Moshi, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

So we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel, and then finished packing up our bags.  Andy, Jon and I are all walking very funny because our muscles hurt so badly.  The bus to Nairobi was a charter bus arranged by Dragoman – our main tour operators – and it picked us up at 10:30 directly at the hotel.  We said good-bye to everyone we knew at the hotel, and we were off.

Before we left Moshi, the bus stopped at a few other hotels to pick up other people.  Eric, the guy from Chicago we met at Kibo Hut, got on.  We were psyched to hear about his own experience getting to the summit.  He also made it down the mountain in one day and was walking just as funny as we were.  The bus ride was a 7 hour ride, and was relatively uneventful.  We chatted, laughed, read, and listened to music.  Towards the end of the trip, we pulled out the cards and Eric taught us Spades.  Then we taught him Cho Dai Day, which he liked a lot.


We arrived in Nairobi at about 6:00 and Andy, Jon and I checked into the 680 Hotel.  This is the hotel we should have stayed at in Nairobi if we had returned with the Kiboko group.  But since we didn’t use up our night before Kili, we decided to use it now.  They didn’t seem to have a problem at the desk, and we were glad because the hotel is much too expensive for our budget traveler tastes – $70/night!

Andy and Jon went to get money from an ATM and I met them at a pub at the Hilton around the corner.  Then we went to an Italian Ristorante that Andy ate at the week before.  We had a lovely dinner and actually had some red wine too – such a treat!  Andy is great company to have around.  He is full of hysterical stories and is very easy to talk to.  I think we’ll miss him when he leaves for his safari tomorrow AM.

We were a bit leery of walking around Nairobi at night.  It’s not a safe city and plenty of sketchy people hanging out on street corners.  Not to mention the working girls!  So we walked briskly from the restaurant to an Internet Cafe nearby our hotel.  Then we went to a bar next-door for a few beers.  By now, it was 10:00 and was quite cold so the outdoor bar we’d chosen wasn’t suitable anymore.  So we crossed the street and went to the hotel to sleep.

Tanzania: Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania


I can’t remember the last time I slept so soundly.  I fell asleep at 9:30 and woke up at 7:30 – barely moving the entire night.  We were in for a surprise when we woke up, though.  Getting out of bed was a major ordeal!  Every single muscle in our bodies hurt from our run down the mountain.  Walking has never been so painful.  Jon had gotten up to go to the bathroom at some point in the morning, and he says he was going to warn me about the muscle situation but decided I could figure it out for myself.  No kidding.

From Jon:  Since I’ve chosen to consider the run down the mountain as this year’s marathon, true to form, the requisite muscle stiffness and soreness is there too.  Time for Advil!

At 8:30, we went to breakfast and sat with Vanessa and her dad again, and we all moaned and groaned and ached together.  Every five minutes, we looked out the window to see if the Zara bus had arrived to take us back to the Springlands because we were anxious to leave the Green Hostel.  At 10:00, the bus arrived and we climbed in – excited for a day of luxury.

BIo-Chemical Waste

After checking in, Jon and I sat by the pool to read while they finished cleaning our room.  It was overcast, but we didn’t care.  Then we went to the room and did the Grand Backpack Switch.  We’d taken my backpack up the mountain and left Jon’s full of stuff here at the Springlands.  His was incredibly heavy and mine was incredibly full of dirty clothes.  We knew we were going to send our Kili stuff home after we’d finished the trek, and before the climb we figured we would just throw the dirty clothes into a box and ship it.  But after opening my backpack, we realized that what we had on our hands was a hazardous waste site.  So we really need to wash these clothes before we send them home or my parents die from radiation or something when they open the box.

Cho Dai Day

We sat at the hotel garden bar waiting for lunch to be served, and met a kid from London named Joe.  Joe is about to study at the London School of Economics, and had also come down the mountain early from a different trail.  He had contracted HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema  – which is fluid in the lungs.  Very, very bad!  His guide sent him with a porter down a trail that would “only take 5 hours”.  11 hours later he reached the bottom.  He says that he continuously asked the porter “How much longer?”  and the porter kept changing his answer.  At one point, Joe said that the porter said “Six more minutes!”  so Joe started running.  75 minutes later, he made it to the gate.  Can you imagine being that sick and being demoralized by these kinds of “Africa Time Estimates”?  How terrible!  Joe made it to the hotel at 2:00 in the morning.

Despite his lungs, Joe was in great spirits and hung out and chatted with us for a while.  He saw our deck of cards and offered to teach us a “Chinese card game that we would play forever”.  Of course, we jumped at the chance!  So Joe taught us Cho Dai Day, which is a cross between Spades and Poker.  It was a great game, although I was annoyed because I consistently lost.  And much like poker, Jon consistently won.  Whenever we play poker, I invariably end up taking money from Jon’s pot because I lose all mine early in the game!

Andy Fairweather: Mountaineer Extraordinaire

During lunch, one of the arriving buses carried Andy – our long lost mountain hiking buddy.  We waved and cheered for him, and he waved and kept walking.  We don’t blame him – we remember how we felt when we got back yesterday.  So we’ll wait until he’s showered and rested to hear about his experience.  Omari came with him, so we chatted with him for a bit and bid him farewell.  The sun was peaking through the clouds, and Jon and I went to the pool to lay out and read.

Over dinner, we got to hear about Andy’s trip to the summit.  He says he was completely out of it by the time he got to Uhuru Peak, and swears that he fell asleep every couple of steps.  He said he would just close his eyes for a brief second, then his swaying would wake him up.  By the end, he was just going wherever Nicholas – the assistant guide – told him to go.  But he was ecstatic and we are very proud of him!  He has a slick certificate to hang on his wall back at school.

