11 December 2011
Everything is on track for my journey. And although I still have a few odds and ends to get together, each day my check list gets shorter and shorter. All the major tasks are out of the way – physical, shots, major supplies and equipment, etc. The excitement is building and I cant believe I leave for Africa in 16 days! Finally, I continue to feel blessed by the generosity of friends and family. To date, we have raised over span $8,700! I know this money will have a tremendous impact on the lives of these children.
14 December 2011
I can’t believe I leave for Africa in less than 2 weeks from today! Since my last post, I had a slight change in plans. I am still going to Africa on December 27th, but will climb a little later than originally planned. My new climb is listed as a celebrity climb as there are a couple of people who were on the show Survivor who will be on the climb. And to date there are 7 other people on the trip. I have met one of the other climbers via e-mail today. His name is Aaron Gayhart and he just graduated from Marshall University in West Virginia. And as I learn more about the other travelers I will post on my blog.
Fund Raising Update: We have raised close to $9,000 for the charity! Thanks for all the support!
18 December 2011
For this entry, I am practicing on my iPad. I hope I can update this blog as I journey. So, I just have a few more items to buy for the trip. My To Do list is getting shorter and shorter! And with the help of Santa, I should be all set for my trip. Also, I found out that there are now 10 people on our climb which should be very exciting! I can’t wait to meet everyone.
19 December 2011
Big Fundraising Update: I sent out another e-mail blast as a final drive to reach my personal fundraising goal of $10,000 and to date we have raised $10,096! I was also introduced by e-mail – to the other climbers. And as I mentioned in a previous post, this is a celebrity climb with some of the contestants from the show Survivor. So here are my fellow climbers: Eliza Orlins (from Survivor Vanuatu Micronesia); Ashley Underwood (from Survivor Redemption Island); Francesca Hogi (also from Survivor Redemption Island); Annie Whittington; Jenilee Bryant; Ellen Sherwood; Ashley Jensen; Aaron Gayhart and Mike Chambers. It should be a fun group to climb with!
20 December 2011
It’s the ONE week countdown! Jeanne and I leave for Los Angeles on Friday where we will spend the holidays with Heather, Isabelle, my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law. Then right after Christmas, I will be off. I still have a few things to wrap up for the trip and a few things to finish at work, then I will be ready for the big adventure. I am using our guest bedroom as a staging area. One side of the bed has all the items for my day pack and carry-on, the other side has all the items for my larger pack the porter will carry. It was suggested that I pack all the items for the climb in my carry-on. This way if the airline looses my big pack, I will still be set for the climb. Well, gotta go, still have a few things to do tonight.
A picture of the guest bed that I am using as a staging area.
21 December 2011
Fundraising Update: We have a raised close to span $10,400 to date for Flying Kites! The generosity of our friends and community never ceases to amaze me! I made a lot of progress in my preparation today. I have my big backpack packed. Tomorrow I will pack my carry-on/day pack. I also have a very nice care package for the children, thanks to Amy Wolanski! She and her friends put together a bag of goodies for the children. And Jeanne and I have bought a ton of things for the kids from clothes, to toys to glow sticks!
22 December 2012
Fundraising Update: Over $10,600 raised so far for Flying Kites! Tomorrow Jeanne and I are off to Los Angeles for the holidays. And as much as I planned and planned with packing, I feel like I have too much. But I am not sure what I would leave behind as I will be gone for so long and I do need to have a few options for clothes and such. I do realize that some of my overpacking is because of the care package I have for the kids. And this is certainly worth it! I guess I will have a couple of days re-evaluate and to lighten my load in Los Angeles. And I may buy some more compression bags, I should have some more space. Right now I have 4 compression bags and they are definitely helping reduce the bulkiness of my load.
26 December 2011
I think I keep deleting my posts! So lets try this again. I spent this evening, repacking my bags. I think this was my third or fourth time. But I am glad as I realized I still had a couple of items on my To Do list. Tomorrow we will be off to Kiehls, CVS and REI.
27 December 2011: (The Official Day 1 of my Trip!)
I was up a little last night. I guess with the anticipation of leaving, I woke up at 3AM. So, this morning the 4 of us (Jeanne, Heather, Isabelle and I) bought the last minute items I needed. Heather and Jeanne were a VERY big help. And to get everything done before I needed to be at the airport, we divided and conquered my short list of stops. Our first stop was Kiehl’s in Santa Monica for Cross Terrain Facial Sun Block. Unfortunately, they were out and they did not give me any other options. However, thank god for Heather as she knew that Nordstom in the Santa Monica Mall had a large Kiehl’s section and they should have it. So I was dropped off at REI – Santa Monica for a compression bag and a couple of shirts, and Jeanne, Heather and Isabelle went to Nordstrom for the Kiehl’s product. We both had success in finding what I needed! Then it was off to CVS for a couple of items. And as we pulled into CVS, there was a Whole Foods, and Jeanne suggested I get something to eat for the plane. At first I was hesitant, but it didn’t take much for me to realize that I was going to be on a long flight and should get some good food to eat. So I got a nice box with different grain salads and made a green salad as well. This was my last stop, so off we went to the airport.
Now Im on the plane! I leave in 30 minutes. (2PM CST) And thanks again to Jeanne, I have a great snack for the flight from Whole Foods. Also, I had hoped to post more, but getting through the airport was a chore! And I’m glad I got here 2 hours ahead of time. TSA baggage was so backed up. I can only hope and pray my bags get there! Ill try to write more on the plane and post when I arrive in Amsterdam.
The flight wasn’t too bad. I am glad I upgraded to economy select, so I had a little more room and thank goodness no one next to me. I was able to sleep a little on the plane, but not a ton. Soon, I will arrive in Amsterdam! I will actually arrive a day later as I loose time – it will be 28 December when I arrive in Amsterdam.
28 December 2011 (Day 2)
Today is a travel day. I spent the day with my Dutch sister, Lieke, and her son, Iwein. It was very nice to see them. I also had a chance to rest a little before we went out for a nice dinner. We ate at a restaurant right near their house called Silversant. It was casual, but really nice, and a nice break before my next flight. And of course I had to have the house specialty – Heineken!
Now I am at the airport waiting for my next flight. This one will be 8 hours. Boy does it take some time to get to Africa!
So I am on Kenyan Air. No economy comfort. But the kids next to me are very nice. They are from Canada on their way to the Sudan as part of a church group. We are all hoping to get some sleep on this flight.
The flight wasnt too bad. I slept a little. Dinner on the plane was not bad, a Chicken Curry with yellow rice. We land in 90 minutes! As we are landing the sky is so beautiful. A thin ribbon of orange and yellow on the horizon.a
29 December 2012 (Day 3)
I’ve arrived in Africa! It seems so surreal. Upon arrival I first had the task of getting my entry visa – typical bureaucratic slow lines. After that it was smooth sailing. I got my bags and cleared customs. Then Angie, from Flying Kites, and Aaron, one of the other climbers met me and off we went to breakfast to the Java House. We had pancakes!
We then bought some groceries in town. Then Aaron and I headed to the orphanage. On the way we stopped at an Elephant Orphanage. We say both baby elephants (1-2 year old) and older elephants. The elephants actually came up to you so you could touch them
Forgive for taking a long time to update my blog. My internet connection comes and goes. Its also taking time to upload pictures, So they will come later.
After the Elephant Orphanage, we headed north to the orphanage. Our driver was Kenneth, a very nice man. He pointed out the sights along the way. Along the way we stopped and took pictures of the Rift Valley.
As we continued our journey, the road along the way got progressively worse. At one point we were dodging pot holes from one side of the road to the next. It was like Mr. Toads Wild Ride. Driving here is not for the weak at heart!
