Lots to share since our last posting as we’ve been romping about Africa. Highlights include:
1 - Making it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro 5896 meters (19,340 ft)
2 - 7 days of safari, including camping in the Serengeti
3 - Seeing Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world
Reaching the roof of Africa at 19,340 ft (Tales of 6 days and 5 nights on Mt. Kilimanjaro)
WE MADE IT!! WE MADE IT!! WE MADE IT!! This has by far been the toughest hike either one of us has ever done... and Jeffrey’s finished a few tough ones in his life. But, it was SO worth it! Granted, neither of us want to ever do it again, but we’d definitely recommend it to some of our more climb-loving friends.
Although there are many routes to the top, we took the Machame Route, otherwise known as the “Whiskey Route“ (as opposed to the supposedly easier “Coca-Cola Route”). Days 1 and 2 went smoothly and we climbed up to 2980m and 3840m, respectively. They were easy hikes through the rain forest and the moorlands. Each day, we easily finished our hikes an hour faster than anticipated. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Day 3 would be the turning point. Around mid-day Jeffrey caught something. We’re still not sure what he caught, but we think it’s a combination of altitude sickness and the flu. At the end of the day, Jeffrey was very fevered, but we figured it wasn’t anything a couple of Advil and some sleep wouldn’t cure.
By morning of Day 4, Jeffrey felt better with only residual ailments nagging at him. But, the hike started off strenuous, with us scrambling over boulders and sheer cliffs to continue the trek up the mountain within the first hour. Iris loved this part of the hike (going up is much easier than going down), but because Jeffrey hadn‘t fully recovered, this quickly drained much of his energy. So, we took the rest of the hike slowly towards base camp at 4550m.
Summit day climb was ridiculously difficult and by far the most strenuous hike we had ever done. After the first hour, we were so close to turning around and calling it quits, but we knew that we’d regret it later. We kept at it for a total of 6 hrs 45mins to make it to the top with our guide literally pushing Jeffrey up the last 200 yards towards Stella Point (the rim of the crater).
Day 6 was much easier. Going down the mountain was obviously quicker and as boring as expected aside from seeing monkeys in the wild in the rainforest section of the trek.
The best medicine for a grueling 6 day climb up and down the tallest mountain in Africa is sitting all day for 7 days in a tricked out Toyota Land Cruiser while taking pictures of animals. Our safari went through some of the best animal viewing areas in Tanzania: Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire. Each had their own charms.
Our afternoon game drive in Manyara got our safari off to a great start as we saw four of the Big Five within the first hour: leopard, lions, elephants, and water buffalos (rhino is the 5th of the 5). The famous Serengeti (means endless plain in Swahili) lived up to its reputation with an amazing abundance of animals. We were particularly excited to see cheetahs on both days. We also heard a great variety of noises at night while tent camping, including one noise that turned out to be lions grunting as they were marking their territory.
Ngorongoro Crater is a great spectacle as it is 26km in width and is shared by both wild animals and cattle that is brought into the crater by the Maasai every day to graze and get water. This is also the main place on safari to see rhinos as there are supposedly a dozen or so roaming inside the crater. Unfortunately, we were not part of the lucky ones to see them (and thus unable to complete our Big Five viewing). The last park, Tarangire National Park is most known for elephants. We were not disappointed, as we saw large groups of them up close. The other exciting part about our game drive here was we were able to see a lion resting in a tree (see earlier picture). Although we can’t claim to have seen all 5 of the Big 5, we consider ourselves very lucky as we saw the big cats on every game drive we took.
We also experienced some of the local culture during our safari as we visited both a Maasai village in Ngorongoro conservation area and a Hadzabe tribe near Lake Eyasi to learn about their way of living. The latter being literal nomadic bushmen that live, eat, and sleep in the unsheltered wild. For food, the women hunt for roots while the men kill animals with bow and arrows. The game is cooked on a fire started with two sticks (neither of which is a match). Tribes also move approximately every three days to find new wildlife. Here’s a picture of Iris helping start a fire.
We also visited the Laetoli research area where the earliest (3.7 million years ago) human footprints were discovered.
That water falls a long way.
Although visiting Zimbabwe was one of our biggest safety concerns of the trip, we couldn’t go to Africa without seeing one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. The Zimbabwe economy is in shambles as inflation has reached almost 8,000%, with a staggering 36% increase between September and October alone. We actually felt very safe in Zimbabwe, and tourists were treated very well. We experienced the food shortage during our one night stay in the capital city of Harare as our waiter at the hotel handed us our menu of ~50 items and then stated, “We only have these two items tonight.“ Victoria Falls hid the country’s problems very well as their mature tourism industry didn‘t skip a beat during our visit.
Although it’s the dry season for this part of Africa, the Falls still had plenty of water and was very impressive. We also attended a traditional African dancing show and took a fantastic sunset cruise on the Zambezi River that feeds the Falls and separates the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
We had a great time in Africa and are looking forward to our next destination, Athens, Greece.