Friday, January 14th & Saturday, January 15th So the journey begins. I left Minneapolis at 10:20 on Friday morning and after spending 30 hours in airports and on airplanes we have arrived at our hotel by Mt. Kilimanjaro. I slept off and on a little bit for those 30 hours but never got to lay down once. I welcome the thought of laying horizontal tonight even though my bed is made for a midget. It’ll work. We will try to stay up for a while yet. It is about 12 midnight here so about 3:00 p.m. in La Crosse. We will try to stay up to get really tired, not that we aren’t already. Had our orientation for our climb today. Met our climb leaders and went over equipment and clothing ideas. Good guys and seemed to know their stuff. After that we reserved a tour with a local group. Our guide was a young man named Oscar. Our seven went with six others and the guides took us out of town in a truck into the foothills. The roads were dirt toads, bumpy and really quite an expedition. This was really interesting as Oscar took us to his village to see how people live in Africa. His people are the Chaga people. The houses are small with dirt floors and not much room at all. The people are extremely poor according to our standards but they are rich in many ways. Many smiling kids greeted us along the road. Many of the boys were dressed in nice shirts and pants and many of the girls had on dresses. They waved and smiled and gathered around us as we left our vehicles. They marveled at our cameras and VCR’s. They posed proudly and happily for group pictures. It was obvious to all of us that these kids were truly happy even though they were very poor. No televisions, no video games, no need for supervision and structure at every moment. They were happy to be with us and their smiles and hugs made us happy to be with them. They took us on a trail to a beautiful waterfall. It must have been 200 feet high. We spent a lot of time there. It was beautiful and much fun. Every time I travel to places that are really poor I always think how happy these people are. They have a freshness of spirit and a wonderful passion for life. We in the civilized world could learn much from them about what truly makes for happiness in life. We also were told that many of these kids had been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic which is of major concern in many countries in Africa. Hopefully their spirit and science can give them long lives. Tomorrow we start our climb. The journey begins. We leave the motel in Moshi at 9:00 a.m. We drive in two – seven seat SUV vehicles. The drive as everything else is very interesting. We drive on a two-lane road that lined with people walking to work and to school. The houses are very simple with a dirt floor. We comment on the amount of people that congregate in the doorways of many of the houses. Many of the women are dressed in colorful dresses and headgear. We see both male and female carry packages on their heads. The packages range anywhere from large bundles of what appear to be clothes or food to large bundles of firewood and even five- gallon pails. Our porters carry all of our bundles on their heads. They carry much and walk quickly. We drive in our vehicles and as we go the road which was paved becomes gravel. The terrain becomes wide-open prairie with many big boulders and huge termite hills. They extend for miles. Probably not a good place for wood construction. As we drive further we go into the forest where we find many shantytowns. People are living right on top of each other. We go further and see both men and women dressed in colorful traditional African clothing. As we approach the National Park our driver is going quite fast on the gravel road. At one point we come so close to another vehicle coming from the other direction that we think our passenger side mirrors clinked together. As we drive into the forest to begin our climb the road becomes steadily worse with deep ruts. Our driver does a masterful job of keeping us on the road but a few times we are leaning so far to the right we feel we might tip over. We continue on and at one point the driver gets out to lock the wheels into four-wheel drive to get us through a deep mud hole. We slide through, tires buried completely in mud and we race to the top of the hill, which signals the end of the road and the beginning of our climb. We eat a quick lunch, load our packs and prepare to follow our head guide Deo and our two assistant guides Goudens and Oreo along with them we have 34 porters to carry food, luggage, tents and other necessities. As we climb we see signs of elephants crashing through the underbrush and elephant dung. Good for us that we don’t see one on the path because it is very narrow. This is truly Africa. We are in the tropical rain forest and half believe that Tarzan could swing past us at any moment with Cheetah in tow. We continue our climb and we step aside occasionally for the porters, baggage on head, to race by us. They will prepare camp and the meals so that when we arrive everything will be ready. We go further into the forest seeing more signs of elephants. I couldn’t imagine seeing one crashing through the bush destroying everything in it’s path. What an incredible force. Further into the forest we go, our pace slow and our eyes and ears open. Suddenly we see the branches of trees moving. In the distant trees we spy a beautiful black and white colobus monkey leaping from one branch to another. We’re lucky to see one. They are very secretive and very beautiful. Their tail is completely white and must be almost three feet long and may 6 – 