June 2010

I’m “safely” in Europe, now. Still being taken care of by friends though, because I am an idiot and managed to get my wallet sent to Wales accidentally. IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ANYONE.

Anyway, I was in London for 2 days before heading down to Roanne, France, to tool around on my Uncle Marc’s barge. More about that later–suffice to say that my parents did a phenomenal job in naming him my godfather. He’s proof that hedonism runs in the family.

In London, I stayed at my friend Alix’s place, even though she was off to Wales Friday night. (Hence the wallet, which was in her fleece pocket.) She’s my best friend from high school and still entertains my visits even though I’m so clearly a mess. Her boyfriend lent me a bunch of cash so I wouldn’t be entirely bereft in France. This whole lending/borrowing money is turning out to be a theme on this trip. Thanks John!

Saturday in London turned out to be brilliant though, despite Japan’s loss to Holland. I got to see Iceman and Disco…WHO TOOK ME HAT SHOPPING SO I COULD GET A NEW INDY HAT!!! My devastation at the loss of my old Indy hat was shared by Iceman, a hat aficionado himself. We met, in the grand tradition of London rent boys, by the cupid statue in Piccadilly, and they took care of me all afternoon. They arrived with wine gums and cadbury eclairs. That would have been more than enough to render me ecstatic, both from the ensuing sugar high and the pleasure of receiving such a nice gift. But. They also bought me a new hat. In a Harry-Potter-esque store that had a stuffed cat, smoking a cigar and wearing a top hat inside. The cat is named Binks. Was named Binks? Doesn’t matter. It was fantastic. The hats are kept in these old boxes that the hat guy hat to pull down with this giant pike thing. And then the hat man steamed my new hat so I could have a jaunty dip at the brim and oh man it was so great and then we had coffee and they actually let me buy them a drink, and then we went to this absurdly wonderful restaurant and I really don’t deserve such good friends.

Now I’m just getting sappy.

Seriously though, one of the most amazing aspects of my journey so far, now that I’m midway into it, is how fantastic people are. Both people I knew before and people I met on the way…I mean, from the get go Jared (future husband) picked me up from the damn airport in Istanbul and showed me around for a few hours even though he must have had better things to do. Everyone on my overland was f*cking phenomenal, and I’m so glad I got to / get to see them in Europe too. (Grooves, early August. You promised pastry in Vienna. I’m coming.) I’ve met my match in accidental adventure travel in DJ Tash, the other half of Team F*ck Up. Without Diek, I’d be dead, and without Seanna, I’d have less of an appreciation for digestive biscuits, which are very important.

So I miss Africa, I miss all of you, and even though floating on this barge is tough, I still kinda wish I was barefoot in the desert (like Chuck) again.

I know, I’m such a little b*tch.

The last couple days in Zanzibar have been some of the most perfect days I think I’ve ever had in my life. We took a boat out to an island to feed giant tortises and snorkel, and ate fresh fruit off the prow for lunch. We wandered around a night food stall market and ate grilled seafood by the water in Stone Town. We went to Kemba, a beach up north and went on 2 of the best dives I’ve ever been on. Ludicrously clear water, crazy clouds of fish, nudibranchs, AND WILD DOLPHINS WHO PLAYED WITH US. Also, nutella chapatis for lunch. I swam up to a fisherman who spoke no English in his wooden canoe and he let me hold his squid and no that is not some sort of euphemism. Perfect weather, perfect beach, seafood curry, beer, and the world cup games at night… There was a spontaneous dance party in the bar on our last night, we danced til 3, each of us got propositioned. It’s sort of silly how amazing Zanzibar was.

PLUS I DIDNT GET THREATENED WITH ARREST ANYWHERE ON THE ISLAND!! (I did get detained in Dar because apparently the people there had never seen film before and they thought I was carrying explosives. That was fun.)

But now I’m in Dubai, and I have left Africa behind. I’m not happy about it, although I am excited to see people in Europe. Africa was phenomenal, and these past two months have sparked some of the most incredible experiences of my life. Parents: let your daughters back pack through Africa.

Highlights will be posted. Diek, thanks for saving my life and giving me new appreciation for my scarf. Seanna…it’s…scary. Meant to be!

Diek and I are now sitting at an internet cafe in Zanzibar….and he’s helping me remember some of the things I said at 5800M because I take requests. Seanna is showering at our FANTASTIC hotel because we swam in the ocean earlier. In perfect turquoise water with white sand. It was terrible; none of you should be jealous.


1. “Hey, how did you guys get up here?”

I got dragged up the last bit by our guide and was shocked to find Diek and Seanna also at the summit.

2. “That could happen to anyone! This isn’t just me!”

I kept falling over and yes, it was just me. In fact, one of the people we made friends with on the mountain told me that later, when we were all in Moshi and trying to use ATMs, a random stranger turned to her and said, “See that girl in the black tshirt? She was an absolute MESS on Kili.” Guess who he was talking about?

3. “It’s not my fault!”

Our guide fell over in the scree too. I felt totally vindicated.

4. “They’re planning my life without me!”

