Alchemist in Tanzania, day #4. Kili Climb for Clean Water day #1.

25 02 2013

Kili route map.  We will be entering from the North.

Kili route map. We will be entering from the North.

I’ll have to go back and post about day #3.  Hot air balloon ride and return to Arusha.

Today, we go to the base of Kilimanjaro.  We’ll going up the Northern face via the Rongai route.  It is a longer drive to get there, but it is less crowded and more biker friendly.  Need to get ready before we go.  More to come.





Alchemist in Tanzania, day #2. Ngorongoro and the Serengeti

25 02 2013

Steve and I woke up early to knock out what Matty O refers to as a “prison style work out”.  The reference is to calisthenics that can be done in a small space. This is not to be confused with prison style showers.

Kili Day 2

Stu and I on the Ngorongora Rim

Stu and I on the Ngorongora Rim

Heading down into the Crater

Heading down into the Crater

Ngorongoro is, along with the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, three of the 8 wonders of Africa. These three being located within ,or partly within, Tanzania.  It got it’s name from the sound made by cowbells, which, according to our trusted driver, Isaac, was the first thing heard by the folks who named it.  Apparently, the local who lived here before that made cowbells.  That’s what I’m told.

Wildebeest Herd

Wildebeest Herd

Millions of years ago, Ngorongoro was a sizable mountain, even taller than Kilimanjaro.  A violent eruption blew off the top, and left the massive crater we see today.  Measuring 12 x 11 miles, it’s kind of a big deal.  The view from the top of the rim was breathtaking.  Not a bad way to wake up in the morning.  Isaac took us down the inner slope of the crater for the morning safari, and it didn’t take long before we were right up next to wildebeests and zebras.  Isaac says they often travel together since the Wildebeests see well, and the zebras smell well.

Zebras in the Crater

Zebras in the Crater

So they combine these superpowers to keep track of lions and leopards. The zebras also graze off the tops of the grasses, with the wildebeests coming in behind them to munch on the shorter vegetation.  It’s possible I got that I mixed up, but you get the point.

Warthogs, gazelle, impala, jackals, hyenas, ground birds, flamingos, and more were all around. Cool as those things were, we were hungry to find some of the “Big Five”,  Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Cape Buffalo, and Leopards.  We hit pay dirt with an up close view of a male and female lion mating.

Oh look! Those lions are hugging. How adorable.

Oh look! Those lions are hugging. How adorable.

Natalie captured this priceless photo of the amorous couple, prompting a multitude of compliments from fellow travelers.

Hippo family in paradise

Hippo family in paradise

We stopped for breakfast in the crater by Hippo paradise.  Though we were strictly forbidden to exit the vehicle on the safari, for some reason, we were cut loose to frolic in the grass and picnic along the water’s edge, while a quarter mile away, lions were doing it.  But whatever, I was eager to stretch my legs and . . . frolic.

Hippo family in paradise

Hippo family in paradise

The hippos didn’t seem to mind us ogling 20 yard away from the shore.  Though, it is my understanding that they are the most dangerous animal in Africa, killing more people than all other animals, including the big cats, crocodiles, and poisonous snakes.  I edged as close to the water as I could without falling in.  It wasn’t every day that I could be this close to a hippo in the wild.  Anyway, I sized up my fellow gawkers, and figured I could outrun at least a few of them, so I wasn’t too worried.

After breakfast we made our way out of the crater for lunch at the hotel, and then on to the Serengeti for more Safari.  The incredible size of the Serengeti plains and the 2.5 million wildebeest occupying it was awe-inspiring.  We had already seen 4 of the 5 “Big Five”, but the elusive leopard was still nowhere to be seen.  We got up close and personal with a giraffe when word on the CB was that a Leopard couple was spotted in a tree, getting affectionate.  We made a desperate dash for the spot, but alas, no leopards were found.

We arrived at our hotel in the Serengeti wind blown and sun-soaked.  We were handed moist, white towels to wipe down.  When I handed mine back, it was brown.  The hotel is amazing.  The rooms are individual huts spread around the property.  They are built to look like the Masaai clay huts, but they are spacious and beautiful inside and out.  We gathered in the reception area for an orientation by the hotel manager.  The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the most important rule, do NOT walk around by yourself between sunset and sunrise.  If you want to leave your room, dial 2 on the phone, and a nice man with an AK-47 will come escort you to your destination.  While this made for endless jokes about calling for an “escort” to keep you company at night, the danger is no joke.  Leopards are all around looking for a snack, and Cape buffalo are just angry and mean.

