The big event is finally here. Mary Raftery, Mary Lou Jones, Stephanie Labelle, and Deb and Dan Compeau are headed to Africa!
Day 1 & 2 October 5 & 6
Tom and Linda Mulanix, founders of Compassionate Life Foundation met us at Stephanie’s house for a send off. We took some pictures with the banner that will be going with us to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Then presented them with our donations that we collected from our many generous friends and family. God opened a lot of hearts to give. We collected over $4,000.
Detroit to Amsterdam was an 8 hour overnight trip. Then 2 ½ hour layover in Amsterdam. Another 8 hours to Kilimanjaro International Airport. While in Amsterdam we met another couple climbing the same days as us, except with a different group. We actually saw them several times in the two weeks and got to be friends with them. Mary Lou had made snacks for the flight crew on both trips so we got a little extra special attention from the crew. Just a little love your neighbor along the way.
It was 8 pm when we arrived in Tanzania. It took about an hour of waiting in a long line to get our visas. Then our driver Phillip was waiting to pick us up and take us to Mount Meru Game Lodge. Steve and Skip was the other two from Wisconsin to join us. Luckily, the last two that we were suppose to meet wasn’t actually there. The van was full with the luggage and the seven of us. We would not meet the last two of our group until the following day.
We checked into our rooms. It was dark so we couldn’t see much of our surroundings. We went to the lounge to have a drink and get acquainted with our new climbing friends, Steve and Skip. Steve is 62 years old , a real-estate investor and Skip is 71, a dentist. Our waiter that night was Emmanuel, whose name means God is with you. A coincidence. I think not!
Day 3 October 7
We were all up at day break eager to see our new surrounding, which is located in the middle of a game sanctuary. There were Zebras, peacocks, blue monkeys, guinea hens, river otters, an ostrich and an eland in view from our room. After breakfast we met with Jackie, the owner of Nordic Tours. She is from the United Kingdom. She briefed us on the itinerary of our trip. We made a few adjustments to accommodate our wishes. The rest of the morning we relaxed and repacked our luggage in preparation for the week long climb. We could only take 33 pounds with us.
After lunch the five of us, plus Steve and Skip went on a walking tour of a local village. Our guide was Frank who for 15 years was a council man for this village. The village was called Usa. A very poor village like many places that we passed by in the two weeks over there. The houses were one maybe two rooms. The walls were made of sticks and mud and some of brick and mortar. The roofs were tin or palm thatched. The floors were dirt. We handed out candy to the children as we went along the way. They liked that. Then we visited a school / orphanage. The children were very well behaved. They sang for us. We gave them candy, pencils and crosses. Then we each donated money to the school. What a blessing these schools are to the children of the village. While walking the village we saw a World Vision vehicle. They must help in this village.
Back to the Mount Meru Game lodge to watch the 4:30 pm feeding of the animals. We actually got to pet the eland, which is a little bigger than our whitetail deer. All the animals came out in the open for the feeding. The sun was shining and the temperature was very comfortable, probably 70’s.
Our last two for our climb finally arrived. Tim, a mathematician who has climbed the highest point in 48 of the 50 states and Patricia who is a lawyer.
Dinner was after dark outside by candle light. The food was very good. Most meals on the trip started out with a soup of some sort. Then bread, and fruit followed by the main course. The meat isn’t as good as our meat. The desserts were usually light.
After dinner we met with our head guide for the mountain climb, Elias. He went over our itinerary for the mountain climb and answered last minute questions. Then off to bed for our last night in a real bed for a week and our last shower for a week and our last time to use a real toilet for a week!!!
Day 4 October 8
It was a good 4 hour van ride to the Rongai Route. It rained all the way there. We all had to register first at the gate of Marangu National Park. That was half way to our starting point and is also the route that we finish on. On the long ride, of course, the girls had to stop for a bathroom break. We were all trying to stay hydrated for the altitude. This was our first experience with long drop toilets. Even at the bar where we stopped that is all they had. Which is basically a small hole in the floor that you squat over. It wasn’t very clean either.