We finally arrived in Njibini, the town closest to the orphanage. We were met by two great volunteers – Kathryn and Hannah – in the town. We were not able to get up to the house by car as the road was washed out due to the recent rains. So they arranged for two guys with motorcycles packed our bags in the back of them (piled high – I dont know how they do it!) and drove them up to the site. And we hiked the muddy road up.
We had the most amazing arrival! They children had all gathered at the gate and welcomed us with song and dance. Then each of the children introduced themselves to us. It was quite the spectacular and warm welcome! We were then taken on a tour of the orphanage by our new names Uncles Aaron and Steve.
We got settled in to our living quarters. The group has done a great job at making it as comfortable as possible. We are definitely in the country. We get electricity for 3 hours a night when we start up the generator. Im glad I have a solar charger for my phone!
We spent the day playing with the children. Playing soccer and banana ball or American Football.
I also got to spend some time in the kitchen. We had fried potatoes with herbs, elephant beans and vegetables for dinner.
After dinner, everyone gets together for a family meeting. This is where the children and volunteers share thoughts on the day – what made them happy, what they learned and what they can work on. It is quite an amazing sight to see the children share their thoughts. Aaron and I were also welcomed into the group. They formed a circle around us and both danced and sang. After the meeting some of the children were treated to a movie.
All in all, it was a very humbling and fulfilling day. Compared to what we have, these children have very little, but you would never know it by their constant smiles and laughing. Off to bed.
30 December 2011
I slept in a little today, until about 8:30. I had a really simple breakfast of bread with peanut butter, tea, and a Clif Bar. I spent the early part of the morning in the volunteer room talking with the volunteers and learning more about the children and orphanage.
Then about 10:00, we hiked down to Njibini (this is the closest town and because the road is washed out, we have to walk down). We took 7 of the children to get their hair cut. Some things are very cheap here. For all 7 it cost only about $1.25! While the kids were getting their cut, we went to a local market to buy some produce – bananas, apples, cucumbers, carrots, avocados and green peppers. (I should point out, that we dont have refrigeration, so we eat vegetables, grains and beans.)
When the children were finished with their haircuts – or should I say getting their heads shaved – we hiked back home. (The children have a choice of pulling their hair back or shaving it for school.)
We had lunch upon returning – today it was pasta and a mixture of stewed vegetables. It was pretty good.
After lunch, a couple of the other volunteers retuned from Nairobi (Angie and Kathyrn) and we talked a little. They had a volunteer meeting which Aaron and I sat in on.
After the meeting Aaron and I played volleyball with a couple of the children. Then we took them to the river. This was quite the treat. It is about a 45 minute walk to the river. When I am able I will try to post some pictures. It is quite spectacular and what you may imagine Africa looking like. We spent a good part of the afternoon watching them play in the river. We didnt dare go in as it was cold. It amazed me that they went in! As we were there, word spread and touchy wouldnt believe the people and other children that come out and watch you. I guess many people have not see a white person. We had a great afternoon at the river and then hiked back. We went back in two groups, my guide was little Daniel who took us on the short cut. It was quite the shortcut, a little muddy and cutting through backyards and farms. But we made it. And just before we got back a gentleman who knows the children and has a very little shop, invited us in and gave each of the children a hard candy.
We arrived back and shortly after wr welcomed a new volunteer, Colleen. We then had dinner. Dinner consisted of strewed vegetables, and an interesting mashed mixture of a local green, white beans and maybe potato. Not too many if the volunteers liked it. After dinner, it was family meeting time and then all the children were treated to a movie. They had a very busy morning doing chores, hence their reward. I took this opportunity to update my blog and charge my camera and phone. And when the generator went off at 9:39, I went to bed.
31 December 2011 – Happy New Years Eve!
This morning I woke up early to some birds fighting outside on the roof. I finally went to the main around 8:00. I took my first shower since Ive been here! And although it was a cold shower, it felt great! I made fresh eggs and toast for breakfast. They have chickens here, so they are really fresh eggs!
Now Im off to paint the boys bathroom. Aaron and I volunteered to do this.
strongemIt has been a very busy day. Ill write more later, but wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Check Out my new page with photos!
So Aaron and I spent the morning painting the boys bathroom. It was a little challenging, but I think we did a good job. We then had lunch which was a mixture of beans and potatoes.
After lunch we played with the children, relaxed some and spent time with the children as they made friendship bracelets for their sponsors.
Three other volunteers returned that afternoon, including Brian the head of the orphanage. We went down the road to help them bring up supplies they had bought in Nairobi. We spent the afternoon talking with them and learning more about the orphanage. Then I went to the volunteer kitchen and helped prepare the New Years Eve dinner for the volunteers. We made Mexican Bowls ala Chipotle. Rice, Black Beans, Pico De Gallo, Lettuce, Avocado, and a Chipotle Sauce. (the children like bland food, but we let some of them try the food.).
After dinner we had so much fun with the children. We made a bon fire, the Jeanne and I had bought glow sticks, and they were a HUGE hit! The kids were running all over playing with them. It was quite the sight. It was also an especially beautiful night. With no electricity, it becomes so dark that the stars looking incredible. We spent the night around the fire, and then brought out a surprise for the children – we made Smores! They kids loved them!
After the Smores some of the kids had a dance party. They are quite the dancers! It was really a fun and special way to bring in the New Year. I am constantly amazed at how happy and positive these kids are despite the situation they are in. The staff at Flying Kites has really made a great life for them. And it has been a challenge for them as their monthly operating costs have tripled in the past year.
We put the kids to bed when the electricity went off at 9:30. Then the volunteers and I spent the night playing cards, listening to music and talking. And we all stayed up to have a champagne toast at midnight! Then it was off to bed.
1 January 2012 – a new Year Full of New Hopes and Dreams!
I woke up to the most awesome alarm this morning – the children gathered outside and sang us Happy New Year! Off to breakfast and a new day of adventures!
After breakfast Brian, Blake, Colleen, Aaron and I hiked to the sight of the Flying Kites School. I will have to say, being here for a few days before the other hikers is special. Ive been able to see things and spend time with the staff that I would not have been able to otherwise.
Brian showed us the school, which although they are using it, it still has some work to do on it. They also have a health center which is partially finished and they have broken ground on a library. Its quite a piece of property. They are hoping to buy the two adjacent pieces of property as well. I learned today that not only are they helping the children here, but they are a big part of the community. We met their cows, including their latest addition – Oreo. After the tour, we went into the forest filled with Eucalyptus trees. This area of Kenya is very rich in history. And if you have a chance – see the movie “The First Grader” which was filmed in the area. After a great hike and tour, we went back to the orphanage. We went back to change as I slipped into the river trying to cross the rocks. Nothing to worry about, it was shallow. We grabbed a quick drink, then Blake, Aaron and I went to town on the back of motorcycles. Its the local transportation. And is not for the faint at heart as it is a bumpy dirt road with lots of ruts and holes. It was quite an amazing site. People we walking up and down the road in their Sunday church clothes – men in suits, women in dresses and heels. There is alot of pride in this town. Speaking of church – services are very lively here and last several hours. On our walk to the school, we could hear a congregation off in the distance. It was loud!
Back to town, we walked around, bought some fruit and other items, then hopped back on the motorcycles and went back to the orphanage. This time I think my driver was Evel Knievel! So the kids are back and I will head out to play with them.
We spent the afternoon playing soccer with the children. I will tell you it is so easy to get winded at this altitude (9,000 feet above sea level)! We also met our temporary roommates, the family if Anna Ruth, one of the volunteers today. It was a beautiful afternoon and early evening today. So nice we set up a communal table outside for dinner. It was such a nice dinner. And these kids know their manors – I was reminded that I should not wear my baseball cap to the dinner table by one of the children.
