Aug 27 2010

Mozambique – diary 2010-08-01 to 2010-08-21

2010-08-01 to 2010-08-21

We left Masasi in Tanzania at 7:30am after a good night’s sleeps and a wholesome breakfast. The road was going to be long and hard and we wanted to get an early start in the hope of reaching Pemba on the Mozambique coastline before the end of the day. Unity Bridge, a brand new bridge joining Tanzania and Mozambique was officially open and that was precisely where we were headed for. The road in Tanzania as superb; we could hear the purr of the BF Goodrich tyres on the smooth tarmac which made the 1st hours driving magical. Customs and immigration was efficient and we had been processed in a matter of minutes. We drove over the tusk adorned bridge and arrived on the Mozambique side and entered their shiny new offices. The immigration officer didn’t bother asking us for a visa as we were travelling on our South African passports which surprised us as we had received news that the Mozambique visa was now costing South Africans R575. We paid nothing. They signed and stamped our carnet and after a brief search of the vehicles we were o our way. The road was tarred for about 10 kilometres and then suddenly stopped; it came to a dead end and we had to search for the road. It was 500 meters back and so we navigated our way to the red dirt track and started our 350km journey to paradise. The landscapes were beautiful with the mighty, leafless Baobab trees forming the backdrop our scenic route. The roadside settlements bore an uncanny resemblance to those of the Angolan villages we passed through 4 months previously where houses were made from reeds and thatched with palm fronds. The Mozambique people waved, making us feel welcome in their country.

The road challenged us with thick soft sand that clung to every conceivable part of the car, making its way in through any nook and cranny. The dashboard gave off a glow of red dust in the sunlight and our skin felt grimy and dusty. The going was tedious and slow with an unsung wish for beautiful tarmac and our destination to appear before us but alas the GPS was our reality check. Our predicted time of arrival was 9:30pm which at 3:00pm was enough to make any person feel despondent. We persevered and our spirits were renewed when we reached a brand new tar road where it was supposed to be gravel. We gained some time and relished in the dust free road that lay ahead but this was unfortunately not to be the case for the remainder of the journey. When we reached the intersection at Montepuez; what was supposed to be tarmac was nothing but potholed blacktop where we had to reduce our speed and negotiate the obstacles with care. As we progressed further the holes appeared to have been filled to a certain decree and we were able to drive over them without feeling that spine rattling thud every time we hit a bad hole.

Our spirits were lifted yet again when we reached Metuge where we were treated to an amazing road for the last 120km. The sun had set at 6:15pm and we arrived at Russell’s Place in Pemba just after 8pm. I was fortunate to be driving Mvubu, our trusty Land Cruiser that has a comfortable suspension; Kirk on the other hand was driving Kobe, a bone shaking hard suspension vehicle. I was absolutely shattered so I could only imagine how poor Kirk must have been feeling. He confirmed my suspicions. He was aching in every conceivable place and promised me that the worst was now over and that 12 hour driving days were a thing of the past. My relief was overwhelming.

Pemba was a little gem. It surprised all of us in that we were expecting a rural seaside location with nothing to offer in terms of food or supplies. We were wrong on all accounts. It was a bustling little town that had everything we could ever need. The seaside apartments were traditionally colonial and well preserved offering a little bit of insight as to what Pemba would have been like in the 60’s. The traditional African charm in terms of rubbish and informal market settings filled every other available space.

We had arranged to meet up with Kristina and Andrew, a couple we had met in Ghana, at Russell’s Place. We had not seen them since Libreville, Gabon and were excited to catch up and share tales of the past 3 months. After a good dinner and well deserved beer we set off in our vehicles to bushcamp 10 km south of the town. It was a gorgeous spot and with fatigue clasping us tightly in its jaws, we retired to bed and enjoyed a sound sleep.

The sunrise was spectacular the following morning with an array of colours splashing themselves across the illuminated sky. The turquoise ocean was the picture of brilliance and we enjoyed our first relaxing morning cup of coffee in a long time.