Andy, Jon, and Me – enjoying some well-deserved beers

After dinner, we played more rounds of Cho Dai Day with Jon, Andy, Joe, and Joe’s friend Dom.  I finally won a game, but had to leave because the mosquitoes were eating me alive.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 4 of Kili Climb: from Kibo Huts (4703 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5985 meters)

What we did: Kibo Huts (4703 meters) to 4900 meters to Marangu Gate (1800 meters)

We woke up at 11:30PM for tea and biscuits in preparation for the difficult 5 hour climb to the peak.  We also suited up in multiple layers of clothes because the peak is -20°C.  I wore: 3 pair of leggings, fleece pants, rain pants, gaiters, two t-shirts, one sweater, one long-sleeved shirt, one fleece, a rain jacket, a bandana, balaclava, hat, and a head torch.  Jon wore: 2 leggings, fleece pants, jeans, gaiters, two t-shirts, two long-sleeved shirts, a fleece, a rain jacket, and a balaclava.

The Ascent

Jon woke up with a terrible headache.  I felt better than I had a few hours before, although I wasn’t 100%.  But we were determined to try, so off we went at 1:00AM.  Omari in the lead, Andy second, me third, then Jon, and Nicholas (our assistant guide) last.  Jon was grunting the entire way because his head was spinning so badly.  He had to stop every 50 meters to rest, which was not a good sign.  So Andy and Nicholas went on ahead, and Omari, Jon and I stayed together to go more slowly up the slope.  After an hour and a half, at 4900 meters, Jon decided it was time to go back to the hut.

From Jon:  The headache that I woke up with wasn’t so bad, by itself.  As we continued slowly up the switchbacks on the scree slope, nausea set in.  Next I realized that everywhere I looked it seemed as though I were looking through large, black, soapy bubbles.  As we continued the bubbles became smaller and increased in number and seemed to change colour to a brilliant violet.  I seemed to have my eyes closed for 2 out of every four slow footsteps, and began to see myself hiking up the scree slope through some sort of out-of-body experience.  Next came the pink elephants.  Hallucinations, apparently, since everyone knows there is no such thing as little pink elephants and certainly not with little wings fluttering around this forsaken wasteland.  The pink elephants convinced me that it was time to throw in the towel!

It is very unusual for my marathon-running husband to throw in the towel.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give up on a physical challenge.  So I knew he was terribly ill and was quite worried about him.  Omari tried to talk me into continuing the ascent, but all I wanted was to make sure Jon was OK.  I wasn’t feeling fabulous either, and although I wasn’t as bad as Jon I didn’t relish the thought of 4 more grueling hours without him.  In my mind, this was an “us” adventure, and if he couldn’t make it then I really didn’t care to.  So I helped him  back down the mountain and into bed.  It was 2:30 AM, and Jon was completely delirious.  Omari told me to check on him in an hour, and if he was still bad then we would pack up and head down to Horombo Huts at 3700 meters.

So we went to sleep, and at 3:30 I woke Jon up to find out how he was feeling.  He said his head still hurt, but that he felt better than before.  He said he didn’t want to go back down just yet, so we went back to sleep for a few more hours.  At 6:00, I got up because I couldn’t sleep and wanted to begin packing so we could get down from the altitude.  Jon woke up – still with a headache – and threw up (from Jon:  FINALLY!).  At that timely moment, Omari appeared at the hut wanting to know if we wanted breakfast.  He and I agreed that we should begin to hike down, and he said he would have tea and toast brought in.  So Jon and I ate a few pieces of toast, Jon had hot water, and I finished packing up our gear.  Then we hit the road at 7:30AM.

The Descent

We went fairly slowly at first, but with every 500 meters Jon was regaining his strength.  It was amazing how fast the descent was compared to our slow ascent just the day before.  We arrived at Horombo Hut at 9:45AM – a hike that took us 6 hours yesterday took just over two hours this morning.  Jon’s dizziness was gone, although a bit of his headache remained.  We were both a bit nauseous.  Jon didn’t want to stay the night at Horombo Hut, and Omari said we would go down to Mandara and stay there.  But Mandara is only 2 hours away from the main Marangu Gate, and Jon and I were both thinking of a much-needed shower (we hadn’t showered in 4 days).  So we told Omari that if we were going to go to Mandara, then we might as well go all the way.  He agreed, and somehow called the Zara offices to pick us up at Marangu gate.

We had a brunch at Horombo, and left the Huts at 11:00AM.  By this time, all we wanted was a shower and a bed, so we were practically running down the mountain.  We reached Mandara at 1:45, where we stopped for snacks and water.  Now – if you think about it – we’ve descended from 4900 meters to 2700 meters in just over 6 hours.  Omari was amazed at our pace, and we were kind of surprised too.  But we didn’t realize how bad it hurt until we got to Mandara.  While we stopped for snacks, our muscles tightened up and everything suddenly hurt: quads, hips, back, feet, calves.  You name it.  We knew we were still going to continue, but the next two hours through the rain forest were going to be tough.   We hit the trail at 2:00.

The rainforest was muddy and slick, but at least it wasn’t hot.  Despite slow-going over over slippery rocks, we were still making great time.  Omari estimated that it would take 2 hours from Mandara, but we hit the half-way point at 2:45!  We made it to Marangu Gate at 3:45.  Unfortunately, our Zara ride wasn’t going to show up until 5:00 so we laid around on the grass until the bus showed up.

At Marangu Gate: tired and dirty, but in good spirits

Just to summarize our descent: ignoring 2 hours for brunch and water breaks, we descended from 4700 meters to 1800 meters in just over 6 hours.  This was a 20 mile run down a mountain, which means that we were cruising at about 3.5 miles per hour.  Ouch.  Our muscles ached so badly when we got down.

From Jon:  Since I unfortunately won’t be running either the NY or Marine Corps Marathons this year, I have decided to view this 20 run down the mountain as this year’s marathon effort!

