Friday, January 18, 2013

In the Wings of Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and the fourth highest of the Seven Summits is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. 
 
The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Artic. Her foot slopes give way to lush mountane forest which is inhabited by elephant, leopard, buffalo and other small antelope. Rising higher lies the Moorland Zone where a cover of giant heather is studied with other world giant lobelias. Above 4,000 meters a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few mosses and lichen. The final vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent of Africa.

Just a week ago I learned of a very special upcoming event that is a first EVER for climbers to this magnificent mountain. As a paraglider pilot, Daniel von Mutius will attempt the summit with The Wings of Kilimanjaro; a team of adventurers from all around the world. Climbers will meet at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro to being climbing with the largest group ever to attempt the 19,340 foot mountain. Not only will they summit to Uhuru Peak (or make their best attempt) they will also sleep at the peak for a night or two, dependant on weather(another first) and then they will paraglide off of the summit (the most amazing first)! 
 
Learn more about the Wings of Kilimanjaro Team and their Mission and watch the Video Trailer.  The climb and paraglide mission, something that is usually banned by the Tanzanian Government, will raise over US$1 million for 3 charities making a difference on the ground in Eastern Africa; Plant With Purpose, WorldServe International and One Difference.  To Donate to these worthy charities and support the climbers who plan to paraglide from the summit on the 5th of February please visit Wings of Kilimanjaro.
 
Learning of this adventure reminded me of Moses's mother Martha Msuya, who conquered the mountain in 2003. 
 
  I share Martha's story:
  "Adventure to the Roof of Africa"

Feb. 9, 2003 - Dedicated to my children & their spouses, grandchildren and my husband and best friend, El Msuya.

Awake at 6am, Mama Eliza went to church, it’s Sunday; and it’s just me and the house girl Dora, here in Soweto Moshi, Tanzania.   Rasta the taxi driver came to pick me up early by 8:00 am instead of 8:30 am; so I hurried to wear my Nikwalk runners, knee braces and my pink Lions baseball hat.  Mama Eliza just came back from church, so she, Peter and Musa came along in the taxi to see me off.  El is still in Dar es Salaam.  We got to downtown Moshi and then had to wait at Mauly Tours for an hour until our mini bus came.  Took 2 pictures of Mauly Tours sign with the 4 of us there before leaving.  Buses are coming and going around the round-a-bout.  People are walking to and from church.  I loaded El’s duffel bag into my backpack and sent it back with thermos and other stuff to Soweto with the taxi  re: Pamela at Mauley Tours instructions.  Pamela is making sure the backpack is not more than 15 kgs weight for the porter to carry.  I must now rent a small backpack at the Marangu gate because my backpack is too large for me to carry, the Porter will carry it. 

My plans were NOT to speak Swahili to my Driver, Porter and Guide for the first day.  I wanted to know if they would slip a hint amongst themselves as to whether or not they thought I would be able to make the adventure.  But…..  while talking to Mama Eliza a bus finally came to a stop with three young looking guys - I didn’t think this was our group so I continued talking Swahili.  I find it very hard to speak English to people here, Swahili comes naturally.  So number One  - “I Blew it!” 

We started out for Marangu gate.  A retired Guide who is now a driver for Mauly Tours, told my Guide, Nelson to sit with me and get acquainted.  Enroute Marangu up hills and curves is where the rules went out the door.  Nobody is carrying a phone!!!  Ha ha.  I was told that my Guide would be carrying a phone, so I bought two Vodacom $5.00 cards so I could communicate with El once in a while.  Nelson’s phone was stolen last week.  It is Sunday and the stores are holding back on beef for our journey.   Our bus stopped four times looking for ‘nyama’, finally found some.  There are a few mountain climbers at the gate.  Registration completed the four of us start out after re-arranging the food and backpacks for our group.  Harroun the cook, Lameck the porter and Nelson Mushi the Guide, and me.

First we walked through the entrance to the park onto the famous stone path that I would see for the next few days – Nelson my Guide has just told me its approx. 29 kms from here to Uhuru Peak.  Watch my step!  The terrain is uneven and the last thing I want is to stumble and get a cut or bruise.  I have to remember to walk slowly, this is not a race!  Beautiful Rain forest with the river on right hand side and snaky roots all over the path.  One must think and look down at the path before taking each step.  Nelson, my Guide killed a tetsi-fly, and then showed it to me. Monkeys are swinging in trees high up, about 30 of them.   The group just ahead of us told us about these monkeys, we looked and looked but can’t find them anywhere.  All we can hear are the warthogs in the dense rain forest, they sound like pigs grunting, and will not come out. Peed under the canopy of trees, away from the beaten path. At noon we had lunch on a picnic table for 15 minutes - hard boiled egg, sandwich, roasted piece of chicken, a banana, dates, nuts, juice.  2 bottles of water are finished already, instructed to drink five liters per day.  We walked and walked until about 4pm today ending at Mandara Hut where we will have supper and sleep for the night.  There is no more room to put me, all the beds are full, and they overbooked!!  They decided to put me in the first sleeping quarters with ten others in bunks all around the room.  Here I slept on a mattress on the floor - in the middle of the room.