We headed into town to sort our insurance and foreign exchange as well as a few food essentials. We decided to have a crayfish braai that evening and visited the local fishmonger who had 2 huge crays, each weighing 1kg each. We made our way back to Russell’s place where we checked our e-mails, enjoyed some lunch and awaited the arrival of Stephanie and Riaan, a couple we had met in Nairobi, Kenya. With everyone in tow, we headed to our bushcamp where we proceeded to prepare the fire for the evenings feast and relax overlooking the Indian Ocean. The fillet steak was prepared and as a final preparation for the crashfish, Andrew was sent to wash them in the sea. Upon doing so one of the monsters was washed out of the container never to be found again. We were all out in force scouring the shoreline in search of our dinner but to no avail, he was long gone and soon to be the feast for many other sea faring creatures. We did however enjoy the one that remained and gorged ourselves on fillet steak, crayfish tail, salads and savoury rice.

The tide subsided quite significantly that night and at midnight we found ourselves exploring the rocky shores observing the nocturnal sea creatures that provided much entertainment. The number of sea cucumbers and nudibranchs in the little pools was impressive and we even spotted a baby moray eel and a peppered eel.

The weather the following morning was grim with a strong onshore wind blowing and thick grey clouds threatening over head. The boys all headed into town to sort our car maintenance; Kobe’s front differentials were not engaging and in order for us to discover off the beaten track destinations it was imperative to have them seen to to avoid the winch on Mvubu working over time. I took the opportunity to relax with a book which seemed to be the days to follow routine as well. The sun did grace us with its presence in the days to follow and all 3 girls were looking rather tanned and sun touched at the end of the 3 days we were camped just south of Pemba.

The plan was to drive south along the coast for as much of the time as possible, so with copious amounts of route planning and enquiring from the locals we set our noses south and headed along the road less travelled. The main obstacle that had the large majority of our concerns was the Rio Lurio. The track on Tracks for Africa said that this route was within our capabilities but at ones own risk. Being the dry season we figured t was worth a try and we were happy with our decision when we reached the last village before the sandy banks of the river. We had about 15 local guys eager to help us with the crossing but this was unnecessary as sand was coarse and allowed us to cross with ease. All 4 vehicles made it through without a problem and my first experience of proper off roading was exhilarating and had Christina, who had decided to ride with me all day, and me in high spirits with whooping and clapping for joy when we crossed the main channel. The rest of the road was dusty gravel and the decision to bush camp 13km outside of Nacala was made 20 minutes before sunset. A beef stew was prepared and thoroughly enjoyed after an exciting day of driving. Bush showers were imperative as the dust had once again coated every inch of our bodies as well as everything in the car. Sleep came easily although it was disturbed by creepy cretins that we suspected to be mice as Riaan and Stephanie noticed the following morning that one had found its way into their Land Cruiser and had feasted on their potatoes.

The following morning saw a short drive to Nacala, a Peninsular that is renowned for its diving and pretty white coral sand beaches. The bay at Fernao Veloso was the epitome of what one would expect a paradise beach to look like. The sea was crystal clear and consisted of various shades of sapphire, indigo, turquoise and azure. It was spectacular and we were eager to find ourselves a suitable bushcamp along the coast so that we could enjoy every possible moment of this luxury. We quickly stopped to buy some squid for dinner and a few curios before setting off along the coast where we found a very generous Senegalese man who owned some prime property 2 coves south of Fernao Veloso. We set up camp right under a giant Baobab tree and spent the afternoon snorkelling and swimming and ended the fine day with a delicious meal that was of restaurant standards.  

The temptation to stay one more day at paradise was a mutual feeling and so without much debate we set off to find another snorkelling haven where the visibility was excellent and we saw wonderful sea creatures. The weather was slightly overcast so after a good hour of snorkelling we were chilled to the bone and decided that we were in desperate need of a warming coffee. That evening was our last night in Nacala and we had thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The location was superb and we had feasted like kings fo next to nothing. Our next stop was Ilha de Mozambique.

