From the Mountain to the Bush

What a change from our dusty tents on Kilimanjaro to the luxury safari accommodations put together by Mountain Vision Expeditions.  Five of us from the 18-person expedition chose to do a 6-day safari through the Tanzanian animal parks.  We started in the Tarangerie area where we saw a ton of elephants along with zebra, wildebeast and giraffe.  This first park we went to was full of the infamous “tree of life” baobab tree which are each a magnificent sight.  (Our group had a fun debate on which tree was better – the baobab or flat top acacia tree.  Your thoughts?).   It was a crazy start to our safari to arrive at the Tarangerie Treetops Lodge and see that Jeff and I had our own treehouse.  For our hot water, they lit a fire outside our place so we can have a hot shower.  They hosted a wonderful dinner that was equipped with a performance by a local Masai tribe.  The food was amazing, and it was one of the nicest places we’ve ever stayed.

We spent the next day travelling to the Ngorongoro crater where we visited a Masai village and then checked into the Soap Lodge.  Did I mention that at each place we had to get escorts to/from our rooms?  Yeah.  Elephants or lions or hyenas just randomly show up as these places are located right in their homes!  In the crater, we staked out a pride of lions and watched them across a big field.  They disappeared under a hill so we drove around to see if we could see them on the other side.  Suddenly we see the lions climb hill and walk straight toward and then right by our Land cruiser!!  It was like the paparazzi.  Shutters were flashing from all the vehicles as the passed in arms length.  They proceeded to cross the road like we weren’t even there.

We saw a cheetah and a black rhinoceros as well as hippos, gazelle, impala, ostrich and many more zebra and wildebeast.  What an amazing place.  Onto the Serengeti.
There, we stayed in luxury tented camps that provided 5 star accommodations and food in the middle of all the action.  Our favorite place was Alex Walker’s Serian camp in the Serengeti Mara.  Alex and his wife Billie were impeccable hosts that had their own game drivers that were successful in getting us to see the Great Migration.  What a sight!  We timed it just right and got to see thousands of wildebeast crossing the Mara River.  We saw 2 get eaten by crocodiles before our very eyes.  Sad, but I guess it’s the circle of life.  One of the wildebeasts  actually made it across and then went back to try and find its baby.  It got snapped going back.

We just flew a small commuter plane from Serengeti back to Arusha and will be taking an evening flight back to Dallas visa vie Amsterdam.  What a trip of a lifetime.  We plan to bring our children back with us to show them the amazing landscapes and also introduce them to our new friends in Tanzania.  We highly recommend Tanzania as your next trip of a lifetime.  You can experience the thrill of a tall mountain or do it in style by opting for a luxury safari with amazing people and food.  We enjoyed it all very much.  Africa now has a piece of our hearts forever.

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Day 6 Summit Day!

The wake-up call came at midnight.  Five days with no shower trekking several miles each day, and we save the best for last.  Summit this gigantic mountain visa vie the western breach route.  We knew it was going to be a huge challenge, but what took place today required digging deep past all physical and mental limits.  We set out with our multi-layer expedition gear and head lamps.  The itinerary was us to start at Arrow glacier camp around 15,500 feet and climb in the dark straight up for 7 hours crossing over treturous ridges, snow lines and bouldering – all with fatal consequences if there were a misstep.  We hit the crater rim around 7 am just as the sun was rising.  I thought we would never get to that rim.  I have never been more physically tired as I was this morning approaching the rim.  It looked close, but as we continued to climb it was like a mirage that you were never able to catch.  We finally get to the rim and I am exhausted and feeling pretty uncomfortable effects of altitude.  I had a headache, felt like my mind was working in slow motion and I couldn’t keep anything down.  I attempted to wrestle down my homeade trail mix, but I threw it up immediately.  Our guide dosed me with some altitude medicine as well as ibuprofen to counteract the effects.

We hit the crater rim and are reminded we were not done yet.  We still have a 45 minute climb up to the summit.  That was the hardest 45 minutes of my life.  But as soon as you get up and see that famous summit sign, all sickness left me while we were up there.  Only euphoria, elation and tears of joy between the group.

So in the day we ascended about 4,000 feet and then descended down after summit 6,000 feet where we are camping one more night.  Today was a 14 hour climbing day.  Fortunately, we have a short 3 hour trek through the jungle to the park gates where we will have a big party celebration with our entire expedition.  And then the next day, we start our 6 day safari!

What a trip we will never ever forget.  We bonded so much with our group because we intimately shared the excitement an fears of this experience.  And if you ever want to go on an outdoor adventure, we highly recommend Jeff Evans with Mountain Visions Expeditions.  He was the main ingredient that made this trip unforgettable.

Needless to say, we are ready for showers and a nice warm bed!!

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Day 4 Lava Camp & Day 5 Arrow Glacier Camp

We had another super scenic hike with views that seemed out of this world.  We hiked up to Lava camp at 14,600 feet, and this is where we are having to dig deep to keep going.  We are really feeling the altitude now – sore muscles, nausea, headaches and fatigue.  Our friend Chrisie came down with a bad virus and she is descending.

Even with the struggles, Jeff and I along with a couple others hiked up the infamous Lava tower.  It was a 30 minute steep hike up lava rocks with a couple scramble moves.  It was invigorating!

This is it now.  I am writing this the morning after our camp here and are now heading straight up to Arrow Glacier camp around 15,500 feet.  It is from here that we will leave in the middle of the night to set out for the summit.  We’re giving it everything we have in order to stand at the top of Africa.  There are so many emotions, extreme fatigue and doubts interchanged by feelings of inspiration and gratitude.  Our next post should contain pictures of us on top!