We had supper in the mess hall, then played scrabble with Emma from Vancouver until too late, and then the worst thing was finding my way in the dark to the Hut, then finding my mattress on the floor, unzipping my sleeping bag, finding a spot for my clothes and boots and glasses all in the dark without a flashlight.  I put my valuables (camera, money, film) right next to me in its waist belt bag, right inside the sleeping bag.  I was dumb to play scrabble and had now learned my lesson.  I did not sleep well with ten others getting up to go out to pee in the night; it was just as though they were taking turns.  It seemed like hours before I could sleep and the only sound were low snores and zippers of sleeping bags being opened and closed.  I was well aware that anyone could step on me in the dark because they might not have known I was sleeping in the middle of the floor.  I had no pillow so rolled up my clothes to use as a pillow.

Finally morning came - I waited for everybody else to dress first, pretending to remain asleep until they were out.  It worked, and I soon found my bags and was up, dressed and packed in no time.  Outside was Lameck waiting with a basin of warm water to wash up.  I moved the basin to some nice green grass away from commotion of people, brushed teeth, wash face, get tangled hair wet and combed.  Boy that feels good!  Now ready for the day!!  There was the commotion of Porters and cooks in their quarters.  Arriving for our first breakfast at the mess hall – Harroun had set the table with a kanga, there was a thermos of hot water, tea bags, a small tin of Africafe, Milo (like hot chocolate), toast, boiled eggs, home fries or fried eggs if you liked, a whole plate of freshly peeled and cut fruit, I was hungry and ate. Some of the tables had about 20 climbers chattering away and eating corn flakes or toast.  We were a happy bunch after the first climbing day.  It had been very easy walking.  The difference between this walking and the Walkerton dyke, was the speed and duration time.  Nothing ached or hurt yet.  It was fun!

  Feb. 10, 2003 - Written from Horombo Hut
 
Walked up to the Maundi crater first.  It is very close and only took 15 minutes to get there – all uphill through big rain forest trees. Took two or three pictures there.  Maundi used to be a volcano but is dormant now.  Enroute Horombo which is approx. 6 hours to climb and six miles of walking uphill all day there was lovely vegetation along the way!!  My guide, Nelson explains all the biological names for the plants and trees.  The five climate zones are – Rainforest, Hearthland, Mooreland, Alpine Desert and Glacier/Arctic Zone.  These are explained in a nice book called Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Africa’s Beacon – Second Addition 2000.  Also here you can learn about the people of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania’s National Parks, the climbing routes, maps and the pre-colonial and colonial history of Tanzania.  The path to climb is stones and intersections built of stone for going up another level – at these intersections in the path is a drop to jump over – this is where the water will runoff in rainy season.  Today I took a lot of pictures with just me or Nelson in them because I didn’t know anybody from the other groups that were passing.  I taught Nelson how to take a picture and he catches on quickly. Lameck and Harroun always walk faster than me.  They go on ahead to prepare the evening meal.

We walked up and down hills, crests and meandered around mountain ranges but Kili is not in view – she is hidden with clouds.  The vegetation has changed already – no more big trees.  This is Hearthland climate.  We walked over approx. ten bridges of all sizes, some with water running, some nearly dry.  One bridge was burnt out – a fire from Jan 2002 destroyed everything around Mawenzi on the Moshi side, and this bridge was burnt out, and then re-built.  There is a difference of opinion re: what started this fire.  Some Guides say it was a cigarette, others say hunters started it on purpose.

Nelson is a smart educated Guide of 24 yr. old.  His Mother just died very recently.  He studied as a guide at 2 schools and wants to advertise on the internet, and then work for himself.  He has made a lot of trips to the ‘Roof of Africa’.

Seems like Horombo will never appear!  One more hill or ¾ hour and we should be there, I am told.  Big rolling hills now.  Met a young girl coming down that I met at KIA airport going through customs when I landed in Tanzania!  We had lots of time to talk then because we were in the customs line-up at KIA airport.  We were both planning to climb!  She was descending now, all smiles and going fast coming back down.  She did it in five days.  She said she made it – saying the last section from Gillmans to Uhuru Peak was the very hardest.