We wanted to get an early start in order for us to get to Ilha de Mozambique relatively early so that we could spend the entire day exploring the old capital of the Portuguese East Africa. The drive in took us over a 3½ km bridge that was a challenge for any driver. It was wide enough to fit only one vehicle and to make it more challenging, the road maintenance that was taking place meant that huge oil drums had been placed on either side of the already narrow bridge to force cars to drive slowly. Squeezing Mvubu through the narrow spaces was interesting! At the other end of the bridge lay a town that was occupied by decaying pastel coloured colonial mansions that rubbed shoulders with the traditional reed huts amongst the palm trees on this tiny island of Mozambique. It has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site which usually results in massive tourist prices and precocious local people but we were pleasantly surprised. The local people continued as they would normally live and we were not hassled by any touts that so usually come hand in hand with such attractions. We submerged ourselves into the island and dreamt about what it must have been like in its heyday with the hustle and bustle of trading and the colonial building in their prime. The children were delightful. They all loved having their photographs taken and would squeal with delight when they were shown the picture on the playback screen on the camera. We felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlet at one stage with a string of children following us to interact with the tourists and have their picture taken. It was a delightful experience that took us to lunchtime. We enjoyed a cold drink and light lunch at a little cafe’ that occupied one of the renovated colonial mansions. Next on our agenda was to find suitable accommodation for the night. We knew there was not camping facilities on the island itself but we thought we would chance it and see if perhaps one of the guest houses or restaurants would allow us to camp in their driveway or front garden but this was to no avail, either the space wasn’t large enough to fit 4 vehicles in or the entrance was too low. We were in a pickle and were desperate to find somewhere as we really wanted to enjoy the night atmosphere the island had to offer and didn’t want to drive across that daunting 3.5km bridge. As a last resort we went to see the curator of the museums on the island. He told us that we were allowed to camp anywhere on the island and so with that news picked our spot right next to the islands main feature, the Fort of Sao Sebastian, where a nice grassy spot provided us with ample space to park for the evening. We enjoyed a seafood feat that evening at one of the restaurants where traditional Mozambique cuisine was served to us by a delightful waitress. In an idyllic setting.

We were woken the following morning by a motor bike that drove past us at least 4 times. I suppose they had never seen tourist pitch a tent right outside the main fort before and of course we provide great entertainment for them. We packed up when the guards changed shift and made our way to the southern part of the island passing the white washed Church of Santo Antonio overlooking the turquoise seas and fishing boats. We walked across the sand bank to a smaller fort that was separate from the main island. The rocky pools surrounding the fort were full of amazing sea creatures and had us busy for over an hour exploring this sensitive ecosystem. The fort itself was beautiful and amazingly sound. The rusty old cannons were still perched on the top of the fort and we afforded beautiful views right across the island.

We needed to head south again and so left Ilha de Mozambique and made our way to Angoche where we camped right on top of a sand dune overlooking the dark blue Indian Ocean. After a quick bath in the sea and rinse off with fresh water we were ready to settle down for the evening. We enjoyed a braai and started to watch a movie but had to stop mid way as the wind had picked up quite severely and was relentless. We all scurried into our tents to hide from the sand that was coming from all directions. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night; the car was rocking to and fro and the tents fly sheet was flapping wildly. How it managed to stay in one piece is beyond me but at 4am the following morning we were ready to pack it all in. As soon as the sun came over the horizon we were  out of the tent, trying to remove the huge amount of sand that had found its way through the mosquito mesh but this all proved futile. The sand we removed was replaced by more sand blowing in. We made a hasty retreat to the square in Angoche where we opened up the tent again and tried to remove the beach that had made its home in our tent. Everyone was tired and we faced a long day of driving. Our desire to get to Vilankulos was growing stronger and stronger each day and the next 3 days saw us doing just that. The beauty of Mozambique is that the locals are so friendly that bush camping is a feasible option and we saw ourselves doing this most nights. We were woken each morning by the inquisitive villagers who game to wish us a good morning and see how we live. One particular encounter with these kind people made my heart drop…we had pulled off the road along a side track to find a suitable bush camp which was easily done. Whilst setting up camp, 3 gentlemen who had seen us go off the main track came to visit us. They thought we were working for a mining company and wanted to be the first in line to get jobs that may be available. This really blew us all away and we were amazed at their eagerness to find work to improve their quality of life rather than just ask for money. The feeling of helplessness filled me as I would have loved to have been in a position where I could have offered these men the jobs that they were so eager to find.