Day 2 Shira Camp

While yesterday was a hike through the jungle, today opened up to breathtaking vistas and panoramic views.  It immediately started out fairly steep and remained that way for most of our trek up 2500 feet to Shira camp.  There was also some steep rock walking that could have gotten someone pretty hurt if they fell.  Slow and steady.  We’re now at about 12,200 feet and we plan to have a “rest” day here tomorrow.  Rest days allow the body to acclimatize.  But rest days do not mean sitting around.  We’ll be doing a day hike as a group to keep our bodies in motion.  We all feel very good.  The group remains strong.

It is so incredibly beautiful here with the most unique ecology that the intimidation of this huge mountain leaves you during the day.  But don’t think that we don’t have our doubts on whether we can each make it to the top.  We certainly do, and
that’s what keeps us pressing forward with sustained energy.

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Just a glimpse of the views at our lunch stop.

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Feeling very happy we are doing this together.

Day 3 Rest Day

It rained very hard all night up here at Shira camp, but Jeff and I got the best night sleep since being in Africa.  Unfortunately, I woke up nauseous with my head pounding.  But as I slowly got up and moving I felt better.  Instead of altitude sickness, I am thinking it was sinus pressure brought on by the night rain.  We all did a 60 minute light hike to Shira camp 2 just to keep our legs moving.  We got our first glimpse of the summit and there was tons of snow on top.  As the day went on and the sun warmed the mountain up, we noticed much of the snow was gone.

The highlight today was that we attended a wedding ceremony!  Yep.  A couple in our group – who have actually been together for 15 years – decided they wanted to make it official.  It was a beautiful ceremony all fit with 30 minutes of African singing performed by our 40 porter crew.  They gathered in a circle and sang their hearts out and our cook made them a cake.  It was an unforgettable time for everyone.  So joyous!

We leave in the morning for a 5 hour hike to Lava camp at 14,000 feet.  We have had very little phone reception here so far, so we haven’t been getting these posts out.  Hopefully we’ll get some reception tomorrow.

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First glimpse of Uhuru Peak!

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Robyn and George, sharing their hearts with one another during their wedding ceremony.

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Wedding reception!

Day 1 Camp 1

What a great first day on the mountain.  It did rain most of the 7 hour trek up 4,000 vertical feet, but it made for a nice, cool climb.  We drove into the Machame Gate around 9am and were climbing by 10am.  The entire group did a stellar job as we all went up at our own pace. The plant life here is amazing, unlike anywhere else. Everyone so far is doing well with altitude.  Tonight we are camping at 9700 feet.  As I type this in our tent after an awesome group dinner, it’s nice and toasty in our tent.   Our group is already forming strong bonds.  The dynamic amongst us all is like a family that has been together forever.  Great day, even better start than anticipated.

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At the Machame Gate

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Dining tent at lunch today

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Our first camp. Very foggy from rain.

A World Vision in Tanzania

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What an exciting day!   We got in last night and crashed hard after grabbing dinner at the hotel.  Since we got in a day earlier then the rest of our group, we had a day in Arusha to check out the local community.

One of the things we did is stop by the Tanzania headquarters for World Vision.  As you may know, we are big supporters of World Vision through their child sponsorship program and our fundraising efforts for using this trip here as a platform.  We went by to drop some gifts off for our sponsored child and to chat with the officials there on how they are helping families throughout their great country.  Let me tell you from having now gone on location, your dollars donated to World Vision span far and wide.  One of the sponsorship officers, Regina Zegega, spent generous time with us explaining the organization structure here (see her pictured with Jeff and I in this post).  They have 67 offices just in Tanzania with 5 zones.  Each zone is made up of several ADPs (area development programs) that tackle the needs specific to that area.    One example of an ADP would be educational classes that teach the locals about agriculture that is core to starting their own farming.  One large initiative you may want to read up on is called Secure the Future, which is part of the food and agriculture fund we have been fundraising for, and is so near and dear to my heart.   World Vision is very organized here, and is well-revered in the community.

I asked a local Tanzanian man what the people thought of World Vision and he said have helped so many families.  He went on to say that they have helped Tanzanians the most because they have the infrastructure to adapt to the changing needs of each region unlike other large organizations on location.

So thank you once again for all those that have partnered with us to equip families here to feed and sustain their own families.  Haven’t joined the cause yet?  Follow our fundraising link on our blog homepage.  Your money will be well spent!

On a separate note, we greeted our mountain guide and all the rest of our group this evening as they arrived at the hotel tonight.  There seems to be many lives meeting at this place and time for a reason here.  And we set out on Saturday morning!  Needless to say, no more long blog post here.  See you on the mountain!

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Starstruck in Africa

After almost 24 hours of travel, we got a ride from Emmanuel to the hotel.  One of the first things we noticed was the absolute abundance of stars – big, bright and beautiful.  And it’s only 78 degrees outside.

Given that we’re 8 hours ahead, it’s dinner time by the pool then we need to hit the sack – we’re very tired.  We’ll check in again tomorrow.

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Into the Wild Blue Yonder

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On our way!  Headed across the Atlantic to Amsterdam.

Taking the World’s Game to the Third World

Even though we’ve been raising money for World Vision (see the link to the right), Angela and I wanted to do more for the African people we’re looking forward to meeting.  I grew up playing soccer, and continued playing as an adult until my ankles were too torn up to support playing the game.  These days I’m continuing my involvement in the sport by coaching both of my kids’ teams.  What better gift than to share one of my loves and passions with a people who also share the passion for soka (in Swahili), but don’t have the same resources we do.  I should mention that Angela loves this sport as much as I do.  We can’t wait to see the joy on kids’ faces.  That’s a memory we’ll carry for a lifetime.

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