Many people descending and some were passing us on their way up.  Sometimes we even pass them.  We talk a bit to other climbers, usually try English, if that doesn’t work, we try Swahili.  It’s the Germans, Dutch, or Austrians bent on climbing who don’t want to visit.

One girl said she didn’t make it – her ears popped and she had a splitting headache and then she panicked!  Others said they made it but that it was really difficult, told us just to go ‘pole-pole’ and have a positive attitude.  I actually saw one young lad laying on the rescue stretcher covered in blankets ready to be taken down, he didn’t look more than 20 years old.  I also heard of 2 others who had to be carried down with the stretcher – they had mountain sickness.

Nelson doesn’t want me to take long rests at a time – that I should just keep walking, eating raisins or nuts and drinking water.  I sometimes stopped and leaned on my 2 poles breathing hard and dropping my head onto my chest for a minute.  Nelson saw a dark cloud I guess, and we stopped, he took everything out of my backpack and we stuffed the sleeping bag in there.  Wore the raincoat once it started to sprinkle, put the coat over top of backpack, this left the top button or 2 not closing, but wore the hood.  It has started to rain.  Nelson said there is nothing worse than a wet sleeping bag – that the chances of success would be cut in half!  It was lunch time.  A group of approx. 20 stopped for lunch at the same assigned spot.  We ate standing up in the rain.  Boiled egg, ripe banana, piece of roasted tough chicken, cut raw carrots and a peanut butter sandwich.  Nelson returns the plastic lunch box back into my backpack and off we climb in the rain.

Martha and Nelson, her guide
It rained now all the way to Horombo and I got wet!  Legs, feet, shoes and chest were now wet and it is getting cold.    I was not wearing my rain pants.  The porter had them in the large backpack!  About 15 minutes before arriving at Horombo Hut, I started feeling dizzy, oozy; hands very cold and wet trying to hold my 2 walking sticks, tried warming my hands under my wings which did not help very much.  I also felt nauseated now and once we arrived at the registration desk where we sign-in that long book which gives you a room number – I saw a bed!!  It was hard to write in that book – my fingers were stiff and cold, so they said I could come back in the morning to fill in the details.  This procedure of reporting and registering is the first thing upon arrival at the 3 Huts.  I pulled off my wet clothes, and put on dry ones – the mattress is on the floor in a wooden framed hut which stands on stilts, with a total of 4 bunks in our A-frame shelter.  They brought me black tea with sugar which I drank.  It was good to have dry clothes on, but I felt nauseated and sat outside the hut on a rock and tried to vomit by sticking my fingers on back of my tongue to no avail.  So I forced another cup of tea/sugar down, and went to sleep.  I felt sick and weak; it was a nice feeling to be in the nice warm sleeping bag.  I must be coming down with a cold and sore throat and only have lozenges and Tylenol.  Snot dripped and ran down my cheeks.  Didn’t want to waste my ‘wet-ones’ on Kleenex so used my ½ roll of toilet paper.  Beginning to wonder if I can even get to Kibo Hut which is six miles up ahead.  One consolation was that we didn’t have to leave the next morning for another day of climbing, tomorrow was my acclimatization day which meant staying here at Horombo another day, and climbing short distances.
 
Hut #18 here at Horombo with Kara from San Francisco and Amy from New York, was interesting.  Kara has been sick with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) for the last 2 days but she won’t turn back.  They walk together with their Guide and sometimes we 3 walk together.  When Kara sits down to gag and vomit, we just go ahead, she takes the AMS medicine every day, and now the Guides are wondering if the medicine is making her dizzy and nauseated.  They say it is better to climb with your ‘natural body’ first, maybe taking Panadol for headache or  Gravol for nausea, and that the AMS medicine is also a treatment for epileptics and frequently can give nausea/dizziness symptoms.  70% of climbers get AMS due to lack of oxygen in the air. 

It is cold here; you can see your breath!  Can’t see Kibo or Mawenzi from here – there is too much steam and cloudy.  Nelson said he would wake me in an hour to see how I felt then.  He also said not to take the mountain sickness medicine, said I could take an aspirin or anti-nausea medicine only.  Boy that sleep did wonders – by 6pm I felt good again!  Walked around Horombo checking things out.  Took a picture of the rescue stretcher, it had one big car tire in the front; construction was of steel and had 2 handles.  Met some familiar faces now!  There were literally at least 100-150 people here tonight.  Cooks and porters are very busy.  Bringing beer or food to the main mess hall were everyone gathers to eat, drink, phone or play cards before sleeping for the night.  It stopped raining.  There are big rocks all over this place. After supper and once darkness had set in – a lot of folks stood at the edge looking down at Moshi town lights.

