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We Are Not in Minnesota Anymore

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
By Brad Moir

We arrived in Moshi last night in pretty good shape – not much jet lag. Mark decided to try his oxygen inhaling skills as he felt weak and slightly passed out. That’s not bad, but we hadn’t left the plane yet! We were heading to Amsterdam and a lady woke me up asking if I was traveling with him. He was on the floor in the galley sucking on oxygen. He’s fine – no Baileys or wine before the climb. That’s what I always say.

We hiked in town today and to a forest and saw some monkeys and ran into some street kids – with no where to go. Our guide told us about them. They were fascinated with looking through the binoculars and seeing themselves on the video cam for the first time. It was very funny to hear them giggle.

I am heading out a 9 am for the Kilimanjaro climb. We went over everything with our guide today. I saw the top of it through the clouds and it is very impressive. I’m ready – guess we will be walking on one of the glaciers. We will summit Fri am about 6 in the morning. It’s a nine hour difference.

Back From Mountain
We have returned from the mountain. I got the flu in night of day 5 and didn’t summit. Everything else went well. I felt I was well-prepared, only had a headache once when we went up to 13,000 feet and got better when we descended. Otherwise, the breathing was good, appetite was good, and no signs of altitude sickness. While it was disappointing, some things you have no say over. If I would have been 80 percent, I would have tried but I was only 20 percent after 3 hours of sleep and no food in me. I proved you can live on water alone as I barely made it DOWN 3,000 feet, let alone UP 2,000, which would have been the next days journey. The following night would have been the summit.

When I got to camp I slept from 2 pm/m until the next day except for 1 hour of attempted supper. I figured it would be the hardest thing I did physically but was thinking up not down. Mark was challenged and made it to the summit at 6:05 am He said it was 20 or so with a 10 mph wind so it very cold. He stayed about 15 min then descended with our guide.

The views were incredible early in the morning and at night. The glaciers were moonlit so all the water one drinks made it worthwhile to get up a few times a night and water the rocks. The rest of the day was pretty much in the clouds, which was neat by itself. The temperature got to maybe 65 to 70 depending on if cloudy or not. In the evenings, it was maybe 35 to 45 depending on the altitude. A few nights we had frost on the tent in morning and only our noses and mouth were sticking out of sleeping bags.

The guide and staff were excellent. They waited on us hand and foot. The saying on the mountain is “pole pole” (po lay po lay ), which means “slowly, slowly.” One step at a time and drink lots of water about 3+ liters a day. The first few days had trouble picking up their English so when we were served soup, which was good, we were told what it was. The only interpretation we figured was chicken lips soup. We started laughing! Later it was something leek soup, spelled with two ee’s for the twisted minds that may read this.

We had one guide, assistant guide, and 8 porters – including one waiter and one cook. We would walk with our day packs maybe 15 lbs. They would be behind us, pass us and set up tent and camp before we got there – while climbing up with 20 kg/44 lbs + their back pack. It was totally amazing! All of them skinny with no bulging muscles. Some of the areas were 2 feet wide on the Barranco wall and down below was a sheer cliff. They would be carrying duffle bags on their heads, canvas tents, tables and make it through this area.

Regarding the staff, they do all of that for a week and the expected tip is between $5 to $10 dollars per day. They get a wage besides that but it’s unbelievable. It is definitely a different culture but everyone is very friendly. Mambo is “What’s up,” Jambo is “hello.” So jambo and mambo can be answered by Quie – everything’s cool. Asante is “thank you,” Karibu is “welcome.” You usually say jambo when you pass people on the trail. One guy said to me Jambo Babu and, my 28 yr old guide started laughing, and asked if I knew what he said. I said no – “hi grandfather.” We both started laughing. He said if one has grey hair or beard in this culture, he is considered a grandfather as people usually live to 60 or 70. And most men he knows that are 50 + walk with assistance and would never be on the mountain.

We saw monkeys blue Columbus in the forest. There we not much for birds, but one was a raven with a white neck called the white necked raven – very ingenious. We only had rain one day as we walked thru the rain forest. We met a number of people on the trail mostly Europeans a few from the United States. We would pass them and visa versa and refer to each other by where we are from. Hey the Minnesota guys – you’re the France or Oregon, or So Africa people.

On Safari
We made it back from Rhino land and no horns in any part of me. Actually we didn’t see one as they are rare and private. It was fantastic, dirty, dusty, hot time in the land time forgot. We spent the last 24 hrs missing 2 of 3 memory cards full of pictures and bumming out big time. I checked my pack, checked the vehicle and thought they got swiped at the motel, but the guide pulled them out from under the floor mat as they let us off today. Now I’m a happy boy again although tired from bouncing around most of the day and the heat.

The parks were totally amazing – Tarangire National Park was the smallest but was a good exposure to many of the animals – especially elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffalo. We got some pretty close shots. It is amazing how many kinds of animals you can see in one setting. It is like Noahs Ark on steroids! The giraffes eat the leaves of the Acacia trees, elephants can’t reach them. So what would you do? They push them down (fell them) so the pickins are easier. We stayed at nice hotels the 1st and last night in the parks. The first night a waitress told us a story. There are 10 units that are separated from the other rooms. Because you are still in the jungle, you are supposed to get a guard to escort you to the room. About a year ago, a boy 5-7 yrs old had run 30 feet to his room and a lion ended up killing him. It was a freak incident but, when your in the jungle, you are part of the food chain. The last night, a guard had led us to the room and I asked him if there were animals nearby ( this is overlooking Ngorongoro Crater – beautiful views). He said there were buffalo that were eating grass in the front yard – water buffalo with the curly horns. I guess his flash light and night stick was good enough security. I was thinking an elephant gun but hey what do I know?

The Serengetti was awesome! As if the rooms weren’t’tt safe enough, we thought we were in these tented camps with maybe fences or guards around them. But nooooo – we pitched our own tent amongst other people, jockeying for who gets the middle. For those two nights, a wet sleeping bag may be more prudent than getting up in the middle of the night! We could hear lio, hyenassas and zebras. It was very cool. Early in the morning, the last night there, the people reported a Big male and 2 females walking just out side of camp. When we woke up, we discovered wildebeestst killed 50 yards so of camp. The lions would attempt to eat it. but the vehicles were lined up to watch and it scared them away – probably until everyone left. We ended up seeing quite a few lions and a number over a zebra kill. We saw hyenana over wildebeestsst kill too. A jackalel (small dog) was very close, by begging for scraps, and vulture in the background was next in line. We ended up watching a family of cheetahsa for about a half hour ambling around the grass looking for shade. The number of animals, diversity of types and the whole setting was pretty incredible. We saw tens of thousands of wildebeests. They weren’t migrating because it is supposed to be coming off the wet season, but is very dry.

We also visited a Massai village – nomadic people that make a new village every 6 mos or so following the rains. It was very interesting. The men wear red to keep the lions away, the women – blue or purple as they stay around the camp. Each night all the goats and cows move into the camp surrounded by sticks for protection. Men with spears and dogs protect the openings from predators – hyenasas, lions, whatever. Now that is meaner than a junkyard dog! They live off porridgege, maize, goat and beef. Women drink goat milk and men stick the cows and drink their blood, then patch them up. It’s supposed to give them strength. I am glad no one had any extra when I was sick on the mtn. It was like predating the Amish by a few thousand years – the same counter culture lifestyle.