The Dream of the Shower

Ironically, the Springlands Hotel was booked for the night and couldn’t fit us in ahead of schedule.  So Zara booked us at a place called the Green Hostel.  It was ridiculous.  The floors were dirty, there was a single bulb hanging from the ceiling, and a spider the size of the palm of my hand was hanging out in the bathroom.  The nightly rate was $10, but I’m not sure it was even worth that.  After rescuing me from the evil spider, Jon took a shower (we’d been wearing the same clothes for 4 days) and washed himself twice.  I was in the bedroom trying not to sit on the sheets because I was so dirty.  There was a sign on the door that listed some of the rules of the hostel.  Apparently, there are to be “no unchristian acts” done in the room.  We really don’t know what that means, but you can probably interpret it according to how orthodox you are.

After 20 minutes, Jon got out of the shower and I got in.  The shower was disappointing because it was a tub with a hose extension on it, but no place to put the extension and no shower curtain.  So you had to wet yourself, lather, and then rinse – trying not to flood the bathroom.  I really just wanted to stand mindlessly under a stream of water while I washed.  It’s funny how we used to take those little things for granted.  The shower was also disappointing because my husband – in his desire for cleanliness – used up all the hot water!  Is that grounds for divorce, I wonder?

By the time I got out, it was 8:15PM and Jon had gone ahead to the “restaurant” (room with two tables) to order us dinner before the 8:30 cutoff.  When I went in to find him, I saw that he was sitting with two people we knew from the Springlands!  Vanessa and her father had come with a group from South Africa, where Vanessa had just married Jamie.  For their honeymoon, Vanessa and Jamie came to climb Kili with their friends and family.  Quite an ambitious honeymoon!  They followed a different trail than us, so we hadn’t seen them since they’d left the hotel 5 days before.  Vanessa and her dad had come down a day early because they were both so ill, and had the same problem getting into the Springlands.  So the four of us sat around and compared nightmare stories about the mountain and bemoaned our fate with the hotel situation.  It’s so funny how – when you share an experience like this – all sorts of etiquette goes out the window.  We had no problems discussing bodily functions with each other, and we actually wanted to compare notes to see how sick we really were!

We all retired early.  Jon and I went to bed and tried to read, but I was asleep by 9:30.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 3 of Kili Climb: from Horombo Huts (3720 meters) to Kibo Huts (4703 meters)

Today is the last daylight trek we have.  We’ll arrive at Kibo Hut this evening – our last destination – where we will rest for a while and begin the summit ascent at midnight tonight.  We are very anxious!

I didn’t sleep well last night.  They say it’s a factor of the altitude: your body can’t get enough oxygen, so it’s especially difficult to sleep at these high altitudes.  But the weather was clear – we looked down on the clouds and it was all sunshine ahead, and the air had warmed considerably since we’d had breakfast.  So I felt happy and was ready to hit the road.  Before we left, we took a picture of our fun Horombo Hut-mates:

Me ‘n The Boys: Andy, Jon, Me, Jonathan, and John.

Bruno was MIA for the picture.

Today’s trek is through the Alpine desert, which is basically a vast wasteland of dust and shrubs.  The summit of Kili was in our sights every step of the way – very poetic!  We often passed people who were coming down from their ascent who wished us luck.  We were a very cheery bunch, and it was fun that we got to know many people last night.  We are now one big happy Kilimanjaro Family.

View of Kilimanjaro via the Alpine Desert

Altitude Sickness

I started to get sick at the “last water point” about 2 hours into today’s 6 hour trek.  It started as a little headache, but I knew what it would turn into and was completely bummed that, despite my slow pace, the altitude was going to win.  The dizziness set in about an hour later and I was very unhappy.  Omari kept saying, “Don’t panic, DahDah.  You’ll make it.”  I wasn’t panicked, it was just that this was something I couldn’t control and couldn’t beat.

By lunchtime, I had a raging headache, dizziness, and nausea.  Jonathan felt sorry for me and gave me some Panadol (pain killers), Diamox (altitude sickness medicine), and some Quaker Chewies.  He said that that Diamox would take about 8 hours to kick in, but that was helpful seeing as our final ascent begins at midnight.  I told him he was my knight in shining armor.  Lunch was difficult, but Jon made me eat.  All I could do to hold it down because I didn’t want to waste the medicine I had taken.  I was so exhausted and sick that I couldn’t stop crying.  I wasn’t sobbing, I just couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

So after lunch, I walked very slowly and tried not to stop very often.  I also tried to drink as much water as possible but it was difficult because I didn’t want to throw up either.  It was very windy, and the air was getting colder and colder.  Jon was doing just fine, and Andy was practically skipping up the mountain.  I didn’t have much to say.  I just wanted to get to Kibo Hut where I knew I could sleep for a while.

Kibo Hut

We arrived at around 3:30.  Kibo Hut is the final stop before the big ascent.  It’s literally at the base of the mountain at 4700 meters.  You’re only here for a few hours, so the hut is laid out into 5 rooms: 4 of them have 6 bunk beds, and one room is for dining.  Andy, Jon and I set up our sleeping bags in room #4 with Jonathan, 3 funny Brits, Eric from Chicago, a guy from Japan, a guy from Jonathan’s group, and Karen from England.  After getting settled, I went out to use the toilets (holes in the ground) and promptly got sick.  I thought – at the time – that I felt much better.  Little did I know that it was far from over.

