Marvellous Mauritius

Our time in Mauritius was divided–we had 1 day before leaving for Madagascar and 3 days after. We arrived in Mauritius quite late at night and got in a cab towards a hotel we had booked on Expedia near the entrance of the national park I wanted to hike in the following day. As we got further into the journey, the cab driver got more and more concerned, as the hotel was much further than he expected and the route was getting more and more unfamiliar, rainy, and rough. Eventually we got 3km from the hotel when the google maps route brought us to the beginning of a washed out 4WD track. It became clear that the cab driver was not willing to take his new car up this road and we were not walking 3km in the rain at 11pm so we were forced to backtrack all the way back past the airport to a more accessible resort on the beach in Blue Bay. 

We woke up and explored the resort we had taken refuge in, after enjoying our first big American breakfast buffet in a long time. We spent all morning on the beach that looked out over the gorgeous turquoise blue bay.

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Just 10 ft from the shore, the snorkelling was on par with some of the spots I went to at the Great Barrier Reef! It took us 2 drink orders with super long awkward waits for no bill to realize we were at an all inclusive, which certainly altered our consumption for the rest of the day. In the afternoon we went on the resort boat to the middle of the bay for more snorkelling and were again blown away by the sheer number of fish surrounding the boat the moment we hit the water. Though not underwater, the coolest thing I saw was a school of jumping fish, skipping 2 ft out of the water in synchro for more than 100m.

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We snuck in a couple games of bocce ball over the course of the day after getting hooked in Rodrigues. I allowed Nick to win our best of 3 tournament so that he will continue to play with me in the future. As dinner was not yet served before our airport taxi was due, we had no choice but to indulge in the resort crepe bar for dinner–oops!

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Returning to Mauritius after Madagascar was pure luxury. We arrived in the morning and headed straight for our beach villa to reunite with the family. The villa turned out to be unbelievably nice and perfectly situation on the beach in Trou-Aux-Biche, complete with a private pool!

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We spent the afternoon in the sun and enjoying the beautiful villa. We walked on the beach into town for lunch; unfortunately I got sick from the fish I ate at lunch and had to sleep off the bug for the remainder of the day. All I can say is, better there than anywhere else we had stayed–I had the luxury of recovering in my to-die-for king size bed.

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I woke up feeling better and we soaked in the last couple hours at our dream vacation home before our taxi arrived at 12 to take us to Curepipe. Nick’s grandfather lived in Mauritius for over 20 years before moving to Rodrigues and still has an apartment in Curepipe–one of the larger mainland towns on the island. The apartment itself is like a museum with loads of trinkets and antiques!

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In the afternoon we explored the local market and then headed up to Trou-Aux-Cerfs, the local crater site. To me, what makes the landscape of Mauritius so beautiful and unique is the gorgeous green mountains all over the island. Despite being one of the most densely populated islands on earth for its size, the massive sugar cane fields still make the whole island very green and lush.

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Nick’s cousins flew out early on our last day on the island and our flight was not until 1030PM so we had one last day to explore! It was finally time for me to get my redemption from Night 1 and visit my National Park. We did a 2 hour hike with a stope for picnic lunch at a nice river and continued on a scenic drive past Le Morne–a world renowned kitesurfing spot!

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The next stop was Mauritius’ famous Chamarel Waterfall that has been all over my pinterest for ages. It was just as beautiful in real life!

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Next door to the waterfall is the 7 Coloured Earth, which reminded me of Caledon badlands. The colours were created through the transition of basaltic acid to clay minerals.

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And that marked the last hours of our incredible vacation. I can say with certainty that I will also be returning to Mauritius…with a diving license! I’m so thankful to have had such a good excuse to come to part of the world and spend it with such lovely company. Until next time!

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Making Friends with Lemurs in Madagascar!

