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Mount Meru

I wake up on Tuesday morning, 9th May, by the sound of rain. I am just thinking that Arusha National Park is about 60 km away, so hopefully, the rain is local and not there. We put our bags in the car, pick up the guide Jackson and chef Albert from Moshi town and start driving to Arusha National Park. On the way, the clouds get thicker and thicker. When at the park gate, everything is grayish and it is drizzling. The formalities at the gate take long as the guy at the counter wants more money than the published park fees. After showing him the rates on the internet, on their signboard outside of the counter and in the brochure, he decides to call his supervisor and concludes that we were right. A delay of one hour fortunately leads to better weather. We drive to the second gate from where our climb will start. There we have to wait again for the ranger. We have to sign a form about keeping the park clean etcetera etcetera. When it is 12:30pm, we finally start walking. We decide to take the Southern Circuit which is 10km and ascends from 1500 meter to 2500 meter. On the way, we meet black and white Colobus monkeys, giraffes, warthogs and birds. After about two hours we have lunch at the Arch Fig tree. Another hour later, we find waterfalls where we have a short rest. After another hour, we reach the floor of Mount Meru Crater where it is very foggy and it seems rain may come soon. We decide to put on our rain clothes, also against the cold wind. In the crater, we can clearly see the base of the ash cone, but the top is in the clouds. Let alone the top of Mount Meru itself. Maybe it is better that we can’t see it, not to get demoralized. Another half an hour later, we reach Miriakamba Hut at 2500 meter. I am surprised to find nice wooden sheds with rooms with beds with comfy mattresses, outside we find flushing toilets and running water and there is a nice and cozy dining room. We enjoy our dinner consisting of an avocado salad, fish filet and baked potatoes. After dinner, we go to our room. It is cold, but when we find out sleeping bags we quickly warm up.

The next morning I wake up before the wakeup call and walk to the toilet. On the way, my eye catches a great view of Mount Kilimanjaro floating on the clouds and sun behind it. I run back to the room to get my camera and take pictures. Breakfast calls. First porridge, especially made for the mountain. Then pancakes, eggs, sausages and bread. After breakfast, we start walking again. A small path winding up the crater wall leads us through the rainforest to a picnic place called ngongo wa tembo (elephants back). We are in the clouds, so we do not see anything. We enjoy some snacks and continue walking and after ten minutes, the sky clears to intense blue. In the East, Mount Kilimanjaro is clearly visible with its glaciers. We enter another zone of moorland. The bushes here are all burned black and we understand this is because of an uncontrolled bushfire last year caused by beekeepers. Around noon, we arrive at Saddle Hut at 3500 meter. I feel a little headache. We have our lunch consisting of spaghetti with tomato sauce. We rest a bit and around three we have to climb Little Meru for acclimatization. After one hour, we reach the peak at 3820 meter. From here, we have a great view on Mount Meru and the path to the peak (it seems like a long steep way), the top of the ash cone, Saddle Hut and on Mount Kilimanjaro. We stay here for a while as it is sunny and good for acclimatization. My headache is over. In half an hour, we walk back to the hut where we get our dinner of rice and tomato sauce. Then we quickly go to bed at 7:30pm as will have to wake up at midnight.

