace. Walk slow, 4-8 hours to the peak. Take little stuff: 2L of water, extra layers, camera. There will be a porter in your tent to take care of your stuff, so leave it. Don't give up on crater rim, Gilman's Point to peak is 2 hours. Turn around - 3 hours. Altitude sickness starts on day 2. Each day except 2 can do a walk further up and return for acclimatisation. Drink 4-5L per day. Take painkillers. Bring $50-80 per person for tips. Our group of 12 has 42 other people, do it on the last day after breakfast (since they beat us off the mountain). Say how much they'll get first. Bring $5 and $10's.
Guide: Justin
Cook: John
Assistant guides: Gerard, Mussa, Jonas

After the briefing:
Ran to the computer room and got my insurance number from an email I'd sent to myself (the print out was messed up, the number wasn't on it). Downloaded and installed PuTTY.exe, it's nice and small and doesn't take long even on a slow connection! Signed up to rent a down jacket, as better warm than cold, then went up to put on DEET yet again. Down to dinner, sat with Sophie and Juliet, Russell and Faye, and the US guys living in London (Franklin, Mark and Steve?), who struck me as fabulous. :) I'd outed myself as a goth at breakfast when I admitted that I'd gone to Whitby for the gothic festival. Didn't stay so late this night, last repacking with bin liners, ran down to weight porter pack - briefing guy was there, but someone had borrowed the scale, he hefted my bag and said that I was 5 kilos under. Water makes my pack heavy. Cris and I bought 30 minutes online, emailed my family and scanned LJ but it didn't hold me. Broke my 50's and 100's with the briefing guy and the bartender, so have tipping change. Up to room and showered and read a bit. Torn on bringing a book or not... (ended up finishing Twilight Watch that night anyway, so it was moot).

Mon Sept 15/08

All the pictures from Kilimanjaro.

I put $465US and 240K Tz sh in the safe along with my passport when I went down to check my suitcase into left luggage. I had to sign all sorts of forms to check the two things. They stapled the envelopes closed for us. Then back up to the room to get the trip bags. My t-shirt hadn't dried yet, even with the blow dryer treatment, so I put it in the outside pocket of my suitcase, which I discovered was lined with plastic, score. Once we were downstairs with of all our crap (helped by the staff who were hovering outside the rooms), we had to sit and wait around for our tour guide and briefing coordinator to arrive. He had the red down jacket for me, but they'd packed my green bag on top of a landrover already, so he took it with him because it would get dusty if I took it in my truck. Er, now I was worried about the level of road dust, even though we'd been warned that the first two days would be dusty on the trail. Cris and a few others bought bandannas from an enterprising local, but I had brought mine with me and just used it. We climbed into a landrover with the Irish couple, Julie and Phillip. Our driver was fairly quiet, and drive nice and slowly over the crap roads, the other trucks passed us one by one as we drove around the base of Kilimanjaro. I managed not to get banged around much, bracing myself against the bumps. The roads went down to washboard, and then construction hit. We kept switching from side to side of the new surface, as well as occasionally driving on it when the rocks and trees blocking it off had been moved aside. We passed some huge trucks, and lots of kids on or with bikes collecting water. Really dusty to the point of feeling like we were in a sand storm with zero visibility. Lots of mini buses were passed as well, crammed with people. We finally turned onto real tarmac for the last half hour of the trip, of course just as I tried to take a picture to show what we'd gone through.

We went up a small side (dirt) road next to a village of huts, and turned around in a small clearing in the trees by the side of the road to pull up by the park tourist hut. I got my down jacket from our organiser, and he had me point out my porter bag so that I could stuff it into the top before the porters put my bag in their waterproof one. There was a small building with running water bathroom facilities just off to the side, and the open air structure where we waited was next to the park ranger/guard hut where our guides were sorting out the passes. We had to sign in to a book with our passport info and occupation so that they could keep track of us. A woman and child were washing and hanging laundry from a line just behind the buildings, a black and white bird loitering around on the ground (looked like a raven but with white splotches), and a longer building was arranged facing the road, where the porters were hanging out as their packages were being sorted out. A bunch of potential porters was lined up across the road, sitting, standing and leaning against the trees, and some kids were hanging out there with them as well. We ate our packed lunch and waited and waited. They split us into our groups of 12 and 10 and introduced our guides, assistant guides and cook. Then we took off up the trail! The sign laid out the rules of the park, but no surprises were seen there after our preparatory research.

We went through banana plantations nestled in the forest clearings. First we passed cypress trees, then cedars (I think). We had our first short stop by a huge pile of corn husks. Some of the women went off into the bush to pee, but I was fine so far. We passed into a bit of jungle, where we went off the red extremely dusty trail with Gerard to see monkeys - the animals were huge, and had big bushy tails. That was awesome, though I wasn't too happy that Gerard was banging the branches to get them to move, so much for the literature about respecting the flora and fauna of the mountain. It was very very dusty, the red sand was as fine as flour and would puff up with each step. We were advised to spread out to let the dust settle between pairs of walkers. The trail was fairly flat, maybe just a slight upward grade. Porters were passing us quickly, huge bags balanced on their heads. It was an improved trail, with rain run off channels and tree branch borders. We stopped with the group of 10 at the first park toilet. I braved it, boards slippery next to the hole, but not stinky. More monkeys in the trees, often moving right above us. There were a couple of wooden tables and benches set up, we sat to nibble on our snacks. I had put on my convertible hiking pants, but never was tempted to zip them off into shorts, due to the dust. We crossed a few streams on bridges, and took a rest break just before the trees ran out into the moor land.

We ran into the camp unexpectedly, it was tucked into the trees where the trail widened a little, at around 5:30pm. We picked tent 64, it would be our tent for the rest of the trip. There was a mattress sitting in it, and we hadn't ordered one, so we passed it out (later, there was confusion over where it went, I hadn't taken note of who took it, I think one of the porters). We were next to the porter tent, they were a bit talkative. Gerard led us up the trail on the route we would take the next day, gaining a bit of altitude in an acclimatisation hike, so we would sleep at a lower altitude than the maximum that we'd reached that day. At one point the trail opened up a bit and we could see over the brush to Mawenzi peak. On the way back down to the camp, Gerard noticed that I was walking much more slowly downhill and I admitted that I had problems with my knee (I was wearing my brace every day). I'd also broken out my pair of hiking poles at one of the early rest stops, figuring that it was better to be safe than sorry, and gaining the extra stability from the four points hitting the ground. In camp, we were each given a shallow basin with hot water to wash up - I didn't go so far as Russ did, to strip off boots and socks and wash my feet. They had set up a small tent, with a square foot print and tall enough to stand straight up inside, as the toilet tent, with a wooden seat open over an orange bucket. I'd tried to pick a tent as far from it as possible! The sleeping tents were bigger than I expected, two poles down the middle holding up the roof, which were a little annoying as they kept Cris and I apart (huddling for warmth would have been good some nights!), but it made the tent taller. They were blue and the fly leaf over them was held down with rocks, and provided a vestibule just outside our front "door". The only downside was that the helper porters tended to set them up on a slope with the door where we'd point our feet on a slight downhill slant from the top where we'd put our heads, so that we'd be sliding off of our mats as the night went on. I'd put my pack by my feet and brace against it, cursing not bringing twine to tie my sleeping bag loops around the inflatable mat. But that was much better than sleeping head down, and we had to make do with the camping sites that the mountain gave us.

A gear note: the Thermarest Women's ProLite 4 is awesome! It was totally comfortable, even for side sleeping, and it rolls up small and light, and it insulated me from the cold ground - I never felt chilly from that direction. It just needed some time to inflate the first night I used it in NH, since I'd been stupid and not read the directions before taking it camping. My down sleeping bag was rated to -5F, a mummy style one that I could close around my face, but I should have sprung for the liner they suggested, as the last night, I was chilly - I think the rating is based on "how cold can it be used w/o you freezing to death" versus "how cold can it be used with comfort". I'd picked that bag because I know that I can't sleep when I'm cold, and at lower altitudes, I just kept it unzipped part way to provide ventilation. It was a worthwhile investment, that's for sure. I'd picked up a dry sack to store it in though, as the down wouldn't dry out easily if it got wet. It came with a compression sack as well, so it packed down to about the size of a football, it was awesome. I'd also picked up a pair of cheap inflatable camping pillows, $3/each, that were perfect, they could be deflated for packing to save space and inflated to variable firmness depending on how I wanted to use them.

After unpacking our pads and sleeping bags, we crowded into the mess tent for tea. Strong tea was passed around, brewed up already and served in thermoses, and then they gave us dinner. We were sitting on folding camp stools around a slightly unstable table that had a cloth on it. We had fried potatoes, sauteed spinach, soup, and melon for dessert, it was quite good. It was 7:30 when we started, 8:30 or so when we ended and we all pretty much went right to bed as it was pitch dark. They'd lit a propane (?) lantern, a gas canister with a glowing element on top, to give us light in the tent, but it was so bright it gave me a headache if I stared at it too long. They'd had it out on a table between the tents earlier, but we had to bring our headlamps to dinner to find our way back once we were done. I was sitting near one end of the tent, and as people came in through the flap, I spotted the full moon hanging low over the horizon, orange tinged. It was gorgeous, and I pointed it out to the others and some went out to look as well. The cooks filled up my 1L bottles with warm water, I put on my thermals and a hat and snuggled down into my down bag. And promptly did not fall asleep. I had only blown up one of the two inflatable pillows that I'd brought, and kept swapping it between my head and under my knees to take the pressure off of my lower back. Then I got too warm. And people were snoring... And the porters were talking... At one point Cris asked if I shouldn't just get up, and I told him that I hadn't slept yet. Too much tea? Or the start of altitude inspired insomnia? I also had forgotten to brush my teeth, so my mouth felt icky after dinner, but it was too cold to go do it in the dark.

Tue Sept 16/08

The wake up call came at 6:30am, but I was already awake, staring at the slowly lightening tent roof. Gerard (might have been Jonas, my writing is crap) passed in mugs of hot tea for us - nice. I also stripped off and washed everywhere with a baby wipe - it was heaven to get the dust off. I had dust to my knees despite wearing long pants and tall socks the day before, the dirt had been hidden when I changed by the light of my head lamp the night before. More hot water for washing, I washed my face and brushed my teeth, setting the round shallow plastic tub on the wooden picnic table that was installed in the middle of the tents so I wouldn't have to bend down so much. My camp towel was way too big, it could have been a quarter the size and still worked well, I was tempted to cut it apart and use a small section as a wash cloth, but I resisted. Breakfast was at 7:30: papaya, stinky porridge (not a fan of it normally, but I had a serving spoon full). Phil and I bonded a bit over our dislike of porridge, but he also choked some down. Then more food came out, slices of an omelet, etc. I filled up on bread and peanut butter (the cook's helper checked with me to be sure that my nut allergy wasn't going to be a problem with having the peanut butter in the mess tent, but I'm fine with peanuts). We were packed and ready to go by 8:30 on the dot. We had a long walk up to the lunch camp, I passed the point we'd gone up to last night without noting it, but took pics at the spot from which we could see Mawenzi peak.

