I’ve lost track of what day it is, but about three days ago we took a small propeller plane from Arusha to the heart of the Serengeti for an African safari. We made stops in four tiny dirt airstrips with no airport; the jeeps just pull right up to the airstrip and you get in and out. The flight was spectacular, with views of the great migration – thousands of zebra and wildebeest running through the vast open plains. We went straight into our safari as soon as we got off the plane – comfortable in our huge Land Cruiser with an open roof so we can stand. Driving through the Serengeti, we saw a myriad of different birds, some tiny and bright as jewels, glittering in the scorching sun; others huge and ominous, lurking in the tall grass. We reach a small lake with about 20 hippos frolicking in the murky water, wriggling their ears and snorting. A wide variety of antelope are grazing nearby – the impala are my favorite; sleek, beautiful animals with long, straight horns. As we drive on, we find a pride of lions lounging in the shade. The male is upside down on his back like a lazy dog wanting his neck scratched. Next, there is a leopard high in the treetops, giraffes grazing on acacia, herds of elephants playing in the water, and monkeys everywhere. The buffalo and ostriches were a lot bigger than I imagined, and all the animals went along with their business like we weren’t there. The names of the animals from The Lion King are actual Swahili words, and I can’t help but laugh when my guide says, “Look to your right, there is a pumba.”
Dusk approaches quickly, and the sky is lit with deep hues of orange and red. There is a storm approaching in the distance and thunder cracks as we race back toward the lodge over bumpy dirt roads. All of a sudden we are in the violence of the storm and gigantic raindrops pelt the windshield in the darkness. A herd of gazelle dart wildly in front of the headlights and the driver slams on the brakes, barely missing them. Hail crashes down, the size of marbles, cracking the windshield, as flashes of lightning illuminate the savannah. The driver can’t see, so we inch along slowly, and finally make it to my lodge...
africa, safari, serengeti, travel
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Oct 25 – Day 1
I met with my group and was surprised to find that one of the three hikers is from the Big Island. The other two are a brother and sister from New York. We had a relatively easy day, hiking through lush green rainforest, with giant trees slathered in dripping moss. It was an elevation gain of about 5,000 ft. to get to Machame Camp, our home for tonight, at 10,000 ft. Our porters beat us to the camp, and everything was set up for us when we arrived. I am sharing a tent with the other girl in our group. We also have a large tent for eating and a bathroom tent with a portable toilet inside. Dinner was great – leek soup with fish and veggies.
Oct 26 – Day 2
Today’s hike was pretty rough. It was only half a day and we went slow, but it was a steep, constant, rocky uphill. The trekking poles I rented went missing and my ankle started hurting about halfway through the hike. It began to rain today, not hard, but a cold, biting rain. We are at Shira Camp now, at 12,600 ft., and I am already freezing cold. Hot drinks are brought to our tent as soon as we wake up to start our day.
Oct 27 – Day 3
It was a long hike to Barranco Camp at 13,000 ft. because we did an acclimatization trek to the lava tower at 15,000 ft. I took my altitude sickness medication in the morning and immediately felt nauseous, but started out in the freezing cold after a breakfast of hot porridge and peanut butter toast. About an hour into our ascent, a light hail began to fall. It got heavier and colder so I decided to put on my thick gloves. I held one in my mouth as I put on the other, and when I took it from my teeth there were brigh red blood stains on my white glove. I was bleeding from the mouth. Our guide said that this is a side effect of the altitude medication and I must stop taking it.
It hailed almost the entire day as we continued uphill through barren, rocky terrain, with heavy, white mist sweeping low and fast over the ground. Finally we reached our lunch spot, the lava tower, a vertical...
africa, kilimanjaro, travel, trekking
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