4:45am departure this morning.  We need to be at the hot air balloons early, before the winds pick up.  Even with the rough roads, all the driving keeps putting me to sleep during the day, and I can’t seem to acclimate to the time difference, which is 10 hours ahead of Boulder.  It’s like being on a string of night shifts, which generally makes me psychotic, homicidal, or both by the third night.  I got about two hours of sleep tonight.  I feel fine, but I’m a little worried that it will catch up to me on the mountain.  I brought 7 different antibiotics, and a whole pharmacy of other meds, but I forgot to pack the melatonin.  I need to find a way to get some real sleep tonight.  We start climbing tomorrow.

More to come.

The Africa Jackal looks like a smaller version of our coyotes back home.

The Africa Jackal looks like a smaller version of our coyotes back home.

Wilidebeest and her baby

Wilidebeest and her baby

Safari trucks pop the top for 360 views

Safari trucks pop the top for 360 views

Jenn enjoying the Safari

Jenn enjoying the Safari

As sea of Flamingos

As sea of Flamingos

Male Ostrich

Male Ostrich

Kori mating ritual

Kori mating ritual

Kori mating ritual. No one around.

Kori mating ritual. No one around.

Pair of mating lions

Pair of mating lions

Ground Fowl joined us for breakfast

Ground Fowl joined us for breakfast

Capre Buffalo.  One of the Big Five. They can be agressive.

Capre Buffalo. One of the Big Five. They can be agressive.

Mud time for the Warthogs

Mud time for the Warthogs

After the mud bath.  All clean.

After the mud bath. All clean.

The animals walk by like we aren't even there.

The animals walk by like we aren’t even there.

What are you lookin at?

What are you lookin at?

Hey! Does my butt look big?

Hey! Does my butt look big?

I got your big butt right here, Buddy.

I got your big butt right here, Buddy.

I got your big butt right here, Buddy.

Camels

We saw loads of giraffes on the way out of Ngo Rongora

We saw loads of giraffes on the way out of Ngo Rongoro

Some of them came right up close

Some of them came right up close

Elephant Herd

Elephant Herd

One of my favorite trees in the world. Then Acacia tree.

One of my favorite trees in the world. Then Acacia tree.





Alchemist in Tanzania, Day #1. Massai Village

23 02 2013

Breakfast in Arusha.  Not exactly roughing it.

Breakfast in Arusha. Not exactly roughing it.

We awoke to a beautiful day in Arusha (see previous post), complete with a huge spread of fresh fruits and local fare.  Passion fruit, papaya, mango, pinapple, watermelon, yams, cassava, and fresh squeezed watermelon juice.  To minimize the chance of getting sick, Jenn warned not to eat any raw fruit or veggies that weren’t peeled by yourself.  For the most part, this breakfast fit the bill, though I ate salad today as well.  Having eaten Mexican street food in the past, I have a misguided sense of confidence in the fortitude of my GI tract, which may at some point be reconsidered when I’m languishing over the porta-potty on Kili.

Goats, roads, & kids in Tanzania

Goats, roads, & kids in Tanzania

After breakfast, we boarded retro-fitted Land Cruisers and headed toward the Masaai region.  The roads along the way were peppered with kids herding goats and cattle.  I considered showing Syd and Jake this photo as a warning of what their future would look like if they didn’t go to school and study.  Also, to demonstrate just how blessed their lives are.  But then I realized that skipping school to frolick with goats would be a dream come true, and these Masaai children could be the luckiest kids on Earth.

Getting photos of the Masaai can be a tricky business. Many of them believe that photographs steal a little bit of their soul, so they get a little sore about cameras being pointed at them.  But Doug Pitt and John Bongiorno are considered “elders” in the tribe, so once we got into the heart of the village, photos were okay.

Rutted roads and river crossings was the theme of the drive

Rutted roads and river crossings was the theme of the drive

The road to the Masaai was kinda dry

The road to the Masaai was kinda dry. The Land Cruiser ahead of us left a Mad Max-like plume of dust.

Kili Day 2

We were greeted in the Masaai Village like celebrities.  VIP’s from the Masaai Community were on hand to give us a tour of one of the water drilling projects.

What is the significance of water to these people?  Lack of access to clean water is the leading cause of death in this, and many other areas, around the globe. 2 out of 5 children don’t make it out of infancy due to waterborne disease.  This is despite the efforts of the local women and girls, whose job it is to walk up to 12 miles, EACH WAY, to bring water (sometimes clean, sometimes not) to their village.  This is a full time occupation, and it leaves no time or opportunity for these girls to pursue even the slightest glimmer of an education.