Throughout the day I am continually amazed at these children. Everyone helps out and everyone supports each other. All I can say us that its pretty incredible! And thanks to everyone who has supported them, their lives will be further enriched.
Back to my day, after dinner, we all helped clean up. Then we had family meeting. Today Hannah read a book to the other children, then asked comprehension questions. Then several kids told the group what they were thankful for that day and what they learned new that day. Today is also the last day of their vacation. And to end the vacation, they got to watch a movie. But tomorrow is another day. Their days are pretty regimented. School and chores during the day, then after dinner they study and then go to bed. So its off to bed as we have an early day tomorrow.
2 January 2012
This morning Aaron and I woke up early to head to Nairobi. We went with Kat and Blake, two of the volunteers. Kat and Blake went in town to buy mattresses and Aaron and I are off to a Safari. We had originally planned this for the end of our trip, but due to our change in the climb date, we decided to go before the other climbers arrive. So, we got up at 5:00 am, and left the orphanage at 5:45. We had to walk down the hill as some of the road is still impassable. We ended up almost to town before we saw our driver, a little further than we had planned, but it was a beautiful morning as we say the sun rise. I guess this was good practice for our summit day as we will be up early and begin to climb in the dark.
And now we are waiting for our flight at the Wilson Airport to the Masai Mara. More later… Ill have to tell you about this airport!
So the airport story, the strangest security. There is no check in counter, we go to security which consist of our bags going through an x-ray machine, I go through a metal detector. But I dont have a boarding pass or show ID. We sit and wait in this indoor/outdoor waiting area right by the runway. Ironically there is a duty free shop. It all seems pretty lax, but there Are some rules, Im told I cant take pictures of the control tower and we have to point out our bag as we approach the plane before the bag goes on the plane. Meanwhile we get a plastic boarding pass (each flight is color coded – ours was red), and all we did was point out our names on a list.
Our plane was a prop plane with probably 5 rows – 2 seats on one side and on on the other with a very narrow isle. Our pilot was Carole, she was very nice. I say right behind her, it was quite the trip! We had a nice flight, it was about a 45 minute flight. We saw a bit of the country. And with many countries I saw the vast dichotomy of wealth. We flew over the largest slum in East Africa, which is incredible in its size, but also quite disturbing in its size. Then we flew over ranches and large homes. We finally reached our airstrip, which was a dirt airstrip. Upon arrival, there was a Masai Mara park office, where we had to pay our entrance fee. We were they greeted by our driver and driven to the Mara Serena Hotel. It was a short drive, about 5 minutes. We arrived at the hotel, which is quite nice. Its an oasis in this vast savannah. And as much as Im excited about being here and going on safari, I feel somewhat guilty about this indulgent expedition as I think of the people in Njibini and how they struggle to live day by day. Its also strange to have gone from a town where we were a minority, to this resort full of tourists.
Upon arrival we were given warm towels and a glass of mango juice. Check in was interesting, you sit in the lobby and are greeted by someone from the hotel. Our host explained the safaris and meals, then gave us our key. Our room has a beautiful view of the Mara. And today I took my first hot shower since being in Africa! We then headed to the main building for lunch. Today it was a nice buffet lunch, although I had a hard time eating. I think it was because I took my malaria pill on an empty stomach. So I decide to rest before our afternoon safari.
We met our Safari guide Eric at 4:00. We also met the other couples on our safari. The two women are sisters originally from Kenya, but now live in London with their husbands. We then headed out for a 2 hour afternoon safari. Its quite spectacular the number of animals and how close they get to the truck. This afternoon we saw Impala, Thompson Gazelles or Tommys, Ostrich, we got really close to a Giraffe, Secretary Bird, Topi – a type of antelope with a black patch on its back leg, Cape Buffalo (one of the big 5), Elephant (another big 5), fox, and the highlight was a pregnant cheetah (another big 5). It was a great outing. We headed back to the hotel to wash up and relax before dinner.
Just before dinner we sat outside, around a bonfire as a guitarist played and sang. It was a nice way to end the day. Dinner tonight was off the menu. I started with some salad, then a pea soup (which I didnt care for) and then I had the vegetarian meal. It was an Indian meal of different vegetables and grains. I was happy that I was feeling better and was able to eat. After all I have to build my strength for Kilimanjaro! After dinner Aaron and I sat on the terrace and talked. It was a beautiful night. We didnt stay out long as we are off for an early safari in the morning. Tomorrow is a new day!
3 January 2012
We started out the day with a morning safari. Up at 6:00 am and out at 6:30 am. Our safaris are cool in the fact that we are with the same people and driver. We saw many of the same animals this morning. A couple of highlights included seeing a lioness and a lion. The lioness was neat. She kept calling the others. She has such a deep loud cry which gets progressively louder. The lion was near by and at one point walked right in front of our car. Eric certainly earned his fee today as we found the lions first! Its interesting going on this type of safari. Its like deep sea fishing, everyone talks to each other and when something is spotted all the vehicles converge. But there is a rule they only 5 vehicles should be present at once. Another highlight was the standoff our truck had with a male elephant. He finally tired and went on his way. Another surprise in the morning was breakfast. We were treated to Breakfast with the Hippos. This consisted of stopping in the savannah by a river full of hippos, then we were met by a Masai warrior and escorted down a path. Suddenly we were met by a person with hot damp towels, then champagne, then escorted to a table by the river, where we had a buffet breakfast. It was surreal! After breakfast we headed back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the morning relaxing at the hotel. We had a nice lunch around 12:30. After lunch we decided to the Masai cultural lecture and dance. It was really interesting to learn about the inhabitants of the Masai. Each village consists of a leader who can have up to 15-20 wives. And it costs a lot for each wife. Men pay in cows, sheep and goats. And a mans wealth is measured in the number of children they have, not the number of animals. After the lecture, the did some traditional dances which we participated in. One of the unique aspects of their dance is their uncanny ability to jump straight in the air! All in all it was an interesting time.
The afternoon consisted of an afternoon safari. For this safari we headed south towards Tanzania. The Masai Mara is actually an extension of the Serengeti. I would say the highlight of the afternoon was seeing a leopard in a tree. And as a correction, the chetah is not one of the big 5, the leopard is. The leopard was relaxing in the tree as she had a busy morning. Her kill was in the tree, on the opposite side. It was a large impala. Amazing she could bring something so large up so high in the tree! We also reached the border of Kenya and Tanzania where we had a photo op. After our safari we had another surprise in that we were included in the Sunset Reception (Truth be told our car mates had paid for this and our driver thought we had as well. Oh well, lucky for us!) Another surreal experience. We drive up to this hilltop, where there is a clearing in the brush, a bonfire, a forest ranger with a rifle, a full bar, appetizers and cocktail tables. So we spent the early evening drinking the local beer – Tusker – talking and watching the sun set. And in true Anderson fashion we were the last to leave. We headed back through the bush in the dark to our hotel.
When we got back, showers were definitely in order, followed by a buffet dinner. And I guess it was my time in Njibini, but I havent eaten meat since Ive been here. Dinner for me was rice, several vegetarian Indian dishes and fresh fruit. Today was a very full day. I
added to my blog, as I was behind, then went to bed early as we have another early safari.
4 January 2012
We started the morning off with our last game drive. This morning we were off to find the elusive rhino. We spent the day driving through the savannah, but could not find a rhino. The highlight of the morning was seeing a pride with 4 cubs. After safari we showered, went to breakfast, then we were off to the airport. This plane was a little larger, more like what you would see in the US. Our flight was short, about 45 minutes. When we arrived we had a short wait for our Harrison – our driver. On the way back we stopped at the Nakumatt – the grocery store. I bought some fruit, some chocolate, some candy for the kids, oranges and gummi bears for the volunteers. It was the same type of wild ride back – about an hour and a half – with the last half an hour dodging pot holes. It was much busier going through the small towns than in the past. I guess its because kids are back in school.