Faye started feeling bad before lunch, and she threw up after lunch. So did Juliet, but Faye was in a worse way. We'd just passed 3000m, going past a shallow cave where we paused to take pictures. Lunch was served outside, next to second cave, with the table set up in the same configuration as for breakfast, but no tent around it, it was slightly surreal. It was still hot in the morning, I just wore a short sleeved shirt, but clouds came in at lunch and it got chilly. We all put on our waterproof layers, as well as some insulation, but luckily it was just misty, not raining. We had soup again, and an avocado salad that rocked. And then we were off along the ridge. We'd gained most of our elevation in the morning, about 1000m, we were now going up and down on the ridge on a more natural path - yay for the lack of dust!

Water: I'd finished drinking 2L of water by lunch and had finished another 2L before supper. They gave us water at lunch, but it wasn't very warm and had sediment swirling around in it. Breakfast water was cold, probably boiled the night before, we used the SteriPen (borrowed from our friend who used it on a trek in Peru) on it, but the last bottle (Cris has 1, and I have 2, 1L bottles) didn't work 100% well (remembering directions and actually carrying them out were a bit of a challenge, it had two settings depending on how much water you were purifying), but I had no problem after drinking it so the boiling had been enough. That night Cris offered to use the pen on Faye's water so that she wouldn't have to try and choke down hers that they'd been adding iodine and flavouring into. I was saving a 1.5L bottle that I'd bought at KMR for the summit attempt, figuring that if I didn't have to worry about the water, that was one less stressor. It worked out really well to have the 2 1L bottles, I'd give them to the cooks to fill with water at meals, drink through the 2L in my camelbak and fill it back up on the trail, and repeat. I never drank from the bottles, they were wide mouthed Nalgene ones that had a bit of an annoying cover retention system (the cover would bonk me on the nose as I tried to drink from the bottle), and my backpack's water bottle pockets were hard to reach. The one thing that I wish I'd done was get a cover for my camelbak reservoir's drinking tube mouth piece, every time I put my pack down, I had to be careful not to drop the mouth piece in the dirt (the usual case was that I'd forget and then wipe it off before drinking again).

We had beautiful views back over Kenya and up to Mawenzi. Lots of volcanic ridges and rivers to cross, most dry. It was a long, long day. Jonas was going faster than Gerard did, we took our own stops to recover. Then Justin and Gerard caught up with us, Juliet and Sophie, Russel and Faye and at first Philip and Julie, then Cris. We walked through a large area that was coming back from a fire, there were still black sticks poking up from renewed growth. When we came over the final ridge and saw the tents already set up, it was awesome. We finished hiking at 5:30 again. As I stopped moving, I started to feel bad, the beginnings of altitude sickness nibbling at my body. I ate a light supper and took a diamox and felt better. The camp was set up above the clouds it was really neat to look down on their tops. I sat at the table after dinner for a while and listened to the Swiss play cards, and Juliet and Sophie talk to Phil, while I wrote up the hike so far. About 8:30pm. Justin had given us a briefing after dinner: Another 6:30am wake up call for tomorrow, then morning walk to lunch, about 2 hours off and then an acclimatisation walk. I hope that Faye is okay/better by then. I was left with the guy serving dinner and a few random guys taking tea. Drinking hot water with sugar now, hope to sleep. Went to the bathroom right after dinner and again before sleeping to try and avoid the diamox induced peeing during the night. I blew up my second inflatable pillow, a bit less firmly than the other one, and used it under my head, and it was fine. I bundled up and stood outside a while to look at the full moon, the stars, the milky way, and the lights of the towns well below us in Kenya. Gorgeous, but freezing! The moonlight was glinting on the glaciers near the peak of Kibo (like this, but moonlit), it was bright enough that I didn't need my headlamp to walk around a little. I wish it hadn't been so cold, it would have been great to sit outside for longer, but I hurried into my sleeping bag so I wouldn't start shivering too badly.

Wed Sept 17/08

Porters half woke me just before 6am, tents are not sound proof in any way, but I only got up when they brought in tea. I slept better that night, a huge relief. Porridge for breakfast again, I had one scoop and then could only eat a bite of omelet. I drank lots of tea, but I felt a bit queasy. I took two diamox this time, Justin had given us some dosage advice the night before in the briefing (backed up by Julie who originally didn't want anyone to know she was a doctor). We were on the trail just after 8:30am. It was a bit up and down, but mostly going up toward Mawenzi. Really interesting geography, I could see a lava tunnel at one point, bored into the side of the mountain. We saw Scottish thistle and a very long lived species of tree down in a gully. We could see the porters climbing the ridge ahead of us, white sacks on their heads a moving point of reference. I was going really slowly otherwise I'd get out of breath and my heart would pound. At one point I had Gerard, Jonas, and two others (Mussa maybe) all around me, Jonas setting a nice slow pace, four sheepdogs to my lonesome struggling sheep. I had no problems other than lack of breath, the nausea had quieted down. I caught up with the others at a break by some rocks, we were going through the area where all the huge boulders thrown not so far from the volcano's mouth had landed and stuck. The explosions on Mt. Doom in Return of the King were vivid in my imagination. One last ridge and Gerard pointed out the top of a tent at camp. Got in at about 1pm. Saw lots of inukshuks on the trail, Jonas said that some of the other guides left them. Lunch was soup, veggie meat balls for me, and chips - I had a bit more appetite, which was good, as one of the warning signs for altitude sickness was loss of appetite (they'd warned us to try and show up for each meal, if we missed two in a day, that was bad - everyone did show up for every meal, go go group of 12!). We had an hour's worth of rest until 2:50pm and then we kitted up for the acclimatisation walk. I took stuff out of my pack that I didn't need, but still went out with 4L of water. Water's heavy, 1Kg per litre; Cris ended up taking 2 from me when I went really slowly up one ridge. Really great views with the clouds coming in, and at one point I could see Faye's and my shadows projected onto the clouds below us, with a rainbow around us. Going down was slippery, lots of loose gravel. We rested on a sharp ridge, a grey coloured stream of sand/rocks to one side, Mawenzi to the other. I was very careful of how I sat, I felt like I could have tipped back over and off the ridge if my pack shifted too much, it was that narrow. We took a different, less steep?, route back to camp. We came in along the lake (Mawenzi Tarn - if you search on Mawenzi Tarn you'll hit a lot of Rongai route travelogues) and saw rocks spelling out names in the flat area around the water. We had a short break, then a wash and tea was ready. We were back around 5pm I think, maybe 4? Must have been closer to 6. I was first for tea and then the others arrived. Olivier didn't hike with us, not sure if he wasn't feeling well or if he felt he didn't need the acclimatisation. Marie had his watch with the built in altimeter, and said we only gained 150m in our afternoon climb, though we'd been told 300m I think. The Swiss had been training by climbing Mt. Blanc the previous month, Marie had ended up towing Olivier then I think, she's hardcore.

I wrote down notes on our cast of characters, so their names would stick with me:

At one point in the mess tent, a debate about cheese broke out, with Martina asking what the English knew about cheese. :) The cook made me up a special veggie sauce for the spaghetti, and we had sugary pancakes with honey for dessert. I had my own tea this night and then switched to sugar water for my next cups. Earlier, I'd managed to poke myself in the eye with the end of my sunglasses (they were on a cord around my neck, I'd let them fall down on my chest to use the bathroom and tilted my head down at one point enough to get poked). I couldn't find the zip lock bag with my eyedrops (I'd separated my toiletries and first aid stuff into three bags based on frequency of use, not the best idea for finding the first aid supplies quickly, but the one gallon ziplock bag with all my underwear worked really well, as did making sure to roll socks together and clip gloves together so they wouldn't get separated). Martina was able to find her eye drops and I squeezed a couple of drops into my stinging eye, almost crying as the saline hit and cleared out days worth of dust. I had to do the other eye just to make sure that the pain wasn't from a scratch, and yup, that was very painful as well. One thing I'd do differently is to get a porter bag that had compartments, rummaging around in it to find things got old fast. The only plus was that it was really fast to pack it up, just stuffing things in the top. The one I brought was also a bit voluminous to easily fit in the porter's waterproof bags, I would see them every morning struggling to stuff it in.

The briefing from Justin was a bit scary this time: This is our last water hole until we're on the Marangu route heading down (they'll carry 120L of water for drinking, but no front of the tent washing, just a couple of bins by the mess tent). I need to empty out my 1.5L water bottle and get it refilled tomorrow. Last one in the tent again as I wrote up the day, and the assistant cook Jeremiah, Justin and 2 others came in for tea. Now to pee, get ready for bed, and pee again and try to sleep. My torso was chilly last night, will add one more layer tonight. Also, I had condensation on the opening of my sleeping bag, from my breath, but it dried out okay. Guides could get cell phone reception if it was clear and they were facing Kenya, it was a bit strange to see them sitting during breaks and text messaging. :) I'd specifically left behind all my electronics, barring my camera, and was writing in a notebook, longhand, for the first time in years, to record my memories. Clouds were sitting below us today. The stars are very clear, but the moon hadn't risen by the time I went to bed.

Thu Sept 18/08

I dozed through to 6:30am, and got up to take sweet tea from Jonas. I tentatively ate porridge for breakfast, passed on the omelet though, and ate bread and fruit. They gave us chocolate and biscuits for the 5-6 hour walk that we faced before we would be fed lunch. We left just before 8:30, trekking up and over the ridge we came in on, and splitting off to head over the saddle, recrossing the grey sand river. Pole pole (slowly slowly) for me, but feeling good. Took 2 diamox at breakfast, and dug out my pill packet and found the joint meds (glucosamine), as well as taking my allergy pill (reactin) and some ibuprofen. Better living through chemistry. :) Gorgeous views, long ones of the trail stretching before us toward Kibo. We went down into the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo, moving through barren arctic desert now. We stopped at all rocks big enough to provide privacy (not many, it was mostly just lichen and low plants around the trail). At one point, all the women went off to some far rocks, and someone started singing "I think we're alone now" by Tiffany, and we all joined in. :) I later heard from Cris that he could hear us clearly, oops. :) It was hard having to go so far off the path to do our business, every step and every breath was a struggle. We headed back to the boys and were soon off again through the desolate beauty of the saddle. The group of 10 passed us, as well as a few couples. The clouds were scudding past us as they were thrown up over the mountain's shoulder. Bars of sunlight lay across our path, but Kibo was hidden in the clouds most of the time. We finally got a glimpse of the Kibo huts camp where we would spend the night, and then we started ascending to it, 4700m above sea level. Jonas set a slow pace for me again and Cris joined us. Clouds hid and revealed Kibo, I caught a glimpse of the glacier and Gerard pointed out Gilman's Point and the path up to it (a gray zig zag). The scale of the mountain was really brought home to me as we seemed to inch very slowly toward the structures marking camp. As we got close, we joined up with the top of the Marangu route, and saw more hikers. A few were coming down, after their summit attempts - I searched their faces for signs of victory or resignation, but mostly saw exhaustion.

