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Kinda Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

October 23, 2015 by · Comments Off on Kinda Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro 

The challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro attracts many a mere mortal as well as adventure enthusiasts. It’s the biggest freestanding mountain in the world, rising over nineteen thousand feet! For those that train, it is doable endeavor, unlike the monster Everest, but, I didn’t visit the area with that in mind. Nonetheless, I wanted to see the famed peak.

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Moshi on a clear day.

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Moshi on a clear day.

Visibility is typically difficult from the Moshi area, the location of my Discovery Corps Homebase. Most days the mountain hides behind clouds, only occasionally playing peek-a-boo. But, Day Eight of my Tanzania itinerary called for a visit to the mountain.

 

Baobab Tree down a dirt road.

Baobab Tree down a dirt road.

My group boarded a bus and headed out past the dry, dusty surrounding. As soon as the incline rose even a little, we encountered vibrant greenery. We continued climbing higher in the hills where lush vegetation abounds. Huge banana trees towered overhead shading the ground under their palms. We stopped in a touristy little town that sits at about five thousand feet. It rests in a humid rain forest, and mist was swirling around us. Alas, the visibility was even worse on this day. But, we picked up our official guides, those rugged and hearty sorts that head pilgrimages up the peak.

Boy rolling tire on dirt road

Boy rolling tire on dirt road

 

 

 

 

 

The plan was for my group was to trek to a few waterfalls that lie just below the National Park boundaries. We began on a gravel path that soon became narrow and as slippery and wet as a fish right off the line. I was happy I wore my Gore-Tex jacket because the air was chilly, a first on this trip. I had to plant carefully my footing, especially on the downhills. As on the Maasai trek, I was torn between taking in the scenic beauty, snapping photos and not slowing down those behind me. And, in this case, definitely not falling off the inclined path.

Hiking in lower Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Hiking in lower Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The first waterfall we came upon shone brightly through the spray, and we stopped for photos. Then, we proceeded onward, the path becoming more perilous and steep. The tricky part was that dampness making traction difficult. Thankfully Richard and a few other men from the Discover Corps staff lent a stabilizing hand.

One of the waterfalls in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park.

One of the waterfalls in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park.

We passed by a few houses partially hidden in the lush overgrowth and around small, terraced farms. Like the dancers, the farmers in this region are Chagga people, and they grow mainly bananas, and some corn, beans and coffee.

The surprising serene and lush trails on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The surprising serene and lush trails on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

We trudged on, carefully balancing and traversing rocks over a shallow but flowing waterway. Nearby, we rested at another wondrous waterfall with water cascading down multiple falls. Flowering plants like impatiens peeked out of the nooks and crannies.

Beautiful waterfalls on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Beautiful waterfalls on Mt. Kilimanjaro

To proceed onward, we had to ascend one very steep, treacherous incline. Whew! We were then above the waterfalls and could stroll on through grassy fields and pass more small homes. It’s peaceful up there, far from the sounds of the city.

Steep climb

A steep climb.

Eventually, we returned near our starting point and enjoyed a picnic style lunch. Mama D had sent boxed lunches. Fried chicken, hard boiled eggs, a cheese sandwich, an apple and a piece of sweet banana bread. Yum.

The group had been asking about Banana Beer or mbege, a homebrew that we are anxious to try. One of our guides thought he could get some nearby. He returned, however, with a banana drink. We gingerly took sips, and all agreed, it tasted horrid. Later we asked Mama Simba about the banana drink and her comment was, “people drink that and go crazy.”

The Bad Banana Drink

The Bad Banana Drink

Instead, we discovered the local bottled beer, Kilimanjaro, and it was quite tasty.

Kilimanjaro Beer

Kilimanjaro Beer

I decided to skip a portion of the afternoon hike, not wanting to press my luck. Instead, I ventured on to the Visitors Center to learn all about the mountain. I also dropped into the gift shop where I bought a tee shirt emblazoned with a drawing of a Kilimanjaro beer bottle “If you can’t climb it… Drink it!” it said. Exactly my sentiments.
Eventually, I caught back with the group as they were making the climb to the Marangu Gate, one of the official starting points into Kilimanjaro National Park.

The Starting Point for a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Just kidding!

The Starting Point for a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Just kidding!