We got back to Njibini and drove as far up to the orphanage as possible. Then walked the rest of the way. It was nice to get out and hike a little.
When we got back to the orphanage it was very quite as the kids were in school. The other climbers – or Kili People – arrived and were resting as they too had a very long journey here. So we went and hung out with the a few of the older children, including Frances, James, Monica, who gathering there things as they were getting ready to go to boarding school. It was nice to see them and to say goodbye as we will not see them again before we leave. Then the highlight of the day was greeting the children as they began arriving back from school. We didnt have a lot of time with them as they had chores to do, then dinner, then family meeting, then homework. But it was enough time and made us feel like we were back home. Our fellow climbers woke up and we got to meet them. One more climber is arriving tonight, but will not be here until the morning as it is dangerous to travel up here at night. Well lights are out in 3 minutes, so more tomorrow. Last night was interesting, we sleep in communal housing so for Aaron and I its like sleeping in a sorority with 8 women.
One other note for the day – Mike arrived today. Mike is going to lead us on the climb and he is also in charge of fund raising and the Adventure Challenges for Flying Kites. He also arrived with his 84 year old grandmother. They went on safari together.
5 January 2012
Today we got up early around 6:30 AM. It was a beautiful morning – crisp air and a clear sky. I took advantage of the time and was able to call and speak with Heather, Isabelle, and Jeanne – which was nice. So for breakfast today we had Oatmeal and I added a Banana to it. Today the kids are in school so as you can imagine, its really quite around here. So after breakfast Mike led us on a hike up to the gates of elephant mountain. Elephant mountain is a mountain near here that actually has packs of wild elephants roaming around. And because of the elephants, there is a large fence around the park to keep out the elephants. We didnt go into the park because you need to arrange for a guide (the elephants can be dangerous) and its $50 per person. But nonetheless it was nice to get out and get moving in anticipation of the climb. We hiked through the woods, crossed a river and went through a patch of eucalyptus trees. Its interesting that they will burn out the center the eucalyptus trees. And its kind of cool that you can actually get in the center if the tree. After we relaxed a little, we went back to the orphanage as it was almost lunch time. We had a really good lunch which consisted of a stew of potatoes and vegetables.
Today all the volunteers are headed to Nairobi to give on of the volunteers a send off dinner as here time here is done. Tonight it will be just Mike, Leila, Mikes geandmother and the Kili people with the children.
Anyway after lunch we headed into Njibini with three of the volunteers – Kat, Hannah and Ana Ruth – who are also doing the climb with us. And before they got on their bus to Nairobi, they took us to Njibini Apparel. Njibini Apparel is a company that Flying Kites has set up to employ local women. They make these really nice knit scarfs, hats, slippers and bags. We headed to the market for mangoes and avocados, but the avocados didnt look really good, so we just ended up with mangoes. We then headed back to the orphanage so we could greet the children when they came back from school. It is always nice to greet them when they come back. The rest of the day consisted of a nice dinner – lentils, Chapati (a flat bread), and soup – Family Meeting – reading with the kids – and then back to the dorm to write and talk. The talks are very interesting, and Ill leave it at that. Lights are out in 30 minutes, so Im going to us the rest of the time to post pictures.
6 January 2012
It was another early morning today. Todays breakfast was fresh scrambled eggs and fresh mangoes. The kids were already off to school by the time we got up to the volunteer room. We spent the morning talking and washing clothes, then we wished Mikes grandmother off. She is headed back to Rhode Island tonight. Mike and Leila also went into Nairobi to send her off and spend the night. We will meet up with Mike in Nairobi in the morning.
So Aaron and I took the girls on a hike to school. It was a nice hike. When we got to school, the kids were on break. So we got to talk and play during their break. It also gave us a chance to meet some of the other kids who go to the school, but are not at the orphanage. After break, we split up and sat in on some of the classes. Ashley, Jen and I sat in on class 4. Todays was science and we learned about teeth. It is incredible how well behaved and polite these children are in school. So back to teeth – we learned the 4 types of teeth and their function. It was really interesting to hear their perspective on teeth, especially the canines. Canines are used to tear meat from the bones. This was then related to a cat who uses them on a rat. I guess everything is relative to the environment you are in. It could seem strange to an American, but was related to basic life here.
Anyway, we didnt stay long in class and headed back for lunch. When we got back, lunch wasnt ready, so I headed to the kitchen to see if there was anything I could do. I think Ive become the father figure for the group. Anyway lunch hadnt been started, the matron was running a little behind today. So while we waited, a went to the dorm and got a bag of peanuts I had bought and put it out as an appetizer. I also cut up the last two mangoes we bought at the market. Our lunch came shortly after this. Today we had lentils, rice and some cut tomatoes and cucumbers. As the kids and all the volunteers were all away, we spent the rest of the afternoon talking and getting ready for the climb. We also got our first rain since we have been here. Tomorrow we head off for the big climb. We leave at 7:00 AM. Well the kids are back from school, so I will stop here and finish the day off later.
We spent the afternoon with the kids playing and before you knew it was dinner. Dinner tonight was really good – sautéed vegetables and a mixture of mashed squash and potatoes. In the late afternoon Brian, Angie and Brandon came back from Nairobi. The brought wine and cheese for a little goodbye celebration.
After dinner we had family meeting. And since Jen missed family meeting yesterday, we greeted her tonight with a dance. It was a bittersweet family meeting as this was our last meeting before we climb. And it was a really great meeting as the children sang for us and wished us the best in our climb. And when we got to the summit to think about them. After family meeting it was time to celebrate. We had a dance party with the kids – the kids love to dance and show off their moves. We also sat around a bonfire where we talked and sang. The girls from the orphanage sang Amazing Grace to us. All in all it was a special and fun way to end our stay in Njibini! Its off to finish packing and to bed.
7 January 2012
This morning we woke up at 6 AM. I made oatmeal and coffee for everyone. Then we did our final packing and headed into Njibini to grab our bus. We said goodbye to Angie, Colleen, Devon and Sam. Many of the children and Brian walked us down to the bus. It was a nice walk as we got to talk with the children. When we got into town, we loaded the bus and said our last goodbyes to the children. It is exciting that we are going to climb Kilimanjaro, but sad that we have to leave the children. I can tell you the first part of the bus ride was very quite as everyone reflected on the special times we had with these amazing and wonderful page.
So part one of the bus ride – into Nairobi to pick up Mike, Hannah, Ana Ruth and Kat. It was the typical ride into Nairobi, bumpy and dodging pot holes. Mostly everyone relaxed by reading or listening to music. Our stop in Nairobi was quick as we wanted to get on the road. Everyone went into the Nakumatt to buy snacks for the road as we didnt stop for lunch. The ride to Tanzania went by pretty fast, albeit it being about 6 hours in total. It was a little hot and dusty though. We did make one stop – a bathroom stop at a souvenir stand before we stopped at the border. Our border crossing was a trip – first a stop to exit Kenya. Then a stop to to enter Tanzania. This was funny – we all handed the border agent our passport, two forms and $100. And about 30 minutes later, he handed us our stack of passports with our visa stamps. After that stop, we had another 1 1/2 hours to drive to Arusha. On the way we went through a wilderness preserve and saw 3 giraffes. We finally arrived at the LOasis Lodge, which is a nice Oasis in this town.
The afternoon was spent relaxing around the pool, taking a hot shower and checking our pack and gear for the climb. Around 6:00 PM we had a team meeting with the two head guides – Holsen and Ornafe (Im sure I just butchered the spelling of their names). These guys apparently are legends on the mountain and have hundreds of climbs. We will have 7 guides in total, plus our porters. We had an opportunity to ask questions about the day ahead if us. We are taking the Machame route, which is 7 days. Tomorrow we depart at 8:30. We have about a 1 1/2 hour drive to the gate. The morning will be spent checking in at the gate which apparently takes some time. We will have lunch, then begin our hike. The days trek will take us up to Machame. We will pass through a rain forest and climb from 1840m to 3022m. The climb should take us 5-6 hours and we will cover 8.2km. The group is pumped in anticipation of the climb!