I signed it at the room set up as a reception hall (it was tiny, it doubled as the store, and had 3 or 4 bunks and a stove in there as well as the two guys signing people in and selling chocolate, coke and water, it was just a room at the end of one of the long dorm buildings). I had time to go to the bathroom and then it was time to head into the mess tent for lunch, at around 1:45pm. It took us 5 hours to make it there from Mawenzi tarn, I was impressed, I think the guides' estimates of our rate of movement was getting better as they had more data to extrapolate from. Two of the Swiss girls had gone ahead with Mussa, AWC had so many guides for just this reason, we could all find a pace with a guide that worked for us. Soup, pasta and fish paste (yummier than it sounds), bread, fruit and tea for lunch. Supper was going to be at 5:30. I took a look around, bought water for $4 from the store, and packed my bag for tomorrow, well unpacked it, really, trying to get it as light as possible - it would help that I'd be wearing most of my warm clothes. I finished the water in my camelbak reservoir and wrote. It was a bit odd that I didn't get through my 2L on the hike from breakfast, but it wasn't a hard walk, it was fairly level across the saddle, and Justin let us rest a lot, and went slowly. The wind was brutal, though (little did I know it would only get worse as we continued up). I was a bit worried about how to keep my water from freezing when we start hiking at midnight, I was told to blow back down the sipping tube to make sure no water stays exposed in it, and hopefully I can keep a 1L bottle warm in the pack, maybe wrapped up in a spare fleece? I put my clothes for tomorrow in my sleeping bag to stay warm with me as I sleep. They'll give us tea when they wake us up, and then we'll start climbing. They'll carry tea with them, and give us some when we get to Gilman's Point. I spread my down jacket over the top of my sleeping bag, and cuddled up with my hot water bottles (aka litre of boiled drinking water).

Wake up call was 11pm, and they gave us tea at 11:30 and we were on our way just before midnight. We just pushed our stuff to one side in the tent, a porter was going to bring in his sleeping bag and stay in the tent while we were climbing, since we'd be coming back there (but not sleeping) after our summit attempt.

Fri Sept 19/08

What I was wearing for the summit ascent (it was below freezing and the wind was cutting like a knife), from the skin out: Keeping my clothes that I was going to wear in my sleeping bag with me as I slept worked out well. I'd left my knee brace outside in the tent, and it was nice and cold to keep the swelling down. :) I started out slow, and got slower as I kept losing my breath and my heart rate went sky rocketing. I swear it must have gotten close to 200bpm a few times. I kept falling back through the line of hikers, and finally it was just me, Russell, and Faye struggling up with Patroquet and Gerard. Gerard took my pack off of me, giving it to Patroquet to carry (which I'll admit saved me a lot of effort, but his motivation was partially to get me to tip someone else for carrying it!). We were going tres pole pole, barely a foot length at a time. We were zig zagging up, hair pin turns every 20 feet or so, and they wouldn't let us stop until we reached a corner, urging us on, and not letting us rest more than 2-5 minutes at a time. I watched the stars above and the moon shining down all night, checking to see if the sky had turned and any stars had fallen behind the ridge lines that we were hiking between. I could see lines of hikers above us, their headlamps shining beacons in the darkness. Cris was up there somewhere, he'd pulled ahead with the faster group. I'd just barely noted the sign for William's point at 5000m above sea level, it was listing at an angle. We stopped at Hans Meyer Cave, and I moved off a bit into the darkness (telling the guides with us where I was going, as required - it was way too easy to lose or mix people up in the dark), to relieve myself. I'd had a nasty stomach ache all night so far, my pack waist strap was pressing down on my waist where all my layers of pants were cutting into me, and there was probably a case of nerves added to the mix as well. I felt better after going to the bathroom, but there's nothing like baring your bottom to the -15C elements. *wry smile* At around this point, my headlamp switch migrated away from a light giving setting (it was a new one, I'd been utterly unable to find my Petzl Zipka one before leaving home), and I just kept it off instead of fiddling with it, the moon and stars gave enough light for me to see (but my eyes adapt really well to darkness). Hans Meyer cave was really shallow, like the first cave that we'd passed on the hike up to Mawenzi, and we had to be careful not to hit our heads when we stood up. It blocked the wind nicely though, which was all I asked for at this point - every other zig zag was into the wind, and I'd huddle down into my hood trying not to freeze my face, the only bare skin I had exposed. I wish I'd switched my sunglasses to the clear lenses to guard my eyes, but I can't recall if I'd even brought the spare lenses to Africa with me. At one point, one of my fingers started tingling, yet another sign of altitude sickness, and Patroquet rubbed my hand until it warmed up and stopped tingling. He gave me a chemical hand warmer to stick in my glove, but it never ignited so it didn't help at all. As I turned into the wind and it would hit my body, I'd feel the beginnings of my torso getting cold (mostly along the zipper line on my jacket), but it never got to the point where I felt I had to dig out the down parka.

We pushed on, and Faye and I would take turns calling for stops. Gerard sang for us, it was impressive that he had the breath for it! We swapped places a few times with a line of hikers that turned out (realised after the fact when I saw them on the crater rim in sunlight) to be the group of 10, the Dutch guy carrying an inflatable dinosaur strapped to his pack. The footing was horrible, loose sand and fine rocks that would give with every step so that we'd slide back a bit each time we put our feet down. Gerard kept saying "no giving up until sunrise!", and Russell was awesome, saying "great job girls!". As I got closer to the crater rim, I saw Cris waving from above us. We had made it to just below Gilman's Point when the sun broke out of the line of clouds. It was gorgeous against Mawenzi, and the most welcome sunrise of my life, as the temperature rose a few degrees and the wind ceased to be quite so cutting. And, well, it was light, we were done our ordeal in the darkness, it was 6:30am and we'd been struggling up the mountain since just before midnight. Russel and Faye at sunrise, and me and Gerard and Patroquet. It was a quick scramble up the Jamaica Rocks to Gilman's Point (I had to put down my hiking poles once to use my hands to pull myself up), arriving at around 6:40am, barely 10 minutes after Cris's group (their breaks were longer due to having more people to get moving). I barely got my cup of tea when Gerard asked if I was going to Uhuru Peak. I had to take a moment to think about it, I'd just shed a few tears over the accomplishment of making it to Gilman's, I was really really really tired, but I decided that, since Cris said that he'd go down with me if that's what I wanted to do, I'd try to go on. I was okay if I went slowly, so I crossed my fingers, hauled myself up, and made sure that Patroquet was going to be coming with us with my pack. I'd barely had time to snap a few photos looking down into the crater, part of my motivation for going on was to spend more time appreciating the awesome view. Looking back over the saddle to Mawenzi, with the trail down to Kibo huts clinging to the mountain face below us, it was surreal to think that we'd been over there the morning before, it looked both very short and infinitely far away.

I had no problems with the altitude on the crater rim, 5681m and up past Gilman's Point, though Sophie succumbed and had to be rushed down by Patroquet (who still had my pack, luckily I'd grabbed my sunglasses and camera, but I had to cadge water from Cris and then give it back as I retrieved my pack when we caught up to them half way down at Hans Meyer Cave). Much later, I was kicking myself, because I'd put the severe altitude sickness pills in my pack, and I should have offered them to Sophie at least. Your brain really does go into survival mode. Faye went down with Jonas (I think), but Russell came across to Uhuru Peak with the rest of us. It turned out that Juliet and Julie were also pretty rough and had to be helped down, and Cris got a helping hand as well. I was honestly amazed that I was doing as well as I was, I was able to walk briskly around the crater rim wherever it was level or descending, and went back to my pole pole rate whenever a slight rise occurred. The guides were rushing us a little, it was dangerous to stay up there too long, we couldn't acclimatise. My approach to trying to combat altitude sickness was:

There are lots of articles out there talking about altitude sickness, read up on it, it's dangerous. We found out after we got home that a local man died on the summit the same day we were there. I'd previously experienced mild symptoms when skiing in Utah, at 10,000 feet and above, so I specifically chose the longer Rongai route that would give us an extra day on the mountain to acclimatise.

It was crowded on the rim, another route up the mountain joined our path there, and it was a bit dangerous to get to the peak (edging around outcroppings above drop offs). Gorgeous glaciers, and we could see people down in the crater on another approach. There were pockets of crowds on the rim, I went very slowly, but we were limited to 2 minute breaks. We caught up with the group who left earlier, Sophie and Juliet, and saw a Japanese guy getting rushed down past us, his friends following. I saw one big guy with a tired look of triumph on his face, heading back down the path. Passing hikers would say that it wasn't far to the peak, eventually someone said just 10 minutes, and soon we came around a last corner and spotted the sign marking Africa's highest point. We had time for one picture, and then we had to head back. The Swiss were wrapping up their picture taking as we arrived, and soon were heading back. Julie and Juliet were lying down, they had to be shaken to keep them awake. Sophie gave me her camera to take their picture against the sign, but she didn't remember doing so when I mentioned it later on.

Cris and I headed down right after Sophie (she was stumbling and incoherent), as Gerald yelled at us when we paused at Gilman's Point trying to adjust our boots for the trip down (they needed to be tightened so that our toes wouldn't hit the front of the boot). "Do you want to see someone die?" he said, and I didn't quite get the urgency, not understanding that he meant Sophie was in danger. I took it very slowly (my right knee does not do well with going down hill), putting each foot down with care, tracking Sophie being rushed down ahead of us on the trail. I think I fell in with Phil and Julie at one point - near the bottom, Phil sat down on the trail to re-wrap his ankle, he'd hurt it a few weeks ago. Cris was hiking on an injured knee as well, having had a bike accident 3 weeks ago that left him with an open wound on his knee and a very tender hand (which was why he was only using one hiking pole). I slipped on the scree at one point going down and jammed my left knee when I caught my balance, I was very careful afterwards with how I was stepping. You could technically run down the straight path, cutting across the zig zags that we'd so painfully climbed in the dark (that's how Faye came down with Jonas, and how Sophie was rushed down as well), letting the scree slide you down a bit with each step, but I didn't want to risk it too often, though I'd occasionally get impatient and cut across a couple of switch backs. We met some of the group of 10 on top and at the bottom - only 1 person didn't make it to the peak, AWC had an impressive summit record with us. We'll get actual certificates at the Marangu Gate, I thought they were joking. :) The guy I talked with at the bottom of the trail was asking if I thought I'd ever do it again, "hell no" was my answer. :)