The porters set out tea and biscuits for us, but I couldn’t do anything but sip warm water.  Then I threw up again and went to sleep for an hour.  Sleeping was difficult because it was SO COLD.  But my body was exhausted.  Jon woke me up at 5:00 because the porters had dinner ready.  So I went to toilet and got sick for the third time.  My head was killing me, I was dizzy, and I couldn’t stop trembling.  Jon insisted that I eat, though, because I needed some sort of sustenance. So I did, and somehow managed to control my stomach.  I also took another Diamox tablet.  We got into our sleeping bags and tried to sleep.  But we were all a bit anxious about tomorrow’s early morning trip.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 2 of Kili Climb: from Mandara Huts (2700 meters) to Horombo Huts (3720 meters)

Since we’d gone to bed last night at 7:30, I woke up this morning at about 5:30 and really couldn’t sleep for much longer.  Breakfast was at 7:30 – eggs and sausage and coffee and tea.  Again, the porters catered to us and it was a bit weird since we’re not used to being served like this.

We left Mandara Huts at 8:30 and exited the rain forest.  Basically, this means that – 20 minutes into our hike – we crossed a bridge and crossed into another world: the moorlands.  The moorlands are rolling hills of shrubbery and dirt, sort of boring but we had fun nonetheless.  Andy is very good company and is quite funny.  We stopped at a crater to look in, but we were anxious to get going so we didn’t stay for very long.

Taking a water break in front of Kili

Today, Omari taught me the numbers 6-10 in Swahili, which gave me something to concentrate on for a while:

Swahili English Sayta  Six (6) Saba Seven (7) Ninay Eight (8) Tatu Nine (9) Kumi Ten (10)

So now I can count from 1-10 in Swahili.  That should come in handy (somewhere, I suppose).  The Swahili word for “sister” is “dahdah”, and Omari and the porters all call me that.  “Dahdah”.  It’s gotten to the point that I respond to it as if it’s my name.  I’ve decided that it’s an endearment and I like it!

At around 12:00, we trekked up a HUGE hill that took us about 45 minutes to get up.  We are still walking Pole!  Pole! and take a step about once very 2 seconds.  If we rush, our bodies won’t get used to the altitude and we’ll get sick – which nobody wants.  So the hill took us 45 minutes to get up as it was very steep and we went slowly.  Despite our slow pace, we were completely out of breath when we reached the top.  The altitude is definitely showing its affects on our bodies.  We’re out of breath very quickly, and – the higher we go – the longer it takes to catch our breath.  At the top of the hill was a spot for lunch and we were very happy to sit for a while.  Lunch was veggie sandwiches with butter, hard-boiled eggs, oranges, cheese, and biscuits.  Not very tasty, but we didn’t care.

Horombo Huts

We walked for about 6 hours today, and arrived at the Horombo Huts around 3:00ish.  We were completely filthy, as today’s trek was over dusty trails.  At one point on the trail, Jon laughed that I looked like the Peanut’s character “Pig Pen” because everywhere I walked a cloud of dust followed.

Horombo is at 3720 meters and is just above the cloud line.  It almost looks as if you can walk off the cliff and continue by walking over the clouds.  It’s the sort of view you get when you’re in an airplane and was quite amazing.

Huts at Horombo

We checked in at the registration hut, and were sent to Hut #38.  The hut sleeps 6 people, and Andy, Jon and I are rooming with 3 other guys: Jonathan – a humorous Brit from Dubai, Bruno – a quiet guy from Italy, and John – a cool guy from Telluride, CO.  Me and the boys – the way it should be!

Horombo Huts is Kilimanjaro’s Grand Central.  It houses people going up multiple trails, people staying for a day of acclimation, and people coming down from the peak (or not from the peak).  So the dining hall was completely packed with trekkers who had various stories of success, illness, and injury.  “Kilimanjaro Lullabies” we called them.

Card Game

The porters brought us hot water and we washed up.  My legs are completely filthy from the dusty trail, and I thought I’d never get the dirt off.  A shower would have been nice, but it’s entirely too cold to shower.  So we set up our sleeping bags, joked around with the guys, and went to have tea and biscuits in the dining hall.  Jonathan said he had some cards, so we collected him and sat at a table and played a game called “Cheat” where you bluff your way out of cards.  Needless to say, I lost almost every round – much to the guys’ delight.  The funny thing is that the cards themselves were pathetic.  Jonathan says he bought them in Arusha for $.25.  They were so thin that it was like playing with toilet paper!  Shuffling and dealing took forever because they were so hard to control.  So funny!

Jonathan’s Trek

Jonathan is part of a group of 25 from Dubai who are trekking to the peak for charity.  He says that some of the people are cool, but that there are a lot of “stiffs” who are a bit picky about their camping arrangements.  Believe me, there is no room for high-maintenance people on this mountain!  Anyway, the group is sponsored by Estee Lauder and they have some very cool jackets – so at least they look good!  The interesting thing about their group is that – for a group of 25 – they have 50 porters and 2 guides!  The guide’s name is Emmanuelle and is something of a legend among the guides and porters.  He is 73 and has been to the summit 5000 times!  How about that for a repetitive job?

Jonathan is writing a book.  He is going to climb the “seven summits” – one on every continent.  Kili is his first expedition.  The seven summits are going to take him over the next 3 years, so we’ll have to wait for a while but I think it should be an amazing thing to read.  Even more exciting that we know the author!


Dinner was a chaotic nightmare.  Apparently, Horombo is more crowded than usual, and there’s no room to seat absolutely everyone at dinner time.  So the porters mill about looking for a space where they can set up their clients’ dinners, and we (the clients) wait anxiously for dinner so we can go to bed.  Our porters finally snagged us seats next to a large group from the Netherlands who had just descended from the peak.  They said that 15 of their group of 17 made it to the peak and – although they all vomited multiple times – they made it successfully.  So now we have some expectation of what to expect tomorrow night, and we even have some hope that we can do it too!