After our meeting, we ordered dinner, which will take an hour to prepare due to the size of the group. And boy did we order a feast. I have a mozzarella and herb pizza to start, followed by a bowl of spiced beans and vegetables with rice. The pizza was ok, but the beans were really good. Because if the size of the group. Dinner took so time. So it was off to bed right after dinner. Tomorrow the climbing adventure begins!
8 January 2012
So day 1 if the climb… We start the day out with breakfast at the hotel. We had eggs and omelets cooked to order, toast, Chapati, fresh fruit and juice. After breakfast we gathered up our gear and waited for the bus to take us to the base of the mountain. We left around 9 AM – and our bus ride took about 1 1/2 hours. The bus ride was a little packed since all the food and camp gear was on the roof, they packed our backs in the last seats of the bus. Consequently every seat was taken and we had to rest our day packs on our laps. We made a short stop on the way. We finally made it to the gate. When we got to the gate – we checked in, which didnt take too much time in line, it just took a little time to get our passes to climb. While we waited, we ate our box lunches which consisted of chicken, a hard boiled egg, a banana, juice, peanuts and cookies. It was good body fuel to get us going. We finally started our climb at 12:34. And to start off our climb our team huddled around and shouted Pamoja (togetherness) and Ebinezer (for all you have done). It was a gear way to start the day out. Our climb would take us from about 6000 to 9000 feet. We started our walk through a lush rain forest with waterfalls and fauna. It was a nice hike, until it began raining. Most everyone had good rain gear, but a few didnt, which was a bummer for them. Our climb today was steep but not too challenging. And for the most part it was uneventful – although Kat began to get a blister and ind of the girls didnt feel well as a result to her high dosage of the altitude drug. We took plenty of breaks along the way to rest, but even with our stops, todays trek only took 4 1/2 hours. We finally made it to camp, but unfortunately ahead of many of the porters. Our sleeping tents were set up, but not all the packs arrived. My pack took about an hour to arrive and when it did, some of the items were wet and my pack had flour on it. The worst thing for the few of us who had to wait, was that we were damp and began to get cold. Once my pack arrived I quickly got warm clothes on and went to the mess tent. They had warm popcorn, hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate for us. It was a nice end to the days climb. A bit later, dinner was ready for us – we started with cream of tomato soup, then pasta with a nice vegetable sauce, fried fish and fresh avocado for dessert. As it was our first day, everyone was pretty tired and we went to bed around 9:30 PM. But before bed, we got our water bottles. Drinking plenty of water is key to feeling good on the mountain. Well its off to bed as we are leaving at 8:30 tomorrow.
9 January 2012
I was up really early today – probably 5:30/6:00. And since I was wide awake, I got dressed and packed for the day. We had breakfast at about 7:30 – today we had oatmeal, orange juice, an omelette and sausage. (BTW – I havent had any meat since Ive been here). And while we were eating breakfast, the porters began to break down camp so they would have it all set up when we arrive this afternoon. So we began todays trek around 8:30 AM. The beginning of our climb was really steep, but we try to motivate each other and have fun by singing and playing guessing games. As we climbed it seemed like rush hour – there were a ton of people and porters in the trail. We took several breaks along the way to rest and eat snacks so we could build up our energy. Some of the climb today took us up narrow and steep rock passages. I cant believe we are actually doing this! The trek took us into and over the clouds with some incredible views. We finally stopped for lunch – todays lunch was chicken, a hard boiled egg, bread with mayonnaise, potato chips, mango juice a banana and short bread cookies. After lunch we continued our steep ascent – we finally hit our highest point at 12,700 feet! Once we peaked we had a short, but quick descent. Our climb today took about 6 hours. When we got to camp, our tents were set up, but not all the bags had arrived – my bag took 15 minutes and one of the girls bags took an hour. We all changed and headed for the mess tent – where we had warm cashews and peanuts, hot tea, hot chocolate and coffee. As we relaxed, we talked about the day and played cards. Then there was a big commotion. ESPN us filming a documentary called Mission Kilimanjaro (www.missionkilimanjaro.com). They are capturing the climb of a motivational speaker named Kyle (I didnt get his last name). He has no arms or legs and he is climbing Kilimanjaro! If that isnt motivational, I dont know what is.
I hope to keep up with my blog, but as we get higher it is becoming more difficult, so my apologies.
Back to our day at camp….Well one of the card games we played was Egyptian Rat. It’s a game that you try to get all the cards and part of the game is being the first person to slap the deck when the same card is put down sequentially. Well I was playing with the 3 volunteers from the orphanage that are on the climb with us – Kathryn, Hannah and Ana Ruth – and Hannah worked in Vegas (as Steve Wynn’s Executive Assistant) – well she is fast, so tonight I was out to win and kept slapping the folding table really hard – well Hannah is the most quite person – and our of the blue she said “Stephen, not so hard!” It made us all laugh. So dinner for the night consisted of a hot soup, a meat sauce, a vegetable sauce, potatoes and watermelon for dessert. After dinner we played alot of games, like “If you could meet anyone past or present – who would it be.” Our group has been amazing, everyone is so supportive of each other. In fact Aaron was named MVP of the day as he seemed to have anything anyone needed for the day. I’m glad I delayed the climb and came with this group – they are a blast!
An add for the day – one the positive side we had a fantastic view of the mountain today and the moon rising over the mountain was breath taking. One the negative side – bathrooms in camp are rough.
10 January 2012
My apologies for some of the earlier formatting issues, my service is hit and miss and not taking the formatting now.
Today is a long trekking day – about 7 hours in total, which is the second longest day of our climb.
As usual we started out with breakfast – oatmeal, toast, bacon and a plain omelette was on the menu. It’s incredible what they can cook on the mountain. After fueling our bodies, our long trek began – today it is about pole-pole or a slow ascent up the mountain. It’s important to go very slow so your body adjusts to the altitude. We made the most of our long trek by talking and singing. I had a nice talk with Hannah and Kathryn on the first portion of our climb – we talked about our families and life in general.
The climb to our lunch stop was amazing. As barren as the land can be up here, I don’t think I’ll get tired of the views. And it’s amazing that you’ll be in this barren portion of the mountain and all of a sudden you are a small mountain flower growing. And as we would break, I would turn around and feel so proud of the accomplishment this group has made in climbing this mountain.
On the way to our highest point for the trip, we stopped and actually had a hot lunch today. It was a nice change as it was beginning to get cold. We had soup – a vegetable soup, rice with peas, a vegetable sauce and a tuna sauce.
We finally reached the Lava Tower, our highest point for the day – almost 15,000 feet! We stayed at this point for about 15-20 minutes to allow our bodies to get use to the altitude. We took some amazing pictures during our stop. I can’t wait to post them.
The climb up was definitely a challenge, but it was great that no one had a headache due to the altitude – which is remarkable!
Then began our descent – which we all took at different paces. It was about and hour, but mostly downhill. Richard, one of the guides and I flew down the mountain. I felt like I was solomon skiing. The descent was breathtaking as well. We saw a new portion of the mountain. At one point there was an incredible, but small waterfall. Today I really felt accomplished and not that this is a race, but I made it to camp first. And it was great to give everyone a high five as they made it to camp.
After everyone arrived at camp, the porters brought us tubs of hot water. It was nice to actually wash my face, arms, upper body and feet. And one point it was pretty funny to look around as we were all soaking our feet. I tell you a masseuse – especially one who specializes in feet – could make a ton of money on this mountain!
