Friday, 21 July 2017

Ice creams for breakfast...

SW and I had popped out to the supermarket to try to find nail varnish remover and nail varnish - SW is keen on a nice pedicure but only at the weekends.  We totally failed in this mission, but couldn't resist an ice cream.  At 8,500 TZS (approx. £2.90) this ice cream was more expensive than a lot of the meals we have eaten while here, but we enjoyed them.

My enjoyment was short lived - when we got back to the hotel the ice cream decided to part company with my stomach, so all the enjoyment with none of the guilt! 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Dash in a rush, run hurry or expect accident

20th July 2017

The title of this blog post is my favourite mnemonic.  The condition it spells out is possibly my least favourite.  The SW was poorly on our last day and night at Shia School and thoughtfully decided to share his bugs with me!  I started feeling a bit dodgy after breakfast, but was fine while packing up my tent and heading back into Moshi.  We went out for 'a quick lunch' but I didn't feel like eating, so just took photos of my entertaining companions while we waited, and waited, for food to be served.
It took over 3 hours!  By which time I felt decidedly ropey, so decided to return to the hotel, picking up my clean and dry laundry on the way.  Cool cotton sheets to snooze on and a conveniently ensuite loo were essential as I was soon hit by waves of the dreaded D&V!

I struggled up to the roof terrace to meet up with the group before they all went off for dinner, there was no way I was going to join them for food but it was pleasant to sit amongst groups of travellers all chatting about what they were doing.  I was at least 20 years older than most of them and nowhere near Australian enough to fit in.  I sat on for a while after the students had left, as Al and SW had bought me  a drink.  It has been a long time since I had just sat and relaxed in a bar without any students to supervise.

Today we had to catch the Dar Express back to Dar.  The journey was a bit shorter than the journey to Moshi, and we are obviously becoming accustomed to long journeys as it felt a lot shorter than 10 hours!  Mind you, no air con, vomiting and pooping boys did enliven the trip somewhat!

We are back at the Econo Lodge tonight - just for one night before heading off to the coast tomorrow.  The Econo Lodge is every bit as luxurious as the name implies!  At 28,000 TZS (about £9.60) a night for a single room I guess one should be grateful for an ensuite loo and shower, a working fan and a door that locks!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Monday and Tuesday

18th July 2017
The boys have worked their socks off digging drainage channels, mixing concrete and washing down walls.  

The children swarm over us whenever we sit still.  They start to arrive for school at about 7.30 and classes start at 8am.  The children arrive with firewood for the school cook to use, some children are sent home with a bucket of millet in the afternoon which needs to be ground before being brought back to school the next day.

We have been amazed at the difference in teaching styles between here and home.  The younger children, 4 year olds, are not exposed to any 'play based learning!'  From the earliest ages they sit in rows, reciting their alphabet and copying from the board.  Often teachers are to be found, huddled together, having coffee while their classes get on with copying out of a book.  

We are being cooked for by the school - the result of our epic shopping expedition, our food team provided menu suggestions, which seem to have been largely ignored!  For dinner each evening we have had a small piece of chicken, chips, over cooked pasta, cabbage and either pumpkin soup or baked beans.  Lunch and breakfast have been similarly repetitive.  Tonight it was a real effort to eat but at least it is better than us having to eat food cooked by the boys on trangias!  

SW is under the weather today.  He has a dodgy tummy and feels miserable.  I think he is really missing home.  We've got another week in Tanzania which can seem a long time, especially as it will be much less structured as we are on R&R.  He is doubly miserable as somehow one of his tent poles got broken today - in two places!  We've cobbled it together with gaffer tape and a bottle cap and he has gone to bed early.

Sunday at Shia School

After a slightly restless night, I couldn't settle due to the strange noises, we were awoken by the church bell. We had been told that there would be services at 7am and 10am - but the bell started tolling at 5am!  It only lasted for about 15 minutes, and somehow Al managed to sleep through the bell and me shouting at the boys that it was not time to get up yet!

I spent most of the morning on 'tent duty' as we cannot leave our tents unsupervised.  I finished one book, started and discarded two more, before settling on at third.  After lunch I swapped to help out with some of the tasks.  The boys are clearing a path of rock, digging a drainage trench and chiselling away at breeze blocks in a newly built classroom so that electrical wiring can be recessed.  

While clearing rocks I seem to have been bitten by loads of ants.  This has added to a few mosquito bites to make me feel really miserable.  One of the bites is just by my left eye and my eye is swollen almost closed.  My body seems to be producing histamine like it is going out of fashion.  I'm itchy and swollen and lumpy!

Moshi & Shia

14th & 15th July 2017
A couple of admin days!   This means lots of frustrating waiting around while the boys try to figure out how to organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery.  I got clean clothes though - so not all bad!  

On Friday night we told one of the students the news that he had been chosen as head boy.  He was delighted - as were we as he is an excellent choice.  

On Saturday we travelled to the project phase of our expedition at the Shia School.  We had arranged with the school that they would cook for us is we provided food, so much of the day was taken up visiting markets and supermarkets trying to get the food we need for 5 days - there are no shops near the school.  

We set up our tents in a corner of the school playing field and were greeted by loads of local children.  We sent the boys out to litter pick the school grounds - the local children soon got the idea and helped too.  I struggled hard to overcome my aversion to being touched by strangers as all the children seemed to want to hold our hards or stroke our skin!

We'd been lead to believe that the toilet facilities here were extremely primitive - but they are actually far better than any of the toilets on Kilimanjaro or at our campsite in Monduli Juu!  