I shed a few tears as I was approaching camp, overwhelmed that I'd done it. We made it down at 12:15 or so, lunch was called for 1pm, and we had to be packed and ready for the tents to be torn down then. I just had time to visit the bathroom tent, and throw stuff together for the afternoon's walk. Lunch was ... limited, soup and fruit. Everyone was tired, hungry and cranky. I'd barely made it through one clif bar in 12 hours of hiking and 2L of water. But we started off to the Horombo huts camp. Cris wrapped my left knee for me in a tension bandage, and I ate ibuprofen throughout the day, and was able to keep going without extreme discomfort, just some pain. *wry smile* Soon after leaving the Kibo huts camp, heading down on the Marangu route this time, we saw a sign saying that the night's camp was 7.8 km away. I almost gave up then, but pushed on. It was very exciting to see streams of running water again. The Swiss all took off at a brisk pace, soon leaving us far behind. I walked with Faye, Julie, and Phil at various times, chatting. Back down through the saddle's barren geography, moorland, pine forest and the lush greenery of the rain forest belt started to reappear. At one point on the saddle, park toilets appeared, standing isolated a ways from the path. We kept looking back over our shoulders to watch Kibo and Uhuru Peak fall behind a ridge, we were dropping altitude at a very fast rate. I had one last glimpse of a glacier and then it was time to face forward and commit to descending. The camp was perched on the edge of a drop off to hills and plains below, facing Tanzania this time, gorgeous as always. :) As I stumbled into camp, last again, I signed in and crashed in our tent and had an exhausted cry. 12 hours of hard labour to reaching the peak and descent, and then having to walk more, painfully downhill, not getting to camp until 6pm, I was DONE. They gave us hot water for washing, and tea was called quickly. Was told that dinner would be at 7:30 but we came in at 7 to see soup there already. We all stayed at the table after rice and goulash (veggie for me) to figure tips for the porters and guides, and then I wrote in my diary. Guys were bedding down as I wrote, they took down the table I wasn't using in the mess tent, but I wanted to record my impressions while they were fresh in my mind, undimmed by sleep. It was COLD though, I was shivering as I wrote, and you can see it in the shaky writing in my notebook. I was sucking down cup after cup of hot sugar water to try and stay warm, but it would cool off before I'd finish a cup. An insulated mug would have been a nice thing to have, and honestly, my own bowl, as the ones we were given were rarely 100% cleaned from the last meal. We'd all be going to the Moivaro Coffee Plantation the next day. Cris had come down with a cold, I gave him one of my cold and sinus pills and it seemed to help him sleep.

Sat Sept 20/08

My birthday. :) Mission accomplished, I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro before turning 36. I was now tied with Marie as the oldest of the group of 12. Our group ranged in age from late twenties to mid thirties, it was a good mix.

We were out of camp at 8:22am, to lunch at 12:08-12:48 (stupid digital watch). Done at 15:15 or so.

We got water for washing at 6:30, breakfast at 7, so it was a rush to pack and I was a little late. Then the tipping ceremony, where the crew lined up, Justin (who's other name is Neru, which means light, because he needed to have a light on to sleep as a child) gave a speech then Cris, who had volunteered, gave a speech thanking the crew for their hard work, and handed over the tips. I'd given Patroquet an extra tip for carrying my pack, and Gerard got my head lamp, since he'd asked for it on the trip up to Gilman's. We were sung the Kilimanjaro song, and took group pictures, I was happy that I got my camera's timer to work. And then we were on the trail again, allowed to go at our own rate, which of course for me meant being the slowest, but Cris stuck with me all day.

There were lots of embedded rocks in the trail, with slippery scree like stuff in between them. The Marangu route is much more improved than the bulk of the Rongai route that we took up, but I'd have been cranky to climb up it, it didn't feel adventurous enough. :) We'd occasionally walk in the rain gutters as they were clear of stones that were put down to provide a dry crossing when the trail turned to mud in the rainy season (it was dry then). I stopped with Julie briefly as she stripped off her layers, and I took one off too. I took my wool thermal long under wear off at lunch, by that point we were back in jungle and it was warm again. I wish I'd kept a clean set of hiking trousers for this day. I walked with Julie for a bit, then fell behind when my camelbak started leaking - it turned out that when I'd left it to be filled by the cook with sterilised water, the rubber ring slipped out of place when it was closed up. That pause was enough to let the last of the guides catch up to us, after 1.5 hours or so. Mussa stayed with me and Cris all day, pole pole. Down through moorland and a bit of rain forest, pine forest, more rain forest and finally to the gate after a brief stop for lunch at a hut camp.

We'd been given packed lunches and arrived at the lunch stop just as everyone was packing up to head down again. I doctored my toes (the left ones all developed blisters on the climb down from Gilman's), padding them with moleskin. I used a toilet with running water, what bliss. :) Then Mussa got us on the trail, we were all impatient to get to the finish line. After we passed the nature trail turn around point we passed some Japanese hikers and got to say konichiwa, bringing back strong memories of hiking on Yakushima. Lots of traffic, it was odd to see people with only a bottle of water, but generally the path was wide enough for passing. Kinda boring though. Caught up with Franklin and co. and took some pictures while walking with them. They were going just a titch faster than us, so pulled away eventually. Some local kids were hanging out at a bend in the trail, hawking t-shirts. Cris and I were the last ones off the trail, I was worn out, wrung out, barely able to move around, letting my will relax now that I was done and didn't have to push myself any more. I signed into two books (one the "done" book, one the "summit" book, I think), filled in a questionnaire (no comments, just circling numbers) and gave it to the AWC person who met us. I bought a post card at the store there, and a stamp for the USA and then scratched out my parent's address in Canada and sent it instead to the first person on my postcard list from the US (Amy). I claimed my bag from the porters, returned my down jacket and climbed into the bus that was going to take us to the hotel. Kids and young men were hawking t-shirts and necklaces in the parking lot, tapping on the bus windows to get our attention. Mussa and a few porters were in with us, hitching a ride toward Arusha. We made a speedy stop at Kilimanjaro Mountain resort to get our suitcases and safe deposit bags (they had the suitcases out, we'd given them our return date). I ducked into the washroom in anticipation of the 2 hour drive, the poor cloth washcloth in there was filthy as everyone washed off trail dust from their hands.

Back onto the bus, and I got handed our itinerary for our safari and noticed that we only had 4 days of actual safari instead of the five promised. I tried to clear it up on the AWC rep's cell phone, speaking to headquarters, but it turned out that World Expeditions had booked us an extra night of hotel, but not an extra day of safari, despite us leaving for the airport at 5pm that day. Decided to just go with it, as another day of safari in Arusha National Park would have to have been purchased on top of what we'd already paid, and the idea of a day of rest was appealing right then. Note to others: print out and bring with you a detailed itinerary so that you can argue what you're supposed to get if things go pear shaped.

It was a long ride to Moivaro but at least it was all on paved roads once we got out of the side road up to KMR. We dropped Mussa off along the way. It was dark by the time we arrived, 7:30 or so. We had passed Mt. Meru and saw Kili to the side (I kept looking too far down for the glaciers, it was still overwhelming how high the mountain goes). Big messy check in, grab a key and go. Bags carried to room by staff, confusing route along garden paths in the dark. I took a very long hot shower, lamenting over the lack of a washcloth to really scrub at the dirt. Then Cris got what hot water was left over. :) We went out to dinner, sitting with the group of 12 as it turned out, marvelling over having elbow room between us. Talked with Julie and Phil mostly, as they were seated next to us. Cris paid for drinks, our three course supper was included in our rate (commence me getting really sick of pasta with vegetable sauce, I had better vegetarian food on the mountain than I did from now on). I had a gin and tonic as my birthday drink, and the others wished me a happy birthday, and thankfully didn't sing. We moved into the bar for a bit, but the chatty hiker followed (he'd met the author of our hiking book while on the mountain. Juliet and Sophie had met him at KMR before they set out and he and his friend sat near us and nattered on as we were finishing up). Julie looked radiant in a white dress, dressed for a romantic honeymoon again. :) It was neat seeing people in street clothes rather than bundled up in hiking gear. We went back to the room, taking a couple of false turns before finding our way. We had twin beds (Julie and Phil had had to ask for a double bed), with netting and flowers laid on the covers. The bathroom is less than ideal, the cold tap is hard to turn on in sink, the toilet doesn't stop trickling to refill the tank, there are leaky faucets, and shower head is too high for me. But: running water. :) I put biohazard stuff in my pack (aka everything I wore on the mountain), and let stuff dry out hanging on hooks, will finish in the morning. May be later than 12, feel light headed. Conked out soon after writing this.

Cris and I put our heads together a bit later and made a list of things that we wished we'd had with us. The World Expeditions packing list was excellent, I'm glad that I brought everything on it, these are just things that would have made the trip a bit nicer:

Sun Sept 21/08

We heard a knock at the door at 6:30am. I got up, dressed, and finished packing up. Went out to breakfast at 7:10am, and dug into the buffet laid out in the room just inside from the porch where we'd eaten dinner last night, and where we sat this morning. I got a made to order omelet with cheese and peppers, good tea (yay!), and passion fruit juice on my first pass, and went back for fruit, running into Sophie and Juliet at that table. We were seated at a white cloth covered table for two on the edge of the porch, and took in a view of Mt. Meru over the lawn at the centre of the lodges clustered around the pool. We went back to the room to finish up packing, and as we walked out the door with our bags, a porter appeared to help us carry them. We saw Natacha seeing the others off as they climbed into their safari truck, Martina's sister and another friend had arrived last night to take her place in their party as she headed home. I saw Russ and Fay as well, trying to sort out which safari vehicle was theirs out of the fleet pulled up in front of the hotel. Then Dixon, our driver, introduced himself to us and got our bags loaded into the back of his LandCruiser and covered up with a tarp. There's only one door into the back middle seats, so Cris slide over and I got the easy access seat. We were moving fairly slowly this morning, I wasn't really in pain, but I was really stiff. I regretted not taking the time to stretch more while on the trail.

Pictures from Lake Manyara. Cris's safari gallery.

We went back down the bumpy dirt road to the highway and took off toward Lake Manyara. We made a quick stop for a case of water bottles in a store that seemed to mostly sell booze, I got 12 500ml bottles for 10k shillings. The guy helping the female clerk wouldn't let me carry it out to the car, he grabbed it before I could pick it up. The contrast between the dirt parking lot and the tarmac covered highway was marked. Then we were off for reals. I was still so tired that I dozed off a couple of times on the two hour drive. We went through / into Masai territory, we saw lots of herds, of goats and cows, and herders in the traditional dress of red and blue wraps. Bikes were more prevalent as well, it was a tarmac road and a good surface for riding along so most people were pedalling rather than pushing. We turned into the park gate and stopped in the parking lot with a few other safari trucks, and Dixon went to get our permit. Cris and I used the facilities. Very clean, and they even had a Japanese style squat toilet. Dixon put the roof up, swinging the bars forward to lock the supports into place, and we got back into the truck, ready for the safari to start. :) We could stand up, holding to the padded edge of the opening, and take pictures without having to worry about the windows or truck pieces getting in our way. We had a brief pause at the guard hut for the armed park rangers to check our permit, and then we were through into the park proper.