You don’t want to forget which path to take which leads to the flush toilet and then back to your hut, look for it in the daylight!  The 2nd night here, our room was changed to right at the back where you could hear and see a small waterfalls.  I got up at night to go to the bathroom and upon returning, climbed up the 3 steps and opened the door and was ready to lie down when I heard a man’s voice saying ‘Wrong Hut’.  I said thanks and left to look once again for my bed retracing my steps in the dark and listening for the waterfalls.  There is only a few dull solar lights to cast shadows around the place, I climbed over rocks and finally found my bed!

Feb. 11, 2003 - Acclimatization Day Spent at Horombo
Not feeling well today.  Too damp, snot nose and sneezing. Planning a walk up to Zebra Rocks.  Hanging around Horombo today.  Nelson plans to take me to see a few peak points, to get a good view of Mawenzi.  Hung my clothes out to dry with a rope at front of Hut – it started to rain again!  Took my 2nd Tylenol for my cold and dull headache.  Others are leaving for Kibo today.  My camera is all steamed up.

Up to Zebra Point with about 22 climbers from Austria mostly.  Very steep and slow.  Met Amy and Kara going up.  Took a few pictures of Zebra Rock Point – which are long black and white stripes of rocks that look like Zebra stripes.  We have come another 300 meters of acclimatizing.  Rained all the way up.  It took only ½ hour coming down and one and a half hours going up.  Was back in camp by 2pm.  We did not see Kibo or Mawenzi (too cloudy); it was disappointing because we are at the bottom of them both. Back to #18 hut and packed for tomorrow, giving up on the clothes drying, I put all my wet stuff in plastic in the bottom of the large backpack which Lameck carries;  shoes in bottom and wet clothes that I won’t be wearing. Coming back from Zebra rocks met James Irving, a man from South Africa who enjoys climbing back home.  We walked back downhill together while our Guides walked together behind us.  We took one picture.
 
Martha at Zebra Rock Point
Kara & Amy my bunk mates are jealous of me because my Guide explains a lot of the plants, animals and general climbing info which their Guide doesn’t – also they think I’m so lucky to speak Swahili.

Ready now to call Dad who is in Dar – but it is too windy and cloudy for the call to be made.  Arrangements made to give Nelson’s friend (another Guide with a phone), the $5.00 Vodacom card to put into his phone, and then I can call Dad once or twice.  Will wait for evening now. Played cards with 3 others in mess hall.  They have a game called ‘last card’.  Which is much like our Uno. Back to rest until supper.  Had macaroni, beans, soup, fruit.

Finally got through on the phone and talked to Dad in Dar es Salaam for just a minute.  He is saying the truck might be out in a few days and likely won’t be able to meet me at the Marangu gate on Friday when I get back down. He is anxious wondering how I am - so I told him I did get the mountain sickness but feel better now.  He warns me to please be very careful and listen to what the Guide says, and please call again soon.  I said I would, and asked him to email the kids informing them that I was on the 3rd day now – en route Kibo Hut.  Then the phone was cut which is nothing new with these Vodacom phones!

Feb. 12, 2003 - Trip to Kibo Hut
Feeling much better today, up early, had breakfast and anxious to get started.  Today is nine kms to walk over Alpine Desert with Mawenzi on the right!  That’s almost like walking from Walkerton to Hanover. 

At the ‘Last Water sign” I knelt to drink straight from the stream.  Alpine desert – there is nothing growing at all!  Just stones, almost sand like.  People print their names with stones forming the letters.  It is high 15,000 feet now.  We are actually walking on the saddle – Lunar landscape between Mawenzi and Kibo!!  I’m feeling good too, that’s encouraging! This took us 6 hours.  We can’t see Kibo portion of the mountain yet! We arrive finally at the Kibo huts, its damp in #2 apartment where 15 people, men and women will sleep; there is one big wooden table for eating.  Packed for tomorrow before dark.  Only take what you need now, water, warm clothes, mitts, headlamp, camera, batteries, film, hood, extra socks, boots are a must, raisins/nuts, which the Guide will carry.  We slept very early by 6:00pm because we will be woken up at 11:30pm to drink tea, then leave by 12:00 midnight for Gillman’s!  Nelson took me outside before dark and showed me the sandy hill we will be climbing in the middle of the night.  It didn’t look too bad, but it is very far and all uphill!  The porter and the cook will stay behind, and the climber carries no backpack from here on up, the Guide will carry it. 

Feb. 13, 2003 - Gillman’s and Uhuru Peak-“Hardest Day of my Life!”