The dire water situation was really brought home when we passed a boy who was sitting next to a murky, putrid puddle in the road formed from the collection of some recent rain in a tire track.  We watched in horror as he casually dipped his hand into the puddle and had a drink along side the goats he was tending.  It was heartbreaking.

A water well like the ones pictured above can produce clean well water for up to 20 years.

A thousand Masaai people, some traveling great distance by foot, greeted us at the grand ceremony. We walked in among the greeting party, dancing and swaying with the songs of the tribes. We were treated to a performance of song and dance before each of us was recognized for our contribution and purpose on the trip.  I, for one, got a rousing applause for, if nothing else, a name they could easily pronounce. Wuuuuuuuuuu!

After the ceremony, we had a barbecue picnic and cold drinks.

With our bellies full, we loaded back into the Land Cruisers, heading to the large, animal filled crater known as Ngorongoro.

Doug and the Boulder Crew

Doug and the Boulder Crew

We got in late in the evening, and gobbled up a delicious curry dinner. Having spent a large part of the day on the dusty roads to get here, Steve and I were eager to shake out the legs and get the juices flowing.  Doug chuckled when we asked where a good place to run would be in the morning.  Apparently, you can’t go off the grounds without an armed escort.  Reason being, there is a high likelihood you will be eaten, or trampled, or mauled.

“Did you see the water buffalo and the pack of massive hyenas as we pulled up to the gate?”

Lions and leopards also hang out around here.  Unnecessarily, we were informed we wouldn’t be able to outrun a lion. Of course Steve and I had the same thought.  We don’t have to be able to outrun the lion, we just have to be able to outrun each other.

Early morning departure for the crater.  Given the option to sleep in, we all voted to leave at daybreak, which is the time that the animals are most active, and our best chance of catching a leopard or a big game hunt.  We’ll head to the Serengeti after that for the safari.

Starting a badminton revolution

Starting a badminton revolution

Masaai Footwear.  Recycled Motorcycle Tires.  Alchemist is looking into it.

Masaai Footwear. Recycled Motorcycle Tires. Alchemist is looking into it.

Walking in with the Masaai greeting party

Walking in with the Masaai greeting party

Dressed for war. . . and partying.

Dressed for war. . . and partying.

More to come.

Solar Powered Water Storage Tank

Solar Powered Water Storage Tank

This mighty little pump cranks out 1500 liters per hour

This mighty little pump cranks out 1500 liters per hour

The Tribe Elder showing off the super clean water

The Tribe Elder showing off the super clean water





View from our Hotel in Arusha

22 02 2013

View from our Hotel in Arusha

View from our Hotel in Arusha

There are no city lights here. Getting in late last night, I had no idea what was out my hotel room window.  I finally realized it was day time, and opened the drapes. Not too shabby.





In Tanzania

22 02 2013

Mountains of gear heading to Kilimanjaro.  Bikes and Medical supplies.  Plus, hotwheels and crayons for the local kids.

Mountains of gear heading to Kilimanjaro. Bikes and Medical supplies. Plus, hotwheels and crayons for the local kids.

Got into Tanzania late last night.  It was a long day of travel, but glad to be here.  Miraculously, all our gear arrived, including the bikes.

Today, we are visiting the local Masaai village, in which Doug Pitt is considered an “elder”.  In Tanzania, and especially in a Masaai village, Doug is a way bigger deal than his older brother.  Given his VIP status, I’m told that we don’t have to ask permission to take pictures.  I hope to get some.

The word is that Jambo, which is “Hello” in Swahili, is what foreigners would say.  The locals say, Habari, which is like saying “How are you?”  HABARI to all the Countryside Montessori kids following the blog!  Kim, I’ll try to keep the posts G-rated.

Thanks to all the well-wishers, my kids, Syd and Jake, and, of course, the Boss, my lovely wife, Sue.

You can follow fellow travelers’ posts and updates here on the Kli Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KiliClimbforCleanWater

More to come.

Disembarking at Kilimanjaro Airport.

Disembarking at Kilimanjaro Airport.





Biking Kilimanjaro

21 02 2013

It’s 12:30am.  I’m still packing.  Finally got the medical stuff and the bike stuff done.  Now I just have to pack myself.  We leave for Kili tomorrow.  I’ll try to blog, but I have to make rounds every day to make sure everyone is healthy enough to go on.

Mountain Flyer put up an article online about the trip.  Written by our very own, Claire L.

Check it: http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/view.php/kilmanjaro-by-bike.html








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