We are awake before midnight and start preparing for the final ascent. After a last toilet visit and tea with biscuits, we start walking slowly. Firstly, it is a winding path for about 15 minutes. Then we start zigzagging the first hill towards Rhino Point at 3800 meter. We have a short break there while we start feeling the cold wind. We don’t see much as the moon is only one quarter. After the break we continue down a bit and suddenly we have to climb down along a rocky wall with some small chains to prevent us from falling down. It shocks me a bit as I did not expect this. After this, we walk a bit more down and come to another rocky wall where we have to climb up again. Here there are no chains. I’m scared as I have no idea how deep the valley below us is. I am not sure if I want to continue as climbing along this wall scares me, I am tired and I feel nauseated. After some pep talk of my father, Ben and Jackson, I reset myself and continue. But only for a short while as after the rocky wall, we start ascending on a narrow path consisting of volcanic scree which makes me to slide down a bit after each step. It is tough, very tough. I feel my energy goes down, but I cannot eat because of nausea. I’m nearly giving up until my father wraps an arm around me and pushes me to continue. Also, Ben starts to motivate me that giving up will be the worst thing to do at this stage. We continue with several of such stops with pep talks and with a sanitary stop on the way. I have to say, going to the bathroom behind a rock with my butt in the wind and -7 degrees at an altitude of about 4000 meter is not the most comfortable thing, but it is certainly special. After another pep talk stop in which Ben tells me to continue to see what is behind that next rock up there, I lift myself up as I see in the sky in the East starts to lighten up. Jackson carries my bag which relieves me a bit. When passing that rock up there, I suddenly see the best view of Mount Kilimanjaro ever. It is just its silhouette completely black but with a yellowish to reddish, purple to black sky behind it…really, the best boost I needed at that time. I tell the others ‘Okay, let’s go for it’ and they start laughing. I can see the peak, but I am not sure how far it is. After passing another couple of rocky walls but at least with some path, we meet with the other half of the group that already went to the peak as they continued during my pep talk stops. They tell me that after the next corner, I will be able to see the flag on the peak. And it is true, but it still looks far. Starting our last ascent here, it seems like the flag does not get any closer with each step I take. But suddenly, I can see, only a few meters are left and the ranger tells me ‘only two more minutes’. More or less, I start running and following my father, I reach Socialist Peak at 4566 meter and Ben follows after me. Wao…I made it!!! We take many pictures and  sign the visitor’s book. This is such a fantastic feeling, but I am almost too tired to look happy. Maybe also because I know we will have to go back all the way. And after about half an hour, it is time to start our descent. Soon, my legs start hurting and shaking. Although Jackson the guide carries my bag, everything starts paining and we still have a long time to go. Now that we can see how far it is, it is quite demoralizing. My father goes quicker and walks ahead of us with one of the porters. There are great views on the way, but it is difficult to enjoy because of the strenuous walk. At the rocky walls, I see the valley was not that deep and not that steep. The volcanic scree is even more difficult to walk on when going down, being tired and not being able to control my muscles. But we have to continue. After about five hours, we reach Saddle Hut where we have about one hour to pack, to take our breakfast and lunch and to rest. Breakfast and lunch are both on the table consisting of fried eggs, sausages, pancakes, bread, sweet potatoes, chips and boiled eggs. But I get energy and around 1:30 we start walking down again. First, I feel I am very well able to do this last part, but soon my legs are so tired that every step is too much. I don’t enjoy anymore and with tears in my eyes I continue and finally we reach the gate around 6:30pm. I’m broken completely but still full with adrenaline. We receive our certificates from the park. We give the porters, guide and ranger their well-deserved tips and get in the car back to Moshi. Pictures can be found here!

Mount Meru was the toughest thing I ever did, but I certainly wouldn’t have liked to miss it. The views are great. The volcanic appearance of the mountain is wonderful. The best of all is the kick you get when reaching the peak. Moreover, the experience to climb with my father and my husband was great too. I will never do Meru again, but I am looking forward to do Mount Kilimanjaro and reach Uhuru Peak also!

Donating for the Ujumbe project is still possible. More details can be found here.

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Preparation for Mount Meru

Ben and I will climb Mount Meru in Arusha National Park after two weeks. Six years ago I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and I wish to do that again. But I thought let’s first do Meru, the little sister of Mount Kilimanjaro. With the climb, we are raising funds for the Ujumbe Project.