Our guide explained that most hikers take four days for the ascent and another two to come down. He said he wakes the climbers around midnight the night before they reach the summit. I asked if that was so they can watch the sunrise from the top. “No,” he said, “it’s so they don’t see the trail. Once they are on top, they have to come back down.” Hmmm. Mountain climbing has never been my thing. Need I say more?

Kilimanjaro: If you Can't Climb it...Drink it!!

Kilimanjaro: If you Can’t Climb it…Drink it!!

 

How Batik Art is like the Karate Kid

October 5, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Day 7: Discover Corps Tanzania Experience Continues

Morning: The Tuleeni Orphans Home

After yesterday’s extraordinary outing with the Maasai, my Discover Corps group needs a laid-back morning. Following breakfast, however, we walk to the Tuleeni Orphans Home, just a short distance away. The Word Tuleeni is Swahili word which Means ‘care for us’.

 

The Ball is in a sad state.

The Ball is in a sad state.

First, we stop at the local convienence store (which we discover doubles as the local bar in the evening) and pick up food supplies to donate to the orphanage. We enter the orphanage gates, and the children swarm over us. Peter, a high school senior in our group, brings his soccer ball, and the kids join him in playing football. I look over and notice the pathetic remains of a ball lying in the corner. We need to bring these kids a new ball when we return.

 

 

Mama Faraji

Mama Faraji

We meet Mama Faraji, a woman whose face radiates love. Honestly, her face reflects light like the blessed Madonna in a Renaissance painting. How she manages to care for 100 children, the little ones within her home, and not seem stressed baffles me. She has a special gift.

Mama Faraji became an orphan in her teens and ended up raising the younger members of her family. The job suited her and thankfully she has continued in her calling.

Having fun taking selfies.

Having fun taking selfies.

I sit down by a darling little girl who tells me her name is Happy. She shows me her room. She shares a bottom bunk bed with two other girls. The room is small but clean. We decide to take selfies with one of her roommates. Happy doesn’t like to play ball, so we begin a clapping game and then look at books. Happy makes me happy.

Happy and me

Happy and me

The Discover Corps participants pair up with other children. We learn that one of the oldest kids wants to become a journalist. I encourage him to start blogging on the Tuleeni website. http://www.tuleenihome.org/
Over in the outdoor kitchen, some of the older children help prepare the next meal. While these kids don’t have parents, they are connected as a family. They don’t own much in the way of worldly goods, but they are blanketed in a cocoon of care. Mama Faraji and the Tuleeni compound have a loving aura. I like the place.

Orphanage room

Orphanage room

Afternoon: Batiking like the Karate Kid

 

After we return and finish eating lunch prepared by the fabulous Mama D, we move tables around in the lobby for a special treat. A group of batik artists are coming to show their works and teach us the technique. We will learn about batik painting by creating a design of our own.

Now, drawing is not my forte. I feel a bit stressed.

Drawing at the Discover Corps Compound.

Drawing at the Discover Corps Compound.

Fortunately, the group of artists promises to assist us, and we all sit at the table and attempt to draw. An acacia tree is within my ability, a round sun I manage, but I want to add a lone giraffe in my picture. Thankfully, one of the artists helps me shape a giraffe head.

Beginning to wax and paint the background.

Beginning to wax and paint the background.

I then transfer the drawing to a piece of cloth and trace it onto both sides. After that, I head over to get help with the background color. I decide I want my sky to be a sunrise, so one of the artists covers the sun with wax and then washes on a thin layer of paint that looks like a watercolor sky. The artist helps everyone, and our projects begin to take shape.

Progress on the background

Progress on the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I advance to the drying station, a small outdoor grill. The cloth dries from the heat. I place in on the warm sidewalk where it continues to dry until I am ready for the next step.

 

Drying the cloth over hot coals.

Drying the cloth over hot coals.

When one of the helpers becomes free, he applies wax around the areas I want to be in silhouette.
I then apply thick black paint. The wax keeps the color from running into adjoining areas. The cloth is dried again. I then go to a grassy area and crumple the fabric and shake it to remove the wax. Wax on, wax off, just like the Karate Kid.

Painting with black.

Painting with black.

Lastly, I ran a hot iron over the fabric to remove the remains of the wax and paint in a few touch-ups.
I was amazed. My masterpiece (and the others) are stunning. Of course, I could never created this without help, but the process was certainly fun. A relaxing, artful afternoon with a souvenir to frame. I’m loving the Discover Corps itinerary.

My finished batik art.

My finished batik art.

Disclosure: My trip to Tanzania was self-funded.

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