The rain finally stopped as we started our climb on the Kenyan side of the Mountain at 6,400 feet. First we had to eat. They seem to give you a lot of food. We ate outside in a covered pavilion. We had Mango juice, carrot ginger soup, vegetable sandwiches, fruit and muffins. We finally got started about 3:15 pm. We started on a nice path through a pine forest. Along the way we passed people working out in the fields and a few huts. One of the huts had several children. Stephanie wanted to give them candy but couldn’t find any so she gave them our Gu energy gel with caffeine!! Then we passed through a tropical forest that was beautiful. As we approached our camp the forest turned to tall shrubs at 8,500 feet. We arrived at our first camp just before dark, about 6:15. Our tents were set up. We went to our tents to get our sleeping bags set up. The porters brought around hot water to wash up and coffee and tea to our tents. By the time dinner was ready it was dark and cooling off fast. We went from short sleeve shirts to jackets and hats. We ate in a big tent with chairs and a table cloth on the ground to set the food on. Apparently someone forgot the table. It showed up by the next night.
After dinner we was off to bed. Sleeping was rough. The ground was never completely flat, so the sleeping bags would slide down to the foot of the tent whenever you moved. We learned to adjust as the week went on.
Day 5 October 9
We awoke at daybreak with clear sky and 50 degree temperature. We have 6 -7 hours of hiking ahead of us today. After breakfast and repacking our sleeping gear we head out. The assistant guides with us are Pablo and Simon. They give us lessons in Swahili today. The trail is dusty from the volcanic ash. We wear gaiters to help keep the dirt off from our clothes and shoes. The temperature gets up in the 70’s. It is hot hiking at times. The landscape is shorter bushy trees and shrubs. We stopped half way at a camp where there are other groups to have lunch. Another 3-4 hours of hiking and we arrived at our second night camp about 5:30. We are now up in the clouds at 11,800 feet. It was getting colder at night. Before going to bed the porters would fill our Nalgene bottles with the boiled drinking water. We put these in our sleeping bags to help keep us warm. The bathrooms smell and are still wooden outhouses with a hole in the floor. At night the girls use a bottle to go in the tent so we don’t have to hike up the hill to the outhouse or we are getting real use to squatting behind a bush. A few of us started to get a headache that evening. I also was a little nauseated.
Day 6 October 10
Today we have a short but steep climb. We begin to leave the vegetation behind. Elias our head guide suggested that we wear 3-4 layers on the top and three layers on the bottom. We needed rain gear to start out. The clouds are surrounding us, so there is mist in the air. Before leaving the camp Stephanie gave many of the porters cross shaped carabineers with a laminated card attached to it with a bible verse on it. I had some devotional books that were written in English so I asked Elias to give them out. He was excited about both gifts. He started singing gospel music in Swahili and the porters started gathering around. They liked the gifts and went off to read them. Elias says that many of them read the bible.
Most of our headaches went away from the day before. We left camp about 9:45. The vegetation was green but very short. We got to the next camp at 1:45. This camp was called Mawenzi Tarn. It is at the base of the towering spires of Mawenzi at 14,100 feet. After having lunch and a little relaxing we climbed up the peak of Mawenzi. When we started it was very foggy. We could not see the top of the peak when we started or the camp down below when we got up higher. After climbing about an hour we reached the peak. As we were up there relaxing the clouds/ fog started to lift. We had about a 15 minute view of the camp down below and a gorgeous glimpse of the summit of Kilimanjaro. Thanks be to God for the awesome view. Then the sun was fading quickly so we headed back down to camp and our dinner. After dinner we go through the usual routine of checking our pulse oximeter and heart rate. Everyone is still maintaining an oxygen saturation above 97% with heart rates 70’s and 80’s. We also get a briefing about the next day climb.
