Mt Kilimanjaro

Taken for a ride

The driver in the stocking cap chose his route carefully. The sedan was not built for this kind of terrain. Time and time again we felt the thud of the frame bottoming out. The driver stopped, started, reversed course, chose a new tack and continued up the so-called street.

The headlights captured mounds gravel, garbage, and building materials. Their eerie shapes were revealed for just a moment before slipping back into the dusk. I began to think that we we not on a road at all but in a construction zone.

This is how Jimmy Hoffa felt on that day in 1975 when they took him for a ride.

Areas of Arusha are quite poor and undeveloped. This is an market area known as Nagaratoni. It was a short walk from our destination. Image from    here    (accessed September 25, 2019).

Areas of Arusha are quite poor and undeveloped. This is an market area known as Nagaratoni. It was a short walk from our destination. Image from here (accessed September 25, 2019).

No one but Mr Sam (and Mr Safe, if there ever was such a person on the other end of the phone), knew our whereabouts (see our previous post here). The dangers of assault, kidnapping, corruption and other violent crimes are very real in Arusha. Tourists are ripe targets. And of course I was carrying tip-money from two months of work in Israel-Palestine. Stink!

I reached for Vicki’s hand. We squeezed. Hearts fluttered.

The morning light revealed our true situation. Jungle had stolen the shanties on our right and buried them under a rotting mat of vegetation. The street was now a track of mud. It was near its end. The same was undoubtedly true for us.

A high concrete wall running to our left was punctuated by a black steel gate. We pulled up to it and stopped. Our driver, who had yet to speak, honked his horn. The gate began to open. I thanked the good Lord for my life and prepared to meet the men with guns who were undoubtedly waiting on the other side.

Instead it was a little man in a uniform. He had a flashlight in his hand.

We pulled into the compound known as Ilburu Safari Lodge.

The contrast between the space inside the concrete barrier and outside the concrete barrier was stark. Behind us was a sorry slum. Before us was a brightly painted lodge. The grounds were manicured. Flowers were in full bloom, everywhere.

The reception area and restaurant at the Ilburu Safari Lodge.

The reception area and restaurant at the Ilburu Safari Lodge.

We eased out of the car. A lean man with glasses and a scarf was waiting. He stepped up.

“Mark and Vicki? Welcome to Tanzania. I’m Mr Saif.”

He did exist!

“I’m so sorry about what happened this morning.” He rattled through a series of events that started with a car problem and ended with a phone problem. We were not quite sure what to believe but we were so relieved to be alive and unrobbed and unmolested that it didn’t matter.

Mr Saif paid the “taximan” and escorted us to the reception desk. On the way we told him about Vicki’s lost bag. He assured us that he would work on it.

“There is no plan for the day. Get your rest. I’ll see you tomorrow morning and you will meet your (Safari) driver.”

We thanked him, bought a bottle of water at the desk, and headed for the room. Our relief was palatable.


Arusha 3.jpg

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And by the way, I promise to meet you at the Tel Aviv airport.

Notes from Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

Notes from Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

The following observations and reflections were made on the afternoon of July 22, 2019. On that day I reached Karanga Camp (elevation 12,992 feet) by foot. The camp rests directly under the peak of the Kilimanjaro.

Ants in your pants

Ants in your pants

Look out for the Siafu! This species of carnivorous ant swarms in massive numbers, eats animal protein, and has dedicated soldiers with serious pincer-style mandibles. An unfortunate encounter with the siafu in an East African rainforest made us all a little jumpy.

Rookie mistakes

Rookie mistakes

Two lessons here. The first is this: don’t brush your teeth. The second is akin to the first: don’t ever think you are faster than a black mamba. Follow these two rules in order to get the most from your foreign travel experience.

Stork swarm

Stork swarm

Swarms of giant storks were suddenly everywhere. They were beyond counting. In the hundreds? For sure. Thousands? Maybe. Some circled slowly overhead, great wings outstretched. Many more rested, nested, and clattered their bills from poo-spangled trees. 

Noah's ark (sortof)

Noah's ark (sortof)

In the story of Noah's Ark, a portion of the living world finds sanctuary in a pinch. I thought about that as our rig bounced down the steep track into Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.

Taking a safari

Taking a safari

We pitched our duffels and then ourselves into Saidi's knobby-wheeled truck. Saidi found the gear and we lurched forward. Our aim was to encounter the wildness of East Africa, God-willing, in a bloodless way.

Fingerprints on a frosty pane

Fingerprints on a frosty pane

Great sheets of ice flanked our walk on Kibo's rim. Aside from the fact that we were tripping along a corridor that was 19,000 feet in the sky, it could have been someone's gravel driveway. Or one of Jupiter's moons.

Kili's flattop

Kili's flattop

We beat the sun to Stella Point, but not by much.

I found a comfortable rock and sank into it like a sofa. A local appeared out of nowhere and extended a plastic cup my way. I couldn't remember his face. Was he from our group?

Then I let myself believe it

Then I let myself believe it

I caught her in my headlamp. She might have pretty in another place but she was beyond defeat here, maybe even beyond consciousness. She was draped between the wings of two laboring guides. Her head was lolling. Her toes were dragging. That little Piper had stalled.

The big push

The big push

Three other members of the team had walked out of camp an hour earlier. We assumed they were already pressing the envelope on the ridge above us. It was now our turn.

The most interesting man in the world

The most interesting man in the world

Ernest Hemingway dangled a riddle of death at the front end of his short story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." But what kind of epigraph is this? A freeze-dried window decoration? A chewy historical tidbit? The most interesting man in the world may have solved the riddle.

It has an odd ring

It has an odd ring

The old king climbed into the icy womb of Kilimanjaro. On his finger was the ring of Solomon. His porters carried a vast treasure. None of it has ever been found, of course.

15K+

15K+

It was one of those nice mattresses with a heat-reflective layer that is supposed to keep you snuggly warm even if you choose to bed down on an iceberg or glacier or such. It also shared many qualities with a Wham-O Slip-'n-slide.

Starry night

Starry night

The icy peak was silhouetted against the night sky. But the longer I looked, the more I saw. And the more I saw, the less I noticed the mountain of our obsession. It was stars--sweet Jesus!--the stars that dominated this glorious night. They were everywhere, from horizon to horizon.

Mush balls

Mush balls

West African fufu has a an unusual odor and taste. And that's just the upper end of the experience. This is why I shuddered when they brought in the East African ugali.