We started up that sandy mountain in the dark with headlamps in the night.  We walked with approx. 50 others, zig-zagging paths all the way up.  Very tough going! Guides are chanting ‘pole-pole’  Have you ever felt pushed to the limit? Bushed? Want to sit down? Just can’t walk any further? Stalled, exhausted?  Well that was me going up that sandy hill from Kibo Hut to Gillman’s point in the middle of that beauty of a night.  We wore winter clothes and a head flashlight; there was a thin line of lights slowly ascending in zig-zagging formations up that steep tired hill.  Once in a while the sounds of Guides chanting a ‘Pole-Pole”.  One Guide in front, another at the rear of each group.  Sounds of uttering encouragement!  The moon was bright – no need for my headlamp anymore which had a ‘short’ and kept going on and off anyway.  No time to stop and fix it – just keep walking and sliding back sometimes in the sand.  At times it was two steps forward and one step back.  We stopped for a minute only, to look in at the Hans Meyer Cave - some people were resting there. I stopped to look up ahead and see a few lights faintly away up in the distance.  Boy this is so interesting and exciting!  This is the night when we make it or break it!  Wake Up Martha, I kept telling myself, and walk!  This is the last test!  I stopped to look back again - at how far we have come … it looks like we’ve come about ½ way in the dark - appears to be easy, just one more curve – up there and we can see the top we are told.  We get there and behold there is one or 2 more hills to climb!  My feet are freezing and so are my hands even though I’m wearing mitts and my hands started out warm – I’m not getting any exercise to keep my body warm, just slow walking.  Nelson points out the horizontal streaks of light which is the rising sun…  it will be about 1 more hour now to Gillman’s.  I am elated though tired.  It doesn’t look like much in the dark – can see Mawenzi only!  Heart is pounding and breathing very deeply.  This is a sure test for the lungs and the heart.  Nelson says not to stop too long at a time.  We pass another group puffing and leaning on their poles.  Daylight has begun!  Still quite cold, not windy, the horizon is clearing and one more hill to conquer!  Remembering today is Kasey’s 11th birthday and wondering what she will be doing today.

 Very taxing and demanding all the way up to Gillman’s Point in the middle of the night.  It was nearly full moon and we stopped to look at the stars which seemed very close and bright!  It is very bright sun at the top and we can see the snow finally, the crater, lots of large rocks about zero degrees they said at the top today. From here we can see Mawenzi from the top, that is -  we were looking down onto Mawenzi.  We are on Kibo now!  I can see across to Uhuru Peak where a few very small looking people are standing.  To go there will take about two hours of walking and is dangerous.  Should I try it?

Yes, I can see clearly now!  We are at the rim, the crater rim!  A sign in the distance marks Gillman’s Point.  Jaggy rocks now – no real path to follow, just look straight up at those people and that sign and go straight in that direction.   Then it got harder and harder around rocks, up, up, up getting nowhere it seemed.  Hands and feet are warming-up!  The sun is up!  What a most beautiful site now.  We're at Gillman's’ - taking pictures, talking to myself and looking around in a full circle, stretching my arms.  Carrying nothing as Nelson bore the small back pack.  I’m wide awake now for the first time all night.  In Dad’s Ontario Hydro coat pocket that I’m wearing is my hand-painted stone to be left up here somewhere, but where ?  Nelson points to Uhuru Peak in the far distance – there are tiny figures working their way up and some who are at the highest point – Uhuru Peak.  “Do you want to go there, Mama,” he asks?  “Mama do you feel strong enough to go two more hours uphill?”  It is about 6am now. “Sure”  I told Nelson. 

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I want to go – but yah, how difficult is it? I ask myself if I feel strong enough now, it never crossed my mind to quit now; but now that Nelson is asking seriously, he is planting a seed of doubt and I must make my decision.   Nelson explains its quite easy walking at first, but dangerous, some rocks to climb, anticipating winds or quick weather changes making it even more difficult near the Peak.  I say “Yes I want to go there!” So we started out - easy going at first, Look down at the crater on the right side, ice and snow high like maybe 100’ on the left hand side.

We have started out for Uhuru Peak!  Up short stretches and even we go down a bit, around rocks – feels easier now than that all night walking.  Heh stop and look down into the crater, we stop and Nelson explains to me that he has slept down in there during his training – not much oxygen, he had a headache all night.  Look up to the left are what?  Walls and walls of ice and snow!!  Can’t stop long but insist on taking a picture.  Nelson says there are better views farther up!  Ice on some rocks overhanging the crater and that is the only path to walk on now.  What if it gave way?  Nelson says walk very carefully through this section with ledges.  IT WAS THE VERY HARDEST DAY OF MY LIFE!  HARD PHYSICALLY!   I Tasted the dry snow, crispy, up some more, got very tired, wearing mittens, head scarf, Charlottes balaclava and my purple hood, very windy and cold.  Very Beautiful!!  Nearing Uhuru now and I can hardly go any further so Nelson takes my poles and tells me to put one hand into his waist belt and hang on tight. Push back my hood, take off mitts. We go up, up up some more for 200 meters to the sign post.  It is much easier walking now because Nelson is pulling me up!  I’m just breathing hard.  We reach the Uhuru summit.  It is about 8am.  Other people are shaking hands, about 10 folks are taking pictures in front of the “Highest Point in Africa” sign reading 19,340 feet. 
 
