Tanzania


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!

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!”

…DEEP FRIED JELLY SANDWICHES ARE NOT FRENCH TOAST HAJ.

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.

I was happily surprised yesterday morning at breakfast when the creepy male voice interrupting my solitary breakfast with “I think I’ll sit next to this young lady” turned out to be Diek! And my new friend Seanna, who I like WAY better. We went in to town (Moshi) later in order to get me a hat (since I’m woefully unprepared for the behemoth that is Kili, whatever I’m renting), a pack of cards, some snacks and water, visit the bank, etc…..and managed to do none of these things. Instead, I spent about 10 cents on a bag of sugar cane pieces and got picked up by the litter police when i spat out a chunk of the fibers onto the dirt road. A TINY PIECE OF SUGAR CANE FIBER ON A DIRT F*CKING ROAD. Anyway, poor Diek and Seanna have been in Africa all of 24 hours and I’m surrounded by these people trying to pull me into the office where they can “educate” me in proper trash disposal. Obviously this meant a fine, and I refused to pay the exorbitant sum of 50,000 shillings. I didn’t even have that much on me. So when I told them that I wasn’t going to pay them, and that I didn’t even have the money, the most vocal of the litter police started shouting, “well then we shall take you to the police and you shall be in jail! JAIL!!” I’m reasonably sure this was some sort of scam, even though they had uniformed tshirts and I was shown a single laminated ID card (upside down). They kept insisting that I had to pay or get thrown in jail, and when I had emptied my pockets of money, Diek came to the rescue and bailed me out with 3000 shillings. About 2 bucks, but it’s the thought that counts. Anyway, they ended up letting me go for 40,000.

First run-in with African law enforcement!

Now I’m going to go climb Kili! Seriously, like right now.

…and I can’t f*cking see it. Why? Rainy season. The entire mountain is covered in fog. And big swirly clouds, which are kind of cool I GUESS in that they’re so close to the ground, but I think I’ll just hate them for obscuring my view of the mountain I’m climbing in two days. The past 24 hours have been divided in to camps of Awesome and Not As Awesome.

Awesome: Coming home last night from the internet cafe to my dank little hotel to get distracted by some Spanish or Latin American soap opera marathon. And watching over an hour of it with a tiny Indian woman who told me to call her Auntie Meeni. She chose to react to every overzealous plot line with her hands flying up and crying “On No! That woman is a vicious witch!” Or some variation thereof.

Not As Awesome: I left my ipod on the plane from Malawi. The tally of things I’ve lost that I really didn’t want to lose is now up to three. Although I have been consoling myself with the fact that the ipod was a year and a half old, which, in Jane Possession Time, is practically ancient. And the new ones have video! DJ had one and I lusted after it a bit. A sign?

Awesome: MY BUS LEFT ON TIME. I REPEAT, MY BUS LEFT ON TIME. HOLY SH*T.

Not As Awesome: Said bus ride was 9 hours of Tanzanian radio, played deafeningly. Somewhat mitigated by the 3 hour movie (in Swahili, but with English subtitles!!), but still. See above about missing ipod. Staying positive though! What a great way to learn about contemporary Tanzanian pop! *slightly strained smile*

Awesome: I bought a bag full of passion fruits for about 75 cents. Chinatown, you have fierce competition.

Not As Awesome. They’re all I’ve had to eat today.

I’m excited to see friends from home tomorrow though. Diek and Seanna. Get. Ready.

It’s like the illicit love child of Cairo and Lusaka and Cape Town. Figure that one out. I’ve only been here for about 4 hours, but I think I picked the skeevier of the 2 budget hotels I chose from in the 2003 Lonely Planet on offer at our lodge in Senga Bay. Fortunately, there is a large gate blocking it from the efforts of the rest of the alley way, and a sign on the stairs forbidding the presence of “women of ill-repute”. Please consider all obvious jokes already made in my head, as I am once again travelling alone.

Yes, Team F*ck Up has temporarily disbanded and Tash is now safely in South Africa I hope. One can never tell. Once TFU, always TFU, I say. I myself almost didn’t make it here…I was 11 USD short of my plane ticket after I had emptied all the cash to my name on the desk of the poor Air Malawi official who had to deal with me. Malawians being the nicest people I’ve met so far in Africa, he actually offered to pay the difference himself once I started rummaging through my things in search of something to sell. My new friend Kristina came to the rescue though, and generously lent me the sum.

And there was beer on the flight!

It’s desperately hot and muggy out though, so I think I will retire to my garret and sweat under the ceiling fan and see what night sounds filter up to my third floor window. I am on a six am bus to Moshi, the base town of Kilimanjaro tomorrow.

TFA FTW!!