Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Marcus In Arabia: The Ubiquitous Chinese Restaurant.

Ah, Arusha!

The safari center of Tanzania. There are other areas of safari action in Tanzania but Arusha is the biggest one. Their most famous parks are around Arusha. Mt. Kilimanjaro is nearby as well. Yes, there is a Chinese Restaurant in Arusha. Where is there not?

Anyway as I noted before we were not in a hurry to hire guides. We shopped around for a couple of days and focused on the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb first. As is usually the case we did some souvenir shopping as well. There were all sorts of people on the streets ranging from locals to far out foreigners (I may have been a foreigner but was not far out). The locals were usually about their business and some of them were in the business of peddling stuff to tourists, touting for safari firms, restaurants, and the so on. We stopped by some trinket from a street vendor and were immediately swamped. You hate to have to say no to everyone else and so we did not buy from street vendors (those w/o shops) after that.

The city was not a spotless city as we'ld expect here in the USA or in Europe but it was not all that bad. There was not a lot of real serious poverty evident, but we did run across some beggars including one boy who we recognized working the same area day after day. I can not say it was apparent the boy should have been begging, there was plenty of paid work available.

The first trip we took out of Arusha was the Mt. Kilimanjaro trek. We eventually settled for a company the name of which I can not remember. I do remember it being staffed by Sikhs. We were teamed up with one older gent from the UK, and two young fellows just out of the Israeli army and they were touring Africa. They drove us out to a place we picked up some gear (it is cold on top, so we had to have winter clothing) and then they took us to another place we paid some fees signed some waivers and a hiking we went.

The first day I took my camera gear with me and by the end of the first half of the day it wore me out and I surrendered the gear to one of the porters. I did snap some daylight pictures. We eventually reached the first camp and it was good. I took some pix ate some food and had plenty of time to chat with our trek-mates.

The next day it was more of the same, every now and then I would find something good to take a picture of and my camera was never too far off so I took some pix. This was the first time we saw the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We eventually reached the second stop. This time it was noticeable we were fairly high up and the skis were brilliantly lit by the stars. I told the Israelis the day before about being able to see satellite and they thought I was full of it. The second night proved me out, we say a few of them. I snapped the brilliant star trails shot this night (the one from The Last Bit about one week ago) and another shot (I will not publish it soon, perhaps later).

Third day we went above the frost line. The vegetation petered out to a scrubby grass. I recall walking across one gravelly plain and noticing a good camera shot, the battery in my camera was out but I was prepared and swapped out the old for the new battery. The battery wasn't dead but cold, and I had read to keep two batteries one in the camera and one warm in the pocket. Good idea! We finally reached the third camp.

The Guidebook told us to eat! If we were not hungry to eat anyway! I was hungry so I ate! Probably too much as I woke up in the night and hurled. Chunks all over my long beard! Yuch! An hour or two later everyone woke and went for the final push to the summit. I rolled over and went back to sleep. My buddy told me the last hour or so was three steps at a time, stop pant like heck to try and catch ones breath, and three more steps.... My idea of a good time, even if I would have made it, a cigar was not in the works like I had planned. Well the crew returned some hours later and we headed back down. IIRC we went all the way down to the day two camp and spent the night there.

The most memorable incident on the day five was asking where the end of the trail was (it was close to the end) and some guy (a local guide or porter on his way up) pointed at a tree (we were in a forest) and said there. I guess, ask a stupid question get a stupid answer.

Anyway shortly thereafter we made it to Moshi and got a room for the night. Needless to say we were tired and quite stiff. But did we sleep good! We got on a bus and headed back to Arusha for part two of the trip.

Next installment: Challenging the Baboons!