Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Official Itinerary

Well, our payments have been made and we're as locked in as we'll ever be, so I guess it's time to share our official itinerary with you.

Sat 14-Jan-06:
Fly from USA to Amsterdam.

Sun 15-Jan-06:
I'll meet up with the Yanks in Amsterdam, and then we'll fly to Kilimanjaro, arriving around 8 p.m. Tanzanian time. We'll stay at the Moivaro Lodge in Arusha this night (and on a couple other nights during this adventure, as well).

Mon 16-Jan-06:
Our safari begins: we will drive from Arusha to Makayuni, across the Maasai Steppe; then to Manyara, to the Rift Escarpment and across beautiful high altitude farmland; finally, we will reach the Ngorongoro Crater, where we will have game-drives and a picnic lunch inside the crater itself.

At the end of the day, we will drive out of the crater to Ilmisigiyo village, where we will camp for the night.

Tue 17-Jan-06:
The previous day's safari was pretty much all on wheels; today will be all hiking. We will be met by a Maasai guide at Ilmisigiyo village and then hike from the campsite to the summit of Mt. Makarot (3130m, 10,269ft). Lonely Planet's Trekking in East Africa says that on a clear day from the summit of Makarot, you can see the Ngorongoro Crater to the east and the Serengeti Plains to the west. (Awesome!)

After a picnic lunch on Makarot's summit, we will descend through small Maasai villages and out onto the Serengeti Plains to Olduvai. It sounds like there is a good chance we will encounter buffalo, giraffe and monkeys in this area -- we have been warned to pay close attention to our guide.

At the end of the day, we will stay at Olduvai Tented Camp.

Wed 18-Jan-06:
After a healthy bit of hiking the previous day, we'll be back in the vehicle again today for a full day in the Serengeti Plains. The options for today's safari drive are numerous, but we'll more than likely hit the following areas and sights: Naabi Hill, Simba Kopjes, Seronera, Lake Magadi, Rongai and the Maasai Kopjes. This ought to be quite a day for game viewing.

Our accommodation on this day is the Ronjo Flycamp.

Thu 19-Jan-06 :
Today is another day of safari, much of which will probably be in the vehicle. This day has no specific agenda; our guides will determine the best places for us to go based on where the wildlife is residing, such as the kopjes (small stony hills) where there's a good chance to see beasts such as lions.

At the end of the day, we will once again stay at Ronjo Flycamp.

Fri 20-Jan-06:
We begin slowly heading back east on this day, taking side trips on the way through areas such as the remote Gol Kopjes and the shifting sand dunes of the area. Again, the day's activities will be dictated by game movements.

We will return to Olduvai Tented Camp at the end of this day.

Sat 21-Jan-06:
By the end of the day today, we will be back in Arusha. How we get there and how long we take to get there is pretty much up to us. With the Ngorongoro Crater between Olduvai and Arusha, we have the opportunity to either drive around the crater rim or go back down into the crater for more time in that amazing caldera of wildlife.

We will need to be back in Arusha before 16.00 hours, though, because we are due for a briefing and equipment check for Kilimanjaro at that time.

Accommodations will once again be at the Moivaro Lodge in Arusha on this night. (Better make it a good night of sleep -- it's the last chance before we hit the mountain!)

Sun 22-Jan-06:
Today we begin our attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (5896m, 19,344ft). There are several routes up the mountain, and we're taking the Lemosho Route, one of the least-traveled trails. Located on the west side of the mountain, Lemosho provides an excellent chance for acclimatization and allows for some travel away from hordes of other foreign tourists. (One of the routes is so popular with tourists that it's called the "Coca-Cola" route. Yecch.)

On our first day, we will be driven from Moivaro Lodge to the Lemosho trailhead, which ought to take two or three hours. After we're dropped off, we'll hike for about four or five hours on a gentle ascent through shrub forest to the Glades Flycamp (2750m, 9000ft), where we'll spend the first night. We may encounter elephants, buffalo and other wildlife on this first day; an armed ranger will accompany us to the camp.

Mon 23-Jan-06
Day Two on Kilimanjaro will take us from the Glades Flycamp to Shira Camp One (3840m, 12,600ft). This climb of 4-5 hours will eventually take us out of the forest and onto a much less sparsely vegetated landscape.

Tue 24-Jan-06:
Day Three on Kilimanjaro takes us 10 kilometers on a gradual ascent from Shira Camp One to Barranco Camp (3950m, 13,000ft). This hike of 5-7 hours will take us through forests of giant lobelia plants/trees. Should be a good day for acclimatization since we don't really go up much higher than the previous day.