Mount Meru

Mount Meru is the little sister of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is situated in Arusha NP and about 60 km west of Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain is not as high with 4562 meter. It is a dormant volcano with its latest small eruption in 1910. The last big eruption blew away the Eastern wall of the mountain giving it its characteristic look. Climbing is generally considered a bit more strenuous than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, because it is much steeper. However, high up the mountain, we will be rewarded with stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro during sunrise…they say…the steepness scares me a bit. Another handicap is that it will be still be rainy season, which may cause ice and snow on top. But… I am looking forward to the kick after reaching socialist peak.

Preparation

What is a good preparation for climbing such a mountain if you are not an experienced mountain climber? Well…they say it is walking, walking and walking and in addition running, running and running. I did not do much walking in the past months except some stairs at work, but I have been running for about three times a week since Christmas. I hope it is enough. I remember that it worked well for Kilimanjaro and this time I run even longer distances. It must be good. But I also remember the downwards paths at Kilimanjaro. They were the toughest part of the trip actually. And I did not really exercise for that besides running down the road through some coffee plantations. Besides the exercise, preparation considering gears is also necessary. Thinking of thermal clothes, buff, camel bags, good shoes, water and windproof clothes, walking sticks, sleeping bags and others. Luckily, porters will join us to carry my stuff which creates employment.

Fundraise for the Ujumbe Project

By climbing the mountain, we will raise funds for the Ujumbe Project. This project will send SMS messages (ujumbe=message) to educate pregnant women about healthy lifestyle and importance of clinic visits. The mortality rate among pregnant women and baby’s still very high and we hope by education to improve the lifestyle of pregnant women and increase the number of clinic visits. If you would like to support us you can find more information about the project and information where to donate can be found here. Use project number 2016.0626 to identify your donation. You can also like our facebookpage.

Thanks, also on behalf of the women and baby’s of Mdawi!!!

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Inspection Southern Tanzania

Southern Tanzania! A great destination for safaris. If you come to Tanzania for the first time, of course you have to see the Serengeti (in the north). It can easily be combined with the Ngorongoro Crater and the other parks like Tarangire, Arusha and Manyara. However, in the south of Tanzania, you can also find fantastic parks. The advantage there is that the parks are not that much busy. As we get more and more requests from customers for the south, we find it important that we know the area well including lodges. I had already been to the Selous but that was seven years ago. And Selous is not the only thing there is to see. We decided to go for an inspection Trip to the south. We flew to Dar es Salaam with Fastjet to visit a number of national parks and the Selous from there. Fastjet is a relatively new budget airline. Although it offers cheap flights, it is fine.

From Dar es Salaam, we first drove to Mikumi National Park. We stayed there in Mikumi Wildlife Camp. The camp is located near the entrance of the park. From both the accommodation, as from the dining terrace, you have a beautiful on the savannah of light of the plains of Mikumi. The name says it all, because the white light makes the image breathtaking. Even more because of the elephants and other wild animals coming to drink at the waterholes ahead of the terrace. The rooms of the camp fit well with the park, as they are decorated with lots of white and light wood tones. We did a game drive in the park of half a day in which we have seen a lot of wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, impala, hippos, crocodiles, numerous water birds and other wildlife with a background of light colored savannah surrounded by hills. We really enjoyed it and Mikumi is really worth visiting. Photos are available at: https://www.facebook.com/CaracalSafarisTanzania/photos/pcb.969082089775697/969070053110234/?type=1&theater

From Mikumi we made ​​a day trip to the Udzungwa Mountains. This is a national park which is very green and where several waterfalls can be visited. You can do treks ranging from several hours to several days. We opted for a trip of several hours as we were with our two-year-old daughter. She sat on the back with Bernard. We strolled through the green forest to Sanje Falls, a 170-meter high waterfall. We walked with a licensed guide who could tell us about the local plants. Although it was raining, it was a nice trip. The waterfalls are beautiful and you can swim underneath the falls. After this walk of several hours, we paid a visit to Hondo hondo camp. This camp is located in the greens and around the camp, many different species of monkeys are playing such as vervet monkeys, baboons and Colobus monkeys. The camp has budget bandas (nice bandas that really look like African huts) and more luxurious tents with a bathroom. Udzungwa is good to visit for a change of all game drives. It is green and very fresh. Photos at: https://www.facebook.com/CaracalSafarisTanzania/photos/pcb.969880959695810/969874176363155/?type=1&theater

