Archive | October, 2013

I climbed a mountain and I looked around… Part 2

11 Oct

My father has always been a VERY conservative driver.  When we were kids we used to joke and say that nuns passed up.  On a regular basis Smart Alecs would “row” by our vehicle as Dad confidently drove at least 20 km’s below the speed limit on the highway.  Prior to heading out he would (and still does) check the tire pressure, oil, etc.  On top of being conservative in his pedal pressure Dad always takes back roads which are often dirt.  When he drives on a dirt road he is very considerate of his vehicle – he drives slow enough that he can avoid hitting most potholes.   Every time I was in a vehicle in Tanzania I thought of my father and how every driver I had defied every “rule of the road” my Dad follows.  The bus which picked me up at the airport took a detour to drop off a female tour guide at her home.  The road we took literally had the largest potholes I have seen and as well had “speed bumps” which looked to me like logs laid across the road with mud  packed around them.  Our driver hit that dirt road like he was Mario Andretti – less the race car.  Any thought you ever had of catching a nap after flying 24 hours was quickly gone out the window. The ride was similar to riding a mechanical bull at the Calgary Stampede. We dropped off our passenger at her home and made our way back to the main road. 
After doing my climb I went on a 3 day safari with 3 other gals.  Our guide was Emmanuel and imagine the fact that he does some kind of car racing on the side.  Our vehicle for the purpose of the safari was a Toyota Land Cruiser.  The safari involved a lot of driving on various forms of roads – paved, not paved, off road, etc.   It was our first time being on safari so everything was exciting and new.  For Emmanuel he had done it 100 times over so I think he sought excitement from the driving end of things, not by seeing an elephant standing with his penis hanging out.  The Land Cruiser only had seat belts in the front (where we weren’t sitting), so we were left to bounce and jostle around in the back.   I didn’t contact the Department of Transportation prior to hitting the roads; but it seems to me that the rules are made up as you go.  One of the national parks we went to was called Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  In order to get to the crater we needed to drive up the side of a mountain, all along the edge of the crater and finally down into the park.  The dirt road was something similar to OJ Simpsons story – there were holes everywhere. Let’s just say Emmanuel didn’t use the same precautions that my father did while driving on the that road.  We were driving so fast and bouncing so much that I think I got whip lash from my boobs hitting my chin – I need to wear at least 2 bras to do jumping jacks… I wasn’t prepared for all of this flopping.  As we burned along the dirt road we would come across members of the Mosai tribe walking with their herds of cows.  Cows are particularly important to the Mosai tribe as the size of the herd indicates how many wives the owner can have.  It seems Emmanuel didn’t want the owners to get another wife because he would burn right up to the herd and then slam on the brakes nearly hitting the cows.  I am more of a precautionary driver… you know if I was to come a long a herd of cows on the road in front of me I would slowly put on the brakes. I was holding onto bars on the roof in an effort to brace the bumps – that didn’t work and I think I broke my cervix as I felt like I had given birth the next day.
After the safari I needed to be delivered to the airport, buttttttt, we spent a little too long bartering at a shop, a few too many animals crossed the road and we hit rush hour in Arusha, so we were running late. ***I am usually pretty laid back about the whole timing of getting to the airport and sometimes like the drama of being late. I have always dreamed of being carried on one the 5 wheelers through the airport… beeping the horn and having people get out of the way while my hair blows.** I kid. Everything seemed to be further away than initially thought so I was worried about getting to the airport. Entry race car driver Emmanuel. It was starting to get dark as we got to the outskirts of Arusha so that made everything even anxiety filled for me. Although the roads have a centre line it seems you can pass, swerve, or drive beside anyone as you wish. Now it was dark with no street lights. Along the HIGHWAY (not a street or even a road) there were people walking everywhere in the dark, bicycles, motorcycles criss-crossing through traffic, buses with crazy exhaust… and us. Emmanuel drove 100 km an hour throughout all of this chaos – swerving in and out, headlights coming straight at us and a big piece of a bus flew off the side and went across the road. If a doctor had followed some of my vitals during the last hour of my trip they may have predicted that I was about to have a stroke. As in the last post I suggested that I thought I was going to shit myself when coming down the mountain – well this day ended in the same way….


I climbed a mountain and I looked around… part 1

8 Oct

The climax of the story is that I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5800m. The lead up and aftermath makes for much of the story.