We arrived in Vilankulos on the 14th August and were welcomed into the Baobab camp by Henk, Maureen, Borris and Rene, travellers we had met in West Africa. It was great to see them all again and we enjoyed a wonderful fish braai that went on into the wee hours of the morning. Vilankulos was certainly very different to Northern Mozambique. It was very commercial in comparison and their pricing is definitely aimed at the European traveller who has plenty of money to spend. Diving was out of the question as it was way over $100 for a dive and so we settled for a Dhow trip, with Dolphin Dhow, to the Bazaruto Archipelago. The weather was gorgeous and the clarity of the water meant that we would be able to snorkel and see loads of colourful fish and sea creatures. The island was paradise, white squeaky clean sand that was unspoilt and unpopulated. The water temperature was freezing and after an hour of snorkelling we decided to pack it in to prevent hyperthermia and instead basked in the sun to warm our very cold bodies. Lunch was a seafood feast of calamari, crab and salads which was prepared by the boatmen. The afternoon was spent frolicking in the shallow water and soaking up as much of the island sun as possible.

When we left Vilankulos it became common territory for Kirk and me. We had ventured into the southern parts of Mozambique before and a sense of ‘home’ was becoming stronger and stronger. Inhambane was a lovely spot to spend a morning where we lounged on the sun loungers at Bara lodge that overlooked a large stretch of white beach sand and an ocean full of traditional fishing dhows. Xai Xai was next on the itinerary where Kirk has a house in a development. Unfortunately the house is incomplete so the desire to stay in the comfort of a home for a week or so was not to be. The purpose of our visit was to establish just how much work needed to be done in order for the house to become fit for human habitation and we were prepared to camp at the base of the dune if we had to. Luckily, the managers of the development were kind enough to put us up in a lovely 6 sleeper cottage for 2 nights.

The further south we ventured, the colder and windier it became. Our final stop before entering South Africa was Ponta d’ Oura, a familiar place for both Kirk and me as we had been to this part of Mozambique numerous times before. The rustic old town is no longer there, it is now a bustling tourist haven that charges everything in South African Rands. The prices are inflated and it really detracted from being in Mozambique. None the less, it is still a beautiful part of Africa with crystal clear waters, white coral sand and exceptionally hospitable people. We arranged to do 2 dives with Phambuka, a local dive charter company owned by Mike and his wife Leanne. The first dive was a good reintroduction into the diving world. It took a while for me to become familiar with the skills and rules of diving again but once Kirk had  refreshed my memory we where good to go on another dive the following morning. The wind had however blown all night and the conditions were ‘blustery’ with an enormous swell. The launch on the dive boat was eventful with Mike doing many loops in the bay before spotting a break between the swells and making a b- line for backline. The swells came out of nowhere and it was almost like being on an enormous rollercoaster ride. We made it out to doodles successfully and were in the water as quickly as possible to avoid sea sickness. The reef was teeming with shoals and shoals of reef fish, Potato Bass, Lion Fish, Turtles, Rays and one lucky diver even got a glimpse of a whale. It was spectacular. I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the water and after 50 minutes the DM called a time out as the swell was big on the surface and our lips were all resembling a shade of blue as the water temperature was quite chilly. We were back in the camp at 9am and were on the road by 11am. We were homeward bound and desperate to reach Westbrook before nightfall.