We arrived in the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo (Tana as the locals say) around 10pm and were greeted by our driver Jonathan. When compared with Mauritius, the 2nd most developed country in Africa after Seychelles, you can feel the difference the moment you walk off the plane. This feeling was heightened as we drove into Tana, a developing city that can look sketchy in broad daylight and worse in the dark. Luckily $40 goes a long way for a night in Madagascar and we felt completely at ease once we arrived at our very nice hotel. Madagascar is ranked 26/53 out of African nations on the Human Development Index in the “low human development” group, behind places like Tanzania and Nigeria and just ahead of Rwanda and Uganda. 

Our driver picked us up the next morning around 9am and we hit the road. Getting out of Tana was a long, enlightening 2 hour ordeal. For a Sunday morning, it felt as though all 1.5 million residents of the city were out roaming the narrow streets. It definitely felt quite crowded and the standard of living was visibly quite low, with a long stretch of plastic tents along the river serving as the city’s “low-income housing.” Once we got out of the city, we stopped for gas and I realized across the street some young kids were playing rugby! Our driver said it was quickly becoming one of the most popular sports; this is made possible by the small amount of equipment required to play, making it relatively low cost. 

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We stopped for lunch at a small “hotely” (fast casual restaurant) along the way and spent a whopping $6 to feed three! Our introduction to Malagasy nature took place at a reserve established by a Frenchman to preserve many of Madagascars most endangered species. This allowed us to see species we would not otherwise see based on the limited geographical area we could cover in 5 days. By far the best part was feeding chameleons grasshoppers on a stick from a distance and watching their tongue stretch out around 2 ft to retrieve their snack. Let me tell you, if humans could do that Casey and I would have fought a lot more at the dinner table.

We arrived at our hotel in Andasibe National Park in the late afternoon–a quaint bungalow in the rainforest. We had some time to relax before our night walk with a local guide. We saw around 4 different types of night lemurs, chameleons, frogs, and to my dismay a big snake. Our biggest surprise was the amazing smell of all the eucalyptus trees lining the road! It blew us away how strong the smell was just passing them. Afterwards we ate dinner at a local restaurant where I had Zebu–the Malagasy version of our common cow.

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The next morning we were up bright and early for our trek through the National Park. Andasibe is most famous for being home to Indri–the largest species of lemur–however, it is a haven of biodiversity for many of Madagsdcar’s endemic species. Depending on the source, 80-90% of species in Madagascar are ONLY found in Madagascar. On our 3 hour walk we certainly didn’t even begin to see the tip of the iceberg. Try and spot the animal in this picture!

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It is completely beyond me how our guide was able to spot this leaf-tailed gecko perfectly camouflaged against this thin tree. Our first lemur experience was with common brown lemurs when a family of 5-6 leaped down to surround us! At this point, this was quite a thrill.

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We continued on our mission to find Indri; they are not only the biggest species but also the loudest. Out guide had an audio recording of their call on his phone which he used to try and find them. Sure enough, they replied louder than ever and we were able to trace the family shortly after. Watching the lemurs jump between trees was, without a doubt, the coolest part. They are extremely mobile, as if they have lemur fitbits counting their leaps!

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Another very cool insect we saw on our journey was the widely-studied giraffe weevil, characterized by it’s long neck. The neck is used by males to fight for the right to mate with a female and by women to roll a leaf tube nest for their egg; how typical! 

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After the national park, we visited Vakona Island–a small lemur reserve for those that weren’t as lucky as us in Andasibe (true wilderness). It also gave us the chance to get up close and personal with the lemurs as we fed them their all-time favourite snack, bananas!

We then hit the road for a couple of hours to reach the Eastern town of Manambato. The last stretch of the drive to the coast was a pretty treacherous 4WD track that few normal cars would survive. I had gathered from my research on Madagascar that renting a car was widely considered to be unsafe. That sentiment was confirmed at every step of our journey and the public bus system (“taxi brousse”) looked no better! We finally reached our destination and boarded a boat for the last leg of our journey to the Palmarium Reserve, our hotel on a remote island for the next 2 nights. 2017-03-20_10-16-25_863

We were welcomed with drinks in the lovely main lodge and shown to our private cabin overlooking the lake. It was not long until we had company! The island is home to 7 species of lemurs that have become quite friendly with humans over years of stealing bananas! We enjoyed a lovely first dinner with our guide; for our first night, we were the only guests at the hotel, so we had the place to ourselves.