After visiting these two national parks, it was time to go back to the Selous. I remember that I loved it in 2007, but still Serengeti remained my favorite because of the vast plains. That idea has somehow changed now. The Selous was again stunningly beautiful this time. The park has a huge variety of landscapes and wildlife concentration is very high. We have been there three days, and I really enjoyed everything. We have seen so much. The nature varies from swamps to lakes with palm trees, shrub savannah to rainforests and grass savannah to desert. You will find an abundance of giraffe, yellow baboons, crocodiles and impala. Furthermore, there are many elephants, hippos, wildebeest and zebras. We have also seen lions. Rare to be seen are the kudu and eland, but we have seen them. In addition to the game drives, we also did a boat safari on the Rufiji River (at sunset) and a walking safari in the morning. During the boat safari we especially enjoyed beautiful birds on the riverbanks and a beautiful sunset. During the walking safari, I especially learned about tracks and droppings of animals and of different trees that grow there. Besides the Serengeti, Selous is really a must-see in Tanzania. We stayed at Selous River Camp. A beautiful camp on the banks of the Rufiji River with mud huts (but luxurious). They also have tents for hire and you can camp itself. A very nice camp with owners who do everything to go to please your needs. Photos at: https://www.facebook.com/CaracalSafarisTanzania/photos/pcb.970697426280830/970693459614560/?type=1&theater

After these days in the wild, we finished at a beautiful location on the beach south of Dar es Salaam. We had two days at the Lighthouse Beach lodge. A beautiful lodge with various accommodations on the beautiful Kidagaa Beach. This is a nice end after a safari in Tanzania. Photos at: https://www.facebook.com/CaracalSafarisTanzania/photos/pcb.968695519814354/968694726481100/?type=1&theater

I am sad that this trip is already over. Although it was a busy trip with watching as many parks and lodges in a short time, it was great to finally see Southern Tanzania. I highly recommend it in combination with the north or by itself if you already have been in the north. Because I keep on saying, when you come to Tanzania for the first time, you cannot skip the Serengeti. But actually, the same applies to the Selous.

 