Martha and Nelson at Uhuru Peak
The Roof of Africa
The sun is blinding!  The walls of Glacial snow and ice are 5 stories high – the white ice forming shapes that took years to build up through melting and freezing.  Very beautiful here, but cold.  Looking down now in to the crater deep with some snow down there, sand and stones – we are not allowed to go in there!

I slump beneath the Uhuru sign and cry to myself with joy!  I stand up and give my guide Nelson a little hug and thank him.  He just says “Hasante Mama” standing tall next to me.  We have someone else take a photo of just the two of us and then I get a picture taken with other folks who just happen to arrive the same time as us.  Also Nelson took a picture of me and the Canadian flag, then another with the Lions Club Logo.  I leave my small painted brick at the foot of the sign post. There are other stuff left by the sign - - torn flags from other countries tied with string or twine, a wooden white cross with a name where someone has died.  Nelson tells me we can’t stay long here as the weather can change suddenly.  It can become so windy that you get pushed over, or blizzard conditions can happen in five minutes time, you would need to hide beside a large rock until it passes.  The two hours from Gillmans Point and Uhuru Peak is dangerous walking in even good conditions, falling rocks into crater, slippery narrow paths and winding around large rocks.

I told Nelson that I was going to step aside to pray for just a minute before leaving this place.  I walked towards the walls of ice about ten steps, away now from the sign and the people - to face the beautiful walls of snow and ice the colour of blue – I sat down again and prayed short sentences for each of my children and their spouses, naming each one, for El and our life together, for each of the Grandkids, naming each one.  I thanked God for bringing me here safely and thank him for this beautiful Mountain, I ask that each of the kids and spouses wishes come true – (that they made before I left Canada.)  “I know it is asking a lot, dear Lord.”  The whole time tears of joy.  I thank God for granting me my dream  – to reach the ‘Roof of Africa’.  Stood up, turned around, walked back to Nelson and we start down again.
 
It is much easier to descend!  This is where I likely got sunburnt – I forgot to pack my sunscreen last night!  But I didn’t even notice the burn on my face until we reached Kibo Hut in the afternoon.  Reached Gillman’s point again, nobody there now – kept going down that sanding hill, straight down with a ‘ski-in-sand method’ digging heels into the sand one foot at a time which Nelson showed me how to do.  We descend this hill quite quickly – it’s a good thing I have the boots and gaiters on to protect both boots and pants.  My knees are sore after ½ hour skiing in this sand.  The hill is steep!!  We pass Hans Meyer Cave which is at Mawenzi level.  He was the first recorded man who conquered the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1889.

We got back down at Kibo huts by 2pm, wash face, drink chai and biscuits but I’m not one bit hungry! – haven’t eaten for 12 hours and very tired now – I just need a ‘power nap’.  Nelson says we can stay about one hour, boy am I glad!  He will wake me up in an hour, so I get into that bunk and close my eyes.  We left for Horombo at 3pm, passing the ‘Last Water Sign’, drinking from the trickling stream of cold water.  Nelson fills a bottle for me.  We meet others going up – encouraging them.  Take heart and don’t panic!  You can do it!  We arrive Horombo huts before 6pm, not bad at all but my knees really hurt now!!  We eat supper and sleep there.  Room #2 this time far at the back with 2 ladies (Mother and daughter from States) and the guy James Irving from South Africa.  James and I are coming down; the mother and daughter are going up.  