It was an awesome morning, we saw a Masai giraffe right away and almost ran over an elephant, all in the first 10 minutes. We drove on a bumpy red dirt road, very slowly, scanning both sides for movement. We headed generally toward the hippo pool, following signs posted at road branches, moving along a river. Dixon pointed out a few neat trees, one a sausage tree named for the long hard fruit that grew down from the branches, and one a figgy tree with twisty pieces of bark snaking up the trunk. We saw black monkeys and baboons, then yellow billed storks and pelicans and zebras, then a huge flock of birds at the pool, and hippos lolling about in the muddy water. More zebras, giraffe, buffalo and wildebeest were off in the background. It was a bit hot in the sun, I had on a black short sleeved top with a black safari top (well vented) over it, and shorts, as well as my ever present Tilley hat. :) We were able to get out of the Land Cruiser and walk around a little at the hippo pool, the only barrier was a series of log poles that we weren't supposed to pass. It was awesome being on the ground, looking at animals I'd only seen in zoos and on tv. It was getting on toward lunch then, so we headed toward the park picnic site. On the way, we went through an open stretch of ground with a small herd of giraffes ambling across it. Back into the woods, and we saw gazelles and baboons hanging out just in the trees, and then I spotted an elephant a bit of a ways off taking a dust bath. It was fun that animal spotting was a collaborative venture, Dixon was pretty good at watching both the road and the surrounding bush (though this wasn't so good when we were driving along the highway at speed!), Cris spotted some animals first from his side, and I did from my side of the truck as well. At one point, we had to slow down and putter along behind an elephant, as it had right of way on the road, the park enforcing a low speed limit on the trucks winding along the network of roads, as well as respect for the animals that we were visiting.

The picnic site was up on a hill with a lovely view of Lake Manyara and a line of pink that Dixon swore was a flock of flamingos. I was pretty happy with how well my camera was working out so far, but the 24 times total zoom wasn't quite enough to make out the individual birds. There were other tourists there too, and other guides came over to speak with Dixon as we tore into our box lunches. The picnic tables were made of metal and non too stable, but I definitely appreciated how they positioned them all under trees for shade! The facilities at this location were clean but missing supplies, it felt like I was back on the trail. :) After finishing up our food (I gave Cris my banana), Dixon piled the empty boxes in the passenger seat in front of me (they drive on the left there, he was seated in the right front of the truck), and we headed back down into the park proper, and the search for lions began. It was 1pm to 3:30pm or so that we were driving around during the afternoon, we didn't spot any lions but we did see a few new animals: banded mongooses, warthogs, a ? starling and another bird (one and two), a hornbill, and weaver birds nests.

Dixon says that they do have snakes (but I assured him that we didn't have to search them out), water moccasins, and 2 kinds of mambas, and pythons. Luckily for me, we didn't see any! I was getting hot, and a tiny bit bored, as we weren't seeing any lions nor any other animals for decent stretches of time (we might have been close to their regular hunting grounds that the other animals knew to avoid). We kept seeing perfectly good lounging trees that were bereft of lions, though, with sturdy horizontal branches. Tse-tse flies kept coming into the truck as well, especially by the lake. At one point, Dixon killed one and held it out to us to examine so that we knew what to look for: a larger body than the regular house flies I was used to, and subtle striping on it. They're fast too, we were swatting at them with our sun hats and missing more than we'd get them. By the end of the day, my hat was smeared with guts, with one streak of red that worried me - one fly had bitten a mammal, and I hope it wasn't anyone in the truck! I was getting paranoid about killing them, not wanting one to bite me, and I was spending almost more time hunting around the truck for them than watching for animals. Finally, Dixon pulled up to the park museum and we looked around inside while he put the roof down for the faster driving to come. The one room museum was opened in the 1960's and it looked like the stuffed specimens hadn't been touched since then. One whole glass fronted box just had pins and tags on the slanted back board and a pile of dust at the bottom. It was free and it kept us out of the sun while Dixon worked on the truck, so I didn't mind the stop, and it was kind of neat to see very close up examples of some of the live animals we'd seen earlier. Back in the truck, we found out that Dixon had had to climb Mount Kilimanjaro when he was in school, at 15 years of age. We were back on tarmac now, and he stopped us at a view point as we climbed the rift valley escarpment, and we could see over the lake. He scared off some touts for us, they were waiting with arms full of necklaces and descended on us as we stopped at the outlook point. We'd seen two road cyclists all kitted out with spandex and helmets, a stark contrast to the people in regular clothes pedalling along on workhorse bikes. I wondered if there was a randoneering presence, the long flat roads would make planning brevets fairly easy, but the heat would be brutal. We made another stop, when Cris and I didn't protest, at a tourist hand crafts shop. It was huge, with lots of staff to bother us (I think we were the only tourists in there at the time). I didn't even bring my wallet in, and apparently neither did Cris because he went back out to the truck to get his when he haggled down the price of a wooden serving bowl. I was tempted by the Masai spears but not enough to figure out how to get it home past customs and airport security. There were tonnes of painted canvasses lined up along the walls, showing scenes from Masai dances and general life, but they had the feeling of being mass produced as we'd passed similar paintings at other shops. Lots of carved wooden masks, and chess sets, and earrings and necklaces, but none of the small things really cried out to me to take them home.

Back on the road and through lovely countryside, and then into a busy town. We turned up yet another bumpy dirt road, winding through ramshackle buildings, Dixon taking seemingly random turns, until we pulled up to yet another gorgeous lodge, the Octagon safari lodge. We were led through another twisty path through gorgeous gardens (under a roofed in section with vines growing up over the lattice work), past free standing bungalows (smaller than the ones at Kira and Moivaro), and then through a garden gate to our own garden park and bungalow. It was huge! It had three beds, two in a separate room, and a large master one in the main studio part, with a sofa, tv and best of all, a tub! There wasn't a stopper for the drain, though, very disappointing. After I washed some quick drying clothes to wear tomorrow, and had a shower in the spacious free standing stall (curtains hung from a squared off pipe hanging from the ceiling), I found my way back through the gardens to reception to ask about the tub stopper and get postcards. It was all locked up though, so I made my way back, seeing one of the tourists who'd arrived at the lodge just after us walking back to his bungalow as well, and more holed up in the Irish (?!) bar. It was a very strange sight, in the middle of a tropical safari lodge, seeing an inflatable leprechaun tied to the centre post in a thatched hut, and Irish flag bunting strung up between the poles. On the trek, I think it was Russel who'd expounded on the 9% Guinness that was available in Tanzania, stronger than any where else in the world. I settled in on our patio at the chair and tables set up there with my notebook and wrote in my diary. Until a huge honking hairy caterpillar fell on my hand and then onto the table. I collected the clothes that I'd put out in the sun on the other chair, and on the french door handle, and went inside to avoid the insect life. I'd reapplied my bug repellent, as a matter of course, but it couldn't do anything against falling caterpillars.

Dinner is at 7, soon, and it smelled good when I went by the restaurant on my way to and from the lobby. I kind of missed our group of twelve, I kept looking for them, but we may only intersect tomorrow night in Tarangire. Tomorrow's Ngorogoro Crater, really looking forward to it. The lights in the bungalow keep dimming, will keep my head lamp handy. Cris and I both agree that we'd hang out with Philip and Julie if we lived in the same city. I liked Russ too, but would need a break from Faye after a while, I think, but that impression was formed under less than ideal circumstances, she was suffering from the altitude most of the time, and relying heavily on others to reassure her about things. Sophie and Juliet are nice, but didn't feel like we clicked, maybe they're too old of friends, or else they'd picked Faye and Russell to pair up with. The Swiss were off on their own, wish I'd gotten to know Natacha better, she took some crap for leaving her group after a week since she wanted alone time - I can relate and I tired to stick up for her. Also some gossip about the group of ten and the crew was getting a bit mean, I ended up snapping at Cris near the end to stop it. Granted, I never witnessed the crew getting drunk, and assumed that Justin was just a slow speaker, so I was sticking to my "if I don't witness it, I won't credit it" stance.
Cris wants to get a 9% Guinness at the "real Irish bar", so we're off to do that before dinner.
I found my moisturiser, yay! It was hidden at the bottom of my tote bag, ah relief. My chin is peeling like crazy, and my lips are so chapped that they're bleeding if I smile too widely.

We sat in the bar with Irish stuff all around us, flag bunting, Guinness signs, road signs. I had a Tanqueray and tonic, the bartender, when I ordered it, said that one shot might not be enough (they give you a separate bottle of tonic water beside the glass holding the shot of gin), but it was fine for a taste and not getting too tipsy. I must have been given doubles at KMR and Moivaro, the bartenders never asked. Cris ordered his Guinness and found that the alcohol percentage had been exaggerated a little, it was 7.5%. Our bartender encouraged us to go over to the restaurant, it turns out that it was only us and a group of 4 Brits, so it was good to be on time. They did a veggie meal for me that ended up being basically Cris's meal without the chicken that he was served. Carrot coconut soup, then rice and spinach with garlic, and veggies, and a cucumber and tomato salad. For dessert, it was two small brandied chocolate truffles, they were very very good, a huge step up from the chocolate bars that we were snacking on on the trail! We were eating outside again, under a thatched porch connected to the dining room building, and birds were flitting about, in and out of the dining area and the gardens we were next to. It was so peaceful and beautiful, I wished that we could stay longer here instead of moving on again in the morning. I was feeling some urgency to use the bathroom as we finished off the meal, so I preceded Cris back to our bungalow, and then took a shower to wash off the DEET and sunblock. I immediately gave up my plan to try and plug the bathtub with a twisted piece of cloth when I had to kill a slew of spiders that had come visiting in the bathroom. I set my watch's alarm to 6:30am, and checked my drying clothing. It was mostly dry but for the tshirt again. We seem to be next door to a party, I can hear drums. On the way over we had passed a building next to the road with a bar upstairs filled with people cheering and whistling, probably watching a sports game. I'm vaguely wondering what's up with the world these days, we've been cut off from news sources since we arrived. I don't think we even tried to turn on the TV in the room. We snuggled down into the bed, enclosed by the ever present mosquito netting and dozed off. I was woken up at midnight by a guy singing? yelling? being loud right outside our bungalow. Cris got up to check the locks, but everything was fine. We just felt a bit isolated off by ourselves, with only a banana tree fence between us and the party goers.