Marion

Marion’s report of climbing Kilimanjaro

Last week Real Madrid was in Tanzania. In addition to a football match against the national team, they also climbed part of Kilimanjaro. Currently, we also get many requests for the climb and I thought about my own climbing four years ago which was not so well organized by the tour operator where I booked. I was living in the Netherlands and wanted the cheapest of the cheapest. On my old blog, I found the report of the climb. See here: “Here we are after a great experience at high altitude. Last Tuesday our trip began, we were retrieved by Yzak and porters at nine with a minivan. On to Machame Gate at 1800m. After all the formalities, (it took an hour, which is not too bad) we started walking to Machame Hut. The tour went through the rainforest, so it was raining. On the way, we saw monkeys. We were constantly overtaken by running porters with huge luggage bags on their heads. Fortunately, they are now only allowed to carry 20 kg, which used to be different. After five hours of walking, we arrived at Machame Camp (3000). The tents were ready, including the five-star dinner room. A large tent where we always ate and porters slept at night. At breakfast, there was always a certain smell in the dinner room. At this camp, it was not so cold. We had to pour our needs in a latrine, but we got quickly used to that. Next morning, Wednesday, we left for Shira Camp. The first part of the route ran over rocky terrain with low vegetation. We could see the lunch point all the time, but it took quite a long time before we were there. Then it was another hour to Shira Camp (3900 m). Here, Grieta had a big headache and felt nauseated. In addition, she could not eat. The others had little headache. Therefore, it was as exciting whether Grieta would continue. The next day fortunately, she felt better and we went with new courage on the way to Lava Tower (4600). The route to this rock is built in for acclimatization. Well, we could see the importance. It was tough, very tough, and when we got there Derk, Jan and Marion were not feeling well. We had no desire to eat lunch. We could not sit too long because then we fell asleep. After lunch without food intake, we descended back down to 3950 meters. This was Barranco Camp. Here it was very foggy and cold. The next morning the fog was gone and we saw Barranco Wall. Wow! We had to go up. The wall is 300 meters high and here we really had to scramble. Eventually it was all right. Even Jan has overcome his fear of heights here. Once up there, we walked to Karanga Camp (3950) for two hours. Overall, this day was not that tough. We had lunch on the campsite and were able to relax all afternoon. The next day, Saturday, we left for the last camp, Barafu Hut (4700). This trip took about four hours. The last part we still had quite a climb. The tents were completely hidden between the rocks. We were here at half past two and got lunch immediately. We then rested because it was, after all, the day before the summit night (the stage to the top). At five o’clock we got dinner (literally dinner: because it was always a three course meal consisting of soup, potatoes / pasta / rice with sauce and the first days also meat, and finally fresh tropical fruits and coffee / tea). Then we made everything ready for the summit night (!!! many clothes as it could be -16) and at seven o’clock we went to sleep (this was not unique). At half past eleven at night, we were woken up with a cup of tea (which was every morning like that) and biscuits. We dressed and off we went. With a head light! The moon was full and there was a lot of wind. The first part consisted of a climb of 100 meters. Then there was a flat part (false flat) where the wind began to stir. We saw the entire route in front of us as the headlights of other groups were visible, which was not motivating. After two hours Grieta was done. She did not want to climb for more hours. She therefore went back with Julius (assistant guide). Jan, Derk and Marion continued with Yzak. The trip went zigzagging up between the boulders over a path of ash. We constantly slipped back a bit. Drinking from the camel bag with hose while walking was almost impossible to do. After another two hours, Derk was so tired that he did not want to continue (5200 meters). Since there was only one guide with us, we all decided to go back. It soon became clear that Derk had altitude sickness. He fell down constantly and could not do anything anymore. Yzak dragged him down. Julius came back from the camp where he had left Grieta and together with Yzak dragged Derk back to the camp. We arrived there at half past seven. Gradually, Derk awoke and at the end he got back to his famous speeches, so it seemed things were going to be okay. After an hour of sleep and breakfast, he was okay. At half past ten, we went down to the last camp of the trip (3000 m). Sixteen km down in four hours. The camp was not really the place to be. It was very muddy. During lunch, Yzak came with the ability to go down to the exit of Kilimanjaro National Park so we could go to a hotel in Moshi. That meant that we had to go down another 14 km while Grieta and Marion already had blue toenails. However, the hot shower was calling! Therefore, we decided to leave the mud and went on the way. That was a wrong choice. Yzak had said that it was not so steep, but actually, it was 14 km walking down the stairs. At last, we did not know in front whether we were alive behind. However, we made ​​it. Our shoes were cleaned and we paid gratuities to guides, porters, cook and waiter and left with a mini bus to Moshi. Therefore, it was done. A relief and a completely new experience! It was awesome. Moreover, most importantly, through unofficial channels, we have understood that the amount required for the doctor’s house has been raised!!! ”

This was my report of Kilimanjaro. We then chose a cheap trip, which was wrong. The fact that there were not enough guides during the summit-night meant that we have not reached the summit. Despite that, it was a great experience. The magnificent views of Mount Meru and the hills and valleys on the Kilimanjaro itself are breathtaking. You are in a different world for days and are busy much with your own. In addition, there is of course the group with whom you can share everything. With this experience, I now know what is important when organizing a climb for our clients. Health and safety are paramount. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a piece of cake and constant monitoring of symptoms of altitude sickness is vital. For me, this ascent led to a complete turnaround in my life, because half a year later I started my life in Tanzania. In any case, the ascent of Kilimanjaro is an experience for life.