 Mozambique was one of my favourite countries. It is everything I love, sun, beach and sea along with all the activities that one can do on the rocky shore. The people were amazing and the food a treat. It was our 24th African country and a significant part of our travels as we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn on the anniversary of our 10 month of our African adventure. Our travels are far from over but we were desperate to pop into SA to visit our families, who we had not seen since April 2009, and drop off Kobe who had excelled for the duration of his trip through East Africa. Our trip resumes again on Monday the 30th August as we head north to explore Botswana and the southern parts of Namibia.

[book id=’31’ /]

Aug 26 2010

Tanzania – diary 2010-06-29 to 2010-08-01

After our rapid escape from Kenya we arrived back in Tanzania via the Lunga Lunga border post. We were relieved to find that our visas seemed to still be valid even after we went to Rwanda from Tanzania in May which was supposed to result in the Tanzanian visa becoming null in void. With a saving of $100 we headed south, on an awful gravel road, towards Peponi Beach, a camp site and lodge that was set along the idyllic Tanzanian North Coast. We settled into our beachside campsite comfortably and enjoyed the views of the Indian Ocean with the fishing dhows sailing in with the day’s catch.

We spent the next 5 days at Peponi Beach where we made friends with fellow campers and enjoyed many meals together, a highlight being a fresh fish braai where we procured the fish ourselves straight from the fishermen who had literally just stepped off the boat. It must have been their easiest sale in months! Peponi was like a breath of fresh air in comparison to the very commercial Kenyan coastline. We truly enjoyed the serenity that the owners have created and will recommend it to many other overlanders in the future. We were still able to walk into the local village and not be harassed by the village folk but rather interact with them and shop at their little stores. We were also fortunate enough to be invited on a dhow ride with some fellow South Africans who we had originally met at Twiga Beach in Kenya. This was an authentic experience but left many of us feeling queasy and looking rather green.

With 2 weeks to go until we were to attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, Kirk and I were getting anxious about being at sea level and felt the need to get to higher altitude, to acclimatise and so decided to head to Arusha and suss out its surroundings. We made the journey through some valleys and across some plains where signs for strong winds appeared very frequently. The wind swept across the flat plains and hit Mvubu with a vengeance. Kirk had a tough time counteracting the short sharp bursts. The terrain changed drastically from lush tropical palms trees and sisal plantations to dry desolate overgrazed land. As the altitude increased so did our hopes of catching our first glimpse of the challenge that we were to embark on in 2 weeks time. She appeared out of nowhere…Kirk spotted her first and I was still uncertain if we were facing Mt Kilimanjaro as there was a haze that was obscuring the outline of the slopes. The only thing that was convincing was the white snow capped top that was peeping out beyond some clouds. As we neared closer it became apparent that we were in fact face to face with the highest mountain in Africa. It was quite a chilling moment and both Kirk and I were ecstatic.

We made our way towards Arusha where the backdrop of Kilimanjaro changed to her older sister Mt Meru, which was equally spectacular although it was lacking the brilliant white snow. We made our way to Shoprite where we bought a few luxuries (Romany Creams and Ouma Rusks) and headed towards the Snake Park Campsite. En-route Kirk spotted a recently refurbished short wheel base 1981 HJ42 Toyota Land Cruiser which made up his mind…we were returning to Nairobi to purchase the green double cab equivalent the following day. He had been deliberating over this for the last 2 weeks whilst chilling on the beach at Twiga and Peopni and had made the decision to buy! This now meant that out trip would have a completely different element to it and I would be allowed to drive Mvubu for the remainder of the trip. For the last 8 and a half moths I had been forbidden to drive but now his affection for Mvubu had been replaced with the love for his new green Land Cruiser, Kobe.

After a good night’s rest we embarked on our journey back o Nairobi. The road was under construction and the dust from the road works added to the dust of the extremely dry plains – the effects of years and years of overgrazing. It was quite a cultural experience driving through Maasai country as the herders were in abundance dressed in their colourful shukas and elaborate jewels.