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We had an eventful breakfast with countless attempts by the resident lemurs to steal a slice of our breakfast. They are quite relentless creatures. This was quite novel and hilarious for us, but we could tell it was a tiresome uphill battle for the staff trying to chase them away. Afterwards, we set out on a 2hr tour of the reserve.We began with the many species of palm and trees growing on the island–cinnamon tree, eucalyptus, aloe,  and cacoa to name a few. Next, we said hello to the resident turtles that unfortunately don’t stand a chance in the race for any fresh fruit.

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Of course, we spent the majority of time playing with lemurs! We saw a number of species we had not already had a chance too, including the Coquerel’s sifaka–the species of Zaboomafoo, my childhood TV lemur idol! This lemur is special because, unlike other lemurs, it jumps on its two hind feet when travelling on the ground rather than walking on all fours. It is also more comfortable with the ground than most lemurs; generally speaking, they act as if the ground is hot molten lava and avoid it at all costs.

We got a chance to get really up close and personal with the indri and even stole a kiss!

The last really cool plant we saw was a carnivorous plant called a Pitcher Plant based on on its shape. The plant produces a sweet liquid that sits in the base of the “pitcher,” insects are then lured inside the tube by the scent and trapped in the sticky liquid!

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We spent the afternoon by the water reading in the sun and taking a dip in the lake. We did get period rainfall quite often, as we were still in the tail end of rainy season. It really wasn’t bad, as it was usually brief and followed by hours of clear skys! It turns out the lemurs weren’t the only hungry animals on the island, as Nick woke up in the night to loud noises of geckos/lizards breaking into some German candy in our bags. Afraid to wake me and sound the alarms he waited until morning to inspect and they had actually ripped a hole through the mesh in his bag, broken through plastic, and devoured 3 kinder bars and a pack of gummies! We had one last breakfast with the lemurs bright and early and paid of food/drink tab ($130 for 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 bottle of wine, and a couple of drinks)!

Our last days was spent mostly on the road back to Tana, as it took us around 7 hours of driving to return. I think under-developed infrastructure is one of the most challenging constraints of travelling in a developing country (especially on a time constraint); though the road we were mainly on was 2 years old, the condition was so-so and the route is very indirect. Not to mention, the largest storm in the last 15 years had torn through the country a week and a half prior to our arrival. Small landslides and fallen trees blocking half the road periodically were the most visible sign of the damage; however, we had met a couple of European volunteers in a small village who were there for the storm and said that they had never feared for their life before in the same way. Luckily, the drive is quite scenic–especially in the highlands closer to Tana. There are many rice plantations amongst the lush greenery.

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We ate our last dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was excellent and prepared for our 430AM pickup to return to Mauritius.

Without a doubt, Madagascar is a country I must return to. It is simply not possible to skim the surface in 5 days. I am keen to come back and hike in Tsingy de Bemaraha, as well as see the Baoabs on the West Coast! Most importantly, Madagascar gave me a much needed dose of culture shock after I had been feeling like it had been too long since I had left the comforts of Western civilization. I think it is very healthy to see firsthand how the less fortunate (more than) half of our global civilization lives; unfortunately, it can be easy to forgot how lucky we really are no matter how hard we try. If you do not see first-hand how other people are living their daily life, it is difficult to truly appreciate how good we have it. Some elements of standard to living missing in Madagascar are very obvious–no shoes, primitive shelters, masses of people doing laundry in the brown river based on a lack of running water. Some are less blatant: when we were driving, there seemed to be a lot of children in school uniform walking on the road around 12:30 on a weekday so I asked our guide what the hours of school were; he explained that in the countryside, there are not enough schools and children often walk hours to reach their school, so children attend either a morning or afternoon session of school while children in the city are attending school for a full day–talk about an unfair advantage. Not only do these experiences instill gratitude, they also inspire action to close these significant opportunity gaps. As a very small initial step, I finally used an amazing platform I’ve been meaning to try for a very long time Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit micro-lending platform where users can lend borrowers in developing countries money to start businesses, go to school, etc. and get paid back in the time specified on the loan. Myself and 2 others financed Domoina from Madagascar’s $200 micro-loan to purchase inventory for her small business.