 

Marion

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Some of our tours

The months of July till September are months filled safaris. Since we provide tailor-made trips, everyone has their own program and itinerary. Through the experience of previous travelers, I keep continuing finding it easier and more fun to jump in the needs of our customers.

A few examples of our groups these months:

1. A young Dutch couple will do a safari of ten days in tents on campings .They go to Arusha National Park, Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Tarangire national park. They will also do a cultural tour in Mto wa Mbu, including a visit to the Masai, and they go to lake Natron to view the beautiful volcanic landscape there. A cook is with them every day to prepare their meals. After their safari they go by bus and boat to Zanzibar for a week to rest on the beach of Jambiani Beach at Casa del Mar.

2. Two middle-aged ladies from the U.S. will do a six days safari and stay in lodges. They are visiting family in Dar es Salaam and fly to Kilimanjaro for their safari. They go to Tarangire National Park first for two days and will stay there in Maramboi Tented Camp. In addition, they go to Serengeti national park where they are staying in Serengeti Kati Kati Tented Camp and then to the Ngorongoro Crater where they will stay at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge.

3. Two ladies from Belgium and the Netherlands will go safari for seven days after first having week or so in Kenya with our partner there, See Africa Expeditions. They go with a more luxurious big canvas tent with stretchers. We will pick them up at the border and they go to Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. They will also end their holidays on Jambiani Beach in Zanzibar after they have flown there. They will stay there in Mbuyuni Beach Village.

4. Two young students from Germany will go for two days on safari in Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater and will stay at Fanaka Lodge in Mto wa Mbu. They will be in Tanzania for volunteer / internship and have a limited budget, but still would like to go on safari.

5. A family from the Netherlands with two children aged ten years and younger will go on a four days safari, firstly to Lake Eyasi to see the Datoga and Hadzabe tribes. Then they will drive to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. They will also go camping. They have arranged the rest of their journey in Tanzania themselves, but their beach holiday will be on the mainland in Tanga, probably in Peponi Beach Resort.

This was just a small sample of the safaris that we have this summer. It’s fun to work with different groups such as couples, families, young and old, to make an appropriate program for each. The combination of different parks gives the chance to see a large variety of wildlife. The variety of culture makes the trip even richer. In addition, a seal on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar and the Swahili coast on the mainland is a must. I wish I could go on safari myself :-D.

Marion

Sometimes we find some spare time to do recreational activities in between our work for Caracal Tours and Safaris. These past weeks we had some relatives coming over and Bernard went with them on safari for five days to Lake Manyara NP, Serengeti NP and Ngorongoro Crater, but also did some daytrips around Moshi. Although it is rainy season, safaris and daytrips are wonderful at this time. Moshi is a great town to stay before and after safari or climbing Kilimanjaro. It has a variety of hotels in all price-ranges and several good places for food. In addition, the area around Moshi is ideal for daytrips. You can visit Marangu to see waterfalls, the local market, the chagga museum or just wander around through the banana plantations. Or there is Lake Challa, a crater lake with views over the plains of Tsavo National Park in Kenya with a change of encountering elephants, leopards or a variety of snakes. Another trip is to visit local coffee farms on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro where a local guide will explain the whole process of coffee making from planting the seed up to your cup of coffee. While my relatives did many of those trips, either with Bernard or with other guides, this weekend we found some time to enjoy our life in Moshi. Not that we are normally not enjoying, but this was one of the weekends which was good due to good company, nice weather and good food. On Saturday morning, I went with a Dutch friend of mine, who also lives in Moshi, to the Kilimanjaro Native Coffee Union Care. A great hangout where you can enjoy good coffee (and tea), but also wonderful cakes and pastries. Also, they have good lunch meals such as sandwiches, pizzas and salads. I enjoyed a double cappuccino with cheesecake! After this I went home to pick up our daughter and we went to Impala Hotel for a swim. There are many places in Moshi where you can go for swimming which is quite relaxing when the temperatures are high. We went to Impala Hotel because my relatives are staying there. The hotel is build in colonial style and small-scale with a nice garden with swimming pool. After swimming, we had an Indian style dinner which was delicious. On Sunday, we had decided to take my relatives to the TPC-club, a club that is part of the TPC sugar plantations. The TPC sugar plantations are the biggest in Tanzania and you will see that because from Moshi you drive about 15km through the sugarcane-fields. The plantations are well kept and in  between there are villages. At the end of the plantations you find the factory with again a village. The plantation has literally everything from a post office to a hospital and there is even an airstrip. Also, there is the TPC club where you can easily enjoy a whole day swimming, playing golf, enjoying lovely food and just wandering around. We just went for lunch, but it was great. Sitting at nice picnic-tables under the trees having a classic vegetable pizza, Lolkisale farm lamb leg steaks with garlic & rosemary sauce, Pork loin chops with a pepper & cider sauce or Tagliatelle with prawns in a garlic cream sauce with good wine. Unfortunately, my favourite dessert, chocolate and cinnamon wontons, was finished. After, the lunch we drove back to Moshi with great views on Mount Kilimanjaro. This was definitely a great weekend made possible by the great atmospheres of Moshi town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