Wed 25-Jan-06:
On Kilimanjaro Day Four, we'll cross directly south of the summit. This is another day that we've specially requested for acclimatization; we'll essentially stay at the same elevation while getting ever nearer the summit-embarkation point. After four or five hours of hiking, we'll set up camp at Karanga Valley (4000m, 13,100ft).

Thu 26-Jan-06:
The next two days will undoubtedly be two of the most physically challenging days of our lives. Starting today, we begin to make the push toward the summit. From Karanga Valley, we'll hike 3-4 hours up a steep ascent to Barafu Hut, the highest campsite of our trip (4600m, 15,100ft).

Fri 27-Jan-06:
It's Summit Day! And it's a long day at that: we'll be walking 11-15 hours today.

We'll begin our attempt to reach Kilimanjaro's summit very early in the morning today (around midnight, I believe). After 5-7 hours of ascent in the darkness, we will reach Stella Point (5700m, 18,700ft), which is the rim of Kili's crater. Another 1-2 hours of walking around the crater rim will take us to Uhuru Peak -- the summit of Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa. With any luck, we'll get there in time for the sunrise.

The celebration will probably be short-lived, though, because we'll still need to toss ourselves back down the mountain to the tune of another 5-7 hours on this day. By the time we crash at Mweka Camp (3100m, 10,100ft), we'll be tired little puppies.

Sat 28-Jan-06:
Last day on Kilimanjaro. It's all downhill, so it should be easy, right? Hah! I doubt it; if our travel documents are right, this will be a "painful descent" of 5-6 hours down to the Mweka trailhead. Today will be the day we'll see how well my boots (and my toes) are holding up. Lambswool, anyone?

A car will be at the trailhead to pick us up and take us back to the undoubtedly welcome showers and beds of Moivaro Lodge.

Sun 29-Jan-06 - Tue 31-Jan-06:
Will we have energy to move at all on this day? Perhaps we will be enticed by the prospects of spending the next few days on the beach in Zanzibar... you'd like to think so!

Today, we hop on a plane in Arusha and fly to the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast. We'll stay at the Matemwe Beach Lodge on the east coast of the island for the next three days, doing pretty much whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving are possibilities, but I'm thinking a nice nap will be first on this particular Yank's to do list.

Wed 01-Feb-06
After a few luxurious days on the beach, we'll take a car in to Stonetown, the main city of Zanzibar. We'll explore the town and probably grab a bunch of souvenirs. This night, we'll stay at the intriguing Emerson & Green bed & breakfast.

Thu 02-Feb-06:
And just like that, our journey toward home begins today. From Stonetown, we will catch a flight back to Dar es Salaam on the mainland; later that evening, we'll get on yet another plane that will take us to Amsterdam.

Fri 03-Feb-06 - Sat 04-Feb-06:
We arrive in Amsterdam in the morning of February 3. We've decided to tack on a full day in Amsterdam so we can get accustomed to Western life again, so we'll spend two nights at the quaint-looking 't Hotel, a canal house near the center of town.

Sun 05-Feb-06:
The four midwestern Flying Yanks head home together this day, and I take off separately not long after.

That's it!

All Set!

We received confirmation today from ATR that all our payments have been made. We're on our way to Africa, goshdarnit anyways!

Our confirmation paperwork provides a bunch of good reading for preparation for the trip, including who to call when things go awry. (Good thing we're bringing a sat phone with us.) Anyway, the guys at ATR aren't afraid to have a little fun in their writing. For example, when describing overzealous guides who are working for a good tip, ATR says:

"Please ask your driver/guide not to approach animals too closely, especially when they are relaxing or mating (the animals, not the driver/guides)."

And this little ditty sounds like good advice for how to deal with Kong when he's eating:

"You should never make it necessary for an animal to change its course and certainly never cause it enough distress to make it growl, roar, trumpet or shit itself."

Monday, November 21, 2005

We Don't Need Another Stinking Setback

So maybe I've found the way to stop worrying about my back: now I've managed to catch a cold, probably because I hung out with my brother-in-law's kids over the weekend. I should have anticipated this; getting sick around Thanksgiving time is an annual ritual for me. This time, though, it couldn't wait until after Turkey Day. Looks like we're going to cancel our trip to see the relatives in Texas.

"Arrggh," he says, not intentionally trying to sound like a pirate.