Day 7 October 11
This is day 4 of our climb. We hike 4-5 hours today without much elevation gain (14,1000-15,580 feet). The terrain is like a moonscape. It is called the lunar desert. Just dirt and rocks. I could feel my heart rate increasing as I walked and I felt more short of breath. I had intermittent tingling in my hands and feet. They say that is from the Diamox, our medication to help adjust to the altitude. I also had occasional wave of nausea. We reached Kibo camp about 2:30. Right away we had to have lunch. You are suppose to eat good to keep your energy level up. We are all starting to loose our appetite from the high altitude. There are many people at this camp. Two routes join together for the final summit day. This camp has a ranger station and several permanent buildings. Some groups are staying in huts with several bunk beds in each room. The bathrooms are still gross with more people using them. We eat dinner early, about 5:00. Just finished lunch and lost my appetite, but still try to eat. Patricia is not feeling well. She feels too tired to come to dinner and doesn’t plan on hiking the summit. The plan is that after dinner get everything ready for the hike tomorrow. Get all your clothes on except for the last layer or 2. Sleep in your clothes. Have everything in your pack that you need. Have water ready to go. We go to bed at 7:30 and up at 11:30pm to eat again. I don’t feel like I slept at all.
Day 8 October 12
Day 5 of our climb. This is it. Our full moon summit. After we try to eat again!! We start out at 12:45 in the morning with headlamps on our head and warm clothing, hats, face cover, warm mittens and hiking poles. Our backpacks have our water and a few snacks. We have headlamps on our head to see in the dark. We started out with a light mist of snow / sleet. It cleared for a short time so that we had a short glimpse of the moon, but quickly clouded over and we were in the midst of the snow. We stopped at a cave shelter 1 ½ hours into the climb for some warm tea and cookies. I started to get very nauseated and took a Zofran. I tried to drink some extra water. At this point it was getting very hard to hike. You had to take small steps and you still got very short of breath. There are only half the oxygen molecules at this elevation as compared to sea level. Patricia had decided to try to go this morning but turned around at this point. I felt exhausted and could hardly stay awake. I tried to close my eyes when I stopped to catch my breath. They told us to not look up to see how far it was to the top, but to just keep looking at our feet. Not that you could see very far ahead anyway with the snow falling. We had guides along with us. About one for each person. I could see the guides grabbing both of the Mary’s back packs and carrying them for them. Finally as we got close to the top one of the guides took my pack and carried it. The last stretch at the top was very steep and narrow path. I remember thinking that this is the hardest physical challenge that I have ever done. Finally we made it to Gilman’s point. It was a little after day break. It was hard to tell exactly when the sun came up because of the snow falling. The visibility was about 20 feet. A couple of inches of snow covered the ground. We got up to the sign for Gilman’s Point (18,640 feet) and got our banner out to take a picture. There wasn’t much room on top of this peak. I remember trying to get a picture with the banner. I realized I could not keep my eyes opened for the picture. I felt so exhausted. Mary said my lips were very purple. At that point I realized that I needed to go back down. I could not have made the next 1 ½ hours of hiking to Uhuru Peak(19,340). Dan and I headed down. Mary, Mary Lou, Stephanie, Steve, Skip and Tim made it to Uhuru Peak. Dan helped me along with a guide, Michael. He carried my pack. I was in a daze from being hypoxic. I had a hard time completing thoughts or even getting my thoughts out of my mouth. There are times I felt like I was sleeping while I was walking. Luckily Dan thought to put sunscreen on my face. The sun decided to come out half way down to Kibo. I looked up at the summit and for a short time could see the top. That is when the rest of the group was up at Uhuru Peak. They said they got a short glimpse of the peaks. The walk down was tough with the loose steep scree. Dan and I got back to Kibo camp about 11.30. After a half hour nap and lunch we felt it was best for me to continue down to lower elevation without further delay. At 12:30 we left for another 4 hour hike to the next camp. I still was in a bit of a daze and had to stop and rest frequently. We finally got to camp about 5:00 and after a nap I was starting to get back to my normal self. The others didn’t make it to camp until well after dark. We were all very exhausted. The oldest two in our group Steve and Skip did the best on the hike. They left one hour later in the morning and had made it to Uhuru peak and back before we made it to Gilman’s point. They left for the second camp with Dan and I but went on ahead.
Day 9 October 13
Day 6 of our climb. Can’t wait to get to our hotel for a shower. This was the most beautiful part of our climb. The side we started on was the dry side. The route we are taking down is different from the one we started on. This side is the wet side. The tropical forest is much more lush, thicker and greener. We saw the monkeys in the trees here. There were also rivers and beautiful waterfalls. We stopped half way at the Cocoa cola camp for lunch. This route is easier and is traveled much more. After lunch it was raining so we put on our rain gear and headed down to Marangu National Park Gate. After signing the book at the ranger office and taking care of a little business for the guides and porters we head back to Mount Meru Game Lodge. We have a 2 hour ride. We were all eager to shower and have supper. Wow! What an experience!