 Feb. 14, 2003 - "Back Home"
James Irving leaves an hour before us to descend.  I stay in bed until he gets out with all the backpacks and stuff!  A knock on the hut door, wake up and wash up – a  warm basin of water on the outside steps which Harroun brings, breakfast at 8am – We are in no hurry today?  But we must make it to Marangu gates today before the gates close so that means passing Mandara!  It took from 9am until 5pm going through the Alpine Desert – the saddle and all the Rainforest again.  I got 2 nice views of both Kibo and Mawenzi!  Coming back was fun!  Nelson asked Lameck for the radio and Tanzania Radio Station 1 Stereo was playing Dolly Parton, Porter Wagner, Kenny Rogers, Willy Nelson Country & Western Tunes.  Amy and  Kara ask me to take some pictures for them because they left their film in the Keys Hotel.  They ask me to party with them tonight there!  Sure I said.  I sold them two of my films for 10 bucks US.  Amy and Kara and I walked for hours together.  Kara learning a few Swahili sentences and counting to ten.  She was stopping people going up with her new Swahili sentence “Mimi nilipanda Mlima ya Kilimanjaro”.  My knees do not hurt as much today.  The decent is easier but I will need two new knees and a bath!  I cannot stand my own smell of sweat and the same clothes.  Damp shirts of sweat – rained mostly through the rainforest.  This old stooped woman was coming down very slowly, we stop a bit, Nelson talks to her Guide & says he will send for help once we reach the gate!  She doesn’t talk English, she’s 68 and made it to the top – but is all worn out!  I ask Nelson to let me know when we are getting close to the gates, because I want to give him his tip money before we reach the commotion at the gates.  He thanks me profusely for the $60.00 and has one request – to recommend him to Mauly Tours as a good Guide.  I say “No Problem”  Reached the gates and take a few pictures of the sign board at the entrance to the park.  Sign the big Record book at the desk, and the askari shake my hand to congratulate.  They ask if I want to fill out my certificate, I can hardly write and their handwriting would likely be better than mine.  The certificate is large and impressive with a picture of Kibo & Mawenzi!  I pay both Harroun & Lameck $35.00 dollars US.  I ask if anybody has seen a 4 Runner Toyota Vehicle in the parking lot with a Lions Logo on the windshield? – the answer is no.  I am disappointed because El has been saying for years that he would be at the bottom drinking beer the day I get back.  I assume he was not able to get the vehicle in time as planned, no problem!  I return the backpack to the smiling lady who congratulates me.  We all leave in the Mauly Van -–all of us, driving downhill past Marangu town.  People, buses, vendors, school kids and banana plants, pass Capricorn Hotel where Mbati says he would be waiting!  Cant phone – there is no phone!  My heart longs to see El.  I miss him!

Thank God for the safe return to Mauly, downtown Moshi!  Return the rented stick, take pictures with my certificate, the Guide, cook Porter and Pamela, who stamped the back of the certificate.  Everything gets a stamp in Tanzania, ha ha!!  Get back into the van and head for Soweto to drop me off.  Can I remember how to get to the house?  Soweto has no house #’s and the Street names I do not know.  I passed this route just a few times in the first four days so just maybe I can direct the driver.  I hope so.  Turn at the corner on the Arusha Road where the woman sells her chickens every day, go to the end of the street and turn right, up 2 blocks.  Then nothing looks familiar.  We stop to ask ‘Unafahamu Mama Eliza?  Anakaa wapi?  The ladies who are sitting outside on steps braiding hair and ask “Where her husband works?  How many children and where she works, is she Chagga tribe?  I shrug my shoulders to all their questions.  Let’s go - - we are wasting time.  Go further and make a left soon make a right and see the old broken down bus in the ditch - - heh I remember now!! I walked with Mama Eliza past this old bus!  Drive past the hostel and the next house is Mama Eliza’s with the green grass out front.  The driver hits the horn a few times until Anita, Angela and Dora all come and open the gate; we drive into the compound and let me out.  Porters, cook and Guide go home by bus or walk.  We all say our good-byes.

Get a picture with each of the girls separately here because there is nobody else to take one of us all together.  Get my first bath, it’s Friday about 6pm.  Talked to Dad on the phone that got cut off.  He is still in Dar.  Knows now that I made it, got back and am fine.  Sleep is most welcomed!

As I look back now at this adventure with fond memories – folks ask me if I would do it again – Yes I would love to do it again.  I would take more pictures at Uhuru Peak and remember my sunscreen.  And kids if your dreams come true – I am happy for  you.  Kids and Grandkids – I challenge you to climb up to Uhuru and find the marker I left.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rudisha

It’s great to be back to the pole pole lifestyle! While I had a wonderful time in Canada it was as usual the fast paced North American way, different than what I’m now used to.  This blog is titled rudisha which comes from the Kiswahili verb "Kurudisha", which means "to give back". I am happy to share a story of giving back!

Before heading back to Canada in November we had stopped in Moshi, a lovely drive from Tarangire National Park. While sitting out back on the porch at Martha Msuya’s house I watched as the children had a game of soccer. A young woman and her daughter were walking up the lane, I greeted them in Kiswahili and Martha introduced us to Catherine and her 5 year old daughter, Elizabeth.  I had asked if she was on her way home from school, and sadly learned that due to lack of money Elizabeth does not attend school.  Martha showed me pictures of Elizabeth when she had visited and was coloring with crayons for the first time; she was great at staying within the lines! 

