A Travellerspoint blog

High five for the big five!

We see all the big five and get drunk in the Serengeti!

sunny 32 °C

Following a week of relentless trekking up Kilimanjaro, our aching bodies were in need of some well earned rest. So off we went in search of the big five!

Before we set off on safari though, we spent a day in Arusha where we were told to 'Be Born To Tanzanite'. They also tried to persuade us to part with $500 for a stone. As beautiful as they are, I unfortunately don't have that kind of money. On our way back to the hotel, we meandered through the maze that is Arusha market. Everywhere you looked, there were stacks and stacks of fresh fruit, endless numbers of kangas and fly infested meat. Needless to say, our group - which consisted of myself, Ben, Olivia, Ian and Stacey from the Kili climb, and also Elise, Vitor, Malinn and Henriette - stayed well clear of the pig carcasses. On our way back to the hotel, I stubbed my toe, (exactly the same as what happened to me in Turkey in the summer!) resulting in blood gushing out of my toe. Bizarrely, our rather camp guide, Peter, nonchalantly waved it away as a minor cut.

Bloodied toe!

Bloodied toe!

With my cut cleaned and bags packed, we piled into our safari vans and headed to Mto Wa Mbu, which translates as 'mosquito river'. Here, we took part in a cultural tour - the highlight of which being the tasting of banana beer! Then it was time for the real deal. Lake Manyara National Park was a short trip down the road and we certainly weren't disappointed. Despite only being in the park for three or four hours, we saw a colossal amount of wildlife. The baboons were our first taste of African wildlife - one of whom gave us an eyeful of his schlong with a 'casual stroke'! On our way to hippo pool, giraffes gracefully galloped past the zebras and buffalo lazily munching the grass. At first, there didn't seem to be much going on at hippo pool, but then came 'the money shot' - a hippo arching out of the water and stretching it's massive mouth into a yawn! We thought this was all, but on our way out, a herd of elephants came within five metres of the car too!

White Masai

White Masai

The next day, we were taken to a local Masai village to further our cultural experience. They performed a welcome dance, which we were invited to take part in, and offered fresh milk from the cows. However, when a mobile phone went off in the pocket of a Masai, the authenticity was somewhat spoiled... Regardless, Philberth, our Gap Adventures guide, took us into the Serengeti, which in swahili means 'the endless plains'. On the way, we bought Masai blankets, which has earned us the moniker 'white Masai'. The heavens opened and we all thought we'd struggle to see any anmals. But right on cue, a pride of lions appeared and strolled right past the car! One of the lions actually brushed the door of the car as it walked past! With everyone still gawping at their pictures, word spread of a leopard close by. It didn't take long to find it. Perched on top of a log, the leopard turned right on cue to give an imposing glare right into the lens of the camera!

After another night camping, we awoke in our tents at Seronera Campsite. There were no fences, no rangers with rifles and no boundaries stopping animals getting in. At breakfast, we were informed that a pride of lions had been stalking the campsite during the night! No less than two kilometres down the road, we saw the said pride of lions: two females with six cubs and a buffalo kill. A hippo lumbered across the road as we drove to see yet another leopard. This time, it was far closer. Strolling between safari vans, it carried a dead hare back to its cub, who toyed with the kill atop a fallen tree. Then came the moment I'd personally been waiting for. The sighting of a cheetah. It was far away on the horizon, but even so, its jagged shoulder blades gave an it air of elegance as it strode through the long grass. That evening, back at the campsite, copious volumes of wine were consumed and certain people don't remember getting into their tent - not naming any names!

The following morning at breakfast, with the mother of all hangovers, we were jovially informed that a leopard was walking around the campsite all evening. For all know, I could have come face to face with this predator!

Lion in the Serengeti!

Lion in the Serengeti!

A scene akin to The Lion King appeared before us as we spent our last morning in the Serengeti. A pride of lions lay perched on raised rocks, before the male lion awoke from his slumber, yawned and surveyed the Serengeti plains. Just one hundred metres away, four female lions hid in the grass, anticipating a kill. A herd of zebra had found itself in between two groups of lionesses and didn't quite know what to do. Luckily for the zebra, an idiotic safari van drove straight through the middle, dispersing the zebra and ending any possibility of seeing a kill. Disappointed, our driver, George, started the engine. Only, it wouldn't start. So he asked us to push-start the car. With a pride of lions no more than 20 metres away! Bear in mind, they'd just missed out on a kill! The quickest push-start you'll ever see ensued, yet Stacey still managed to take a photo! That evening, we camped next to zebra and wildebeest in Simba Campsite, overlooking the vast Ngorongoro Crater. Philberth must have been smoking something that evening, for he sang. And sang. And sang!