Submitted by Deb
We left Mount Meru Game Lodge to shop & visit the cultural center in Arusha. This had the best prices for souvenirs and the most assortment of gifts we experienced throughout our trip.
On the way to safari we noticed the vast amount of herdsmen with their cattle and donkeys. These colorful people are known as the Maasai tribe, wearing an assortment of red & purple wraps. They are noted for only eating the meat, milk & blood of animals. Russell, our guide informed us that Tanzania is made up of over 125 tribes, mainly Christian, with Muslims being second and few other religions. There is peace between the Christians and Muslims which was reassuring.
On to Tarangire National Park, famous for its amount of Baoboa Trees and vast amount of animals. Debbie was in charge of marking down all of the animals & birds we saw & photographed.We ate our lunch at the beginning of the park entrance with blue monkey’s surrounding us. Waiting for a handout.
We stayed this night at the most beautiful Tarangire Lodge, which sits up on the river bluff overlooking the vast range. We were told to make sure we didn’t come out at night due to the elephants around the camp. There was no electricity at night and only one place to charge our batteries. But, we stayed in either very nice tents or bungilows with hot water. We had many small antelope running around called Dik-Dik’s, The largest antelope are called the Eland, which tried to join us for diner @ Mount Meru Game Lodge. God’s creatures are so amazing!
On to Ngorongoro Farm House, a 500 acre coffee & flower farm, more beautiful than last nights stay which was hard to top. Our waiter was a handsome young man who had training in hospitality, which he received because someone sponsored him. It brought tears of joy to my eyes. He told us a little about being from the Maasai tribe.
From here we toured the Ngorongoro Crater. We saw 4 of the big 5. Saw many Lions eating a fresh kill, Hyenacarrying a water buffillow carcass, hippos, zebra’s, wildebeests, warthogs,baboons, giraffe, elephants, dots of the black rhinos. huge flock of flamingos, and many other birds It was unbelievable to think you are driving around and the animals just cross the road in front of us like we belong in their home.
Tour a glass factory run by the deaf in Arusha, on our way to Zanzibar. A quaint shop, wish we had more time to explore.
At Zanzibar, our hotel was a 21/2 hour drive. Our guide got out of the car to show us a few of the many spices that grow wild on this island. He showed us that the cinnamon plant has 3 different smells: from its leaf, bark to the root which smells like vicks.
The hotel was LOVELY! White sand beaches, extremely cleaned, fresh produce with friendly hospitality.
The dive master would only let Stephanie dive since she had dove in the last year. The others did a 15 foot training dive, hardly worth the 115$ they charged. We did see clown fish and huge corals and sponges!
Mary and Stephanie tried paddle boarding while many experienced the fine massages available. The weather was sunny & hot. The Indian Ocean was like bath water and the pool was bromine so our eyes didn’t burn. Our swollen feet from the hike had now gone away.
We take a spice island tour via a beautiful but not air conditioned van. This tour was about 2 hrs from our hotel and seemed to be in someones back yard. We forget that everything they do is by hand, so this is not how we had in visioned a spice tour would be. Our guide would go from tree to tree telling of each plant’s fruit & its medicinal uses. A young man made baskets, necklaces, crowns and a neck tie for Dan as we went along. Another young man climbed a coconut tree and go each of us a coconut. He cut it open for each of us to try. It was very interesting.
On to stone town we passed by the fish market where Dan was the only brave one to experience the smells. We visited the church that was built were the slaves were stored, beaten and sold. It was heart wrenching. The last save trade was up until 1907! We then walked the narrow streets, passed their shops until we arrived back at the sea. We ate lunch at Mercury’s, a beach front restaurant that told of Freddie Mercury’s life since he was born on Zanzibar. Passed the palaces and museum and on to the airport to home.
Thanks be to our Lord & Savior for all of you who shared in our experience buy your generosity to Compassionate Life Foundation & uplifting us in your prayers as we made this journey. We are truly blessed by you, Thank you!