Mon Sept 22/08

A rooster started crowing before my alarm went off, I woke up at 6am to it's insistent cries. I stayed in bed until 6:30 though. I had packed almost everything last night, so we were off to eat breakfast at close to 7am. We were the first there. Passion fruit juice (last), strong tea (in a pot though, and Cris got a french press, I think), toast with very yummy jam, scrambled eggs and fruit. I had to use the restroom inside the building, and grabbed a handful of tissues while I was in there, as my travel pack was running low (this was one of the only boxes of tissues I saw on the trip). I think my system is reset to normal food after the altitude readjustment. We asked, and found out that the lodge had been open since 2004, and they were planning to put in a pool. I would go back in a second, this was my favourite place to stay. My impression might have been different if we were in one of the smaller bungalows, but the vegetarian food that they served me was also the best I'd had. We wound our way back to our rooms and found a pair of guinea hens hanging around on our patio. I went inside, and they were actually tapping their beaks on the glass of the french doors, very insistently, maybe due to the curtains being open. We shoo'd them off, but they came back as we were finishing up our preparations. Two women appeared as we left the bungalow and they carried our bags for us out to the front of the lobby. Dixon was waiting outside.

All the pictures from Ngorogoro.

We had a bit of a long drive on the highway, and then we went off road to the park gate. The kiosks there had cheap post cards! They were only 500 shillings each, so I grabbed most of the amount that I need to send to people. Then back on the horribly dusty road, climbing steeply up to a crater rim, 2 kilometres up, we were told, and down again into Ngorogoro Crater. All the plant life lining the road was buried under a coating of red dust. We could see Serengeti national park in the distance from the overlook on the crater rim. The lake looked white and steaming, salt and evaporation combined to give that effect. We saw herds of zebra and wildebeest and Thompson's gazelles and Grant's gazelles. There was lots of traffic on the roads as the drivers congregated where the animals were. We saw Cape buffalo, hippos, warthogs and hyenas. We had just passed a hyena hanging out by a road sign when the trunk hit a rock in just the wrong way and we got a flat. As Dixon asked us to get out of the truck so that he could jack it up and change out the tire, I spotted a lame hyena limping away from us. He soon stopped, however, and settled in to sit in the grass and watch us watch Dixon changing the tire. An ostrich wandered by and away, mutually ignoring the hyena - they're *big* birds! A small herd of zebras did the same. Dixon wasn't able to get the jack and rocks to lift up the springs enough to get the tire off. Another truck stopped and the driver lent us his jack - we talked a bit with the late middle aged tourists standing up in the back of that truck, and it turned out that they were from a town near where I'd lived for 8 years, Penatanguishene - small world! They'd been on safari longer than we had, going through Kenya first. They drove off before the tire change was complete, Dixon promising to return the jack at the park lunch stop when we'd all be there. Eventually the old tire came off and the new one went on quickly, and we were off to see more animals. We saw 3 female lions, one waiting for a zebra or wildebeest to come down to the water, but she'd given up and was napping when we came back around a second time. We actually drove through the stream whose bank she was waiting on, negotiating with other safari trucks for an angle under the trees to see the lionesses. At first I didn't spot the others, their tawny skin blending in very well with the dried grasses. We saw a crowd of baboons going up a hill, moving fast to get out of the grasslands where they were exposed. We passed a vividly green patch of long grass that was somewhat infested with elephants. We stopped for lunch near a water hole, and it took me a while to figure out that the slick grey rocks in the middle of it were actually the backs of hippos. There was a rainbow in a ring around the sun, and birds threatening to stoop on our food (we ate our lunch boxes sitting in the truck). The cottage cheese and lettuce sandwich that the Octagon lodge had packed for my lunch was good, plus the chocolate/banana bread was good too. And we got bits of mango, for the win in the box lunch contest. :) There were lots of weaver bird nests in the lone tree by the water, hanging down over the pond. We didn't stay at the lunch spot too long, we were off before most of the others. We saw a rhino from really far away (it was hanging out in the middle of a grassy area that was skirted by roads), saw more elephants in the marsh and in the sparsely spread out trees in a forest area. We made a stop for a rest break and to put the roof back down before climbing back out of the crater (we went out on a different road than we came down on, which was reassuring since Dixon was weaving all over to find the spots with the smallest rocks and potholes!). At the rest stop, there were vervet monkeys hanging out in the tree that was shading the facilities building. There was also a sign above a water buffalo skull saying not to feed the animals. The big trees that we were seeing all over the place were large yellow acacia! And the spikes are even bigger! The road back out of the crater was still steep and dusty.

We had a better view from the crater rim this time, no fog to obscure the view. Then we had a bit of another long drive. Dixon pulled over to the side of the road in Manyara village to check on the price of sweet potatoes, but they were too expensive there, so he drove on. He also stopped to get water for himself at the junction road where we turned to continue on toward Tarangire. He pulled over to sort out permits and to put the roof up again, as we'd be driving through the park to get to our lodge for the night. He gave us maps of the park so we could follow along a little bit on our journey. Baobab trees everywhere! We saw zebra and wildebeest etc on the way to Tarangire Safari Lodge. I was done by the time we arrived, I could only sit on our tent site's concrete porch, water in hand, staring at the river below. Sunset on the baobab trees was gorgeous. They put our beds together for us, as all the tents I guess had pairs of single beds. All they did was plop down a foam pad on top of the still made up single beds, and then cover it with bedding. I took a shower and found that our "bathroom" has a gap between it and the tent enclosing the bedroom that lets you see out/in. Great! Killed two mosquitoes before I showered. I ended up changing my clothes in the toilet stall, it was the same size as the shower stall, pretty spacious. Cris took his shower and I started writing up my travel diary but got distracted by writing out postcards. Dinner kinda sucked, though the room was nice. There was a fire pit going outside, and you could see the stars very clearly. I was served bad veggies, they all tasted frozen and my only vegetarian entree option was cold spaghetti with cool sauce. They gave me a new plate with hot sauce at least when I complained, but still. A big step down from the deliciousness straight from the garden at Octagon. I had a gin and tonic made with Beefeater gin to top it off, and the desserts all looked store bought. I had to run back to the tent to get my bottle of malarone, I was escorted there and back by a staff member due to the danger of elephants heading toward the lodge. There were no barriers between us and the free ranging animals, beyond the rise of land that we were perched upon. Julie and Philip had told us about being confined to their tent while a lion prowled around their safari camp, only a Masai warrior with a flashlight and stick to guard them. There was a small acacia bush planted right next to the path between our tent and the main entrance, I gave it's spikes a wide berth every time I went past. Cris and I went back to the tent together once we were done eating, Cris did laundry and then went back to the bar for another drink and to do postcards. I'm beat, it's only 9pm, but I need to be asleep by 10pm for the 6am wake up call. Someone tried to come into our tent by mistake, will definitely take my valuables in the truck with me tomorrow. I slept remarkably well, waking when Cris got up and when next door's alarm went off, but that was it. I found the air flaps this morning, large sections of the tent door that could be zipped open to mosquito netting instead of canvas, I'll probably open them tonight (I was chilly though, by morning, but it would be good to have a bit more air flow, and it's not like we get any sound insulation from the canvas any way). It definitely felt like two twin beds pushed together, there were two hollows, but at least we were under ones set of covers.

Tue Sept 23/08

All the pictures from Tarangire.

We were up at 6:30, well, 6:38am, the watch's snooze function didn't work. I changed and packed my valuables into my white tote bag, and went out for breakfast. Thank goodness for not having to fully repack yet again, we'd be coming back here for the night after the day's drive. Breakfast was buffet style, and I kept getting blocked by the retirees who seemed to make up the bulk of the other guests. I got a pot of hot water an d made my own tea at least. Got a 2 egg scrambled finally, and a bowl of passion fruit/papaya and watermelon, and toast appeared as well, and I was happier. I still had some time before 8, when Dixon would pick us up, so I went back to my room to brush my teeth and then grabbed all my stuff. Went to the gift shop to try and pick up the missing number of post cards, and to get stamps, and I was able to apply them to the written cards and mail them out at reception. I'm wishing now that I'd sent one home myself, just to see what the post mark was like from within the park. I also bought 15 minutes of internet access for $5/6k sh, perching on a high stool in front of the system tucked in a tiny nook behind the reception desk. It wasted my first 5 minutes as I had to wait for it to boot up into windows, but I finally managed to get PuTTy installed there too, found my brother's address in an email, as well as looking up the address for the massage therapy place as I was determined to send a thank you card to the therapist who'd helped me get my injured knee into good enough shape to climb Kili. I ran out of time before I could track down the last two, really feeling the lack of my palm pilot stuffed with all the info for my friends. I also posted a quick update to my livejournal letting everyone know that we'd made the summit of Kili and survived to tell the tale. Cris let me know that Dixon was waiting as I was struggling to finish up.

I hurried out to the LandCruiser, parked in a dirt lot with a fleet of others behind the lodge. We were off for our game drive, that lasted from 8am to 5pm, a long long day. But it's a huge huge park (about 2,850 square km, just shy of what the Vancouver metropolitan area covers), we could have spent four days here, as it was we barely covered half the park. There were lots of zebras and impalas, tonnes (literally) of elephants (omg so close) and giraffes, some baboons (a baby hitching a ride), and far away in the grass underneath a tree, we saw three lionesses. Dixon had pulled the truck over at one point and showed us lion paw prints in the dust of the road, it was exciting to be tracking them on the ground. This park had a fair number of tse tse flies as well, and we saw traps set up near places where people would stop to try and keep their numbers down. The dik-diks were insanely cute little animals. There were lots of young animals as well, and family groups to observe. The park was a big draw for the animals since it was one of the places where water could be found, so pretty much every river bank and watering hole had it's share of animals. At one point, Dixon stopped to show us a decomposing elephant by the side of the road, it smelled pretty bad, but I had to grab a picture for documentation purposes. *wry smile* We also saw some interesting elephant behaviour, as an adult and child elephant moved toward a group, trying to join them. They had their trunks up as they approached. The group members were mostly ignoring them, but did some fake charges, and it felt like the two new comers were hanging around timidly hoping that they wouldn't be noticed and driven away. We stopped at Siwale (?) swamp for a lunch break, I'd had to eat a clif bar at around 10 when I got massively hungry. Lunch was minimal, the lodge had given us all veggie boxes. We had a gorgeous view over the huge swath of bright green swamp, with elephants wading in the water and eating. It was very peaceful, and we were up on a little rise again so we had a long view across the park to a small peak. We paused at lunch before getting in the truck again, just taking in the view.

We tried to find a leopard after lunch, driving left along the swamp, but no love - Dixon asked an oncoming driver if he'd had any luck, and turned around when he said no. We saw lovebirds, but they flitted away too fast for me to get a picture. After turning around, we repassed the picnic area and continued along the other way around the swamp. We saw an owl perched in a tree, another bird, I think, clutched in it's claws, as it let it's own lunch age a bit. We started racing around the swamp on bumpy roads, passing lines of wildebeest moving across the plain. Eventually the reason for the hurry was revealed as we pulled up behind another truck next to a sausage tree, and saw a pride of lions lounging under it, using the downed fruit for pillows. It was insanely cute, and awesome to be so so so so close to them. Another truck pulled up behind us, we were boxing the pride in on one side but they didn't take any notice of us. This was the only male lion I saw on the trip, he was pretty chill, until the two females started getting snippy with him as he wanted to cuddle. :) The two young cubs were curled up together, one with a paw around the other. One of the females rolled over onto her back, lolling in the shade, and I had no desire to go over and rub her tummy. :) One of the tourists in another truck had the flash setting turned on when they were taking pictures, it was annoying, but not enough to spoil the moment. I took lots of pictures, and had to remind myself to put the camera down and just be there, enjoying the moment. The male lion looked like he'd survived some scraps, with scars on his face. His eyes were an amazingly intense yellow. This location was as far into the park as we penetrated, about half way down the length.