8” wide. We can no longer see him. He is once again hidden in the thick trees. We continue on. As we approach a cluster of tall thick trees we again see movement in the canopy. It is a group of 6-8 blue monkeys leaping from tree to tree. Their athletic ability and their tree top game of tag captivate us as we watch envious from the jungle floor. Still further we go into the jungle. In an opening in the jungle we see 3 more colobus monkeys in a lone tree. They do not see or hear us so we watch and take video. Onward and upward we go picking our way on a thin path through the thick high jungle. We climb onward today. When our trip is finished we will have traveled four miles in four hours. We arrive at our jungle camp. The porters are there and have settled into their routine. Our tents are ready for us and soon we will eat. Our safari toilet is also ready for us. A tarp with a zipper covers a five-gallon pail with a toilet seat. No indoors plumbing here. Dinner is wonderful. We are served chicken soup, spaghetti, hot cocoa and an assortment of other goodies. We have a seven-seat mess tent. Those who prepare our food for us are happy and helpful. We eat our fill. We prepare our tents and finish the night by playing hearts. We laugh lots and enjoy each others company. It is a good group. As we go to bed we look forward to the next days adventure. At night we are awakened in our tent by the howling of monkeys far above in the forest canopy. What adventures will tomorrow bring? Tea is served at 6:00 a.m. We pack our bags and eat breakfast. This morning we are served porridge, toast with peanut butter and jam and eggs with sausage and tomato. We will hike seven miles today and climb from 9100 feet to 11,500 feet. The first two hours will be spent climbing out of the rain forest. We are alert for movement in the trees. The only movement that we see however is the flight of an occasional bird. There are undoubtedly many animals close by in the trees and the thick jungle ground cover but today we see none. We have some difficult climbing today. It’s good that I have two walking sticks. They help to take pressure off my hips by using my upper body. As we leave the rainforest we enter the Moorland. The views as we go up are spectacular. We see green hills and valleys with patches of mist that roll in and out. In the far distance we can also see huge wheat farms. As we go higher the land becomes brush, rock and less green. The views in all directions are spectacular. Large and wide as far as the eye can see. Higher and higher we go. Our climb today will cover seven hours and seven miles. Tonight we camp in a vast open plain with Kilimanjaro to our west. It’s easy to see how this mountain has a special meaning to Tanzanians. It’s snow capped peaks jut to the sky and are often covered with clouds and mist. It’s a mysterious, wild looking place. Beneath the pinnacle are large stretches of gigantic rock walls and boulders. We wonder sometimes what we’re doing here and then again we wonder that we’re so lucky to be in this marvelous country. It becomes very cold tonight. These tents have frost and ice on them. We have dinner and play hearts. We have layers of clothes on to keep warm and we drink hot chocolate. Soon we go to bed to have a restless, sleepless night. My hip hurts and I don’t sleep We wake after a restless sleep. I’m not the only one. It is harder to sleep at this altitude. My body is not well rested. I wonder how difficult the hike will be and how tired the 9.3 miles will make me. We again have our morning tea. We are fortunate to this point. We‘ve eaten well and no one is sick. Camp is broken down. Systematic, disciplined, every porter contributes happily. There is a joy in knowing what to do and doing it with precision and cheer. No one thinks the work beneath him. One’s contribution affects all. It’s not about money; it’s not about position and power. Respect of team members and opportunity to walk under God’s wide stretching sky under this brilliant sun seem sufficient. Is there a lesson to learn here? We start out from camp. Soon we are passed by one group of porters after another. This pace is incomprehensible and unattainable to us mountain men who must first learn to crawl before walk or run. It’s one thing to walk at this altitude just supporting one’s own weight along with backpack. The porters also carry tents, chairs, air mattresses that they surely balance on the tops of their heads. None of them are massive men but what power they have. Today is a very flat trail. The scenery is much like our own Arizona or New Mexico. We hope to see animals but see none. We do see tracks near water of hoofed animals. We are here at the wrong time of year for herds or the predators who prey on them. Lions, hyenas, , and cheetahs travel with the herds and the thick brush and moor provide amply cover for deadly ambush. We are told that this migration of herds happens in the Kilimanjaro in September. We see a cave that was used by locals at night. They also burnt large fires at the mouth of the cave to distract any lions searching for an easy meal. The land is beautiful but also hard and harsh. I think to myself how easy it would be to lose oneself in this vast expanse of rock, mountain, and thin air. I think of the many ways one could perish. It’s good to be with men who know the way. Our guides as always are glad to answer our questions and speak with pride of their Tanzania. They tell us of the ghosts and spirits that are said to live in the mountains rock and snow. Do these ghosts want us here? Will they allow us to pass in safety or will they turn