We relaxed after our wash up. We had popcorn, cookies, hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate. It’s nice to gather in the mess tent and share stories of our lives. This group is really getting to know each other.
I tell you, this camp seems like the largest so far. It’s like a small town!
But we have a spectacular view of the mountain and we can look all the way down a valley to the cities below. The later view makes you appreciate how high we have climbed.
Another amazing about the mountain is the quick changes in weather. We had a very fast fog roll in, then rain, the an incredible sky.
We ate dinner around 6:30. We started with a hot cucumber soup, which was really good, then a banana and vegetable stew, then fresh pineapple. We all didn’t eat too much today, and most people retired to bed early as I will explain in my parting thoughts for the day.
Today seemed like we were all doing well, but at the end of the day, it was a hard day and took a lot out of everyone. We’ve had some casualties from soar feet to sore ankles to headaches to being tired to nausea. We’re all trying to be supportive and help those not feeling good. It’s difficult as we’ve come so far and we want everyone to summit.
I hope all can rest well, and let whatever is making them ill takes it’s course.
11 January 2012
Last night was a really rough night. No one slept well as everyone on our team was either vomiting due to the altitude or had diarrhea due to something they ate or drank or had both. In fact it had swept to other groups in the camp. Everyone looked rough in the morning. So much so, we decided to leave late, which wasn’t an issue as today’s climb is only scheduled to be 3 hours.
We started out with breakfast, which we all tried to eat a little for strength for the climb. I had a bowl if oatmeal as that is all I could really eat and it probably took me 45 minutes to eat. I also spent the morning trying to figure out the common denominator of what we all ate to give us the diarrhea. It wasn’t easy and could have been several items.
We ended up breaking into 4 groups for the climb today. And as some of the climbers were really weak and were climbing the Barranco Wall, some of the guides took their day packs.
Today’s climb was probably the most physically challenging of the trip so far. There are parts of the Barranca Wall that you literally have to hug a rock as you step around it. It was only supposed to take about an hour to climb, but I think it took close to 2 hours. And the climb continued to take its toll on our climbers as a couple of people were still vomiting on the way up the wall. I think the worse part of the wall for me was having a day pack and climbing up an 8 foot wall of rocks. But I’m sure if I were 100%, it would not have been an issue. We finally made it to the top of the Barranca Wall and I know we all had a huge feeling of accomplishment. I also know we were all thinking about why we were doing this – for the children at the orphanage. I kept thinking if Miriam – who told us to keep our eye on the prize!
The rest of the climb would take us down into some valleys, then back up. It seemed like a long, long walk and wasn’t horribly challenging until the end where we had a very steep descent, followed by a very steep ascent. When we finally reached the top, we were at camp! It was a big relief. I was in the first group with Mike, Jen, Ashley, and Ellen – then Franny, Eliza, AJ and Annie arrived – then Hannah arrived and finally Aaron, Heather, Ana Ruth and Kat arrived. It was great that we all made it!
Once into camp, I picked a tent, changed into my dry/warm camp gear and went to bed. I’m not sure how long I slept, but was awoken for lunch. I had some vegetable soup and a muffin for lunch, but couldn’t eat any pasta. They say as you go higher, you loose your appetite. I think I have the next diet fad – The Kili Diet! Anyway, I ate as much as I could and went back to sleep. I slept until dinner and when I woke up I was rested, hungry and thirsty. Dinner was around 6:30 – and it was a good sign everyone made it to dinner. I managed to drink about a liter of water, but could only eat a little Chapati, rice and Carrot-Ginger Soup. I stayed at the table as long as I could, and went back to bed. I did take some Advil before sleeping as my back is killing me due to my day pack. Tomorrow is another short day of climbing – but it is to our last camp. And then in the wee morning hours of Friday the 13th, we will summit – the prize is getting closer!
12 January 2012
So last night we only had on casualty to vomiting and still some diarrhea. But I guess this comes with climbing this mountain. And the worst thing is the bathrooms. But enough of this talk.
We were all at breakfast this morning which was a nice sign. Today I ate a big bowl of oatmeal porridge and I had toast with peanut butter. I feel really good, just a little hungry and thirsty. I know I need to build up my strength for the final portion of our climb. Todays climb will take us 3-4 hours.
So after breakfast we began our climb at a very, very slow pace (pole, pole). This is so important as we want to acclimate to the altitude as slowly as possible. We pretty much stayed as a group today, but as usual, we broke into groups, which is ok, because it’s important that everyone goes at their own pace.
The first portion of our trek was a little steep and long, then after that we had a bit of an easier walk. We tried to talk and joke around, but as you can imagine everyone is pretty focused and conserving their energy. Along the walk we saw a Monarch butterfly, which was a great sign, and we interpreted this as that we are all going to succeed in summiting! I can’t say this enough, but the group is so supportive of each other, and everyone is helping out each other beyond belief. I don’t think the word selfish exists on this mountain.
We finally reached a flat area just before our final ascent and it was incredibly special as we were there as a group! It may not seem like the biggest feat, but as we are all having different challenges, it was an incredible feat!
The final ascent was hard and steep again, but we finally made it to camp. Arriving in camp was a relief, but we had to wait for them to set up our camp as it was still occupied by a group that had not come down. We met one of the ladies from the group, she and I are in a similar situation as we are 20 years older than the rest of the group. We were so proud of this woman as she made it to this point. Unfortunately she did not trek to the summit because of a bad hip. They also brought someone down from her group who was unable to make it all the way. It’s so important that we listen to our bodies and not be heroes.
It’s really windy in our camp, and we had a lot of wind on the way up. I am so thankful my daughter had the insight to go into Nordstoms to get my Kiehl’s Cross Terrain after the Kiehl’s store did not have it. It is both a sunscreen and it protects against the wind. And I know that others from our group are also appreciative. The sun is VERY strong up here. Speaking of sun, my solar charger is working great. I thought at first I would have an issue, but it is keeping my cell phone charged so I can update this blog.
Anyway, we are all resting and waiting for lunch. I can’t believe in about 8 hours we begin our long trek to the summit. The first portion of our trip to summit will take us about 7 hours as we go from about 15,000 feet to 19,300 feet! After summit we will stop at camp shortly and then continue a long ways down the mountain. It will be a very long, but very fulfilling day. So the next time I blog, it will be after summit. Please keep our group in your thoughts and pray for success and good health as we make our final climb on Kilimanjaro.
Friday, 13 January 2012
We all made the summit today! It was incredible! Everyone is in great spirits! More later when we get to our next camp. This team was incredible!
So we were actually woken up around 11 PM on 12 January 2012. I had gone to bed with my base layer of clothing, so I would ready for the climb and so thru would also be warm. Another good pointer Mike told us was to sleep with our summit clothes so the would be warm. I was happy that I was well prepared and didn’t get cold.
When I walked outside to go to the mess tent, i took a few minutes to look at the sky, which was incredible. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a beautiful sky with such magnificent stars! And I am glad that I took the time to do this. Often this isn’t the easiest thing to do as your either exhausted or focused on trekking.
We all gathered in the mess tent for tea and biscuits (cookies). Then at 11:30, we began our single file climb to Stella Point, then we would climb to the summit. As we began our climb, I looked up to the mountain and was amazed at the stream of headlamps going up the mountain.
The climb to Stella Point was probably one of the hardest physically and mentally demanding things that I have ever done in my life. It was a long and slow climb with a howling wind in our face. It’s hard enough climbing through rocks in the day time, but at night it was especially challenging. For me the worst part was having to climb rocks. Each step up you took, just sucked the energy out of my body. There wasn’t a lot of talking on this portion of the trip as I everyone was focused on the climb, cold, not feeling well, tried or any combination of these.