Until next time Madagascar!

Relaxing in Rodrigues

After a 30 hour trek beginning Thursday evening, we arrived on Saturday afternoon in Rodrigues–the small Mauritiuan island of ~30,000 people where Nick’s grandfather Hans lives. We were greeted by his grandfather and uncle, who drove us to Hans’ beautiful home on the top of the mountain. We got settled in and enjoyed a lovely welcome dinner with Nick’s family–his grandfather, sister in from London, and aunt, uncle, and cousins from Frankfurt.

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The next day was slated to be a recovery day by the pool to soak up the sun. Unfortunately I soaked in a little too much despite copious amounts of sunscreen. It is hard to take things like sun in moderation after being deprived all winter long! Rodrigues is quite mountainous and rocky; there are beaches, however, most are not as big as other tropical islands. There is little man-made intervention to cultivate beaches where they are not naturally occurring, as tourism has not yet taken off like it has in Mauritius. With a view like ours, swimming in the pool is not too shabby!

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In the afternoon, we headed into the village to watch a ceremony commemorating Mauritius’s 49th anniversary of independence from Britain. Though Mauritius was most recently controlled by Britain, France also had control at one point. Mauritian people mostly speak French and Creole–a localized spinoff of French. To my own surprise, I spoke more French on this trip than I spoke in my four years living in Montreal! Also to my surprise, I got by! I am actually inspired to continue practicing, as I realize its usefulness for travel more and more (I hear you dad, you told me so).

The next morning we headed to the island’s tortoise sanctuary. All of the native tortoises on Rodrigues became extinct when humans first arrived and began developing their habitats and enjoying turtle soup a little too much. The sanctuary was created to reintroduce the two native species of tortoise to Rodrigues and is now home to over 600 turtles!

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They are very gentle and enjoy humans rubbing their head and neck quite a lot. The oldest tortoise was 80 years old and it only seemed fitting that Nick’s grandfather get a picture given his upcoming 80th birthday later in the week. 

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We enjoyed a nice lunch at the restaurant on-site and set out on a scenic drive to a new bridge used for zip line with the end goal of finding a place to swim in the ocean.

2017-03-13_05-43-12_738We quickly learned that car mishaps are far more enjoyable in Rodrigues than in Canada! We nearly got the car stuck on a “backroad” composed of two concrete tracks and were forced against our will to spend a couple minutes waiting on this hillside with an ok view.

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Next, we got a flat tire on the way to the beach and were again “forced” to go for a group swim in the ocean next to the road as the tire was switched out. A horrible life!

On Tuesday we set out early for Coco island–not far off the coast of Rodrigues. The island has been protected as a bird sanctuary for reasons I’m not sure of, as the tour was in French ha. We enjoyed a sunny day on the white sandy beach and in the warm Indian Ocean nonetheless. I still owe Hans (Nick’s Opa) a bottle of champagne for my last place finish in our game of beach bocce ball. 

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We enjoyed a nice breakfast in town on Wednesday morning at a small cafe owned by a German expat. Afterwards, we explored the local market, which sells mostly produce, meat, fish, and souvenirs. We caught some rays by the pool in the afternoon before heading to Zumba! Nicks Aunt Susan had taken the class the week prior with a local friend of Hans’ and insisted we tried. I was even able to drag Nick along, as we had listened to our favourite podcast (How I Built This) on the inception of Zumba a few weeks ago. The class was packed full of locals and seeing Nick shake his butt on the big stage to Latin music was priceless. We enjoyed a nice dinner out in the evening; Nick and I both learned to never order crab when you are very hungry–too much work. 

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Thursday was spent preparing for Hans’ 80th birthday bash. I must say, I could have gotten used to doing more chores for my parents growing up if I could do them outside in a bikini, and some even in the pool!