Pushing the car as Philberth warily looks out for the hungry lions!

Pushing the car as Philberth warily looks out for the hungry lions!

Our final day of safari took us into the bowl of the Ngorongoro Crater, where vast numbers of animals are concentrated in a small area. With just the rhino left to see, we weren't disappointed. We saw five in total, the fifth of which was just 20 metres away - the Gap Adventures staff said they'd never been so close! George was sensible enough to keep the engine running this time! With everybody well and truly satisfied, we all headed back to Arusha to share our photos and have one or two (or six!) cold beers.

On the Sunday, people began to leave. It was strange to say goodbye to Ian and Olivia, who we got to know so well over the two weeks - they've become like family to us! Elise also went back to Canada, but Stringer and I are to see Stacey, Vitor, Henriette and Malinn in Zanzibar where the white beaches and turquoise waters (hopefully) await us!

Posted by kristian23 03:33 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Kit off on Kili!

All 12 of the group reached Uhuru Peak!

snow -10 °C

Wow, what a week! Apologies that this entry is posted a week late, but it's been so, so manic!

As the title says, every single member of our group made Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro! A massive well done to Ian, Olivia, Stacey, Chris, Claire, Lucion, Alex, Dan, Rhonda and Eric! And in the words on Tim Westwood, "a big shout out" to all our our guides and porters, who carried six days worth of food and shelter for a group of twelve people - no mean feat.

The first day of trekking took us through the dense rainforest, from Machame Gate (1800m) to Machame Camp (3000m). Here, we were greeted by rather hideous toilets, but also a spectacular view of the summit.

Machame Gate - Day 1

Machame Gate - Day 1

Day Two of our trek took us from Machame Camp (3000m) to Shira Hut (3800m). The rainforest morphed and gradually diminshed until, at the campsite, there were very few trees left. My camera was knocked, meaning that I had a black smudge across my lens - not ideal considering it was less than a week into the trip! By this stage, fleeces and trousers were needed to battle the cold at night time.

On Day Three we climbed to Lava Tower (4600m) but descended again to Barranko Wall (3900m) to help combat altitude sickness. A few members of the group were feeling slightly ill - headaches being a common theme - but Olivia's dubious fix for this was to lay on your back with your feet above your head. Yes, we looked like prats, but it worked! She even manged to fix my camera too! Not just a healer of people, but also of technology! Our camp that evening was located directly at the foot of Barranko Wall; an imposing sheer cliff face!

Our fourth day took us to Base Camp (4600m). Clambering across Barranko Wall was such a great adventure, yet the torrential downpour soon deflated spirits. After a full eight hours of walking, we arrived exhausted at base camp with the knowledge that after only 3 hours of sleep, we'd be up again at midnight to begin the long, seven hour slog to the summit!

Waking up at 11pm was not ideal. The fact that it was below freezing and pitch black ensured the group's resolve was severely tested. Claire persevered despite illness and Dan practically collapsed on his poles at every break. My body screamed for oxygen all the way from Base Camp to Stellar Point, a full five hours of walking. When I looked for a resting point above, all I could see were embers of headtorches in the far distance, confirming that we still had a long way to go. The monotony of following Dan's footsteps forced my body to switch to auto pilot, plodding away for hours on end.

Dan on summit night

Dan on summit night

As the Sun was rising, Stellar Point came into view. We were told that if we made it this far, the summit was a relatively flat 45 minute walk away. We were not going to allow anybody to turn back if they got this far. As I clambered onto Stellar Point, I was met by jubilant scenes of Mndeme, Idi, Mohammed and Hassan (our porters) performing a celebratory jig. Behind a smiling face, I was struggling to hold back the tears of joy. We were almost there!

