BootsnAll Travel Network

Impressions of Moshi Town

August 21st, 2006

Apart from my Kili climb and safari with MEM, I spent a total of 3 1/2 weeks in Moshi just hanging out and getting to know the town. A good part of that was spent working with KPAP, but the rest of the time I wandered around town checking out the various restaurants, internet cafes, and shops, and practicing Swahili with some of the hawkers that frequented the main road in front of my hotel.

At my hotel I also had the good fortune of meeting a group of American kids, Laura, Gina, Daisy, and Joseph, and their Tanzanian friend Dennis. They were spending 5 weeks in Moshi volunteering at Amani Childrens Home, a home for orphans and street kids. The day after Kristen arrived in Moshi, Laura invited us to join them when they went to the school that afternoon. The school was a 45 minute walk from our hotel, through the outskirts of town. It was a nice day for a walk and fun to get out of the tourist section of town. When we arrived at Amani we were immediately greeted by several of the children. Despite their unfortunate circumstances, most of these kids seemed happy. Many of the younger ones ran up to us and gave us hugs, others played football in the small courtyard, and others did their chores. It was in stark contrast to being in the tourist parts of town where many of the young children view you only as a rich foreigner who they can ask for money.

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“I heard the Gnus today, Oh Boy…”

August 19th, 2006

It’s been a busy few weeks, and I’ve got a bit of catching up to do. Since my Kili climb I’ve been on safari and seen the Big Five up close (Buffalo, Elephants, Leopards, Lions, and Rhinos), spent another week and a half in Moshi relaxing and working with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistnace Project, and last weekend joined a dozen other travelers on an overland trip to Capetown. Right now I’m chilling out in Zanzibar, an island paradise off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean.

So where to start? I guess I’ll fill you in on the Safari first, and save my thoughts on Moshi and the details of my overland trip for separate posts.

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The Roof of Africa

August 12th, 2006

“Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai ‘Ngaje Ngai,’ the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen thawed carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”

– Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1938


On the morning of July 29th, after 5 1/2 very long days of hiking and camping, I finally reached Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa. Uhuru means “freedom” in Swahili, and the name fits. One reason I’m even on this crazy trip is because I read an article about Mt. Kilimanjaro in a magazine last year and decided it would be fun to try. So there I was, after five months of traveling thousands of miles in several countries, stepping onto the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and experiencing it’s awesome presence firsthand. It was a beautiful, breathtaking (literally), moving experience. And I felt truly free. I know now that I really am free to do anything I want, I only have to take that first step.

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My recipe for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

July 30th, 2006

– Equal parts self-confidence, stupity, and faith

– 825 mg Diamox

– Several cups of hot sugar water

Mix all ingredients in large bucket, drink down quickly before it freezes, and save the bucket for the inevitable vomiting and/or diarrhea that will occur.

(Thanks to the above, I successfully reached Uhuru Peak at approx. 7:20 AM on July 29th. More details to follow…)


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Warming up the legs in Machame Village

July 19th, 2006

Yesterday my friend Lisa and I went up to Machame Village and hiked around in the hills for about 5 hours. The day trip was arranged for me by KPAP, and when we got to the village we were met by Frederick, one of the porters on the Machame route up Kili. Our plan for the day was to hike from the village up to Machame Gate, back down to the village for lunch at Frederick’s house, and then hike around the village for a while before catching the dalla dalla (a minivan bus) back into Moshi. Most villagers here walk everywhere, and each village seems to have hundreds of kilometers of footpaths. On the way up to the gate we hiked through acres and acres of gardens growing beans, sweet potatoes, corn, cabbage, and who knows what else. Growing among the gardens were thousands of banana trees, coffee plants, and avacado trees. The hills around Kilimanjaro a full of little rivers and streams that run off the mountain, and the soil is very rich and dense. Things seem to grow like crazy here.

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July 15th, 2006

Seems like I can’t sit still even if I try. I’ve got some down time in Moshi until my Kilimanjaro climb, and again before I leave on my overland trip to Capetown. Even though the beard is coming along nicely, it doesn’t require a lot of effort on my part, and I’ve done enough sightseeing tours for the time being. So I’ve decided to put my time to good use and volunteer with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. The main focus of the project is to improve the working conditions of the porters working on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro requires that you hire a licensed quide, and these guides hire porters to carry the equipment and gear needed on the trip. This also includes carrying the gear for the climbers as well. As a climber on Kili, all I will carry is a daypack with enough water, food, and clothing for that day’s hiking. The porters carry all the rest of my gear and clothing. They also carry the food, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bags, etc. A typical climb up Kili has 3 crew members for every one climber, and a climb up Kili now resembles a catered camping trip more that a week of backcountry mountaineering. But the climb is not an easy one, so I don’t really mind paying a crew to take the load off my back and contribute to the local economy at the same time.

Unfortunately, many of the porters working on Kili carry excessively heavy loads, get paid low wages, and don’t have the proper clothing and equipment. This is where the Porter’s Assistance Project comes in. They advocate on behalf of the porters to educate the public about proper wages and working conditions, they provide clothing and gear to porters working on the mountain, and in the low season they teach English and first-aid classes to the porters. They are a great organization, and a partner of the International Mountain Explorer’s Connection with branches in Africa, Nepal, and Peru.

My work with the Kilimanjaro Porter’s Assistance Project (KPAP) will involve helping them compile and analyze some survey data they have collected from both porters and climbers, and also helping with outreach by talking to other tourists and climbers and telling them about KPAP. Yesterday I got to go up to Marangu Gate with Zamoyoni, one of the staff members at KPAP. Marangu gate is the starting point for many of the climbs. I got to observe a couple of groups setting off on their trek, saw some porters in action, and also listened in while Zamo talked to many of the porters and distributed surveys to them. Since my knowledge of Swahili is limited to only about a half dozen words, I couldn’t understand anything that was being said, but it was a neat experience anyway.