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We had around 35 guests in total arrive for a great night of eating, drinking, and dancing. There was an amazing live band that began the night with jazz and transitioned into classic country later on. All in all, the party was a wild success and I certainly hope be partying that hard at 80!

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For our final day in Rodrigues, we chose Trou D’argent, the islands most beautiful beach. It was as picturesque as promised and offered sizeable waves for us to play in. The bay is far less sheltered than other beaches in Rodrigues, with no coral reef protecting it, and we quickly realized the strength of the current when we put our head up from snorkelling and had drifted 40m. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch on the beach before heading back to the house to pack for the airport.

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I loved Rodrigues for its stunning beauty that is relatively untouched by tourism. I can count on 2 hands the number of tourists we saw from western countries–there were a number of tourists from Mauritius and Reunion. In Rodrigues, people are certainly operating on island time–shops closed by 4, and always on Sundays. Most of all the island was made special by our stay at Hans’ beautiful local home with great company! 

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An African Safari

With no time to waste, we set off on our safari the morning after our return from Kilimanjaro with our guide Zamo. Our vehicle for the safari was a Toyota LandCruiser with a special pop-up roof for viewing animals in the parks.

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Lake Manyara National Park

We drove West for a couple of hours before reaching our first stop–Lake Manyara National Park. The park is situated in the famous Great Rift Valley that runs through East Africa for approximately 10,000kms. Our game drive in Menyara was very exciting because it was our first day of safari but, in hindsight, it was just a warm-up of what was to come. We saw hippos, giraffes, impalas, zebras, warthogs, elephants, and wildebeests. The highlight of the day had to be watching countless baboons play, groom each other, and eventually crawl onto the hood of our car. To top off a great first day, we were upgraded to a beautiful hotel where we enjoyed the best meal of our trip so far.

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Serengeti National Park

On Day 2 we continued driving west through Ngorongoro Conservation Area and finally reaching Naabi Hill Gate–the official entrance to the National Park because of its location on the only hill in sight on the Plains of Serengeti. On the plains, we drove past the group of 2 million wildebeests that are part of the annual Great Migration that moves through Tanzania and the bottom of Kenya. These Wildebeests move in the exact same pattern each year following the rain season to meet their food and water needs; they are followed closely by a group of 750,000 zebras who feed on the short grass left over by the wildebeests. After driving further into the park, we pulled up beside two large male lions bathing in the sun. Before long, the males decided they wanted to re-locate and chose our vehicle to walk right beside to cross the road. It should be noted that Maria had an undisclosed fear of large cats and during this episode she was on the verge of nervous breakdown. We continued our game drive and saw a leopard hanging out in a tree, different types of antelopes, and tons of zebras. The guides of all the different companies communicate via radio to share info about good animal sightings. Before calling it a day we got word that the two lions we had seen earlier had a kill. We raced to the scene to witness the lions tearing apart a hyena–so cool. Surprisingly, our guide informed us this was not because they were hungry, as lions don’t eat other meat-eaters. Rather, all cats share the instinct to kill things that move (like house cats killing mice).

We headed to our accommodation for the night–Serengeti Wild Camp. The camp is situated in the middle of the National Park and is comprised of 10 sleeping tents for guests and one large dining tent. The sleeping tents are a step (or ten) up from the ones we stayed in on the mountain. They are complete with a sun room with table and chairs, large bedroom with two double beds and armoir, and full bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink. After dinner we sat around the fire and spotted a number of hyenas out for a stroll come within 30m of us. Throughout the night you can hear the low roar of lions in the distance and the pitter patter and laugh of the hyenas right outside.

Our second day in Serengeti was action-packed to say the least. First thing in the morning we watched an impala guard her baby as it attempted to stand up for the first time (so cute). There were also a number of buffalos grazing just down the road from our camp. Vehicles are required by law to stay on the designated roads but, when no other cars were in sight, our guide didn’t mind bending the rules; Zamo said going off the beaten path is called “swimming” among the guides. Later that morning, we drove up and parked within one metre of a group of 12 lions taking a cat nap–awesome and exhilarating (too much so for mom’s liking). We did the same thing later in the day to come within feet of a cheetah! After lunch we saw another couple of lions in the distance and closer to our truck were their three small cubs in a tree. That night we had the peaceful campground all to ourselves–plus around eight staff making a 2:1 staff-guest ratio.

