Of course the arrival on their end was trouble-free, however, my end was a little more frustrating. I had called a taxi the night before to come get me at 3am. I stressed the AM part about 14 times. Some of you may think it's the pessimist in me, I'd like to call myself a realistic, but to my expectation, the taxi driver did not show up. I found myself wandering the streets of Moshi at 3am (thankfully another PCV was with me) to find another taxi driver. We were eventually picked up at 4:30am, over an hour after they had already landed. We showed up at the airport about two hours late but there they were, just waiting for me. I felt like an awful sister and friend :/ Luckily we were so happy, the lateness was quickly forgotten.
Their first day was supposed to be a rest day. This is my version of a rest day: I allowed them four hours of sleep, we took a few forms of transportation to swim at some “hot” springs, and didn't go to bed until 10pm. They were troopers! I kind of felt like a drill sergeant, but I knew being semi-active would help them get onto a more normal sleep schedule.
The next day was the start of our 3-day safari. Woot! It's about time I see some damn animals! We saw so many animals: giraffes, elephants, impalas, gazelles, ostriches, zebras, rhinos, lions, wildebeests, monkeys, baboons, flamingoes, pelicans, warthogs, jackals, hyenas. I'm sure there are more (Kaarin would remember). We all could have watched the monkeys for hours, they sure are silly little creatures. The 'dome tent' we stayed in each night was quaint. It was definitely luxurious camping. The heavy duty tents were on a platform with a rain cover, had two wooden beds with mattresses and a towel. Luxury. It was an amazing three days.
The day after we returned from the safari was an open day in Moshi to re-pack and prepare ourselves to climb Mt. Meru. I can honestly say this was the most difficult physical and mental task I've ever completed. And, guys, I've been living in Tanzania for the past 18 months. That's not easy. Granted, I have six more months until I can say I've completed my service, but still. Not easy.
Steph, one of my best PCV buddies, was able to meet us in Moshi and join us. We all summited, and. It. Was. Amazing! We chose to do Mt. Meru because it's significantly cheaper than Kilimanjaro. We had no idea every guide and porter who has climbed both all unanimously would say that Meru is more difficult than Kili. Very cool. The reason is because the amount of days to the summit is less, which means a bigger change in altitude each day. We summited Meru in two days. TWO DAYS. Meru is 14,980 ft tall, high, up in the air. Again, very cool.
I'm unsure of how altitude affects me, but the last three hours I felt very … unaware. Kind of like I wasn't really consciously putting one foot in front of the other, but it was happening; a very out-of-body-experience. Pretty sure if the other three would have known about this, they wouldn't have let me scale those rock walls by myself, ha. Sweet deception!
We summited a bit after 5:30pm. If there is one feeling I'm absolutely in love with, it's the feeling of being on top of a mountain. You could see EVERYTHING. It was a bit cloudy, but not raining and we were grateful for nice weather. In three minutes I went from sweating buckets to freezing my butt off. The cold does not agree with me! (Hence my wanting to live in a hot region! Thank you Mtwara.)
That's the highest all four of us have ever been. I can't even describe what it felt like to be on top of that mountain. I think I'd like to continue climbing things! Since we summited in the evening, this meant climbing a good portion down in the dark with headlamps. I'm not gonna lie, there were some scary moments. Mom, I'm glad you weren't there to see us. Love you! We arrived at our hut around 10:30pm. I was exhausted. Merely going through the motions. Water, sleeping bag, zzzzzzz.
The third day, we made the decent from the second hut down to the bottom. There were some arguments/discussions about price and tipping which sucked. It seems like nothing in Tanzania can ever be easy or clear cut, like oh I don't know, guide fees or entrance fees. Politics, I will never understand you... It ended up being fine, just a stupid (and normal) hiccup in our amazing trip. Once we reached the bottom, we each got a little certificate :)
I must say, Kaarin and Laura are such good little travelers! They attacked the Tanzanian transportation head on and survived. They didn't even complain. The day after we descended Meru was another rest day, to get ourselves together, move our muscles, and get ready to head out of Moshi. We went to Lushoto next, just a bit south from Moshi. Here, we walked around the sleepy town, and made a day hike up to an amazing lookout point with another PCV buddy of mine, Glenn. He takes so many visitors on that hike, he should get paid for his services. We had a delicious lunch of homemade cheese, jelly, and bread at one of the local tourist stops. Best cheese I've ever had. Well, in Tanzania. Oh come on guys, I'm from Wisconsin, what did you expect?
The next day we made our way by dala to Pangani, a town on the coast. It took us all day to get there, but once we did, we slapped our suits on and went for a swim in the warm bathwater that is the Indian Ocean. We spent the next day kayaking and body boarding around, indulging in a great lunch at the resort next door, and taking pictures of the nearby caves. Kaarin and I ended up getting stung by jelly fish, but thankfully neither of us had an awful reaction, we self-medicated ;) All in all, it was very relaxing and nice end to Kaarin's portion of the trip. We spent the next night in Tanga, in a guesti with AC! Once again, luxury. The next day we made it to Dar early enough so they could do a little shopping. It was kind of fun being the only one who knew the language to make sure they didn't get ripped off and got good prices on things. Laura and I took Kaarin to the airport at midnight :/ I was sad to see her leave, but so glad we could partake in Tanzanian adventures together!
Laura and I got on a bus to Newala with only 3 hours of sleep. It was an 11 hour ride. But! No complaints; because Laura and I were together :) Once again, she was a trooper. We got a bunch of fruits and veggies to last us the week and went to my village the next morning. She spent six straight nights in my village; that's more than some PCVs can handle. I kept telling her she'd be a great PCV. We didn't even do a whole lot (there's not much you can do in a village), but we had a blast all the same. We cooked, baked, did laundry, read, biked, hung out with my Tanzanian family, and took some walks around my village to greet people and show her things. All my villagers kept telling us they could tell we are twins because we look alike. Um, I don't know if ya'll know what we look like, but we look nothing alike. They just like saying things sometimes. We roasted some cashews my mama gave us, I'm glad Laura got a chance to take part in that, cashews are a huge part of my region's income. All in all, I'm glad she got to come down to my village and see where I've been living for the past 18 months. It was just nice to hang out with her in my house!
We then traveled on three different buses in a total of eight hours to make it to Mtwara town on the coast, where we were able to meet a majority of the other PCVs in my region. We stay at a house on the beach which is always super fun and really relaxed. We had a chance to go shopping for gifts and carvings. When our last day together arrived, we both got really sad :/
I decided to fly her from Mtwara to Dar, which took a lot of convincing. Me, not her. I've heard many a horror story from other PCVs about the Mtwara airport being unreliable and expensive. My biggest anxiety was that her flight just wouldn't take off that day, which was a definite possibility. I accompanied Laura to the airport and physically waited until I saw the plane take off with my own eyes. If they were to have “decided” not to fly that day, she would have missed her international flight back home...which would NOT have been ok. The airport security let her hang out with me in the lounge until she had to board. They also didn't make me pay for my overweight luggage. Being nice pays off sometimes, talk about a break! So, it's not Tanzania if something's not delayed, but we got an extra two hours of hang out time! I immediately missed her, and still do...
AMAZING trip and I would not have changed anything for the world. Thank you Kaarin and Laura, for giving me the boost I needed.