The border crossing back into Kenya was mayhem; it was the most commercial border crossing between Tanzania and Kenya and every tour guide and his European contingency was out in force. We managed to get through fairly quickly and made the journey back to Jungle Junction where we were to spend the next few days sorting out the admin for the ‘new’ car.

 Jungle Junction – Nairobi

Our time at Jungle Junction was enjoyable. It seemed to be quite a difficult place to tear one self away from as was evident from the number of people who were camped up in the front garden and had been there for more than a week. It became a little community whereby we shared gourmet meals – roast lamb and Mexican being some of our favourites as well as amazing BBQ’s and enjoyed watching the build up to the Football World Cup Final and eventually the final where our Dutch friends were enthusiastically blowing a vuvuzella and cheering for their team. It was nice to be in a city where everything is so accessible and they have amazing shopping malls where one can almost feel like they are shopping in London or South Africa. Nairobi is set at 1800m so we were getting the much needed acclimatisation without even doing anything in preparation for our climb up Kili. After 10 days of eating, socialising and internetting we were able to leave Nairobi and head back to Moshi to meet friends who were flying out from London and to prepare for our trek up Kilimanjaro. The traffic leaving the city on Thursday morning was a nightmare. With Kirk leading the way in Kobe, and me following closely behind in Mvubu, I was forced into a world of African city driving which was enough to give me sweaty palms and tense shoulders immediately. At one stage, it took us an hour to cover 300 meters. We stopped off at Nairobi International Airport to fetch Nils, a fellow South African and made our way back to the Tanzanian border. It was great to have Nils with us as he was given the opportunity to gain insight into just how interesting our lives have been for the last 9 months.

We arrived in Moshi at the Honey Badger Lodge after an arduous 7 hours of driving that challenged me with sand driving, gravel driving and beautiful tar driving. I won’t give prizes to those who can guess which one I enjoyed the most. We met with John, our guide for the Kilimanjaro expedition and finalised all plans as we were meeting the rest of the London crew the following day.

Mt Kilimanjaro – The expedition 

Saturday, the starting day for our trek, finally arrived. Nils, Paul, Kirk and I waited anxiously for John and his team of porters to fetch us from the Honey Badger Lodge. His punctuality meant that we were on schedule and proceeded to fetch Cathy, Laura and Esperanza from the Protea Hotel which was close to the Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro National Park, the starting point for our 7 day trek. It took some time for the porters to assemble our belongings and their belongings and arrange them into 17kg parcels. Whilst waiting we were astounded at the number of busses that were dropping off tourists and fellow trekkers; there must have been close to 200 trekkers that day who, like us, we hoping to summit Kibo peak. We eventually set off after 11am and enjoyed the 1st day of walking which took us through lush tropical vegetation similar to that of the Rwenzori Mountains. When we reached Machame Hut, at 3000m, we were welcomed by our porters who had already started pitching our tents and preparing hot drinks and popcorn for us. This was the 1st experience of the wonderful hospitality that was to follow for the remaining 6 days.

The days to follow were much of the same with us getting woken up by Lucas, our wonderful waiter/host who arrived at our tent with a hot water basin and a cheery good morning every morning, followed by an enormous breakfasts of porridge, pancakes, omelettes, sausages, tomatoes and toast with the occasional treat of fried pork. This hearty meal was enough to get anyone out of bed regardless of how cold it was. Lunches were prepared in the morning and arranged in a lunch box or on every alternate day we would arrive at our camp by lunchtime where we were treated to a 3 course hot lunch. At one stage we were concerned that we were going to be gaining weight rather than burning off the calories that we were supposed to after a long day of walking.