We were in bed by 8:00 that night, after hanging out in our hut and chatting.  Pretty funny to say “Goodnight Johns” and have half the hut say good night back.  Of course, I had to go to the toilet an hour later because of all the water I’ve been drinking.  It’s so hard to get out of the sleeping bag because it’s SO COLD up here!

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 1 of Kili Climb: from Marangu Gate (1800 meters) to Mandara Huts (2700 meters)

Today we woke up, had breakfast, and boarded a bus at 8:30 to begin the trek up Kilimanjaro.  There are a few different routes up the mountain, and we are taking the “Marangu” trail, which is one of the least technical – but don’t let that fool you.


On the bus with us are two girls from the Netherlands and a guy from London named Andy.  Andy is on the same “tour” as us, which we all booked through Dragoman Tours.  (However – and here’s the funny thing – almost every tour group subcontracts their Kili treks to a tour company here in Moshi called Zara.  So if you’re ever interested in climbing the mountain, contact Zara directly as it will probably be cheaper and they seem to have a sort of monopoly on Kili treks anyway).  So we stopped by the Zara office to hire some gear: rain jackets, rain pants, walking sticks, and gaiters – which go over one’s boots so the rocks don’t get in during the descent from the summit down the scree slope.  There, we met our guide whose name is Omari.  We also stopped by a grocery store to pick up food, candy bars, and water.

After about 40 km, we reached the Marangu Gate.  Here we picked up a few more porters who Omari hand-picked.  So there is one guide, one assistant guide, and two porters per person – a total of 8 people for our group of 3!

Marangu Gate

At the gate, I hired a head torch (a flashlight for one’s head) for the bargain price of $10 (ouch!).  We also had to register our names, nationality, ages, and etc for Kilimanjaro statistics.  Walking up the stairs to the registration office had all three of us out breath, and we joked that maybe the climb was just to run up and down the stairs a few times.

Here we are at the beginning of Marangu Trail

Then we were off.  We started with our assistant guide – Nicholas – as Omari had to register the porters and would meet us shortly.  The key to trekking up Kili is that you have to go “Pole!  Pole!”, which is Swahili for “Slowly! Slowly!” and is pronounced “poalie, poalie”.  So we Pole! Pole! made our way up the mountain to the Mandara Huts.  The trail was entirely through rain forest, and the trail itself is quite nice.  The park service here maintains it very well.  The trail is wide enough for two people, and has an irrigation system of ditches and rock-barriers for the warm season when Kili melts a great deal.

Some kids who were on the mountain saw us and followed us up for about 1/2 hour asking for chocolate and pens, but then they suddenly ran away.  We wondered why they suddenly left so we turned and saw that Omari had shown up, and you really don’t mess with Omari.

At around 1:00, we stopped for some lunch which was basically leftovers from our dinner the night before.  (The Springlands Hotel and Zara are run by the same people).  At this point, Nicholas the assistant guide left to ascend with the porters and Jon, Andy, and I continued up with Omari.

Omari is quite impressed with my limited Swahili.  At one point, the sun came out of the clouds and I said “Leo joto kali!” which means “Today is very sunny!” and Omari practically tripped over.  So he’s begun to teach me a few other words to pass the time.  Here they are:

Swahili English Twenday! Let’s go! Moja One (1) Mbilay Two (2) Tatu Three (3) Nay Four (4) Tanoe Five (5) Qualhairy Goodbye Qualhairy Badai See you later

Jon also requested the Swahili phrase “Mazungu Kitcha”, which means “crazy white person”.  I’m sure he’ll get a lot of mileage out of that one.

Omari – the Guide – and the team

Omari has been a Kili Guide for 3 years and speaks English quite well.  The general career path for a Kili Guide is this: porter for a few years, assistant guide for a few years, then guide.  Omari has been to the summit about 70 times, and generally goes up the mountain about twice a month.  He chooses the porters based on his knowledge of their abilities and their honesty.  (They are carrying our backpacks and gear and ascend at different times).  He says that he doesn’t think that he’ll do this for more than 3 more years.

The porters themselves basically run up the mountain balancing backpacks, groceries, stoves, you-name-it on their heads, shoulders, and backs.  Their bodies are well acclimated to the altitude so there’s no reason for them to go Pole! Pole! as we do.  They arrive at the destinations hours before we do.

Mandara Huts

At around 3:00 we reached the Mandara Huts, which are at 2700 meters.  All our porters were there, and we were thrilled to be able to relax for the evening.  Today is our shortest day, so it’s amazing how exhausted the three of us are.  One of the porters brought us some hot water, and we felt much better after washing our hands and faces.

Jon went to shower and Andy and I went to the small dining hut to have tea, biscuits, and popcorn which the porters put out for us.  Andy is a very bright and well-read 21-year old from London.  (He’s also very cute but don’t tell Jon).  He’s on summer break, and is about to begin his final year at Exeter University where he is studying politics.  So we had an interesting discussion about the Middle East crisis and it was quite enlightening to get his perspective on current events.  I’d forgotten how college life opens your mind to so many different views.  Unfortunately, he has only one good “American” joke which is a bit disappointing for a Brit, but here it is: “What’s the difference between an American and yogurt?…. Yogurt is cultured within a week.  Americans have had two hundred years and they still have no culture”.  Very fitting for the fourth of July.

Jon came back from his shower saying it was very cold but refreshing.  Seeing as how this would be the last shower I would have for days, I went ahead and followed suit.  BIG MISTAKE.  The water was freezing, rivaling the shower at Ngorongoro, and the air had dropped 10 degrees since the sun had begun to set.  By the end of the shower, I was completely shivering and my toes were numb.  So I advised Andy to skip the shower and stay warm instead.  It took me a good two hours to thaw.

Dinner was served by the porters, which is so odd as none of us are accustomed to being served and waited on hand and foot like this.  But it was good – fried chicken and pasta.  Afterwards, Omari came and sat with us to go over our “schedule” for tomorrow.  He’s instructed us to drink 3-4 liters of water per day, which we have definitely been doing today.