The Sun, singing and dancing seemed to give me a second wind, resulting in a surge for Uhuru Peak. Despite almost being at the roof of Africa, the only thing playing on my mind was that I'd agreed to strip at the top of Kili. Olivia wasn't going to let me back down, yet I all I could think was "it's minus ten degrees up here - what on earth possessed me to agree to this crazy bet on Day Two?!?!".

A short five metre sprint to the sign was followed by frantically pulling off my clothes - with the exception of the 'trueLAD' t-shirt, of course. The euphoria of reaching the summit somewhat masked the pain, yet strangely it was only my hands that were cold...

Kit off on Kili

Kit off on Kili

High fives and hugs were exchanged as each member gradually made the summit. The views were breathtaking. A blanket of cloud lay beneath us as the Sun shone across the horizon. This was it. After hours on end of walking we had made Uhuru Peak. The summit of Africa. The world's tallest free-standing mountain. How good does that sound?!

As it was bitterly cold, we weren't allowed to stay long and we were soon beginning the bone-jangling descent back to Base Camp. Stringer somehow got lost on the way back and confessed "I was about to crack into the Disorano". As if a swig of alcohol would solve all his problems...

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived back at base camp, ready for a well earned hour or two of kip before yet another four hours descent. I flopped into the tent, not even bothering to shut the door. On the verge of sleep, I felt something brush my foot. The door? The wind flapping? No, it was a bleedin' mouse. Stringer and I leapt up like a couple of pansies and screeched for help from the porters. Strangely, our ingenious 'bird trap', composing of a carrier bag with nuts in, didn't go entirely to plan. Eventually, after much scrambling around, Mohammed scooped the mice out of our tent allowing us to go back to sleep - although this time we made sure to shut the door.

An hour later, we were woken yet again, but this time it was to descend to Mweka Hut (3100m). An aching nausea had hit me by now, putting me off the food, even though I was chronically short of energy. However, as soon as we set off towards Mweka Hut, I felt better with every metre descended. Spirits were soaring by now, confirmed by the fits of laughter after Eric's proclamation that someone had slept in his sleeping bag whilst we were at the summit!

Our final day on Mount Kilimanjaro took us back through the rainforest, where we were lucky to spot monkeys, chameleons and a two-inch thick river of ants stretching from one side of the path to the other. The two and half hours flew by and we were soon back at Springlands Hotel scoffing food and gulping down cold beers. Following a long winded process, we eventually said goodbye to our amazing guides at the tipping ceremony, where all 12 of us were presented with gold certificates.

The pool, which everyone had looked forward to jumping into all week, was so refreshing and provided much entertainment - especially after Chris' shocking revelation! After much deliberation, we decided to eat at Cafe Salzburg - an Austrian themed restaurant in Tanzania selling Chinese and Italian food. If anybody can work out the logic behind that, then please let me know!

Even though I've only known these guys for a week, it feels as though they've become some of my closest friends. I'd just like to say a massive well done for reaching the summit and an even greater thank you for making it the best week of my life!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. The safari blog will be up soon!

Posted by kristian23 06:36 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Kilimanjaro is in sight!

Let's get cracking!

sunny 31 °C

The night before I left, I was filled with apprehension and dread. I kept asking myself if I was ready. If I was prepared to rough it for the next few months. The emotional farewells hardly convinced me that I was doing the right thing as I choked back the tears.
But God knows what I was worrying about! So far, it's been incredible! After collecting my A-Level results and discovering I'll be studying at Sheffield Uni next year, my nerves relaxed considerably and as soon as we arrived at Heathrow, the apprehension had been replaced by excitement only rivalled by the feeling on Christmas Eve as a six year old.
The first people we bumped into were Alex, Jonny and Oli on their way to Thailand, embarking on a slightly different travel experience to ours! However, we weren't ready to rough it just yet... Our flight with Virgin had a free bar, awesome movies and the unexpected bonus of two free seats next to us where we could spread out to have a good night's sleep.
Or so I thought. At 1am, the screaming kid came. Actually, make that the screaming, kicking, whining, petulant little girl who thought it would be a good idea to kick me in the stomach just as I was falling asleep. The mother asked me to call for help from the air stewardess. Never mind an air stewardess, that kid needed a bloody straightjacket...
Ok, rant over. We arrived at Nairobi airport ready to hop into our organised airport pick-up. Which hadn't arrived. After a trip to a dodgy internet "cafe" and a few phonecalls, we were finally taken to Parkside Hotel in the centre of Nairobi to be greeted by Douglas, the hotel owner. He kindly took us for lunch and tried to convince us the meat and fish was refrigerated in the rickety wooden box next to the BBQ. After insisting we try the "fresh meat", Douglas was even kind enough to allow us to pay for his lunch - what great guy...