 The 5 days of walking that preceded summit night were delightful in that they took us through some beautiful scenery as well as altering terrain that consisted of valleys and spurs. We rose above the clouds after day 2 where we settled at Shira Camp for the evening and woke, on day 3, to the most beautiful sight – the valley below us was completely engulfed by tick cumulus clouds that resembled an enormous soft, fluffy white feather down duvet. It was simply stunning. On our 4th day we reached Lava Tower, 4600m, where several of our party started to feel the effects of altitude sickness. The most severe symptom was a headache which was easily treated with Paracetamol or Ibruprofen. After lunch at altitude we descended to 3900 where camp was already set up and many of us collapsed into our tents to rest before taking a slow stroll up to 4200m that afternoon where we would get our 1st glimpse of base camp to the summit. The nerves at dinner that night could be cut with a knife and it was quite unnerving to know that in 24 hours we would be summiting the highest free standing mountain in the world as well as Africa’s highest peak.

 The sun was bright and warming the following morning and Kibo Peak was peering over us with her beautiful snow caped crags. We set off for a 3 hour walk to Barafu camp, 4600m, where again we were treated to a hot lunch and afterwards took a slow walk to 4800m that afternoon all in the name of acclimatisation. After dinner we were sent to bed only to be woken at 11pm to prepare for the ascent. Not much sleep was actually achieved due to the cold temperatures and low levels of oxygen but the adrenaline seemed to kick in and motivated us to get out of our cosy sleeping bags and meet in the mess tent for a cup of tea or Milo before suiting up in our warmest gear and making our way to the summit.

 We started the summit at midnight when the stars were out and the ¾ moon was shining its light upon us. The long trail of headlamps lighting the way up the mountain side was encouraging but also unnerving as it highlighted the trail that we too would be ascending. We started the slow and arduous trek up the mountain side starting at 4600m with the desire to ultimately reach 5895m. The 1st 500m went smoothly with all of our party feeling strong and jovial. The singing of the infamous ‘Kilimanjaro’ song by the porters kept our spirits high and our feet in time with the rhythm. The going was slow and when we reached 5100m I started to feel unwell. The day before we did a practice run up to 4850m where I got terrible stomach pains – the gas was expanding as we ascended. The same was happening to me on summit night. I was trying all sorts of things – burping, farting, you name it, to get the gas feeling to subside but to no avail. My head wanted to explode so Kirk gave me a headache tablet which seemed to keep it at bay. At about 5200m I couldn’t hold back the belches any longer and I proceeded to vomit up the entire contents of my stomach – 3 litres of water and some pineapple! I felt instant relief and my headache instantly disappeared. Kirk was standing by my side whilst I was projectile vomiting and all he could say to me was; ’now I can’t give you a big smooch when we get to the top!’ I was very scared at this point as I had consumed the full 3 litres of water in my pack to prevent it from freezing and it was now soaking into the ground at my feet. I did however feel 100 times better and felt that I could continue my attempt to summit Kili. Not long after I had been ill did Kirk start to feel unwell. We had reached about 5500m when we were both crouched over vomiting up the remainder of the fluids that had been in our stomachs. The headaches had subsided but the will to keep our eyes open was dying quickly and at times we were literally walking zombies. We reached Stella Point, 150m below the summit and miraculously didn’t hang around there for too long – a good thing as I probably wouldn’t have got going again – instead we trudged on. Kirk was blubbering at this stage as he felt this was the hardest part of the trek for him. He really did have to dig deep and use up all of his reserves to make the last hundred metres. As soon as the end was in sight we were both a ball of emotions. It was the hardest thing that we have ever done in our entire lives…it took all the mental and physical strength that we possessed but the feeling when we got to that sign, confirming that we were at the highest point in Africa, was utter joy and relief. When we got close to the sign Kirk insisted that we needed to have a photo of just the 2 of us first, which I didn’t think to be unusual as we had reached a huge milestone in our trip through Africa. When we were both standing under the sign, me getting ready to pose for the camera he pulled out a ring from his pocket and asked me, through many tears, to marry him. It was a very emotional moment and I replied with, ‘of course I will!’ gave him a hug and a kiss and then got everyone in to have a photo. The moment was very surreal and quite rushed and there is a classic photo of me with this look on my face as if to say, ‘What the hell just happened?’

The sun rose from the horizon a few minutes after the proposal and spread its warmth onto us which filled us with renewed energy and relief that we had conquered what we had come to Kilimanjaro to do.