We were in bed by 7:30 because we were so exhausted and the air was so cold.  The hut we’re in sleeps four and has mattresses and pillows so the three of us are quite comfortable.  Before we went to sleep, Andy wished us a happy “Fourth of July” and Jon and I considered that we should have celebrated by setting fire to a Brit.  Andy agreed and commented that this WAS the tradition.  We laughed and then fell asleep shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately, we weren’t asleep for long because we woke up again at 8:30 to go to the toilet because we’d drank so much water.  Then we got back into our sleeping bags and went back to sleep.

Tanzania: Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Today we did nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Seriously.  We never left the hotel, and just lay around at the pool in the sun reading our books.  We showed prodigious foresight in bringing two decks of cards with us on our trip.  Unfortunately, we can’t remember any games to play outside of Poker (which is best when played with more than two people) and Go-Fish (which is fun – if you’re six years old).  So we had a brief Solitaire competition at some point in the afternoon and that was the most exciting part of our day.

Your Own Suitable Pace!

At around 5:00, we met some other trekkers for a “Kili Briefing” in the common area of the hotel.  Patience gave us the low-down on what to expect for the next few days, including the important statement: “You should walk at YOUR OWN SUITABLE PACE.”  This latter statement was repeated over and over again with Patience’s lullingly sweet accent during the briefing; a slow ascent is crucial to altitude adjustment.  So establishing and maintaining YOUR OWN SUITABLE PACE is key to the mountain climb and she ingrained that in our heads fairly well.  However on the last day, after we reach the summit (IF we reach the summit) we descend very quickly down the mountain.  “At this time”, joked Patience, “It is no longer necessary to go at YOUR OWN SUITABLE PACE.”  It was quite funny, but I’m sure you had to be there.


We went back to our room to consolidate backpacks.  We’re packing one backpack for the porter to bring, and each of us will take a day-pack.  We’re planning on wearing the same thing day after day, and won’t be doing much showering.  So the porter backpack is pretty light compared to the backpack we’ll leave here in storage.

Dinner was fun, as we’re all excited to go up tomorrow.  But we’re also very nervous.  Jon is now in “marathon” mode and made me load up on carbohydrates instead of too much protein.  The wind has picked up significantly tonight, which will be nice for our walk tomorrow through the rain forest, but will be hell on the summit.  (assuming I see the summit, that is).

Random Ruminations

Since I have the space, I’m going to complain about a few physical issues that I believe are notable and will probably send Mom into a worry-induced coma when she reads this.  But let’s do it anyway, shall we?

First of all – the bug bites are driving me crazy.  Some of them are taking forever to go away and a few have swelled up significantly since they were bitten.  And ALL are causing issues when shaving.  Between the bites and the cuts, my legs are quite frightening right now.  Not that it matters, but I look like some bizarre scientific experiment.

Second of all, I have this peculiar numbness in my left hand.  It started on our last game drive, when we spent an hour watching the lions approach the water hole.  (See June 25)  I had rested my elbows on the edge of the truck to peer through my binoculars, and remained in that position for at least a half-hour, if not 45 minutes.  The edge of truck, apparently, had hit against an odd nerve in my left elbow.  Because when I took my arms down, my left hand was completely tingly and numb.  It subsided after a few hours, but I woke up that night with the same sensation and it went away rather quickly.  Ever since then, my pinky and ring fingers on my left hand have this tingling that flares up every now and again.  I still have feeling in both fingers, but this weird sensation just won’t go away.

Finally – and I’m sorry if this is too much information – but it’s that time of the month and I have to go climb Africa’s tallest $*(#*$%@# mountain.  Nature has a very bizarre sense of humor.

Jon, by the way, is just fine. He has noted the lack of birthday cake in Africa, and therefore believes that his birthday is still in effect until he gets cake.  So, he says, I must be especially nice to him until he gets his cake.  I wonder how much it would cost to send him home via surface mail?  🙂

Tanzania: Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Walk into Moshi

Today we ventured into Moshi to find an Internet Cafe and a grocery store.  It was quite overcast, and we couldn’t see Mt. Kili at all – it was completely covered in clouds.  So it seemed like a good day to get some errands done.

Patience at the front here at the Springlands said that the walk into Moshi would only take us about 20 minutes, so we put on the backpack and went.  As soon as we walked out of the gate of the hotel, the local children were all over us.  Jon and I immediately put our hands into our pockets so they couldn’t latch onto them.  All they could say was “Hello…. Gimme chocolate… gimme pen…. gimme pencil… gimme money”.  I was starting to wonder if they knew English at all, or had only been taught those few key phrases.

The walk into town was over bumpy, dusty roads, and all the locals stopped to watch us walk by.  It was nice to have learned some key Swahili phrases (see July 1) and the locals loved that we made an effort to wish them well in their own language.  Although whenever they ventured outside our limited vocabulary all we could do was smile.  At one point, we passed some young boys playing soccer who stopped the game in order to watch us walk by.  When we said “Jambo!” (Hello!) and their response was “Gimme money!”, so we just kept on walking.


After about 30 minutes, we finally got into Moshi.  We were told to look for the clock tower, as it is the center of town, but we couldn’t see any such landmark from our entrance point.  Jon had a gut feeling to go to the right, and it turned out to be a good gut feeling.  About 15 minutes down the road, we found the clock tower in the center of a traffic circle.  Within a few minutes, we found the signs to the Internet Cafe and were on our way.  Unfortunately, the local vultures saw us and moved in.  This is where our limited Swahili came in handy.  Being able to say “no” in Swahili made them second-guess that we were clueless tourists and they left us alone after only a few minutes of pestering.