We went back along the high side of the river, not so many animals to see this way. I wasn't quite as tired today, it helped to not have to drive very far to start the game drive. Cris napped a bit. We saw some cape buffalo closer up. Eventually, Dixon dropped us off back at the lodge, and we went back to our tent. There was a group of elephants hanging out behind the lodge as we pulled up, just far enough of way that I thought, "oh, elephants, okay" and went on to the tent. :) We would start at 8 tomorrow. The plan was to go back to the lodge for a hot lunch, rather than relying on the ubiquitous lunch boxes, and then head back to Arusha from here. I washed my safari top as it was filthy from all the dust kicked up as we were driving around, and hung it up to dry on the valet thingy in the bathroom area. I changed into my bathing suit and finally got a swim! There were monkeys on the path as I walked from the tent to the pool. Cris wrote postcards first, I did it after my dip. It was chilly at first, and the pool was filled with salt water. It had been really hot in the Land Cruiser so the chill was appreciated, I could imagine myself dumping heat into the layer of water around me. Cris lost his knee bandage when he took a dip, I tried diving for it, but no luck. A staff member was able to get it out quickly with a net. There were three German kids splashing and running around, so I left my lounge chair and went to go shower. No monkeys hanging out when I went back to the tent. I showered and did the ritual anointing with DEET. Cris rented some time on the computer to get zip codes, and I dropped into the Baobab gift shop for one more postcard and and a giraffe thing for Cameryn, the only present that I'd promised to bring back. I also need to get Wendy a thank you gift in Arusha. I wrote up postcards, and Cris got me a zip code for one of them that I'd forgotten to write down, so I posted them then. I wrote in the bar as the sun went down, and had a Konyagi and tonic (it's like gin!). Big deep couches and chairs filled the bar area, and low wide wooden (like made of tree trunks) tables took up most of the space not filled with chairs. The screens were all see through, I could glance up and over the park as I wrote. The empty stomach with the drink made it fun. There were dik-diks grazing next to the path when I came over from the tent. Dinner in 10 minutes, Cris joined me and was reading the Atlantic, it felt very colonial. :) Should see if there's a book of poetry on the shared book shelf next to the lobby desk. Dinner was okay, ginger and pumpkin soup, spinach and garlic with rice (with corn kernels, hmph). Fruit salad for dinner was good. Konyagi makes me giggly. :) Back to the tent, brushed my teeth, and was ready for bed by 8:45pm. Our red eye flight up to Amsterdam should be an easy sleep, *knock on wood*.

Wed Sept 24/08

Woke at 4:40am and dozed until dawn. Dreamt of a master vampire who raised as a zombie after two house sized tigers attacked him. He was going to campaign for undead rights, as soon as he found a dry cleaner who could keep his suits clean. Group of new zombies did the Thriller dance toward a cop car after being raised, giggling the whole time. No idea. :) Got up at 6:30am, changed - the stuff I'd washed last night (safari top, bathing suit) were bone dry. I just missed getting there first for breakfast, I had to wait in the egg station line. Got my 2 eggs scrambled yet again, though. Made my own tea, and had fruit, ha d to ask for jam, though, for the toast. Back to the room (think the tea is upsetting my stomach, it's finally had enough of the strong Kilimanjaro brew). There was a vervet monkey visiting. :) I was mostly packed already, so I brushed my teeth and put on yet more DEET. Had help carrying the bags, they took them directly to the Land Cruiser and I popped by the front desk to check out. We'd be back for lunch, but no bills to settle, it was covered by African Walking Company.

We set off to the north-west portion of the park today, at a slow cruise. We didn't see any new species of animals, but we had some close encounters with giraffes, elephants (crossing the road (scroll down to the last videos) in front of us!). At one point, when we were far from any facilities, I really had to pee (had too much tea at breakfast), so Dixon pulled over near a bush and I got to jump out and pick my way to a private spot for a wild pee. I very concentratedly did not think of snakes. I was stepping carefully through the grass, there was a great deal of animal dung on the ground, but luckily no animals came by to check out this mammal. I got back to the truck without incident and we continued on. :) I'd seen mention of the Hunter's Hide when I examined the map that they'd given us, and Dixon took us there today. It's a hollowed out (huge!) baobab tree that you can climb into. Inside, there are pegs in the trunk where poachers would hang up game. Dixon turned toward the lodge at 11:15am, I told him that they weren't serving lunch until noon so we convinced him to do the small Serengeti loop. It was a good thing, too, as we saw elephants up close. :) A family group was hanging out in the shade, it was neat to see the baby trying to take a drink. We saw more wildebeest today, hanging out with the zebras at the water holes and river banks. We saw some warthogs by a pool, and two who were facing off, tusks locked.

We were back at the lodge at 12:15, but it turned out that lunch wasn't served until 12:30, oops. Cris and I sat in the bar, I wrote in my travel diary, and enjoyed the view (well, that was a picture from the day before, I can't find the one that Cris took of me). The lunch buffet looks promising, it has more local foods on offer. Then we'll be off to Arusha. I'm a fan of closing my watch band around the pocket loop in my brown convertible pants, I almost lost the watch when I was pulling something else out, I noticed it dangling on the loop and put it back in the pocket. I'd bought a cheap digital watch to bring on the trip, as I wasn't bringing my cell phone or palm pilot. It worked out well, the only down side was not reading the manual before leaving home to figure out how to turn off the alarm function! :) I also zipped off the leg at one point to check a painful spot on the back of my right thigh, it hurts still but no flu like symptoms are manifesting yet.

Lunch was so much better than dinner, spinach with peanut sauce, rice, fruit salad, fish in coconut sauce (omg yummy). I had a bottle of water too, to stay hydrated. We lingered a bit over the meal, not wanting to leave the park for good. I bought a pendant at the gift shop, and skipped using the computer as the Moivaro coffee plantation lodge had internet access as well. That was a mistake. :/ After a bumpy hot ride to Arusha, passing two people in wheel chairs moving down the side of the road, and fearing for my life as Dixon spent more time looking at the plains to either side of the road than the road itself, we made it to Moivaro. We said goodbye to Dixon here, and I gave him a medium tip for shepherding us around the parks (it went down a bit over how long the flat tire took to change, as well as his tarmac driving skills). After I took a shower and had a swim, I was told that the internet computer was broken. :/ I had one more address for my last postcard to look up, and the reception clerk wasn't reassuring that it would get fixed by tomorrow. Apparently the service guy hadn't shown up today at all. Ah well, I can mail the postcard from Amsterdam or something... The pool here is small but refreshing, with bamboo around it. Our room, #12, is a free standing bungalow, with a double bed and is close enough to the main building that we can't get lost finding it. I need to find a bag to carry around tomorrow and in Amsterdam, my white tote bag doesn't close at the top, and I doubt that I'll be able to pack everything neatly. We can go for a 2km walk around the plantation, or into the village for a tour tomorrow. Or just hang out and see if others from the group of 12 show up. :) I need to shower, DEET and change and decide on supper, as it's not included in tonight's stay here (but breakfast is). I took a nice long shower, ah, hot water with no (or at least little) guilt and no bugs. :) Cris and I decided to try going into town to a restaurant that he spotted in the guide book, but when we tried to get the front desk to call and see if we needed a reservation, and to see if they would come to pick us up as advertised, I think he misdialed the number for Bomba Guest House accidentally on purpose, twice. Then he dissuaded us from a taxi ($20 each way). So, we went to the bar, Cris had a beer (no. 2 ale?) and I ordered soup. It was pea, decent (fresh peas from garden), and gave me enough calories to think again. I got fed up with the constant suggestions that I should have a drink and I left Cris to settle up and went back to the bungalow. I ended up snuggled under the covers, as it was only 6:45 and dinner wasn't until 7:30. Cris joined me and was patient at my slow getting ready to eat again. Dinner was worth venturing out for (and our room close enough to the restaurant to make it easy to navigate in the dark, though as I took Cris's arm and walked next to him, he walked me into a rose bush's thorns - not my day). Avocado salad was yummy, had more pea soup but I didn't finish it (it was a set menu). More urgings to get a drink, Cris had a glass of red wine, but I kept passing. The ubiquitous veggie and noodles had a bit of peanut sauce this time and the vegetables were really fresh (they have an on site organic garden) instead of the wrinkly frozen stuff I was served at Tarangire. The dessert, carrot cake, was good too, the sauce was almost icing sweet. The set dinner price really shafts vegetarians though, min was the same price as Cris's lamb dinner, 71k shillings. :/ Went back to the room and jumped into bed at around 9pm. It was a long day. I got up at 4am to hunt down a mosquito that had managed to find it's way inside the netting.

Thu Sept 25/08

No alarm! :) I still woke up at 7am, though, but I stayed in bed until 8am, waking fully each time Cris shifted. Applied sunblock, DEET, and put on a skirt, and went off to breakfast buffet. Had 2 eggs scrambled, and warm bread - their toaster isn't very enthusiastic. Strong tea (which had me running for the bathroom again, I'm sure I've got the GI distress culprit now), and papaya, watermelon and pineapple fruit. We lingered a bit, then went back to the room to do an airport packing job. I put my swiss army knife in my suitcase right way so that I wouldn't forget to do it. It hadn't seen an awful lot of use, but I was glad that I had it for cutting up moleskin to pad my blisters. I tied up my pack straps as well as possible, as I planned to check it, and filled up my nalgene bottles with stuff and packed them into the suitcase as well. My pack is so dusty, I think more from the safari than from Kilimanjaro... Went back to reception, and was told that we can keep the room until 5pm when we're picked up. Checkout was officially 10:30am, but I guess they didn't have many guests coming in today. Then we were directed to the start of the 2km plantation walking path. A woman was power walking along it, doing laps it seemed. It wasn't very improved, it was nice to walk on dirt and leaves and sticks again. Lots of flowers, and a glimpse of the coffee plants. Cris bought some coffee in the gift shop after breakfast, but the t-shirts tempting me were all large and larger and a bit thin for $15. They had black ones, though. No luck on a zippered bag, may find one in Amsterdam. I wrote up the day so far, and am now deciding if I want to venture into Arusha for lunch. I lay back on the bed and rested my eyes, and ended up dozing. I didn't want Cris to miss out on going to Arusha, so I paid/gave him my half of the taxi fare and sent him off, asking him to repay me in stories about his experience. He sat with me on the restaurant veranda as I had a cheese and tomato sandwich (so good), as his taxi took 20 minutes to arrive. I finished my salad, and the net computer was still broken, so I perused the book shelves to see what I could bring back to the cabin with me. Julie had told us about leaving a book there when were were all recovering from the climb, and Faye had snatched it up, but I found "Fire from Heaven" by Mary Renault and I got 47 pages in before napping again. I'd read "The Persian Boy" recently, it was neat to get Alexander's side of the story. I had set an alarm for 4:30 as the time I'd go before starting to worry about Cris coming back, but he woke me at 3:30, with a bottle of Konyagi that he'd bought for me!!! :) It was only 4400 shillings, I'll have to make it last. :) I finished packing up and did a last tooth brushing from a water bottle (I was very glad of the bottled water that the lodge provided, as the tap was gushing brown now). They were watering the banana plants, that may have muddied the water. It was very sunny. We totally lucked out with respect to weather on this trip. We went into the bar to wait for our airport driver, having tea and coffee at 4, half listening for familiar accents in the people checking in at reception, and coming in for their airport transfers. Not looking forward to the red eye flight up to Amsterdam, and we have to be somewhat alert to see the city once we land.