us back. We wish them no harm. We pray that they wish us the same. The wind is cold. It will become colder. I hope that I will be sufficiently clothed. Tonight we will camp in a valley surrounded by walls of rock. We have now entered the high desert area. We see much rock, sage, sand and more rock. Our camp reminds me of pictures of the moon. Even though the land becomes more desolate it has a rugged, cold strength about it. Our walk today was slow with many stretches of talk and hearty laughter. Everyone is well humored and responds well to the good-natured ribbing. I hope to sleep better tonight and look forward to seeing the natural amphitheatre where I can watch my star spectacular tonight. We eat well and play hearts again. Afterwards we go to bed. I read for a while giving my tent mate a chance to fall asleep. Robert informed me that I make sounds like a ferocious bear at night. Must be the altitude. I sleep well for a few hours and toss and turn afterwards. Nature calls in the middle of the night and I venture out into total darkness at land level, but look, the sky above is brilliant with a marvelous canopy filled with billions of stars. We started today at 11,500 feet We awake for our adventure. Some are better rested than others. I’m not well rested. Over breakfast we all decide to make our trip one day shorter. We decide that one less night of sleeping on the mountain in high altitude will be of benefit to all of us. Instead of camping at Lava Tower Camp, which is located at 14, 950 feet, we will go on to Arrow Glacier Camp at 15, 925 feet. This means that we will climb to the summit at 19,340 feet on Saturday. We finish breakfast and begin our journey. The sun took longer to get to us today because we were in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains. When it finally does arrive it warms all of us. It has a tendency to lift our spirits and warm our bodies. We’ve had wonderful weather the whole time. Much sunshine even though the nights are cold. As we trek further into the clouds the landscape continually changes. We no longer see the larger bushes and other plants. We see many rocks, rocks of all sizes and colors. We also see small clumps of grass. We have seen a weather pattern of sun in the morning. In the morning we can see Kilimanjaro’s snow peaked cover. As the day goes on the clouds and the mist move in to cover the mountains. The clouds lay between the mountains and their shapes and fluffy whiteness are beautiful to see. The mist creeps. It slowly blows in and covers the landscape. It moves about eerily and with stealth blown by the wind. Today we encounter many more groups of travelers. We meet at an intersection of paths on top of a ridge. The porters have gone ahead and set up a lunch tent for us at Lava Tower Camp. Lunch includes chicken, vegetables, and some very tasty French fried homemade potatoes. After lunch we venture on. The landscape becomes more barren yet. Rocks everywhere and now we have mosses, lichens and occasionally yellow flowering plants. I wonder if they’re lost. We should find more plant friends for them. Wait, no other plant friends will come to live here. It’s too cold and too barren. Are they lost or have they lost their minds? What does that say about us? Our climb now is steeper and more difficult. “Pole’, pole’” – slow in African. We all walk very slowly. It’s all we can do. A three second burst of speed can set your heart to race and your lungs to deprive you of the live giving oxygen that you so desperately want more of. Your entire body thinks you a fool I have encountered my own unwanted challenge today. It seems that an unfriendly mountain spirit has made it’s home in my bowels. Try as I might I cannot convince it to go way through the use of Imodium AD or Pepto. Harsh times call for harsh measures. I now bring my own chemical warfare into play with extra strength prescription pills. It feels better. I am hopeful that this uncomfortable mountain bowel spirit will completely have vacated the premises by tomorrow a.m. I am a bit fearful that I may have become a bit dehydrated. I did not eat dinner and tried to sleep. Sleep would not come. Robert, my tent mate, tells me that we will be awakened at 4:45 a.m. We packed all that we need for the mountain in a bag and backpack. That which we will not need will be sent with the porters to the other side of the mountain. We will see it again on Saturday, the day that we summit. We will leave camp at 6:00 a.m. and attempt to climb to 18,300 feet by tomorrow evening. We will climb 2400 feet and it will be by far our most difficult day. We are told that much of this climb is very steep. It will test our wills and our stamina. I wonder how well I will breath at this height. Our camp tonight is in a valley surrounded by mountain snow and ice. It will be cold sleeping tonight. God give us Sleep again came in small restless bunches last night. I yearn for a bed and a peaceful nights sleep. I got just enough sleep to feel somewhat refreshed. We eat breakfast and begin later then planned at 7:00 a.m. Today the feel in our group is different. The laughter and the chatter are gone. Each is alone to their own thoughts and plans of how to successfully finish this day. The going is slow and steep. In many places we take one-step forward and stop to inhale and exhale. We see things today that we have never seen before. At one point one of our guides uses a climbers axe to chip footsteps in a glacier. It becomes more and more difficult. At another point the guides tie a rope around us before we start our ascent of giant ice covered boulders. As we reach the top of this sections we all gasp for what little oxygen there is available in this hard place. Any fast movement or spurts of more than one movement send us gasping with oxygen deprivation. Our faces look different today. They are not as happy to be here. I think we all ask what could we possibly have been thinking? Many times we continue our climb and there are sheer cliff walls either to our left or right. The scenery is breathtaking in more ways than one. We are above the clouds and look down on top of their billowy softness. Early this morning before we left our last camp I walked outside to see a sky full of magnificent stars and the lights of the cities many miles below us. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see such a breath taking sight. There are so many things to be thankful for. Sometimes we have to exert a bit more energy in the looking. Our journey goes on upward and always higher. As we approach 8.5 hours of hiking and climbing today we all would like this day to end. Our hearts and lungs have been taxed near to the limit. At last we reach our destination. The wind blows hard and cold here as it blows over the top of a tall and expansive glacier. The glacier is approximately 100 feet tall and many more feet wide. Even though it is a huge piece of ice we are told that it is receding quickly due to the changes in our planet’s atmosphere. The belief is that it will be extinct within another ten years. I’m glad I could see it. Our adventure does not end when we get to camp. The stress of the day and the complete exhaustion of the day have left Robert and some in our party in a potentially dangerous situation. Part of our group has to be given oxygen to help the recovery process. Each night we are tested for pulse and oxygen count in our bloodstream and mine are also troublesome. Typically my resting heart rate is in the mid 60’s. Tonight it is 107. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. My oxygen level, which started out at 90 – 92, is 67. I am dangerously close to the 50’s in which case I might have to abort this mission. What on earth have we gotten our collective a_ _ ’s into? I quickly eat and pour as much liquid into my body as possible. I encourage Robert to do the same. We are doing better tonight. Tomorrow we climb the final 1000 feet to the top. I hope we will all be able to. I’ve been in our two-man tent since 4:00 p.m. I try to rest and even sleep but I cannot sleep. It’s no wonder with my heart racing like it is. As I write this, the wind is whipping against our tent. I will sleep tonight, if I can with three layers of clothes on my lower body and four layers of clothes on my upper body. The fourth layer is my winter jacket. In addition I’ll have my stocking hat on and foot warmers in the two pairs of socks I’m wearing. I’m so looking forward to reaching the top of this mountain then quickly going down and going on our safari. After that I plan to go directly to a doctor skilled in Psychology when I get back to the States to see if all of my circuitry is in proper working It’s still Friday night. I’ve been in our two-man tent since 4:00 p.m. Sleep hasn’t come yet. I worry about my body being completely worn down and not being able to make it to the top. What can happen? How would they get me down from the mountain at 18,300 feet? The altitude medicine that we take makes us go to the bathroom more often. I have to go out into the cold glacial night three times for comfort. Still no sleep. I may have dozed for 30 minutes to 1 hour but no relief. At 4:30 a.m. they come to wake us up. The strength has left my body. I am weak and in a very foul mood. Even though I feel this way I must not let the others feel my anger. Robert is much better this morning, I am glad. I put my luggage together and am almost too weak to stuff my sleeping bag into its container. It makes me winded. I finish packing and must walk to the breakfast tent. The smell of food is sickening. Get me off of this damn mountain! I tell Deo that I cannot climb in this condition. He agrees. My oxygen concentration is now 64 and my pulse is 109. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep. Some look worse than I do. Six of us are given oxygen. It brings life back to me. I can function again. We have 1000 feet to go to reach the summit. “Pole’, Pole’”. It is the only way. One step inhale, exhale. My feet and hands are cold. They do not warm up because we are moving so slowly that no heat is generated. I wiggle and move them constantly in the hope of warming them. We continue on. The oxygen has strengthened us. We again have energy and hope. Now we believe that we can make it. Ask me one hour before and I wouldn’t have believed it. Step by step closer to the top we go. We stop for water. It too gives us energy. Now we believe even more in our possibilities. Onward and upward. The camp is far below. We are getting closer to the top. Now we are sure that we will make it. Finally one by one we step up on the sand plateau into the brightness of the sun. The mountain challenged us but in the end it decided to allow us to achieve our goal. We must walk another five minutes to get to the sign at the top where we gather to take pictures and fly our Riverfront Banner. We are glad that our pain and suffering can help others who have the courage to suffer more than we do and the strength to go on everyday. We can learn so much from these people. We are happy. We celebrate. Now let’s get the hell off this mountain! Our spirits are lifted immediately. We no longer have to struggle with the thought of going upward. We leave the