 Later that evening I kept thinking about the children who do not have the privilege of attending school. I believe that all children, no matter the country, should somehow be given the opportunity to go to school. We discussed the idea of sponsoring Elizabeth for school, providing a life changing opportunity for her. We decided that we would see that she started school in 2013 and would continue supporting her until she graduates school. We asked Martha if she knew of any schools in the neighbourhood that Elizabeth could attend. Right away she agreed to look into options for schools for us and get back to us.
 
We travelled along our way, from Moshi to Namanga, crossed the border into Kenya and headed to Nairobi to enjoy our long awaited dinner at Trattoria Restaurant.  Early the next morning we boarded the Oxygen bus en-route to Mombassa.  We opted for the journey by bus versus flying to take in the Kenyan country side.  After 8 hours and just a few traffic jams, ( a bonus of taking the bus on a Sunday) we arrived into busy Mobassa where our car was waiting to take us to the small fishing village of Kilifi; one hour north of Mombassa, along the beautiful Indian Ocean coastline.  It was just before nine when we checked into Kilifi Bay Beach Resort and enjoyed the sounds of waves crashing onto the beach, the oceanfront rooms are the best choice!  I was excited to see what things looked like in the day light, check out and explore the town and hit the beautiful turquoise waters. 
A walk on warm white sands in Kilifi was a great start to the day; the crystal clear waters were so refreshing and relaxing after spending months in the woods.  We enjoyed rides along the bougainvillea lined roads in our Tuk Tuk, a very nice way to explore Kilifi.  The beaches and Kilifi Bay provide hours of adventure, beauty and "Kodak moments" which I will share in future blog posts. Below are some of my favourite pictures from our visit to Kilifi.  


 
 
Nine nights passed quickly and before we knew it we were on our way back to Nairobi to depart for a 5 week holiday to the East Coast of Canada. I was thrilled when I received an email from Martha, letting us know that she had gone with Catherine (Elizabeth’s mother) to check out some schools in their neighbourhood.  She explained how they met with the principal of the school and was given a tour of the school grounds, it was a very nice option for Elizabeth and the yearly fees are only $200 Canadian Dollars.  The English speaking Catholic school teaches children from the ages of 3-6, has an enrollment of 94 students and employs 6 teachers, school hours are from 7-12am.  Uniforms are also provided at the school for a small additional fee.  The children have a nice sized playground to run and play and have food and clean water to drink.  I was so happy to learn that Elizabeth would be attending such a great place and replied right away saying "yes please, do what needs to be done to get her enrolled for the new year".  I was so thankful to have Martha’s help and support to make this opportunity possible.
The next email from Martha shared that she had filled out the forms for schooling, paid the cost for the uniform and school picture and as soon as we were ready we could send along the payment for the tuition.  We jumped online and sent via Western Union the $300,000 Tanzanian Shillings ($200 CAD) which Martha took with Catherine and Elizabeth to her new school.  It made me so happy to be able to help out a young child. This inspired me to want to help more children, and help others looking to give back and provide a life changing opportunity for children in less fortunate situations.   We let Martha know that if she was willing we would like to expand the number of children we could possibly help.  She mentioned that she knew of another woman in her neighbourhood that was unable to send her son Noel to school. Ironically several days later she then noticed a young girl hanging around her house with her younger brother and even younger cousin.  In a short time she learned that they too were neighbours and Julianna and Lucas have never attended school.
Noel
 
Martha with Lucas, Julianna and Dixon
 
Lucas and Julianna
Our intentions where set and we let Martha know that we would find enough donations or sponsors to cover the costs for all three children; so they could also start for January 2013.  Through generous and kind support from family and friends in Nova Scotia I was happy to learn that we had received enough to cover a full year for Noel in an English speaking Catholic school, as well, the reaming funds would be sufficient to cover the costs for Julianna and Lucas to attend a local school.  The cost for a well-run local school in Moshi is only $40 Canadian dollars a year.  Our goal is to have them attend a local school for their first two years and then have them attend English speaking school like Noel and Elizabeth.  
We are ever thankful for those who have donated funds to help make this possible and very grateful to Martha for finding well run, clean and healthy environments for the children as they learn and grow. With continued support our intent is to continue to grow this project and help as many children as possible. As for the children currently in the program, we wish to have the fund support their education in years to come.  Donations and sponsorship can be made online or in person should you be planning a trip to Tanzania.  A chance to visit the children at their schools is a wonderful way to see your kindness in action.  In March I will be visiting all of the children at their schools in Moshi,  please follow TemboTours.com  for updates on the children’s progress and story.