Seanna and Diek were following me and NTese and saying how Seanna and I should share the hotel room in Arusha because it would be easier…and I was convinced they were taking control over my life because I couldn’t really understand what they were saying.

5. “It’s like we’re on a promenade.”

It was not like we were on a promenade. It was like NTese was afraid I was getting brain damage.

Anyway, I’m going to go wash the salt off myself and then we are going to have dinner in a Freddie Mercury themed restaurant because he was born here. Did you know that? See? This blog is educational.

I have 4 days left in Africa. I can’t believe it.

8 days. No showers. Hours of high altitude hiking.

Kilimanjaro. Was. Phenomenal.

It’s futile to try and condense the experiences I’ve had in the last week into a short blog post. We just came down today, having summited yesterday on a killer hike that started at midnight and lasted until 6 am when reached the highest peak in Africa. And then we had to come all the way back down. I’ve had a shower and I think I’m a little bit high off shampoo fumes. Diek and Seanna don’t know where I am, and given my track record, that’s probably not for the best. Highlights, then.

1. I met Seanna the day before our hike started (Almost Jail Day!) and I can’t believe I’ve known her for barely a week…I guess that’s what happens when you sleep three people in a two person tent? We had two tents, and designated one the “luggage” tent. Why? Because it’s cold up there, and sleeping alone is no fun. Anyway, Seanna is awesome. I’d make some crack about Diek being not as awesome, but seeing as he’s saved my life about 20 times in the last 24 hours…I can’t. Dammit.

2. We had a fantastic team of 12 people for the 3 of us…sounds excessive, but that’s just the way it’s done. It meant we didn’t have to carry much. Actually, practically nothing at all. Our head guide, Ntese, is such a badass that he doesn’t need to drink water, and wears only track suit tops unzipped to mid-chest when the rest of us have 3 sweaters on.

3. We were force-fed insane quantities of food. INSANE. And one of the assistant guides, Haji, literally threatened to beat us with a stick if we didn’t finish our rice. He alternated between threats of bodily harm, or some of the most effictive guilt tripping I’ve ever been subject to. “Why do you break your promise to me? Why? You must eat three bowls of soup each.”

“So what have we got today, Haj?” “It’s french toast!”


4. We played so much gin Seanna and I started dreaming about it.

5. Cheesy as it is, this has been some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Alpine moorland FTW! Rock scrambling up Lava tower!

6. Met some very cool fellow hikers and had some pretty intense rounds of bullsh*t with them, Haji, Ntese, and Matthew (another assistant guide. Who won twice! Lucky bastard).

7. We all have terribly filthy mouths.

7. And of course, summit day. When you come down from Kili, and you’re smelly, muddy, and exhausted, people ask you two things: “Did you make it?” and “How did the altitude affect you?

My answers: “Barely” and *hysterical giggles from Diek and Seanna*

You start the climb to summit at around midnight so you can catch the sunrise. It’s a challenging climb in freezing temperatures, and it’d be difficult even if you werent starting at 4650 M and finishing at 5865 M. I lost it at around 3 am, or shortly after 5100M. I was already pretty exausted at that point, and realized I was having a hard time balancing. Soon I was noticibly swaying. Ntese took my pack and poor Diek walked behind me, literally pushing me up Kili. I’d start to tip over, or stumble around like a drunk person, and he’d grab me and steady my walking. There are times when the path goes pretty close to a sheer drop off, so Diek keeping me from tipping over was pretty key to me reaching the summit, and not, you know, dying.

I also had these massive, massive mittens on that I couldn’t remove, so when we stopped to rest, Diek had to fix my balaclava, help me put my frozen clif bar in my mouth, help me hold water bottles…at one point, Matthew and NTese were fixing my gloves, and Diek was fixing my coat zippers. It’s on the list of “Times when Jane was Absolutely Pathetic.” There was also a moment when Diek grabbed my collar and made me look him in the eyes and speak Japanese to him so he could be sure my brain was ok. It could have happened to anyone!

Is there more? OF COURSE THERE’S MORE!!

I was loopy for a while, but I didn’t truly lose it until we reached Stella point, about 1 hour from Uhuru (the peak) and 100 meters lower. I don’t have particularly clear memories of the summit, but I do remember enjoying myself immensely, being hauled up through the snow by Ntese, not being able to stand up on my own, a beautiful dawn, and pretty much babbling about anything that came through my oxygen-starved mind. After a couple of photos in the blizzard (where I am either clutching the sign or being held upright by Diek and Seanna) and fog that swept through as soon as we reached the peak (the weather was actually lovely and clear for the majority of the hike–we saw a gorgeous orange crescent moon rise) I got hauled off the top of the mountain to a spot on the trail about 300 M lower. When I say hauled, I do mean literally hauled, as in Ntese grabbed my arm and the back of my coat and dragged me along in almost a dead run downhill. I then was not allowed to walk down the mountain on my own until I had recovered enough from the altitude. I said idiotic things the entire times, much to the amusement of Diek and Seanna, who were fine.

Actually, Seanna was suffering a little from the altitude. At one point, Diek had to cut the waistband of her pants off because they were making her nauseated. It was intimate.

So yeah. Kili was amazing, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and now I have to be really nice to Diek for at least 3 days.