Thursday, March 06, 2008

Day 9 - Time for Home!

Monday 15th October
Despite the luxurious comfort afforded us, it was a disturbed nights sleep and an early rise of 6:30am at which point I decided to enjoy the final sunrise of my African adventure. I wandered through the complex which looked even more fabulous in the light I chanced upon the serene pool and inspired changed for a dip – very welcome, followed by coffee on the terrace. A breakfast of sausages and fruit followed then a lazy morning was spent around the retreat having bid farewell to several more travellers – continuing their trip on to the Serengeti and a few days of game viewing.
Eventually the time came for us to begin the long journey home. We stopped on the outskirts of Arusha town for lunch at a market where yet more purchases were made before making our way to the haven of the Jambo coffee shop in the city centre. After a quick drink and some fun with the hawkers, we set off for the airport at Kilimanjaro, with views of the mountain appearing more above the clouds on our approach.

Mt Kilimanjaro

We checked in and awaited our departure (delayed) before finally boarding and setting off for Nairobi followed by our onward overnight flight to London. Our trip was coming to an end and as we said our farewells at Heathrow we made plans for our reunion in the not to distant future.

Thankyou again for your support
Andrew Heinrich
November 2007

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Journal Day 8 - The Penultimate Day

Sunday 14th October
A slightly later start was tempered by the need to pack our bags and prepare for our drive to the Ngorongoro Crater and our reward of a days game viewing in one of the wonders of the world.
Several people took the opportunity to lighten their load by donating all manner of equipment (poles/ rucksacks/ mosquito nets/ first aid kits/ rehydration salts/ karri-mats) to our crew, I myself offering my spare trek t-shirt and my battered Sigg water bottle. After breakfast we said our final goodbyes and set off in our comfortable 4x4 jeeps on the 3-hour journey to the crater gate.
We stopped on the way in the town of Kerata for fuel and supplies and I took the opportunity to purchase a healthy bunch of red bananas (25 in all) for the princely sum of $5. These I distributed about the group much to everyone’s appreciation.
We continued on our way stopping briefly at the viewpoint above Lake Manyara before proceeding to the entrance to the crater where we picked up our permits and made our way into the park. Our progress was checked rather severely due to the rather poorly timed roadworks that were taking place reducing the only entry route to the crater rim to a single carriageway. On top of this was the seeming reluctance of anyone to aid the passing of a large work truck which resulted in a massive tailback and a standoff between sullen workers and irate tour guides. Eventually Zyggy took matters into his own hands and began showing the workmen exactly what they should be doing (much to their amusement) and the congestion was cleared allowing us to continue to the descent road some 10km further on. One final stop to have our papers checked brought an influx of Maasai hawkers to the vehicle – male and very persistent, but eventually we set off and began the drive down into the crater.
We spent several hours driving around the ‘natural amphitheatre’ spying the usual plains animals we had seen all trip (with the exception of giraffe – no food) and with the added bonus of buffalo, hyena, flamingo, warthog, hippos, elephant, ostrich and a lion with her 2 cubs feeding on a zebra kill. We also spied the backside of a rhino…apparently and were attacked by monkeys at the picnic stop who attempted all manner of tricks to get hold of our sandwiches including jumping onto the front seat of the 4x4 and opening Cheryl’s lunchbox. As the heavens opened we began our route back out of the crater stopping briefly where we seemingly got a little too close to an oncoming elephant for our drivers liking and had to hurry at some speed to our vehicle.!

Our journey back to our accommodation for the night was broken by a shopping stop before darkness descended and we eventually rolled up at what turned out to be the most wonderful of Maasai lodges – a real luxury resort in the middle of the African plain.
We learnt later that the complex (approximately 26 individual huts set into the hillside with restaurant, bar and swimming pool) was the vision of a Texan who, along with a local from Arusha had invested in the local village and employed the majority of the staff from the area to provide a splendid retreat and a perfect final nights rest for the weary travellers. The first shower and shave for 5 days (for me at least) was greeted with overwhelming joy and a 4 course meal of soup, salad, meat and dessert with a splendid bottle of wine was equally welcome. As we sat by the pool finishing our drinks we reflected on our journey, before all turning in to some of the most comfortable of beds ever known.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Trek Report - Day 7 (nearly done!)

Saturday 13th October
Our final early rise for our last days trekking and a cloudy chill greeted us as we prepared our day sacks and consumed our breakfast of sausages and cereal. We left on time and proceeded through the village of Gelai where we were greeted by many of the locals up early getting ready for the market. We stopped on the outskirts of the village and took our group photo overlooking the plains below and our days walk laid out behind us. Our progress was good, the kilometres being eaten up before the heat of the day had a chance to set it. We followed hourly stops for water and rest as we passed antelope and giraffe looking for what shade there was in the vast exposed lava plains. The imposing and smouldering Mt Lengai grew closer in our periphery as we began the final climb of our trek towards the Sunken crater. We lunched under shade and were immediately surrounded by Maasai women and children seemingly appearing out of the dust, we provided them with any leftover food we could muster and set on our way for the (apparently) final 4km of our trek.
In effect we had less than 2km to walk and as one by one we arrived at the rim of the crater we were each greeted by an applauding support team and a magnificent view over the crater itself.

Finished! – At the edge of the sunken crater

The final climbs had taken their toll on some – Mike in particular feeling the strain but managing to run across the finishing line after encouragement from all of those around him. Our intrepid ActionAid rep Katherine also suffered with blisters and the like but was able to cover the final 100m on foot after needing the use of the support vehicle – much to her disgust.
And so, we were finished. After all the preparation and training we had mearly a few moments of congratulations at the crater before we boarded our vehicles and set off for our final camp at the village of Engaruka. As we came closer to the village we could see the evidence of the difference water makes in regions such as this. Lush green plantations of bananas and mangoes greeted us and the size of the village itself took us all by surprise. We drove into camp and straight into a welcome (if slightly warm) bottle of beer and sat around reflecting on our own personal achievements while watching vervet monkeys and kingfishers playing in the branches above.
Eventually people found the will and energy to attempt some form of washing and dressing for our final camp dinner and subsequent cabaret. Food was followed by the presentation of awards by Cheryl our expedition leader (I myself taking the prize for best overall trekker/camper – by virtue of the fact I enjoyed the camping and apparently knew what I was doing). We then paid a final thanks to our generous and wonderful crew of guides/doctor/drivers/maintenance/cooks etc and settled around the fire for the evening’s entertainment. This mainly consisted of a number of songs and poetry from a small number of the group, I put in an appearance with the RSC (Reduced Safari Company) and a performance of the weeks experiences in a little over 3 minutes, in the dark.
The group gradually drifted to bed leaving the usual suspects to discuss the matters of the day over the final drinks (the bar having run dry) before turning in ourselves.