Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lessons of Africa

A friend recently asked to see some of the photo's of my 2002 trip to Kenya and Tanzania. Since I went through the effort to scan them into my computer (this was pre-digital camera days for me), I thought I'd share them here as well.

I spent 3 weeks in Africa climbing Kilimanjaro, Little Meru and Mount Meru. I safaried in 3 national parks and hiked through the Maasai countryside. I camped the entire time and twice had to hire an armed guide (predatory animals surrounded us). I traveled to Kenya alone but crossed the border into Tanzania with a bus full of people that spoke only Swahili. Finally arriving in Moshi, I met a group of travelers from England with whom I climbed Meru and Kili. Then we parted ways and I reversed course back to Nairobi alone.

In retrospect, not a good idea to travel as a single female. But what's done is done and I have these amazing pictures to show.

Elephant in Ngorogoro Crater
Punda milia (Swahili for zebra)
Lions finishing off a wildebeest in the water
Bushwhacking down into Empakaai Crater through fierce stinging nettle-type plants and vicious safari ants. Aloe, please!
On a couple occasions, I'd be brushing my teeth in the morning and spot Maasai warriors in the mist watching me. Or hear animals in the bushes. Going to the bathroom behind a bush was always a bit of a gamble.
We camped one night on the outskirts of this Maasai village called Bulati, approx. 8000 ft. in altitude. The village elder blessed me and my journey. Mount Meru is a 15,000 foot volcano. We started the summit climb at midnight from down on the left side of this shot and circled the rim to the peak to watch the sunrise. I took this from the top of its neighbor, Little Meru.
Not much in the daylight but at night this ridge was nothing but terror. Our only lights were our headlamps and the wind came in massive gusts punching us from the side. The ground was constantly shifting underfoot and it was a loooooonnngggg way down on both sides.

Ash cone of Mount Meru

Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds as seen from Meru's summit

Sunrise behind Kili from Meru's ridge

Sunrise on the roof of Africa, Kilimanjaro, 19341 feet, -20 degrees without windchill factored in. My coat is open because I had to keep my camera tucked down my shirt so the batteries wouldn't freeze. My fingers were so frozen and useless at this point that I couldn't grab the camera to retrieve it but had to loosen clothing enough that it would drop out. Very very very cold but very very very beautiful.

I cannot express enough how amazing it was to travel to a land where nothing in the landscape is remotely similar to the flora and fauna of my own backyard; where many times I had to rely on the kindness of strangers (like the border crossing where all the luggage was removed from the bus and searched which is routine but I thought we were being arrested till an elderly man took me under his wing); where I met some of the most noble people on our planet amongst the Maasai warriors; where I met some of the poorest people on our planet amongst the Maasai warriors with no electricity or running water and wearing sandals cut from used tires; where every moment of every day I was stunned visually and culturally. And I'm surprised to find that many of the lessons I learned about myself and what I value in life on that journey are so similar to the lessons I've learned in my journey with Caden. All I need now is right here at home.


WheresMyAngels said...

Wow, you are so amazing. I can't believe you did that by yourself! I'm afraid to take a road trip to Ohio by myself!

Wonderful photo's thanks for sharing.

Loren Stow said...

Amazing story! You must be brave to travel to Africa as a single woman! I live in South Africa and I would never even attempt it! Having said that, you were not harmed and came away from it with wonderful experiences and memories!
Although I live in South Africa and we can visit game reserves often to see the beautiful wildlife, I still dream of visiting Kenya and seeing the Masai Mara and the Ngorogoro Crater... Maybe one day!
Beautiful Photos!

Jessica said...

Loren, I wouldn't call it brave. More like naive! And I wouldn't repeat it solo but would love to take my husband there one day as he is the true photographer in the family. I wish I could say "Although I live in South Africa and we can visit game reserves often to see the beautiful wildlife.." That sounds so exotic!