summit at 19,300 feet and quickly descend 4000 feet. Much of the way we encounter ankle deep sand and small rock. The incline is perfect and we are able to ski down the mountain. It probably took up less than two hours to cover 4000 feet. It was much harder going up. We have a renewed energy. We have decided to go all the way down to 10,000 feet. This will take us to the border of the Rain Forest. This day we will hike for approximately 11 hours and descend 9,300 feet in altitude. We are all very tired at the end of the day. We eat little and look forward to bed and sleep. Sleep finally comes. I slept more in one night than in the past four. Things are good now. It’s hard to believe what a dangerous mess we were in earlier this I am well rested. We all look better and are looking forward to the final descent. The final trip down will last about three hours and we will cover about four miles. We enter the rain forest and are covered on our entire journey by a canopy of shade giving trees. The large trees with mosses and incredible plant growth are beautiful to see. This path is more traveled than our first trip into the raid forest and we do not see any animal life at all other than a small mouse and a line of African ants called Siafu in Swahili. Very dangerous little guys. We continue on and we finally see the final destination. We are happy, take pictures, and congratulate each other and our guides. We sign in at the Ranger Station and have a coke. Now we are ready to walk the final 15 minutes to our waiting vehicles. Now come some very high energy and intense moments. We are descended upon by local boys who are selling goods. The further we go down the hill the more boys show up and the more intense their presentation becomes. They will not take no for an answer. I keep walking. I buy a few things each time getting a better price than I was first quoted. One particular Masai blanket that started out at $50 was eventually thrust through the window of the vehicle and sold for $15. Everything can be bartered for. For me it is fun to talk to the boys and young men. I smile, pat them on the back, thank them and either buy something or tell them no. Our guide Goudens has walked with me every step of the way. He holds every piece for me after I purchase it and shoos away any overly aggressive salesman. This may be a game for me but it is no game for these youngsters. They wish to sell their wares at all costs. If they don’t accomplish this who knows what the consequences might be. A small boy has only a knife he wants to show me. He smiles and as of yet does not have the same aggressive hustle that the older boys have. Eventually one of the older boys grabs him around the shoulder and throws him off to the side. No room for little ones in this shark feeding frenzy. I finally make it to the vehicle but the buzz is at its greatest point now. The truck is surrounded on both sides by intense, aggressive salesmen. They thrust things through the open windows. Eventually I close the windows and ignore them. We drive away leaving a mass of young, never take no for an answer salesman behind us. We drive towards our motel. It bothers me to see young people in any country extending their hands for a handout. I see it quite a bit on the way to town. We all have sore legs from descending the mountain quickly. Going downward for two days takes it’s toll. We arrive at the Keys Motel and take our dirty clothes to the laundry. We have our shoes cleaned, and relax with nothing to do. We meet a Canadian group who is taking 25 people on the Western Breach route that we took. We give them some of our left over altitude pills, Gatorade, and information. I think that we scared them with our stories. Now it will be their turn to make their Another day of rest. We don’t do much at all. I get up early and go soak in the pool for a while. My legs are still sore. We spend part of the day eating, reading and napping. At 3:00 p.m. we plan to go into town. We take a taxi in and soon after we enter the downtown area where we are surrounded by young men wanting to sell us something or be our guides. We are obviously tourists and all eyes look at us as we walk by. It is an unusual feeling to be in the minority. It gives one a different perspective. We wonder what people think as we walk by. I am looking for gifts for my family, my brother, and Kate’s family. One young man becomes our tour guide. He takes us into nooks and crannies I never would thought to have seen. The small stores, the back alleys, the busy markets. All are new and exciting. People sit on the ground on blankets with their fruits and vegetables piled next to them. I see Masai people in town peddling their goods. I see people selling fish that have been shipped from Lake Victoria. The fish are in a wheel barrow. They are not refrigerated. Flies are all about and the smell is strong. I find a wrap for my wife. I ask the lady to model it and she does. I’ll take it. Jim, who is a member of our party, has come along for the tour with me. Our other five have gone off by themselves with another tour guide. We continue to walk through this city of 1.2 million people. I see an old woman sitting on the sidewalk begging for a handout. Little African boys are coming home from school and they say “Hi” to us. Many kids learn English in school. The people we pass are friendly; many wave, smile and say “Jambo” to us. We are all people. It isn’t that difficult to smile and say hello to another. Jim and I have fun bartering. Most times we don’t buy anything. One man mumbles something after we tell him that we do not want his