Customs list:

Wow, I didn't buy much this trip, I bought a lot of stuff to get ready for it, but I'm coming back with memories and pictures. I may get a purse in Amsterdam, I'd noticed a lot of leather stores in the airport on the way here, and definitely a book. I made it to page 109 of "Fire From Heaven", need to grab it from the library and finish it at home.

Our driver was right on time at 5pm. We didn't see any familiar faces as we were hanging out waiting, and I sort of had to tear myself away from the lodge porch, casting longing glances around as we officially ended our time in Africa. We drove away from Arusha, in a nice new sedan, the first car that I've been in since the taxi to the airport in Boston. There were more people on bikes, slow trucks, and safari Land Rovers on the roads. Our driver passed when he could, it was an efficient drive. Mount Meru was visible, but Kilimanjaro was shrouded above the saddle. The sun was setting as we got to the airport. We unloaded the taxi and tipped our driver and then plunged into the tiny airport. There was one security x ray machine for all the bags coming in, and just past that I got my back pack wrapped up in plastic (6000 sh), in the hopes that it would survive better in the airplane holds. Then there was a huge messy line for check in, and no one was actually working the KLM counter when we got there, and the line kept bunching up behind us. Eventually they split us into two lines, and people manned the desks 2.5 hours before departure. We went up together to check in, and we kinda confused the clerk with our US H1B visas in our Canadian passports, but we assured them that they didn't have to worry about it (no idea why they were, we'd be going through US immigration in Boston). But we were in eventually, with all our bags checked through to Boston. I filled in the departure card, then we had some time to browse the tiny stores between the security gates (the guide book was right about how much time you could waste there, it felt a lot like a smaller Nairobi airport in terms of the shop sizes, but the halls were a bit wider at least), hit the bathroom, browsed some more. I looked at the Tanzanite displays, but the native blue stones weren't calling out to me - I wear jewellery so infrequently that it really wasn't worth it to get anything fancy, the most I'd wear would be a pendant. Kinda kicking myself about this after the fact, ti would have been a good way to use up the last of my Tanzanian shillings, as the currency exchange booth was in the arrivals area, not the departures. :/ We eventually lined up for immigration control when we saw that the line was starting to get long as people were processed through the check in desk. Cris went first, it took some time, but then the same clerk did mine quickly. I picked up a bag of cashews in the biggest store, as I was worried about getting hungry on the flight to Amsterdam, I'd totally forgotten to try calling KLM to request a vegetarian meal. Then we went through one more x-ray machine and finally made it to the departure lounge. The gates were just doors out onto the tarmac, but since it was dark out we couldn't see anything through our reflections. There was one more power shut off for good luck, everyone sat quietly in the dark for a few moments until the lights came back on. 7:23pm. Our flight should board at 8pm. We get to walk up to a jet, whee! No sign of it yet - our flight's passengers were told on the public address system to go through passport control at least. Ack, mosquitoes in here, it's open to the outside air. :/ The plane's here at last, the stair truck is there and people are deplaning. Aaaand, one more power off for luck.

We got to walk out on the tarmac to the front stair (they just had everyone go at once, splitting us up through gates between the back and the front of the plane). There was no on in our row's window seat, but I wasn't best pleased to find out we were stopping in Dar Es Salaam instead of going direct to Amsterdam. We got orange juice on the 45 minute hop to Dar, and then we must have waited an hour on the tarmac for people to deplane, the staff to service the plane, change of crew, and then new people to board. We got a lady sitting next to us, but she was quiet (until her loud male friend stopped to talk to her for a bit). Cris said that she walked over the chair arms when I was asleep and she needed to get out to the bathroom. I barely stayed awake for the soup (I skipped it, it might have been beef) and salad, Cris was out. I slept until 4am local time and then the plane started descending and they started feeding us a gross breakfast (I had one bite of the egg thing and left it). Luckily, the fruit salad was good. I caught a glimpse of the crescent moon off of the wing, tinted a deep orange. I half watched Kung Fu panda, but mostly hid under the noise cancelling head phones and my mp3s. I need to get Cris a pair before his next trip to Honolulu, he wasn't resting as well as I was. I had filled a water bottle (Cris got a half full bottle through the security check) from the plane tap, but it tasted metallic and I only had a sip or two.

Fri Sept 26/08

It was odd landing at 6:30am in Amsterdam and having it still be dark - I'd gotten used to being on the other edge of the time zone. Passport control was simple, the two guys working there were talking, they just stamped our books and let us through. We were able to find the luggage lockers with no problem (locker number M-269-04), there were enough signs leading us downstairs and Cris was able to use his credit card to grab us one big enough to throw most everything in. Which turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as it was cooler outside the airport than we expected and we were both shivering a little. We checked quite a few currency exchange places and none of them would take our Tanzanian shillings, despite multiple flights to TZ per day. :/ And then no ATMs would take our debit cards and I couldn't find the 10 Euro note that I'd brought along just for this eventuality. Cris eventually found a train ticket kiosk with a person in it and got us two tickets return to Amsterdam Central. There was a train leaving right then, we were able to catch it no problem (again, good signage), and had a quick ride into the city centre. No one checked our tickets, even, we paid 6.90 Euros for the two way ticket and hopefully that was the right fare! The sun was coming up as we were whisked into the city, and it illuminated the contrails left by the planes going in and out of Schiphol.

We had a bit of a frogger game to get past the tram tracks outside of the station, but we had found a kiosk inside that printed out walking maps to the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House. I was able to write down the times for trains back to the airport off of a board by the train itself: 12:02, :11, :29, :32 etc. track 15b or 14a, and the noon one would be fine for our 1:20 reboarding call. Now the only problems were being chilly, not having any Euros, and nothing was open that would take credit cards (we tried a lot of warmly lit up and awesome smelling bakeries, no dice). We walked all the way to the Rembrandt House before finding an exchange place that was open (we were able to transfer US dollars into Euros, of course they wouldn't take Tanzanian shillings), and then we were finally able to eat. Breakfast was buffet style at a hotel's restaurant, De Roode Leeuw, with cloth table covers and everything. :) It was 13 Euros each, but well worth it, we were both extremely low on calories and getting snappish. They hadn't really given us enough food on the plane from Dar. :/ Lots of tea and coffee helped us to wake up, and the air temperature was rising now that the sunlight was hitting the streets. The eggs tasted worse than in Tanzania, but the yogurt and cruesli were good, and hot milky sweet tea was just the thing. I'd been totally bonking, walking like a zombie and on the verge of tears. I could enjoy the day now. Cris found that the museum opened at 9, it was 9:15 then and the Rembrandt House wasn't going to open until 10. So we meandered to the museum. Lots of bikes, separate lanes for them, box bikes with 2 kids sitting in the box, child seats front and back on some bikes. The museum was under construction, I think one wing was closed off. Spent most of an hour on the first floor, then ran through the ground floor. The Titian wasn't there any more, they hadn't updated the brochures when the exhibit ended. We walked back toward the station, just a bit too late to spend any time at Rembrandt House. Cris got some garlic fries, from a vendor with a counter open to the street, wrapped in a paper cone. I spotted some really cute socks printed with the traditional Amsterdam bikes, and bummed some Euros off of Cris to get them. We found a goth store, but I didn't even try on the New Rocks because the exchange rate was so crappy. A really nice Irish woman was manning the till. Made it back to the central station, after peeking in at a bike shop (they had gold plated toe clips!), at 12:15, in time for the 12:29 train to the airport. Everything went smoothly there, short line at passport control, and then had time to brush my teeth, buy "Long Way Down" at the book store, as well as an apple and a bottle of water. I drank the latter in the security line for our gate while Cris went for a sandwich. I was grilled a bit at gate security, then popped into the bathroom beyond it to change into a fresh t-shirt, not being able to stand wearing the same thing I'd had on since the morning before in Moivaro. Cris and I were called back to security, since they forgot to take our paper tickets. 2:00, getting antsy... They only preboarded and let the elite members on and then everyone went in. Not too bad. Cris and I are in the middle of the plane again. :/ I finished "Long Way Down", there wasn't a lot in there on Tanzania after all, but a couple of passages resonated (changing a tire, view when going to the bathroom near Kili). My feet kept falling asleep, and my first attempt to get up to exercise and use the bathroom was thwarted by turbulence. The meal was okay, pasta and chicken were on offer and the pasta was good, though the salad had too many olives and the cake was weird. Had cheese and crackers later. I'm parched for water, need to get some. 2:22 in Boston, we're almost over St. John's. Hope my bottle of Konyagi is okay in the hold! I stayed awake so far, but it's a long long haul.

And there ended my written travel diary. We were able to reclaim all of our luggage in Boston, though going through Immigration was a bit of a hassle (we were supposed to give up our I94 cards when we left the continental US, so we had to fill them in again - I think we did that just in case to speed things up), but then I dropped my customs form and had to run way back to get and fill another one. I came back down into the arrivals hall and Cris was waving my old card. Oops. The immigration officer also was the one who told us about the ex-CIA agent who had died on Kili's summit the same day we were there. :/ I'm pretty sure that we just took a taxi home. We showered, and sat on something not moving for a while, and then decided to go to a cocktail party that some friends were throwing, in an effort to stay awake long enough to reset to Eastern time. The party was fun, we didn't stay long, I made a Konyagi and lime juice to sip, but stopped there. It ended up taking me most of a week to get over the jet lag, I was very very glad that we'd arrived home on a Friday and had the weekend to start recovery. My stomach was also really fragile for about a week, but some friends recommended Kombucha, a probiotic drink, and Kefir, same but milky, and two bottles of each sorted me right out over the course of about 4 days. I did end up losing at least 12lb on the trip, due to not eating enough. Luckily, my health was constantly good throughout the trip, which frankly surprised me, as I'd kept forgetting to take my vitamins. I think spending time outside getting exercise and fresh air was just the right thing for my body, though. :) Overall, it was an amazing trip, and I'm so glad that I finally did it.

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