The smell of Africa

A mix of flowers , charcoal , sweat , sand , food and a touch of kerosene, in the rainy season mixed with the warm scent of fresh rain. That’s the smell of Africa. Every time I land at Kilimanjaro Airport after a flight of more than eight hours , and the doors at the back of the plane open, I quickly grab my luggage and run to the door. After the first step on the moving stairs , I always stop to breathe the smell of Africa. It sounds cliché , but the smell is so unique and special that you immediately know you’re in Africa . Last Sunday, I also came back in Kilimanjaro after a three-week trip to the Netherlands. I thought the rainy season had already started before I went to the Netherlands , but after we had left the plane, it started to drizzle a little . However, when we walked from the arrival hall to the car , it rained a bit more . And once we were in the car , it came pouring out of the blue. Rivers swirled across the road and I remembered again: This is the rainy season . During the day, there is a lovely weather. The sun is shining and it’s pretty cool. Almost similar to the Netherlands as there it was far too hot for this time of year. The next day when I went to work, I saw the effect of the rain. The maize that had a height of 30cm three weeks ago was suddenly two meters high. This shows clearly how fertile the soil is around Kilimanjaro, but also how much the rains are needed here . Unfortunately, Kilimanjaro has not yet shown up these days . Although the weather is sunny during the day, the mountain hides in dark gray rain clouds. We all have that thing that you are immediately swallowed by the daily life and work after such a trip. So, I was immediately used to everything here . But the occasional smells make you realize that Africa is different from Europe. They are so intense. Sometimes you suddenly catch the scent of sweet flowers or fried chicken or a natural body odor, but it is never distracting. I advise anyone who sets foot on African soil for the first time or for the umpteenth time, after a few days or a few years, first start to breath in and enjoy the smell of Africa.