At the Internet Cafe, we logged in and did our thing (Yahoo! still hasn’t fixed the upload bug, although they’ve assured me via email that they’re working on it).  Then we walked down “Market Street” to find a grocery store, which are very hard to find!  We looked for 10 minutes and finally found one that was smaller than a small bodega in New York City.  We loaded up on water and chocolate for our Kili trip, and then went to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

Back at the Springlands, we sat out at the pool (despite the overcast weather) and read our books.  Then I napped and Jon went out for a run, much to the delight of the neighborhood again.  He says that some of the people outright laughed at him, saying “Mzungu!  Mzungu!”  (White person!  White person!)

We went down to the garden bar at 7:00 for a drink and had dinner.  We sat with a nice English couple who we passed while we were in town (two of five white people we saw the entire time), and we laughed at each others’ experiences in town.  They had just finished Kili two days before.

Tanzania: Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Happy Birthday to Jon!

It’s Jon’s 30th birthday today!  So I woke up singing “Happy Birthday” and gave him a birthday backrub (he’s old now, so we have to take care of his atrophying muscles).  He slept like a log last night, while I slept only a little.  The kitchen started up at about 5:00 with lots of banging pots and people all about.  We can’t wait to move rooms today.

So we went to breakfast and then packed up our room so it would be easier to move.  Patience – at the front desk — said that our new room would be ready after 10:00.

Tour of the Forest

At the advice of some nice British gentlemen last night, we arranged to go on a tour of the forest with a guide named  Lawrence.  To get to the forest, Lawrence asked if we wanted to go the long way or take the short-cut.  The British gentlemen had recommended the short-cut, so that’s the way we went.  This was through the rice fields and was an incredible thing to see.

Each rice paddy is owned by a single family, and the size of the rice patty is demonstrative of the wealth of the family.  The fields are separated by mud walls about 1 meter high, and it was on these that we walked from one side of the area to the other.  The mud walls were very unstable at times, and other places there were logs instead of mud walls.  So Lawrence would tell us to walk “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly) so we wouldn’t fall off.

Some of the Rice Fields

After the rice fields, we were in the forest.  On our walk through the forest Lawrence pointed out different kinds of trees for different furniture.  There was also a 200-year old tree that would take 9-10 people with their arms outstretched to surround it.  Lawrence said that the bark of this tree is used to treat asthma in children.

Then we wandered upon the monkeys.  First we saw the black and white, or colobus, monkeys.  These have a black body with long white bushy tails.  They’re quite beautiful, actually, and their tails are longer than their bodies.  We could see them in the trees high above us.  Further on our walk, we ran into some black monkeys flying from one limb to another.  And even further down the road we got to see three more colobus monkeys at a closer range.  Lawrence whistled at them so they would move about, and we watched them fly from one tree to the next tree to get further away from us.  The last of the three obviously thought the jump was a little too risky, because he went back down the tree and took the low road.  It was fabulous to see them flying through the air.

We walked for a while further, but we didn’t get to see any green monkeys.  Lawrence thought that this was because it was too hot for them.  “Leo joto kali”, he said, which means “today is very hot”.  At this point, we decided to take on some lessons in Swahili, and Lawrence decided that it was his mission to educate us on some key Swahili phrases.  Here’s what we learned:

Swahili English Hakuna matata No worries, no problem Habari za asubuhi How are you this morning Habari za mchana How are you this afternoon Habari za jioni How are you this evening Mazuli Fine (response to the above three greetings) Lala salama Good night Jina lako ninani What is your name Leo joto kali Today is very hot Leo juwa kali Today is very sunny Mbega Black and white monkey Kima Black monkey Tumbili Green monkey Mahindi Maize Maharage Bean Ndizi Banana Nazi Coconut Mchele Rice Naomba maji Give me some water Naomba soda Give me some soda Naomba bia Give me some beer Hapana No Ndiyo Yes Asante Sana Thank you very much Umechoka Are you tired Samahani I’m sorry/Excuse me

A pretty extensive list, actually!  After we’d been back at the hotel for a while, Lawrence brought us a sheet of paper with the Swahili words written down, and told us we had to write down the English equivalent.  Like a test!  It was so funny.  We did pretty well, although we needed a few nudges here and there.

We returned to the hotel by lunchtime and ordered some food from the bar.  Our new room is in the front of complex on the 2nd floor, and is a corner room so we’re quite happy with it.  We moved our backpacks and then had a lazy day laying around the pool in the sun.  Jon long ago finished “The Natural” and is now half-way through “The Longest Day”, which is a book for which we traded a Tom Clancy novel in Arusha.  He says that it’s very historically accurate, and is a good read.  I’m only half-way through “Out of Africa”, and love every word of it.  Jon claims that when he finishes his book I’m going to have to entertain him until he can have mine.  Kind of a catch-22, if you ask me.  I can’t finish my book and entertain him at the same time!

Jon’s Run

Later I took a nap inside and Jon went out for a run.  He says that most of the locals found him very humorous.  Running for fun isn’t something they see every day.  He also said that he could tell the effect the altitude had on his run, as he was out-of-breath very quickly.  When we were driving to Ngorongoro last week, we saw 3-4 professional runners out on the roads (remember that neighboring Kenya is a major supplier of world-class runners) and Jon commented that between the hills, the altitude, and the heat, this is an ideal place to train.  If you can run here, you can run anywhere.

At dinner, we met two nice American couples around our age.  One of them were on their way up Kili, and the other had just returned.  The latter said that everyone who took altitude-sickness pills made it to the summit, and Jon and I are already regretting our decision to forgo the medication.  But we’ll never know until we get there!