knife. I ask our guide. He says the man said some bad things. Maybe not a good idea to deny a man with a knife. Eventually we pay our guide and find a taxi. We arrive at home before the others. Eddie Frank the owner of Tusker Trail, our outfitter, has been at the motel for the last two days. He will lead the expedition of 25 up the mountain. Tonight we are having a barbecue on the motel lawn in honor of Eddie and this large group. The food is good. Tonight will be our last night at the Keys Hotel. Tomorrow morning we will begin our safari. I sleep well again at night and am catching up on some of the sleep that I lost on The trucks arrive to pick us up and we leave by 9:00 a.m. Our drivers are Abraham and Jackson. We have about a 3-½ hour drive to get to our tent lodge at Kirurumu. Along the way we again see many people. We see children going to school, people carrying bananas and other fruits. Everywhere there is color and motion. The color is brilliant. Shades of purple, red, yellow, green, and blue. The country becomes more expansive as we drive on. We see many herds of cattle and goats. The further we go the more we see the Masai Tribe people. They are nomadic herders. This is a hunter and gatherer society in the 21st century. They are dressed most colorfully. We see some of their young men who have just gone through the Rite of Circumcision. They have painted their faces and some have feathers in their hair. When they reach this time in their life they leave the house for the whole day and for the next 6 – 12 months. They are to hide themselves from people and have no contact with girls. The ones we see are not hiding but instead are trying to get their pictures taken by tourists to make money. Some stand by the road and shake their feathers as tourists drive by. We drive on and the land becomes even bigger and more expansive. The plains become more open and stretch as far as the eye can see. There are hills and mountains in the distance that border and encircle this vast landscape. On we go. There are now fewer people as we continue to drive into this vast continent. Cattle and goats are the measure of a man in this land. People work all day in this harsh land tending their flocks. We are told that the Masai have killed lions with their spears when their flocks have been attacked. These are men of courage. We finally arrive at our tent camp. We are pleasantly surprised. Our rooms are thatched huts with tent siding. We have two beds with mosquito netting. The bathroom facilities include shower, sink, and powerful flush toilets. We go to dinner and find an open-air thatched hut with waiters ready to serve. The outdoor bar has comfortable couches and chairs that give a panoramic view of the plains and Lake Manyara. You can see to the limits of your vision and beyond. The view is phenomenal. We now leave for our tour of the game preserve at Lake Manyara National Park. As we enter the park we immediately see a family of baboons. They appear like friendly monkeys but actually can be aggressive, even savage protectors of their family. They are known to defend themselves and theirs against leopards and lions. This is much like the movie Jurassic Park. We have a land cruiser whose top pops up and we are able to see a multitude of animals in their natural setting. We see elephants, giraffes, water buffaloes, hippos, storks, gazelles, more baboons, and then we see the highlight of the show, two young beautiful male lions. They appear like tame, docile, domestic cats. Don’t let that lazy family cat look fool you. This is their time for sleep and laziness during the day. During the night the look in their eyes will be one of a cunning, merciless killing machine. Night would be no place for a human to wander this area. After all, the lion always look for the slowest and weakest. It’s the way of the wild. As with everything in this country the game preserve is vast and endless. The land seems to stretch forever. We go back to our tent camp and have dinner. After dinner we look forward to the next day, which will be filled with more stories about the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. We leave our tent lodge by 8:30. Abraham our driver picks us up and we drive down the dirt road, which was dusty and hard yesterday. It rained last night. The road is now wet and slippery. The Land Rover slips and labors at some points on the road. We get onto the black top and go for a while until we stop at a roadside gift shop. The people in the shop ask too high a price for everything so we barter. I pick up a statue, elephant tail wrist bracelet, and two refrigerator magnets. On we go. After a while we come to the ranger station that leads into Ngorongoro Crater. We climb up to 7500 feet sea level and overlook this massive crater. It is approximately 12 miles in diameter and is the home for all types of animals. We will explore it more in depth within a few days. It is a beautiful sea of lush green. As with everything in Africa, it’s vastness is astonishing. We go down on the road as we head toward the Serengeti. We see many Masai people on our route. We even see some of their villages along with large heads of cattle and goats. We are asked if we want to visit a Masai village. We all do. We are met by the chief of the village who informs us that the charge is $60 per carload. We enter the village and immediately become aware that this lifestyle has not changed for hundreds of years except for the newfound flair for capitalism. We are greeted by many friendly Masai and are shown some dances and even asked to participate. Then we are split into two