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Ngorongoro Crater

We set out early in the morning to head back towards Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Zamo explained that the difference between a National Park (like Serengeti) and a Conservation Area is that National Parks are strictly wildlife with no permanent human settlements, while Conservation Areas means wildlife and humans (within strict parameters). Essentially only members of the Maasai tribe are allowed to live in Ngorongoro because their way of life does not have any adverse effects on the environment or the animals living in the area. Maasai live a very simple and traditional lifestyle; they maintain large herds of sheep and cattle and live in small straw huts. They are easily recognizable because of their colourful traditional dress, big beaded jewelry, and iconic spaced ear lobes. Tourists find their dress and way of life rather fascinating and, as a result, there is now lots of tourism surrounding the Maasai ie. guided tours of Maasai villages. However, as with anything that gets commercialized, authenticity eventually comes into question. This was evident when we spotted four camels on the side of the road; our guide explained the Maasai had imported these non-native camels to Tanzania in support of their tourism business.

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The inside of the crater is filled with an assortment of animals. Most notably, we saw our only rhinoceros inside the crater! Rhinos are an endangered species and under 50 remain inside the crater and the entire Serengeti combined. In Serengeti they are kept in a controlled area inaccessible by tourists for preservation but they roam free within the crater. The crater also proved to be the best spot for viewing hippos up close. There was actually a hippo pool right beside the designated picnic lunch area. I actually ran into my friend from McGill, who was safariing with her family as well, right beside the hippo pool during our lunch break!

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Tarangire National Park

Our last stop on the safari was at Tarangire National Park. On day five of a safari in Tanzania you can’t help but start to feel like you’ve seen it all; however, it doesn’t take long to realize that each park is unique and the best for something. Manyara was bustling with baboons, Serengeti was a real-life Cat World, Ngorongoro is rhino and hippo haven, and Tarangire proved to be the elephant capital of Tanzania. At times there were over 100 elephants within sight! Most were in smaller groups of 10-20 with one or two babies in the group–our fav! The elephants’ favourite hobbies seemed to include eating, throwing dirt on themselves to keep the flies away, eating, rolling in the mud to keep the flies away, and occasionally locking tusks for a bit of rough housing. Another interesting scene we witnessed was a standoff between a lion and a pack of around 6 giraffes. Zamo explained that the only way lions would attack giraffes would be in large groups and if they were very hungry. Despite this the giraffes were extremely intimidated by the solo lioness and it was very entertaining to watch them squirm.

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And with that, our safari comes to a close. We successfully spotted the “Big 5” and so so much more. Until next time, Tanzania!

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Jambo (“hello” in Swahili) friends and family. The Barbers have returned safely and successfully from Mt Kilimanjaro. I plan to update this post at a later date to include more details but, for now, the highlight reel…

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Day 1
We took a bumpy one hour bus ride from our hotel in Moshi to Machame Gate(1800m). At the gate, we signed into Kilimanjaro National Park and a monkey nearly made away with Casey’s lunch before Dan–our fellow climber–saved the day. Finally, we began our 4.5 hour trek through lush rainforest to our first camp–Machame Hut (3000m). Our guide Stanley was constantly reminding us to go “polé polé” (slowly slowly) to allow for better acclimatization. This proved to be a struggle for myself at times and a saving grace for dad.

Day 2
The second day of the trek marked the beginning of our routine–eat, hike, eat, repeat. The trek to Shira camp (3700m) took approximately 5 hours and was rainier, steeper, and involved more rock climbing than Day 1. What we found most amazing was that all the porters were completing these same hikes with 15kgs of luggage on their heads! On top of all that, they were leaving after us and arriving before us in order to have our tents set up, private toilet tent (a godsend) assembled, and our dining tent ready with tea and popcorn upon our arrival.