We began our climb as a group as usual and after the first two breaks, we began to break into smaller groups. After the second break, I broke away from the lead group to wait for AJ to get ready to climb. I even though a guide was waiting, I didn’t think anyone should do this final portion alone – after all we all came so far to reach this point. And I am so happy that I did wait, as we climb slower than the lead group and got to see more of the sunrise.
So off Ronnie, AJ and I went up to Stella Point. It was long, hard, cold and challenging. I tried to drink as much water in the first 2-3 hours, but before you knew it, the tube to my Camelback froze. And my two water bottles were beginning to freeze. Drinking water is key to feeling great as you summit. As I climb, I became hungry and thirsty, then began feeling nauseous (the altitude will make you feel nauseous).
AJ, who has climb through the Himalayas, also felt nauseous, and began to vomit on our ascent. Thank god for Ronnie as he took her back and took care of her as we climbed. She is an incredible person to persevere through these conditions and summit! In fact there were several people from our group that struggled through the climb, but in the end they succeeded.
We finally reached Stella Point, and from here we would have an easier climb to the summit. We didn’t spend too much time there as we wanted to get to the summit. As we climb towards the summit, you could see the incredible glacier on this mountain. On our climb up we passed the first group who had already been to the summit. Then I saw a camera flash go off and I saw the summit sign and tears came to my eyes as it became real – I just climbed the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world! We got to summit at 5:47 AM. And when we got to the summit we took pictures and looked around, but didn’t stay long as it was minus 15-degrees! In fact several cameras froze on the mountain top.
So after our summit, we hiked back down to Stella Point. The hike back was breathtaking – we saw the sun rise, the glacier in better light and the most incredible thing we saw on the way to Stella Point was the rest of our group. We gave them hugs and cheered them on as we knew everyone would summit! I took a few pictures on the way to Stella Point, and then Ronnie took my camera, which was awesome. He was really into it and took pictures all the way down to our summit camp.
The hike down to our summit camp wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It took a lot of energy as it was steep and in parts there was loose gravel.
We finally reached camp where we had a little time to rest, eat and pack. Today is a long day as we have about a 4-5 hour hike down to our camp for the night. I think it didn’t take that long, but it was hard. We started out at 15,000 feet where it was windy and cold, then hit some sleet, the rain. The rain was the worst as it made the rocks slick and the trail muddy. But we finally made to camp – very tired, very sore and wet.
There is more that I want to update on our night on the mountain and I will soon, but it’s important that I first add an update for today, 14 January.
Back to 13 January. Our final camp was around 10,000 feet. It’s a pretty large camp. We got to our tents and had a chance to get put of our wet clothes. Almost everyone went to bed or to lie down and rest. I spent the time getting my pack ready for the final trek to the gate. Our crew then told us the had our snack ready – popcorn, cookies and warm drinks. I went to the mess tent, but as everyone was still resting, it was a party of one. Some of our guides and waiters joined me, which was nice as I got to talk to them. I also took the time to update my blog. Eventually Eliza and Ashley came in and we talked about our time on the mountain and how we were looking forward to L’Oasis. And then our fellow climbers began to wake and come in.
Then around 6 PM, Kathryn and I went to the check-in office to get something to drink. We each got a beer and sat on the steps and talked about life. It my not seem like a significant moment to most, but it will be a moment that I will cherish forever. To just sit and talk with no schedule or agenda, in such a beautiful place, with such a sense of accomplishment was priceless. I think some of my fondest memories of this trip will be the individual time I spent with my fellow climbers.
And as time slipped by, one of our waiters walked up to let us know dinner was being served. So off we went to the mess tent for dinner. I wasn’t terribly hungry and didn’t eat much. We had soup, rice, and a bean and vegetable stew. We talked a little after dinner sharing stories of the day. As we were often not together as a group during our treks, our time in mess tent is spent sharing these stories. We often laughed, sometimes cried and often sat in silence due to the exhausting of the day. But in the end they were wonderful stories of triumph. We soon went to bed as we wanted to get up early and get on our way. I would say the worst thing about this camp was the mud. It wasn’t terribly muddy, rainy or wet, but just enough to be a little uncomfortable.
14 January 2012
I’ll add more about our morning later…
We woke around 6:00 AM and Aaron and I quickly packed our sleeping bags and final things before we headed to breakfast. Our first course was oatmeal porridge, which none of us ate. I think we were all porridged out at this point. And don’t worry none of the food would go to waste – our guides and porters would eat anything we didn’t eat. We also had crepes and eggs. But I only had some hot tea and a crepe.
Soon after breakfast we had the tipping ceremony. It was quite an experience – first the whole team – guides, waiters, dishwashers, cooks and porters sang songs to us in celebration of our accomplishment and thanks. They were incredible! Then one of the group members asked us to be ambassadors for them when we go back to the States and that this would be one of the best ways we could thank them.
Finally as we waited outside the tent, each team member was called into the tent for their tips. And when they came out of the tent we would shake hands or hug in thanks for our safe return and all their help. We started with the porters and then worked our way up to the guides. This business is interesting as you start out as a porter and work your way up to guide.
Once the ceremony was over, we had a really brief opportunity to give out individual tips. I found my porter and gave him a little extra money and Aaron have his porter his Marshall University sweatshirt. Both porters were much appreciative of this.
And before you knew it, the group took off for the gate. It was a little crazy and fast as we left AJ behind and couldn’t really give everyone we wanted to an extra tip. So off we went down the muddy trail. A large portion of the group booked it down the trail with Protas – one of our guides. Speaking of guides, we had Oforo, Protas, Ben, Ronnie, Omari, Richard, and Holsen.
I, on the other, stayed at the back of the pack, I wanted to soak it all in and enjoy the beauty of this spectacular mountain. On the way down, I had an opportunity to take a spectacular picture of the mountain we had just conquered.
I also had an opportunity to talk to several people on the way down including Ana Ruth, Franny and Aaron. I also had a nice talk with AJ and learned about her incredible world travels and upcoming trip to Australia. The hike took about 2-3 hours. I finished the hike talking to Mike about Flying Kites – learning about their growth, their successes, challenges and opportunities. It was a great way to round out the climb.
We finally reached the gate – we signed out, ate our lunch and were also inundated by locals trying to sell us souvenirs. One nice service they offered, which many of our group gladly accepted was to clean your boots for $2. However, I could not do this as I wanted to leave a bit of Kilimanjaro on my boots – after all, I became a mountain man.
Once all the porters were down and all the gear and bags put on the bus, we got on, but unfortunately we didn’t go right away. I’m not sure what was going on, but for me this was the worst part of the climb – sitting on a hot, packed bus being bombarded by people coming to the windows selling souvenirs. It wasn’t fun. We finally got on our way and off we went on our 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Arusha.
We arrived back at our hotel in Arusha – L’Oasis. For me it was somewhat bittersweet as I was sad to leave the mountain, but happy to be back to city. Aaron and I spent the first portion of our time back getting our things together for our trips home. And the staff here is do nice – they took anything we had and washed them. And when my sneakers and gaiters came back, I asked if I needed to pay now, and the gentleman said yes. So I naturally asked how much and he replied – for tips only. And of course I tipped him well.
When we both finished we joined everyone at the pool for lunch and a beer. It was nice to eat a green salad after soup and pasta for days. Don’t get me wrong, the staff did an incredible job at feeding us on the mountain, but it was a nice change of pace.
And I so desperately wanted to talk to Jeanne and hear her voice. So I waited as long as I could and called her around 7 AM. It was so great to hear her voice. And many of you don’t know, but when I left San Diego on this incredible journey, my Dad was in the hospital. So naturally I asked how he was doing, and I was saddened to here he had passed away on Wednesday. And I know Jeanne, my Mom and my sisters wanted me to be safe and not worry as I climbed Kili, so they waited until I was down.