We rose early the next day to catch the shuttle bus to Moshi. The roads here seem to consist of a few miles of tarmac, followed by a stretch of uneven, dusty dirt track. So you can imagine the eight hour journey was a long slog. Add to this the fact that there don't seem to be many road rules in East Africa. Our bus driver was intent on overtaking at every opportunity, be it on blind corners or steep hills. And if there is a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, it turns into a brave contest of chicken, whereby neither driver swerves to avoid contact until the last second. At our first stop just before the Namanga border crossing, a Kenyan bloke asked if Stringer was Chinese, which was met with a hostile response by Bean!
After a brief changeover in Arusha (where we temporarily thought our bags had been left in Nairobi) the final leg of the journey took us on to Moshi. We dropped off some girls at International School Moshi, where Mum and Dad used to work, before the centre axle of the bus was precariously close to snapping after driving over a huge rock. Yet we still had to find our hostel, which didn't seem promising after many locals said they'd never heard of it. Our bus driver was a legend though, taking us directly to the hostel after fending off numerous dodgy taxi drivers. Hostel Foot Prince was basic, but clean and modest. There were a couple of Finnish, Norweigan and Spanish people respectively at the hostel, who had been volunteering with the street children for months, which kind of put our whistle-stop tour of East Africa to shame!

After deciding that arriving at Springlands Hotel a day earlier would be a good idea, we headed into town on the Dalla Dalla. They are ramshackle old vans, with tightly packed seats and even tighter packed passengers. When you think there can't be any more room, a passenger hops on and fits into the smallest of spaces available!
The children in Moshi ae so friendly! Despite many of the adults looking to scam you, the children all wave as they pass, shouting "Karibu" (which means hello / welcome) with a beaming smile etched on their faces.
Now, I know we're meant to be slumming it. BUT Springlands Hotel was a good shout. All credit must go to Stringer. I, being a stingy bastard, was happy to stay in the hostel for a day longer, whereas Stringer was obsessed with taking a dip in the pool. And Stringer certainly made the right decision. As soon as we dived into the pool, we were immediately cheered up even more. I'm sure our spirits will be slightly dampened when we pay for our extra night's stay, but in the words of Luke Gipson, "oh, it's a treat!".

We've spoken to a few guys here who've just climbed Kili, and they say there's a lotta rain up there, as it is the start of the rainy season. So fingers crossed that we don't get too drenched and we'll update y'all in a week's time!

Asante sana for reading!

Posted by kristian23 02:31 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

T - one week

semi-overcast 5 °C

It's always seemed years away. Months away. Weeks away. But there are now only seven days to go until I'll be standing at the airport in my walking boots, rucksack strapped to my back and ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

My quest begins with a flight to Nairobi with Ben Stringer. From here, we will spend a week scaling the heights on Mount Kilimanjaro - the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and the world's tallest free-standing mountain! A safari in the Serengeti follows, where we'll hope to see lions and leopards in the vast plains of Tanzania. A period of rest and relaxtion will be much needed by this time, so we have booked a flight to Zanzibar, where the white, sandy beaches will be practically demanding us to top up our tan!

I then travel solo, leaving Stringer to become a marine. The next leg of my journey takes me to BULA Children's Home in Kampala, Uganda's capital city. I very much doubt that I will feel lonely, as I hope to become wholly immersed in making it a fantastic opportunity for both myself and the children!

If one mountain wasn't enough, I've decided to travel to the Nepal - the epicentre of the Himalayas. More trekking will undoubtedly ensue in the "home of snow", where I hope to avoid the monsoon season!

From here, it is anybody's guess as to where I will go! It will all depend on how much money I have left and who I meet, as well as the recommendations that I'll pick up along the way. My likely destination is South-East Asia, but at the moment I'm not entirely sure where I'll end up!

Make sure to keep up to date with my travels by reading my blog!

You stay classy, readers!

Posted by kristian23 12:45 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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