The rains

While here, the rains have already come, inquiries for safaris for the coming summer are coming in. It is wonderful to be working on all those inquiries while it is dark outside and raining a lot. By now I’m almost able to see it coming. Not like the Tanzanians, because it seems like they literally smell the rain when it’s on the way. Seriously! I’ve had instances where they said tomorrow or next week it will rain and then it really happened. But now I notice that even I know it will rain soon when a certain pressing heat is present. Maybe it’s more or less hoping instead of knowing. The past two weeks it rained occasionally but considerably. It looks a bit like those late-summer rainstorms, only louder. Often it is already rumbling around Kilimanjaro and suddenly the winds start to blow, it gets really dark and then you see only water. Inside it looks like someone suddenly constructed a waterfall from the roof of the building. But at such times it is a lovely place here. I really enjoy the these natural occurences outside while I ‘m working inside. Writing nice personal safari proposals is very satisfactory at such moments. People more and more want a personal proposal and it is very nice to work with the customer to end up with a nice trip. Bernard is now on safari and in the middle of the migration of wildebeest in the Serengeti. He is there with a family for five days in Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. When I am so busy with the proposals and he is there, we communicate a lot to discuss how to tackle certain routes and wishes. Fortunately, we have all the modern media to do that in an efficient manner here. He even told me that over there there is no rain at all. And he gives a daily update on what they have seen. Yesterday, for example, they had a whole day in the Serengeti. Since the lodge where they’re staying is situated in the area where the migration now is, they have seen a lot of wildebeest. In addition, tree climbing lions, leopards and many elephants. I would love to be there more often myself. Therefore, it is so much fun to make itineraries for our customers. In that way, I feel like being on safari a bit. By the way, today it is not rainging. The sun is shining very bright and it is very hot. Maybe tomorrow it will rain? That means I have to go on dirt paths to my other work. No problem, but I still find it interesting that my Tanzanian colleagues always come to work with clean shoes while I can´t get the thick mud placards out of my shoes. Maybe I’ll learn it someday. At least, I have already learned so much new things here in the 3.5 years that I ‘m here now .

Lodging with local people

The coming week a group of our customers, after their safari, will be staying at a guesthouse in a local people’s home in a village on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro . The village is called Mdawi and is situated about 12 km from Moshi . The guesthouse has been built with donor funds from the Children of Kilimanjaro Foundation ( www.childrenofkilimanjaro.nl ) on the grounds of one of the pastors in the village, Pastor Lekey . There are two bedrooms , a living room and a bathroom with toilet and hot shower . If you are staying in the guesthouse, you can see how the Chagga (the largest tribe in the Kilimanjaro Region ) are living. In the village, you can see that especially the older residents still live in mud huts and live subsistently from their own shamba ( plot of land ) where they grow maize and bananas . The green of the banana trees and other vegetation forms a nice contrast with the red soil of the roads and open spaces . Also, there are beautiful views from the village on Mount Kilimanjaro, the Masai steppe down and on Moshi . The inhabitants of Mdawi will receive you with open arms .

The first time I came in Tanzania in 2006, I spent the first two weeks in Mdawi . Living there made a huge impression on me . The hospitality of the people, the nature, local food , many children , going to church on Sunday and of course poverty . And yet everyone has a big smile on his face . I then volunteered in the village in one of the projects of the Children of Kilimanjaro Foundation. Since that time, I have been involved in Mdawi and every time I go there it feels like coming home. In the village there are many projects, especially for the children to improve their lives. Several donors from different countries have contributed to that . There is a dispensary, a tailoring school , a staff house for the doctor, a nursery school , several other schools and assistance to the local churches. Pastor Lekey has played a major role in all these projects .

Last week was one of the projects I ‘ve worked closed after several years. It was a special event. Water was a problem since many years in Mdawi . There was a water pipe built by the government, but not everyone had water, especially in the lower areas of the village . Since 2008, people have worked to improve the system and since the end of 2013 , finally everyone has water . This is made ​​possible by the Foundation for Children of Kilimanjaro and the Protestant Churches of Renkum / Heelsum . They donated money to improve the water system. On their behalf, I attended a ceremony of thanks with my mother. There were many speeches by the village leaders , the pastors of the churches , water users, women and the local water committee . Donors were thanked through us. There was also a lot of singing . It was very special and especially nice to see how happy the villagers were that there was water now . The water project is fully supported by the people , and they have made it possible with each other that everyone has water now . A great achievement .

I really like to bring to our customers to Mdawi. A stay at the guesthouse with Pastor Lekey is an experience in itself where you can enjoy local culture mixed with nature . Karibu sana ( welcome )!