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Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Another adventure has come to a close.  The trip home was demanding, especially the 6 hours in Nairobi were we had to deal with the most incompetent airline agents in the world; we ended up sitting with all our luggage for several hours, finally getting the “right”  people to re-check the bags and issue boarding passes. Unfortunately, those people had no clue how to do anything, and it took 2 hours to get it worked out.  And even so, while trying to get on my connecting flight in Istanbul, I was informed that I was not checked in and my bags had been pulled off the plane.  Thankfully the Lufthansa personnel in Istanbul was very efficient and resolved all those problems, getting me and the luggage on the right plane to Munich.  In Munich, I then was confronted with a cancelled flight to Stuttgart, so had to take a bus for the last leg of the journey. Finally, 33 hours after getting the car at Maramboi Tent Lodge, I made it home.  And I’ve received a text message that Jill also made it (after about 45 hours on the road). 

We are now facing perhaps the most difficult question – what will the next adventure be?  We are thinking perhaps Machu Picchu and the Inca trail, or a tour down the Amazon.  We are working on sister #3 to make sure she is not left behind next time, so hopefully sometime in 2011, you’ll see the new blog for jilljaimijuli!

On Safari

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

What a change of pace from mountain life to the safari route. The past 2 days have still been very long, but spent mostly in the seat of a Land Cruiser with binoculars in front of our eyes. We’ve had some great sightings, and are enjoying a relatively luxurious hotel life to compensate for the long tent nights in the cold.

Yesterday was a bit too long, as we were picked up from the hotel in Moshi at 7:30 and did not get to our new location until about 7:00pm. The drive down was a little disorganized, as we had to make several stops on the way to pick up supplies and that dragged things out. We entered Manyara National Park at around 14:00 and spent 4 hours touring. The landscape was incredibly lush and we enjoyed seeing lots of animals, including many babies! Hippo, elephant, baboon, dik-dik (Marianne, we thought of you!), vervet monkey, giraffe, impala. The highlight was clearly the Hippo baby – neither of us have ever seen one before. Manyara has a Hippo pool and there must have been 20 – 30 hippos in there, so it was quite a sight.  The other really cool thing was watching the animal dynamics when a lion came into the area – we never actually saw the lion, but heard the warning calls, the screaming of the baboons and saw monkeys, antelope, and every other “prey”  in the area run frantically away from the lion hiding in the bush. It was a great game drive, but by the time we got to the hotel we were exhausted from being in the car all day; and then frustrated, as the hotel we were at (Lake Manyara Hotel) was BEAUTIFUL and we had no real time to enjoy it. We were especially disappointed that we did not get our planned afternoon siesta time, when we saw the beautiful pool grounds overlooking Lake Manyara and with pool-side bar. We went for a quick swim anyway and then explored the hotel on the way to dinner, coming to the conclusion that it was haunted (very old with eclectic décor, relatively empty). We made it through the night anyway, and slept like rocks in our comfy room.

Today started early with 6:30am breakfast; the ghostly staff was ready and waiting for our luggage (eerie – as we walked out the door to our room with bags in hand, they walked around the corner ready to take them away from us. How did they know?). While waiting for our guide to pick us up, we stepped outside the entry hall and found the front lawn covered in baboons! Really – there was a troop of over 30 of them, playing a kind of catch and hide-and-seek with the groundskeeper. So the day began with good entertainment.

We then headed to Ngorongoro Conservation Area and spent several hours in the crater viewing the animals. It was amazing to see such an abundance of wildlife, all living next to and amongst each other. As we drove to the crater floor, we saw 2 cheetah lounging in the grass, overlooking a plain filled with grand gazelle, Thompson gazelle, wildebeest, and buffalo. And this was just the beginning. On the lakeside, we found hundreds of flamingos in the water while jackals and hyena scavenged the beach. Further down, 2 lions lolled in the sand. We saw an ostrich chase off a hyena and a yellow crested crown crane tail a serval cat, calling out for all to hear that there was danger nearby (poor cat didn’t get his lunch today thanks to that gutsy bird!). Adding to yesterday’s “baby” sightings, we found a baby black rhino. The highlight for today was a large male lion laying on his back in the sun, appearing arrogant and without a care in the world. And funny, there were not any other animals around the area that he was napping. Jill was also excited to spot an elephant skull, but was disappointed that she couldn’t take it home to school. Would have been tough to fit it into carry-on….
We ended earlier today, but the mountain fatigue caught up with us and we snoozed most of the way from Ngorongoro to our new accommodations near Tarangire national park. We are staying tonight at Maramboi tent lodge, and we love it here! We drank a glass of wine out on the pool deck, which borders on a large plain with Lake Manyara in the background. So we sipped wine while watching zebra and wildebeest graze. Our tent is huge, and comes complete with wood floors, 2 beds, sitting area, and bathroom. There are little walkways between all the buildings that curve around and make us feel like a natural part of the landscape. We’ve just finished dinner and can also report that the food is great, and service could not be better (thanks James!). The only downside is, as we sit here and blog, we hear something climbing around on our tented roof. I’m hoping it doesn’t chew it’s way through!

Tomorrow we are sleeping in (YAY!) and will report on the rest of the days’ happenings from Nairobi, as we wait for our connecting flight towards home. And we’ll upload photos then, too; the baboon on our tent roof seems to be causing signal interference as we keep losing connection now.


Motivational song lyrics

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
You might be wondering what kept us busy during the snowstorm at Mawenzi Tarn; we actually stayed quite busy as we prepared for our summit attempt.  In fact, we were creating song lyrics to chant as we climbed ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Descent

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
After photos with the guides and with Flat Stanley, we don our mittens again and head back down.  Shortly after starting, Jill makes another vomit stop, and then declares her fingers are too cold, prompting a complex ... [Continue reading this entry]

Summit Day

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Opening the tent at 11:00 pm, we are thrilled to see that the snowstorm has passed and the sky is filled with millions of twinkling stars.  It is time to get ready. We are scheduled to begin ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Saddle

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
A long trek across the saddle between Mawenzi Peak and Kibo peak.  If you have never fully internalized the meaning of "desolation," come here and you will.  We followed a several km path through empty, rocky lava desert (well, empty ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mawenzi Tarn Hut

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
4330 m, 14,200 feet It is cold here. A little rougher start this morning; another cold night with restless sleep and everything starts to feel a little soggy. The novelty of packing and re-packing our stuff has worn off, and today we ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
We are at camp site three, and at lunch our guide brought in a bottle of wine in celebration of the New Year.  They were only too happy when we shared the wine with them.  It seems that all we ... [Continue reading this entry]

New Year’s Eve

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Today is the last day of the year, and we are spending it on Mt. Kilimanjaro!  This is the second day of our climb and so far it has been fantastic.  last night before going to bed, we wandered around ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kili day 1

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Wow, it has been quite a day. We have finally embarked on our ma\outain trek and are now reminiscing over the day's many events with a cup of hot tea, at our table, in our dining tent. The popcorn and ... [Continue reading this entry]