 The view on top of the mountain was simply stunning. Glaciers, of mammoth proportions surrounded us and gave off a brilliant white shine as the sun illuminated their shadows. Our heads were still a little fuzzy at this stage and in hindsight I would have loved to have spent more time at the top but the cold fingers and nose were enough encouragement to get us moving and make the descent. The descent took 3 hours, half the time it took us to get to the top and when we reached the base camp we were greeted by cheery Lucas who gave us a much needed cup of juice and we flopped into our tent. We had a good 2 hour sleep and were woken to have lunch before setting off for another 3 hour descent to Mweka Hut which was set at a good altitude that allowed us to recover without a pounding headache. That evening was a jovial one with all 7 of our team summiting Kilimanjaro and feeling great about it.

We arrived safely at the Mweka Gate 2 hours from our set off time the following morning feeling, surprisingly, spritely! It was strange to feel so good after such a physical and mental challenge and have ludicrous thoughts of actually doing it all again…you forget so quickly just how painful a feat it actually is – the euphoria certainly outweighs the despair.

We arranged to meet John and Lucas that evening for a traditional Tanzanian meal and some dancing afterwards which went off very well. The Nyama Choma was delicious and consisted of 4 kgs of BBQ beef and goat served with salad and BBQ plantains. That was all washed down with many Kilimanjaro beers and followed by a night of dancing at a local nightclub that had a live bans. Our muscles behaved themselves and allowed us to party until midnight but as the clock struck 12 our fatigue set in and we dragged our weary bodies back to the Honey Badger where we slept like the dead.

The London crew left the following morning with Paul and Nils, Laura, Cathy and Esperanza making their way back to Nairobi and me getting stuck into the copious amounts of laundry that we had accumulated during the week. It was a wonderful week and the group dynamics couldn’t have been better. The sense of achievement still exists and the surprise engagement is slowly setting in.

Kirk and I stayed in Moshi for a week after our trip up Kilimanjaro as we were waiting for the final papers for Kobe to be couried to us from Moshi. The time was spent relaxing and socialising with John and his family. We spent a memorable Sunday with the family at John’s father’s house in Marangu where we enjoyed a meal of chicken stew with plantain. The Honey Badger Lodge provided a comfortable and safe place for us to stay for the week but our morning lie ins were marred by the inconsiderate Overland Truck companies who would wake up at 4:30am and bang pots and pans, talk at the top of their lungs. Our detest for these people was heightened and the urge to get to the remotest parts of Mozambique became stronger and stronger. The papers for Kobe eventually arrived on Wednesday and we were pleased to be on the road again on Thursday morning…our destination Dares Salaam, 500km from Moshi.

The road was very good and we made it to the outskirts of the city by 3pm but our progress was deterred by large amounts of traffic. This was painstakingly slow and the misuse of traffic lights meant that we were sometimes stopped at intersections for 3 or 4 light changes. We eventually reached Mikadi Campsite at 8:30pm where we were tired, hungry and irritable from the frustrations of African city driving. We set up our tent, scoffed down a meal of fish and chips, enjoyed a hot salt water shower and hit the hay…tomorrow was going to be a similarly long driving day.

The road was equally good the following day with a bad stretch of road covering only 75km for the day. The road was under construction and in pretty good condition so we reached our destination, Seaview Lodge in Kiliowa Masoko where we were treated to stunning views of the Indian Ocean. The turquoise water was the picture of brilliance and offered us a sneak preview of what Mozambique was going to offer.

The next day took us further south to Mamasi, our last stop over in Tanzania before crossing the border. It was a useful town in that it provided us with a great place to sleep, in a clean en-suite room and relatively good fresh produce so that we could stock up and spend the last of our Tanzanian Shillings. We were on the road the following morning bright and early in search of a deserted beach, crayfish, prawns and fresh Indian Ocean fish. Mozambique was calling and we were eager to get there.

[book id=’30’ /]