Next week I’m going to do a day trip with one of the porters where we’ll do some light hiking around the base of Kili, and then join him in his village for lunch. It should be fun, and I’ll get to see some of what village life is like. The rest of my climbing group should all arrive next weekend, and we’ll set of on Monday the 24th for our clilmb. We’ll be on the mountain for 7 days, and if all goes well we’ll attempt the summit on the morning of the 29th.

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In Africa!

July 10th, 2006

I’m in Africa! Getting here from Bangkok turned out to be quite an ordeal, but I finally arrived in Moshi, Tanzania on Saturday afternoon after two full days of travel. My adventure started in Bangkok when about 10 hours before my flight I got an email from Ethiopian Airlines saying that although I had a confirmed booking, they had had problems with their online booking system and couldn’t guarantee my fare and that my credit card had not been billed. So there I was, booked on a flight later that night, and I had no idea how much it was going to cost me. I was a little nervous, to say the least, but after looking up the fares online, I decided that the most they could charge me based on the current fares was another $50 or so. I decided to take my chances.

That night, I arrived at the airport at about 10:00 PM, four hours before my flight was to depart. I went to find the Ethiopian Airlines office, and surprisingly enough they were still open. They pulled up my booking and the fare was only $37 more than my original fare. I said that would be fine (not like I really had any other choice by that time) and they issued me a ticket. I thought all was good until it was time to pay for the ticket and they told me they couldn’t take a credit card and that I had to pay cash since they didn’t have a machine to run the card through. I asked them where I was supposed to get 25,000 Baht (~$650) at 10:00 at night, and they said there were banks up stairs in the terminal. So upstairs I went again, trying to find a bank that would give me that amount of cash off of my Visa card. I finally found one that would, but their limit was 15,000 Baht, so then I went looking for another bank to get the remaining money. Luckily, I was able to get another 10,000 from the ATM machine, so I went back downstairs with the cash, got my ticket and was on my way.

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What, No Fireworks?

July 5th, 2006

For what has got to be the first time in my life, I went through the entire 4th of July holiday without seeing a single firework or hearing any firecrackers go off. No baseball either, or apple pie, and I certainly didn’t see any Chevys driving around. Little wonder though, as Thailand doesn’t have much reason to celbrate a purely American holiday. I have to admit, I feel a little homesick. I rather like stuffing myself on hot dogs and blowing up explosives. I did call up Jason, hoping to hear about some big blowout bar-be-que or at least that they were at the baseball game but apparently not much was happening at home either. Turns out they were watching soccer, with isn’t exactly America’s pastime, but at least they were bar-be-quing up a big hunk of meat. 🙂

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Asian Markets

June 25th, 2006

I picked up a book to read in the hostel the other day, and it has probably one of the best descriptions of an Asian market ever laid down on paper:

“Like many people on the island, Joe’s does not yet possess a refrigerator. Perishable foods are stored in buckets or boxes of ice. When the ice melts, the food perishes – and in hot tropical climates ice melts pretty damn fast. Consequently, we all go to the market nearly every day to buy fresh, perishable food that hasn’t perished yet.
The market generally opens around five in the morning, and by seven most of the ice has melted. The food, however, is a good deal fresher to start with than you’ll likely find in a modern air-conditioned supermarket. The plucked chickens are hanging from hooks, and their throats were cut only an hour or two before going on sale. In some markets, they’ll cut the chicken’s throat while you wait.
That’s fresh chicken.
Being so-called ‘free-range’ fowl that Western health food fanatics are so fond of, but seldom ever eat, means that these little darlings might well have been rummaging through your garbage pit only yesterday. In other words, you may have been eating bits and pieces of the same meal for a long time. Sort of like what the Spanish have been doing with sherry for hundreds of years.
The vast majority of seafood is also fresh. Swimming around minding their own business a few hours earlier, suddenly the fish are all screaming, ‘The sea is rising! The sea is rising!’ Of course, the sea wasn’t rising for the fish anymore than the sky was falling for that silly chicken. What was rising was a fisherman’s net, and then, lo and behold, the fish are on the deck of a longtail boat flopping about like fish out of water. Some of them are packed on ice, and others are put in pails of water. You can buy them dead or alive.
So far, you may be thinking these open-air markets should be closer to home. Maybe you’d like one in your neighborhood. Well that’s because you ain’t seen the flies. They’re all over the fresh dead flesh. You ain’t seen the rats scurrying along the open drainage system. You ain’t seen the scurvy dog gnawing on a buffalo bone, and you for sure ain’t seen the blood and guts of various animal kingdom creatures splattered all over every which-a-way.
The best advice when shopping at one of these markets is to get there early, get your grub, and get out. Go home, wash all the fresh meat with clean water and a little vinegar, pack it in ice, knock back a shot of whiskey, and pray you’re hungry before the ice melts.”

Morgan McFinn – Out of the Loop: Scenes from Samui and Other Seascapes

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Ready… set… Action!!

June 24th, 2006

So far on this trip I’ve helped build houses in Auckland, went whitewater rafting in Rotorua, bungy jumped in Queenstown, climbed Mt. Kinabalu and went snorkeling in Borneo, and ran a marathon in Thailand. Now I can add acting in a movie to the list. The BBC and HBO are here in Phuket filming a movie about the tsunami that hit SE Asia in December 2004. They’ve been recruiting westerners to be extras in the film, so I went to the set last Monday morning and ended up working all week. How crazy is that? I’m in Thailand on holiday, and I end up being in a movie. I knew I was going to have some cool experiences on this trip, but that’s definitely one thing I didn’t expect.

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