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Day 3
Before departing on the day’s hike we treated ourselves to Starbucks instant coffee–courtesy of mom–and took some festive Christmas Day family photos. As the saying goes “climb high, sleep low,” we hiked for 6.5 hours through what is known as the Alpine Desert to as high as 4500m until reaching Barronco Camp (3900m). The weather on the mountain can change on a dime; we experienced sunny warmth, hail, wet snow, and rain, all in a day’s hike. The most entertaining moment of the day was watching a 57 year old French man sprint past us on a steep downhill over loose gravel leaving his guide in the dust. We found out later that this same man had also bought weed in town prior to the climb and was asking his guide where he could smoke.

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Day 4
The fourth day was a short 3.5 hour hike to Karangu Hut (3930m). It also marked our first day with no precipitation of any kind-YAY. The hike began with a free rock-climbing segment on “Barranco Wall” which we really enjoyed. Stanley told us that, in the past, tour companies only allowed their porters one meal per day and so the porters used to call Barranco Wall “breakfast wall.” He assured us that, now, porters unions exist to ensure this is no longer the case.

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Day 5 & 6
It was a short but very steep 3 hour climb to Base Camp (4600m). Upon arrival, we crossed many people who had just descended from the summit in a wide range of physical conditions–from elated and energized to dusted and downright out of it. Before and after our early dinner we had to squeeze in a few hours of napping in preparation for our 11PM departure for the summit.

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We got away a bit later than planned at around 11:30PM to head for the summit. We were decked out in 3-4 layers on the bottom, 5 on the top including a winter coat, hats, neck warmers, mitts, and headlamps. In total it took us 6 h 45 to reach the Uhuru Peak at 5895m. The climb to the summit was extremely long and difficult and NEARLY drove Paul to the point of cardiac arrest (surprise surprise). That being said, watching the sun rise from the tallest free-standing mountain in Africa with the whole fam jam made it all worth it.

The descent from the summit to Base Camp took approximately 3 hours. At Base Camp we were allowed to sleep for 2 hours before continuing our descent and departing for ANOTHER 4 hour hike to Mweka Camp (3000m). The entire family had the sleep of a lifetime–the first one above 0 degrees in a week–after 14 hours of hiking.

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Day 7
We enjoyed/suffered through our last camping breakfast bright and early before completing our descent to Mweka Gate (1800m). The final hike was moderate and oh so enjoyable knowing our first shower in a week was finally on the horizon. At the bottom we celebrated with a round of Kilimanjaros (the local beer) before heading back to the hotel and bidding our guides adieu.

I found a comment in the guestbook at the bottom of the mountain that I feel perfectly captures the feelings of a just-finished Kili climber:
“Definitely a great experience and religious awakening…not because I found God, but because I walked through Hell.”

And if you find yourself thinking that what we did was impressive in the slightest… Karl Egloff–a Swiss-Ecuadorian–set the record for the fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro in August 2014, running up and down the mountain in 6h 56m 24s.

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Pre-Departure Poem & More

Twas the night before Kili, when all through the house,
Not a Barber was packing, not even a mouse.
The suitcases were laid open upstairs with care,
In hopes that Emily & Casey would finally decide what to wear.

This post marks the official revival of my travel blog! I am doubtful that I will have wi-fi on the mountain as Google’s Project Loon does not currently service Tanzania–YET. The hope is that we will have internet access after the climb is over and I will blog about the remainder of the adventure.

Tune in to hear about Paul’s physical performance on the mountain, how bad we all smelled after 8 days of no showering, what Casey wore, and how well all of Maria’s marathons prepared her to run from lions and leopards.

The journey there is looking like it may be more exhausting than the hike itself with stops in Cairo, Dubai, AND Nairobi before reaching our final destination a day later. We are considering buying name tags that say “Hello, I’m on points” so that other travellers in our vicinity understand why we randomly burst out into tears and look like the Grudge.

Until next time, Merry Christmas!

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