View from outside the hotel – Mt. Kilimanjaro

Tanzania: Arusha to Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

I woke up at 5:30 as the overland campers got up to hit the road.  There was a German couple in a tent nearby that were speaking to each other in conversational tones, so sleeping was out of the question for me.  Jon woke up at 6:30 when a cow across the way started mooing – constantly and loudly.  We lay around and tried to get back to sleep, but finally got up at 7:30 to shower and have our breakfast of champions: peanut butter and jelly.

Bug Bites

The bugs here love me.  Every time I look down I have a new bug on me somewhere – mosquitoes, spiders, gnats, flies.  You name it, and it’s had some of my blood.  Someone said that Vitamin B helps to keep them away, but  vitamin stores are non-existent here.  For entertainment, Jon counted my bug bites.  I have 37… and that’s just below the knees.  There are 15 on the outside of my left ankle alone.

After breakfast, we packed up our bags and cleaned out the tent for the next Kiboko tour group that is due today.  We didn’t want to leave for Moshi before lunch, so we watched CNN, read the newspaper and read our books.  We ordered burgers and chips for lunch and sat around for a while until it was time to leave.  Finally, we put on our backpacks and headed outside the Maasai Camp and got a taxi to take us to the bus depot so we could catch a ride to Moshi.

The Bus to Moshi

I’m not sure how to accurately describe the entire bus ordeal, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most stressful we’ve experienced yet.  The bus depot was a loud, chaotic, crowded affair with people and buses everywhere.  We – the white tourists (mzungus) – were spotted before we’d even exited the taxi.  So the vultures moved in, offering to carry our bags, direct us to the right bus, and to sell us bus tickets.  Some of the vultures directed us into a ticket office (there were a few offices all in a row) until Jon remembered that we could and should buy the ticket on the bus.  So we moved to the side, took off our backpacks, and put on the backpack covers we use when traveling.  There were at least 10 people watching us and trying to talk to us while this was happening, and we were quite distrustful of the whole scene.  Jon watched the bags get loaded onto the top of the bus (which was a large mini-van), and I climbed in to get us two seats which ended up being in the very front of the bus.  Jon stayed outside as long as he could to ensure the bags remained on top of the bus and didn’t find themselves separated from us before we even left the bus station.  Then he got into the seat beside me and this is where the fun began.

Four of the vultures surrounded us and one handed us a ticket with the amount “4800 TSH” (Tanzanian Shillings) written on it.  Now, we had heard that the bus ride would cost approx 1500 TSH  per person (about $2.00) and were very wary about the guys waving the tickets in our faces.  A guy at our window kept saying, “It’s a seasonal rate.  You must pay it”, and the guy with the ticket was saying, “I’m the conductor on this bus.  You must pay me.”.  It was all very cagey, and we weren’t really sure what to do.  But here’s a good rule to live by: if you are the only tourists around and no one else is getting hassled, chances are that you’re getting take for a ride.  So we refused to pay anyone but the driver and told the vultures to go away.  After a few more minutes of hassle and heckling, the vultures moved off and the bus was on its way.  There was an actual conductor person collecting money from the rest of the passengers, and they were only giving 1000TSH ($1.50).  So we were very happy that we’d stuck to our guns although I wished I had been mentally prepared for it.

But we were still nervous about our bags being on top of the bus, and Jon turned around to watch each time the bus stopped for a rider to get on or off.  At this point, I should describe the bus operation.  Much like yesterday’s Mtatu, there was a driver and a conductor, and the goal was to get as many fares as possible.  So, when we were well on our way, there were about 40 people in the mini van including the 3 hanging onto the side of the bus.  The trip to Moshi is about 90km and took about an hour through some beautiful land with Mt. Kilimanjaro in our sights for most of the ride.   When we finally arrived in Moshi, we wanted to get out of the bus as quickly as possible so we could keep our bags in sight.  So I climbed out the bus window instead of waiting to get out the door.  We got the bags just fine, and we caught a taxi to the Springlands Hotel.

The Springlands Hotel

We didn’t have a reservation anywhere and had no idea where to stay, but our Kilimanjaro tour will stay at the Springlands Hotel on Tuesday night, so that was enough credibility for us to go there.  The hotel was just outside the town of Moshi, and was marked only by a black gate and tall fence.  The courtyard we walked into looked beautiful and clean, with a pool in the background.  The very nice woman at the reception desk – Patience – said that she was quite full for the night.  We pleaded with her and said, “We’ll sleep on the lounge chairs if you have them”.  She smiled at this and said, “OK I have something you can stay in”.  The rate was $45/night.  There are two-level multiple buildings in the complex, which have rooms that open to the outside.  It turns out that our room is in the one-level building that houses the kitchen and the bar, and the window faces a major gravel thoroughfare through the hotel.  But we were so happy just to have a room for the night and a place to relax after our ordeal today.  As Jon says, “It’s better than a lounge chair”.  And it’s clean with it’s own shower.  Hakuna matata – no worries!

So we put on our bathing suits and went to the pool (yes, there really is a pool!) to read for a while.  Most of the people around the pool were American, which obviously means that this hotel is a high-maintenance hotel.  It really is quite nice by African standards and is probably the nicest hotel in Moshi.  The pool was so refreshing and a nice change from the last four weeks.  After a few hours, we showered and went to dinner.  The dining area was outside and everyone staying is going to, or already has, climbed Mt. Kili.  It was nice to hear people’s experiences and thoughts on the climb which we are starting to be concerned about.  After speaking with these people, Jon and I both feel as though there’s definite potential for us to make it to the top.  It all comes down to altitude adjustment.

So it’s about time to go to bed, but the bar is just getting started and there are people from the kitchen and bar walking all around the hallways and slamming doors.   I think that this night is going to be quite loud and whatever sleep we get won’t be very extensive.  Patience told us that she might be able to give us a better room tomorrow, which would be nice since tomorrow is Jon’s birthday.