groups and taken by a father and his son into a Masai home. It is made of sticks and cow dung mixed with water to strengthen the walls. There are two tiny rooms for sleeping, one for kids and one for mom and dad. There is no privacy. There is also a small living space that has a fire pit. Sometimes I wonder all the things we need, feel we need, in our homes. We then go outside and look at some of the Masai beaded work and other art. It is very colorful. We take pictures in the process. We notice that there is no attempt at dental care in this village. We are asked if we would like to see the school. It is a mud hut made of sticks that house the five-year-old group at this time. The children are singing a song. We clap our hands in rhythm. The kids smile at us and shake hands. What a memorable experience. Life goes on in many different forms. Material things do not guarantee happiness or purpose. The Masai are rich and fulfilled in many ways. On to the Leakey Museum at Olduvai Gorge. We really are in the cradle of civilization. The famous scientist Richard Leakey and his daughter Mary were responsible for uncovering much of the evidence that supported the existence of prehistoric man, animals and tools. It’s unbelievable to be standing here and overlooking this famous past of human evolution. When we finish here we drive out into the Serengeti. We are driving on a one-lane dirt road. Our Land Rover is very stable and we make good time. We see literally thousands of Thompson’s gazelles. They are everywhere. We also see larger antelope, wildebeest, ostriches, and then all at once we again see the King of Beasts. We see six in a group. There is one young male and five females. They don’t have a care in the world. They look like big house cats but we are sure that none of us cares to step out of our vehicle. Most definitely this docile house cat could transform into a vicious current of pouncing death at the slightest provocation. What a magnificent creature. We continue with our travels towards our overnight stay at Ndutu Safari Lodge. As we get closer the animals start to diminish. We are very close to camp now and just as we turn a corner on a dry lakebed we see two large male lions hidden by bushes. As always a lion’s sighting is awe-inspiring. On we go to our lodge. It is beautiful and overlooks a lake. We check in, eat dinner, and make ready for the next day. During the night a loud, deep animal grunting wakens me. It is very close to our cabin screen. Too close! I lay wondering if it might come closer and even consider coming through the screened window in the morning I am told it was either a hyena or a lion. I’m happy I’m still here. Today is a full day of Safari on the Serengeti Plain. Abraham picks us up at 8:00 a.m. We travel through a scrub and acacia tree areas. We see a few long eared foxes and a few small antelopes. Abraham stops suddenly and notices something in the distance in a large Acacia tree. This could be too good to be true because no one has expected to see the solitary assassin of the jungle who operates all missions with the highest degree of stealth. The almost fully consumed zebra has only one leg left dangling from the tree. A large brown eagle is finishing what the leopard left long before we got there. To have the strength to carry a zebra into a tall tree. Remarkable. We go on and see very few animals in the scrub environment. We move again onto the open plain. The plains are full of zebra, Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeest, giraffes and ostriches. The ostrich is a very shy bird and takes to foot whenever we draw near. Its speed is amazing and it changes directions with the help of its large, flightless wings. It is intriguing to see it explode across the plains with long legged bursts of speed. We see many animals and birds and then we are fortunate to come upon a pearl hidden in the plains grasses. Out from behind a few clumps of sagebrush Abraham sees the spotted faces of the fastest animals on earth, the cheetah. They are beautiful and wary. Their thin bodies accelerate them to almost 70 miles per hour as they engage in their life and death sprints for prey. It is good for the animals they pursue that they can only break the animal possibilities of speed for only short periods of time. If this sprinter were a marathon runner he could and would kill all prey every time. In the distance we see more yellow and black faces peering out from the plains scrubbery. Three more cheetahs lie in camouflage. We are lucky to find these graceful, shy speedsters of the Serengeti. Time passes on. We see more animals. At 2:30 we decide to break until 4:30. We rest and read waiting for 4:30. We look forward to the evening search. At 4:30 we are ready. We begin by traveling by the lakebed next to the tall reeds and brush that border the lake. Almost immediately we encounter the king of beasts. We see two large males and two females with them. The big cats are calm and content. A ways down the path we see another large solitary male. This is good luck. We go to the other side of the lake and find a group of hippos. On we go and we come across large groups of giraffes with some elephants joining them for some tree top dining. They glide across the landscape eating as they go. We look ahead and find our friends Land Rover stopped in an area of large acacia trees surrounded by deep greenery. We hold our breath in anticipation. Someone quietly says “leopard”. He is there in one of the acacias. He rests with his back to us twitching his long, beautiful tail. We all peer through the binoculars in amazement at