So I’m dedicating this blog to my father who I know wanted me to succeed in my quest to summit Kili. And I know that the Monarch butterfly that flew by us on our trek up to the mountain was a sign from him, he was looking over us, and I know that the strength I gained to make it up the summit was his strength, and I know he was looking over our group and making sure we all made it to the top. So – to my Dad, I miss you and love you and want to thank you for all you taught me and for helping me reach the summit. And I’m I know as I stood on top of Kili, I couldn’t have been any closer to you in heaven.
To my Dad…Robert James Anderson.
After Jeanne and I spoke, I rejoined the group. I wanted to call my Mom, but it was way too early. So I sat there with this heavy weight in my heart, but didn’t want to say anything to anyone as I didn’t want to bring the group down on this day to celebrate our accomplishment. We were talking about different things including our guides, when someone asked the question – who’s father died while they were on the mountain – it was Protas who lost his father a year ago while summiting. And then it just came out – I lost my Dad on Wednesday. There were only a few people around, but I guess I just needed to get it out.
I finally called my Mom when it wasn’t too early in San Diego. It was comforting to hear her voice. We had a long talk about my Dad and his last days. And as much as I wanted to be with her, I knew she was being well taken care of by both of my sisters. I so much appreciate them as they are there helping our Mom through this difficult time. After our talk I wrote my dedication to my Dad.
As I sat Aaron first came out to let me know dinner was ready, but I didn’t want to go at that point. So he says and put his arm around me and let me know how sorry he was. It’s hard to believe that we just met 3 weeks ago, but it feels like we have known each other for a long time. I so much appreciate him coming out in my time of sadness. And I know his father, Jim, would be proud of his son and the man he has become.
Shortly after, Hannah came out to also to give her support. She have me big comforting hug. We sat and talked for a while. Hannah is such a wonderful, caring and sensitive person. And one of the most touching things she said, was that she wanted to let me know that I had a big family here that was here for me. Hannah – thanks for being there.
I knew the group was finishing dinner, so I grabbed a beer as I knew my Dad would want me to celebrate our accomplishment. So, I joined the group and we raised our glasses to my Dad.
After dinner we piled into three cabs and met some of our porters at Club AQ. Although getting started was a chore as the driver with the van wanted more money than we were told. We finally got it straightened out – as I have learned you have to haggle for almost everything here.
It was a short ride to the club and when we got there Protas was waiting for us. We entered the club and we were all shocked that we had to pay $8 to get into an empty club that we were spending money in. So after paying we got into the elevator and up we went to the club. It was so funny when the elevator doors opened – it was like we went back in time to an 80’s club.
We had a really fun night dancing, drinking and talking to our guides. As the night got late, about 1/2 of the group decided to go back to the hotel. I think we piled 7 people into the cab! It was like a car full of clowns at the circus.
So tomorrow we drive to Nairobi and then fly back home.
15 January 2012
Today we were up at 7 AM, Aaron and I were pretty much packed, so we showered and headed out to breakfast. It was our last breakfast together in Africa. As we sat an ate breakfast, the others began to sit down and we heard about the rest of the night at Club AQ. It sound like everyone had a great time dancing and having fun at the club! Then at one point, AJ appeared. I was so happy and quite relieved to see her. (She did not go out with us the night before as she wasn’t feeling well and had not been seen since she went to bed.) Well, we wanted to get on the road, so we checked out and loaded the bus. The bus ride back to Nairobi started out with most everyone talking, but this soon ended as our group began to rest or sleep. I decided to put on my head phones, listen to music and get caught up on my blog. It also gave me some time to enjoy the scenery and soak up my last hours in Africa. As we headed to Nairobi – we made a couple of stops. We stopped at a roadside stand (along with several other busses to pick up souvenirs, a snack or a drink. We also made the obligatory stops at immigration to exit Tanzania and re-enter Kenya. I can’t tell you how happy I will be when I don’t have to fill out the same form again and again to enter and leave Kenya!
We finally arrived back in Nairobi. Our home base for the day would be the Terminal Hotel. And as we unloaded our items we got a great big warm welcome from Brian, Leila and Colleen. I was also happy to see Francis – one of our beloved Flying Kites Children. It was like a mini reunion in Nairobi. Once our we got settled, our first stop was the Nakumatt for water and snacks. Then we were off to the open air market to buy (and haggle for souvenirs). It is quite an interesting place, and as I understand it, we saw the mellow side of the market. The key things to remember when you go to the market – watch out for the brokers, never accept the first price, and walk away if it’s not the right price. I was fortunate to have Brian negotiate on my behalf as he had been there so many times and knew the owners and the “ins and outs.” So after an hour, we re-grouped and as we talked about our escapades, it seemed like everyone did well at the market and had fun. We then headed back to the “Term” (Terminal Hotel) to get ready for our farewell dinner.
Our dinner would be at a restaurant called Thai Chi in the Standard Hotel. This hotel is a big change from the Term – it had security as you walked in and door men dressed like the Plaza Hotel in New York. The restaurant was also very elegant and a great spot for our send off. Unfortunately, Aaron, Franny and I had the early flights, so we had to order first and leave early. During dinner Kathryn read a tribute to the group that Hannah and she had written. It was very special and made us all laugh and cry. Then Brain spoke about what we had all done and how much it meant to them and the children. He also read a letter from Francis – who wrote it on behalf of the children – it was a letter written from the heart that touched us all. It was an extraordinarily special evening, and evening which culminated a trip that has forever changed all of us. Unfortunately it had to end so fast for the three of us who had early flights. So we hugged and said our goodbyes with laughter and tears. But I know that this trip has connected us all and we will always be family – so goodbye may not be the right phrase – perhaps it should be “until we see each other again.”
So now I am off – and headed home to be with my wonderful wife Jeanne. For those reading this blog – I will continue to add pictures and update it over the next few days. And I am sure I may edit some of the entries as it was written on my iPhone – often in awkward positions or on bumpy bus/car rides.
Reflecting on My Journey to Africa
So as I have several hours to reflect on my journey and what I’ve learned about myself, I will leave you with these thoughts ….
It warms my heart that I know there is an exceptional group of people helping an extraordinary group of children in need – So my sincere thanks to Toby, Leila, Brian, Mike and Angie for all you have done and for all you are doing for these children in Njibini. And there is also an incredible group of volunteers who have given so much of themselves to be with and to help these children. To the volunteers – thank you for inspiring me to look at life differently and for challenging me to make helping others a priority in my life. And I am especially grateful that I got to spend time on Kili with Ana Ruth, Hannah and Kathryn. And finally there is a special group of children – whose smiles and laughter are infectious. Thank you for being you.
So I challenge all of us to wake up each and every day, and to ask yourself – how am I going to make the world a better place today and what can I do to help others who are less fortunate than myself. If we all take small steps, we can climb any mountain as our small group did when we conquered Kilimanjaro.
I feel that this journey has given me a renewed energy and purpose to be an advocate, supporter and Papa Bear to my Flying Kites family.
8 May 2012
First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who gave so generously to Flying Kites! With a new year, comes new challenges and our Flying Kites family is in need of sponsors for the children. Our director in Kenya, Brian, has set out to secure 100 new sponsors in 90 days. He is well short of the goal with 80 new sponsors. For as little as $12 per month, you too can make a difference in the lives of these children. Please consider being a child sponsor.
To learn more about sponsorships click on this link. http://www.flyingkitesglobal.org/sponsorships.shtml
To learn more about Flying Kites, please read Brian’s blog. http://twosailingships.wordpress.com/
And as an added incentive, for every 6 sponsorships, I will sponsor another child. Just send me an e-mail confirming your sponsorship to firstname.lastname@example.org