I arrived in Tanzania after traveling for over 24 hours! After getting my Visa I made my way to customs and immigration where the female agent looked at me and said “Oh you shine as bright as a star – beautiful. Welcome to Tanzania!!” I don’t know about you, but this was a very different customs experience than home. Normally they make you feel like you are bringing a body in your luggage and have cocaine shoved up your bum. It was as easy as that! I said good-bye to my seat-mate John and wished him the best of luck at shooting an African buffalo. I walked out to little guy with a big smile and a sign with my name on it. He brought me to a bus with a few other people on it and we peeled out of the parking lot. We arrived at a hotel different than the one I was expecting – they told me my hotel was overbooked and they would bring me to the original one in the morning. Oh, and that I would have a roommate for the night. I made my way to a common area where a little Japanese guy was near to hyperventilating. I noticed that his hand was bandaged up and that he had a lot of dry blood on his hands. I asked him if he was okay – he explained (in very broken English) to me that he had fallen on the street and ripped his hand up and in order to see the doctor he had to use all of the schillings he had and now he didn’t have any cash left as Japanese Yen isn’t accepted in Tanzania. I then acted as a meditator between him, hotel staff, a cook and a German. English, Swahili, German and Japanese. He told me I made him feel much better. I went cross eyed to my room and slept for 12 hours. I woke up to roosters, goats, motorcycles, singing and traffic sounds outside my window. Someone came and picked me up around lunchtime and we made our way to Springlands Hotel. The next morning we departed for Kilimanjaro. I learned about “African Time” – we were told we would depart at 8:30, I think we left around 10:30. We are so schedule based that it took a few days to let go of the need to be “on time” – what the hell does time matter when you are waiting to climb a 5800m mountain? So off we go all jammed into a bus shared with porters who let’s just say don’t wear deodorant. We drove 4 hours to the Kenyan side of the mountain. Conveniently there was a terrorist attack in Nairobi the day of my arrival. I kept thinking about my dear mother who was nervous about my trip in the first place turning on the TV only to see the news cover the story of violence in Kenya. To her the “Kenyan side of the mountain” was near to that mall and so she didn’t sleep all week.
We arrive at the entrance to the park. For 15 of us to go up the mountain we needed 50 support people! At the entrance the porters take all of our luggage, supplies, tents, food and bring it to a weigh station. It was quite the scene but somehow or another they get everything sorted, weighed and divided up among the porters to be carried up the mountain. This is where I really started to respect these people. Each porter carries 50 pounds on their head/back up the mountain for $5 a day. I could write about the people for hours and hours, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the funny bits of the climb. Due to congestion at the weigh station the porters didn’t get to the campsite before us, so we found ourselves in the dark in the middle of the woods waiting for them to arrive. One by one they made their way to the site, but it was already pitch black, freezing and we were starved! Within an hour they whipped up for us this amazing African stew of sorts. I climbed into my tent and what happened for the rest of the week happened. I couldn’t sleep. For the following reasons: I wasn’t tired due to jetlag, my tent seemed to always be on a downward angle so I found myself sliding down my pad, it was freezing in and out of my tent and I was convinced I could hear wildlife outside of my tent. Over the course of the week I read 3 books, made new playlists and did a lot of thinking. You can’t possibly imagine the thoughts and scenarios that went through my head.
The next day was pretty status quo – 5 hours of hiking. So now I’ve been on the mountain for 2 days and up until now I’ve been whizzing in the bushes and no number two’s have hit yet. We got the next site. The “bathroom” was a tent that had in the middle of it a bucket with a toilet seat on the top. I wasn’t strategic in that I didn’t stand by the tent when it was being set up. By the time I made it there I went inside, flipped open the top and was shocked to see the bucket was full to the top with other peoples “stuff”. It sunk my battle ship. I couldn’t do it. I started to gag, my eyes watered and I got shivers. I quickly made my way out of the “bathroom”, put on my headlamp and made my way into the bushes. It must have been a combination of travel, altitude, change in food, but I think bowel movements (or lack thereof) was the number one topic of conversation. We cheered when Darren announced he had his first, we gave a standing ovation when Tristin finally “went”, high five’s were given as each person made it happen. I, however, didn’t get any high fives. For an otherwise “regular” girl, going 1,2,3,4 days without pooping is problematic. As I mentioned I had a lot of time to think about things in my tent… this continued until day number 5. I was coming back down the mountain with one of our guides Robert. We had a lot of hours together so we were doing a lot of talking when all of the sudden it hit me. It kind of felt like the same amount of force that the tidal bore comes into the Shubenacadie River. I started to sweat and clench my butt cheeks as I thought I was going to shit my pants. At this stage I am above the clouds so there are no trees or bushes anywhere. I said to Robert “Ummmm, Robert I really need to pee, can you walk ahead a little bit?” He did so. I took refuge behind a boulder. Behind that boulder a very dramatic scene occurred. It was a very low moment in my life.

Part 2 will come soon…

Mt Kili Top