A Mighty Wind
Trip Start Jun 25, 2003
31Trip End Sep 2004
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After relaxing for more than a week on the beautiful white sand beaches of Zanzibar we headed off for northern Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Flying in I looked outside the window of the airplane and saw the mountain top and excitedly snapped a photo. It was only after I realized that I was aiming the camera up at the looming mountain top that I was flying below the level of the mountain peak. For some reason I never thought the mountain would be so tall. Which of course made me question my rigorous training schedule of lying on the beach and eating and drinking to my hearts content.
Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and is one of the seven summits; putting it in the same club as Mt
As we met our guide at the airport I tried to forget the formidable peak I had seen from the plane's window which was now fortunately shrouded in clouds. Our guide took us back to his village on the slopes of the mountain where we met Jordan's good friend Paul, who had flown all the way from L.A. to join us for the climb. That night our guide laid out the eight day game plan which would hopefully get us to the top of the mountain. The most important thing he said was to go "poli, poli," Swahili for slowly, slowly. This would be the best way to get to the top as it would allow plenty of time for acclimatization. Something like 60% of climbers attempting to summit do not make it, most because of altitude. By going poli, poli we should avoid this pitfall. He said the two biggest problems we would face would be the cold and the thin air. I was thinking the two biggest problems would be the lack of a shower and a proper toilet. Little did I know what the altitude would do to Jordan and Paul.
Hiking up the mountain we traversed several different vegetation zones, progressing from tropical rainforest, to temperate forest, to moor land, all the way up until there was nothing but small scrub and volcanic boulders strewn about the Shira Plateau on which we made our camp, at an altitude around 10,000 feet
Needless to say when morning arrived I was happy for the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the air outside the tent. Each day of hiking was great as we climbed over ridges as barren and rocky as the moon, down through sheltered valleys covered with strange looking cacti and plants that grow only on the mountain. All the while looking down upon the clouds below us as if from an airplane and looking up at the glacier-covered peak looming beautifully above us. However, as soon as the sun went down each night, we were greeted by the extreme cold that accompanied such a high altitude. The one highlight of each night was dinner. We would sit huddled around a small table in a freezing cold tent by candlelight eating wonderful hot food that our cook would prepare for us. The one benefit to hiking up the mountain was for once I had servants. In addition to our own cook, we had several porters to carry our heavy bags and set up the tents every night. But the pampering should not come at such a price, anytime I would start to enjoy things either a cold wind would blow down from the mountain or a rancid wind would blow over from the boys.
Over the next several days we continued to hike up to increasingly higher altitudes, making for increasingly cold and duck-filled nights
Not wanting to move again, I was glad the next nine days would be spent sitting on my butt touring Tanzania's famous safari parks
The wildlife activity was not limited to the day. We camped out in opened unfenced areas within the game parks. Each night we were awoken by different animal noises. The roar of lion here, the munching of a zebra there. We even heard a story of a warthog tusking his way into a tent to steal Doritos forgotten deep inside a backpack. Needless to say, I made no latrine trips in the middle of the night
After the Serengeti, we went on to the who's who of the Tanzanian game parks including stunningly beautiful Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha National Park renowned for its herds of giraffes, Lake Manyara with its flocks of flamingoes and pods of hippos, and Tarangire with its massive elephant herds. No animal escaped us. Jordan said if we were shooting bullets instead of pictures we would have had a wall full of heads.
Tanzania has been great, but now it is time to continue north into Kenya for more game drives and a visit to the famous mountain gorillas. And unless Jordan's gas problem gets better, it really will be "Gorillas in the Mist."