this beautiful, efficient killer. He senses that someone is watching and slowly turns and comes down the trunk of the tree. We watch and videotape as he disappears into the thick underbrush at the base of the tree. It is the last that we will see of this jungle master of camouflage. What a remarkable sighting. We go on and see a baboon group along with many giraffes in the bush. It is starting to get dark and on our way home we go back along the lakebed. In the distance we see the lions again. This time there are five females along with the two large males and they are now joined by three cubs. This happy African family is a sight to see. It has been a great day. We travel back to camp with the dusk and hope for another adventure tomorrow. Today we will travel from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater. Along the way we see countless numbers of gazelles and zebras. There are also spattering of wildebeests, ostriches, and again today we see hyena packs. The hyenas are a scruffy looking lot. They always have a look of distrust and dangerous mischief to come. They are not to be trusted. Ngorongoro Crater is a natural marvel. It is 12 miles in diameter and 2000 feet high. During this time of the year it is a lush green. The top of the crater is outlined in the greenest canopy of rain forest. As we drive in, the forest gives way to rolling green hills with much rock outcropping. Picture a place where all animals both predator and prey exist together. The lamb will sleep with the lion. Not actually because at Ngorongoro the lion eats the lamb. We drive further and when we reach the bottom large herds of zebras and wildebeest surround us. The Masai warriors have also ventured to the bottom of Ngorongoro. They bring a club, spear, and long knife along for protection against the teeth and claws of the lions and hyenas. Just a bit further we go and we see a pride of eight lions patiently waiting for something to wander unexpectedly into their tall savannah grass. They are well hidden and would surely welcome the opportunity to close their steel jaws on the jugular of some unsuspecting prey. Their feast must wait, for the next thing that comes their way is a large herd of cattle. They lay in wait. This will be an easy catch. It seems that we miscalculated. We are told that the big cats have a healthy fear and respect for anything that belongs to a Masai. Is it the bells of the cows that they know or the brightly colored clothing of the warriors? Whatever breeds this fear in them will make them wait for another meal, which is not so threatening. We see five cheetahs in the distance. What a perfectly shaped animal for speed and its speed does kill. We are not fortunate to see it cross the plains with the speed that can be both blinding and deadly. We decide to eat lunch by a pond at the bottom of the crater. We are told to eat in the vehicle because the birds will dive upon your food. The pond looks peaceful enough. It looks like any farm pond back in Wisconsin. But this is not Wisconsin. We are told that in excess of 100 hippos walk and wallow under the quiet waters of the ponds surface. The slow, lazy hippo is Africa’s #1 killer. Be careful where you swim. After lunch we again set out. After a short drive we see far in the distance the one animal that we had hoped to see in Ngorongoro. Our powerful binoculars tell us that we have found the Black Rhinoceros. We actually see three. It’s good for us that they are at a distance for they have a reputation of being short sighted and short tempered. We leave the rhinos and find large herds of the African Water Buffalo. A formidable, powerful looking animal. Lions too, must be weary of this foul tempered amazingly strong animal. We go in and look down upon a small roadside stream. We see a glimmer of green sunning itself at the creek side. It is the Green Mamba. One of the faster and most poisonous snakes in Africa. We are lucky however that it is not it’s cousin the Black Mamba, the most dangerous most ill tempered poisonous snake in Africa. We were told that the Black Mamba is called the “7 Step” because its poison is so fast and so deadly that a person can become delirious and unable to help himself just 7 steps after the deadly poison is injected. We move on and see more animals. Herds of herbivores covering the planes as far as the eyes can see occasionally sprinkled with the smaller groups of meat eaters who follow them always hopeful of getting their fair share of the circle of life. We go out of Ngorogoro. Tonight we will be staying at Sopa Lodge. What a marvelous place. Situated at the rim of Ngorongoro Crater this 13 year old lodge is a spectacular combination of architecture and breathtaking scenery. We may be in Africa but this is certainly not roughing it. We have saved the best for last. We have all decided that we will not spend tomorrow morning looking for more animals. We are content. We have seen more wildlife and more amazing views of this land and country than any of us thought possible. Tomorrow will be a travel day which ultimately will bring us to the airport and our gateway back to the States. It has truly been the adventure of a lifetime. Anyone who is ever given the opportunity to travel to this remarkable area should not think twice. From the top of Kilimanjaro to the plains of the Serengeti, to the villages of the Masai, to the bottom of Ngorongoro, for the spirit and special welcome of the people of Tanzania, this is a remarkable place that will always tell remarkable tales. We are fortunate to have our own to


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