On returning to our tents after supper we encountered ants.  Or should I say ANTS?  They were HUGE - about 2cm long.... much fun was had identifying where they came from, stamping on them and working out that they were far too big to get into a tent through the mesh!

Our camp site is less secure than previous locations.  There is a security guard (he is walking around with a long white stick), but we are right next to a road on one side and forest on the other.  There is no fence.  As I type this I can hear SW and Al chatting as they keep an eye on the locals wandering up and down the road...

Thursday, 13 July 2017

What goes up...

If you walk all the way to the top of a mountain if follows that you also have to walk down it.  We'd come down a fair way yesterday afternoon, and this morning we descended 6900ft in about 8 miles.  That's quite tough on tired legs!  My quads and knees took a bit of a pounding.  We walked down through moorland vegetation and then into forest.  Dust changed to mud. I never thought I could be so pleased to see mud!  

Two of the boys came down on stretchers.  The one who had been really poorly on summit day was just too weak.  The other, we strongly suspect, has a case of swinging the lead!  He can't remember which leg his is supposed to have hurt etc.!   We checked out of Kilimanjaro National Park with the normal level of African bureaucracy - it took ages and then went for a final lunch provided by our tour company.  We were joined by two clean, non smelly people, SW and the recovering student.  It was so good to see them!  I'm getting soppy in my old age as I shed a tear or two - but that may have been due to the rib crushing hug SW gave me!  Honestly - we all smelt so bad I am surprised anyone could get within 10 paces of us!

We said goodbye to our team.  It took 37 guides, cooks, waterboys, porters and summit porters to get us up the mountain and we needed to tip them.  Some of the boys who had extra help to the summit tipped extra to specific guides and we were given our certificates.  

We got to the hotel the boys had picked (it is up to them to pick where we stay within reason and budget) and pure blind good luck seems to have hit upon a decent place!  Basic, but clean and with mosi nets!
The boys were given just over 2 hours to settle in and get themselves clean and warned that if they didn't look clean when we met at 6pm they'd be sent back to try again! During this time we only had one poo related emergency to contend with - so maybe now we are down from the mountain things are returning to normal.

I stood in the shower for ages - hot and cold running water and a loo that flushes!  I thought I had died and gone to heaven!  That coupled with clean clothes.... wow!  I even smelt like a girl until I covered myself with insect repellant. 

After supper at a local veggie Indian place the adults sat in the bar, drinking coffee, catching up on gossip and planning the next stage.

No words...

12th July 2017

No words can really describe today, but because blogs need words I better try!   If you are just dipping into this blog for the first time please skip back to at least last Wednesday and read them (or skim them at least) so that they make more sense.

Last night one of the boys was awake in the night - he was calling for Al so Stu and I decided that we has done our share of late night poorly boys and went back to sleep! Traveller's diarrhoea struck again!  According to Al, being woken by a boy holding shitty pants and waving at one is not the best alarm call!  What a night for it to happen - but at least he was one of our stronger boys.  And our start time had been pushed back to 2am so we had an extra couple of hours sleep.  At 'breakfast' at 1.30am he looked pale but determined. 

It was well below freezing when we left at 2.10am.  One boy had misplaced his head torch - he thought he might have put it down (!) while using the long drop!  

Within 15 minutes we discovered that one boy had only one bottle of water which was half full.  How many times had we told them that they needed 3 litres of water?  Another boy was wearing sunglasses - at 2am in the morning in sun zero temperatures!

Half an hour in the boy with the squits from last night was really struggling.  I was convinced that he was going to go down as he looked so weak.  Al was pretty certain that he was going down too.  That would mark the end of my summit attempt as he would need to be accompanied by a teacher.  I couldn't bring myself to go and see if he was ok as I knew that my desperation would show and I didn't want to add to any feelings of guilt or add to the pressure. 

It was dark, cold and the 'path' was scree - as Al had said the day before (although not to the boys) it was like walking up the down escalator for 6 long hours!  Our poorly boy rallied!  The summit porters, Al and Stu were helping him out.  Al and Stu were amazing - up and down the line of walkers checking that they were all ok.  We discovered a boy who hadn't brought his warm gloves with him.  His hands were frozen - he was less than grateful when the porters and Al tried to get my spare gloves onto him.  

We stopped for 10 minutes every hour. No sitting down (in case someone fell asleep), snacks to be consumed, and rapidly freezing water to be drunk.  Then we'd plod on again.  The pace seemed incredibly slow, but on the few occasions I upped my speed to move along the line (either up or down) the effort of walking at 'normal' speed left me breathless.  Other boys were starting to suffer.  They were monitored closely and encouraged to continue - supported by the summit guides.  I began to think that I might actually be able to summit.  The thought that I would do this monotonous trek and not get to the top was depressing in the extreme. 

The Sun started to rise at around 6am - which made the walk more interesting from a scenery point of view (we could see Mt Mawenzi) but we could also see how much climb we still had to go.  One of the porters asked if I was ok - I assured him I was, 'Dada (sister) is a strong lady!' was his reply - I told him I was just a stubborn woman!  I shall miss being called 'Dada!'

By the time we reached Stella Point we had 2 boys who were really suffering.  It is about 45-60 mins from here to Uhuru Peak, but at Stella Point we were given hot, sweet, black tea (urgh!) and a chance to regroup. It would be possible for boys who didn't want to carry on to go back from here and for me to still summit (as we'd probably only be half an hour behind them).  I was thrilled.  

I took some time to enjoy the stunning scenery - photos to follow  - they are on my camera, before we all proceeded to Uhuru Peak.  Only 250m of climb left!  We were seeing people returning from the Peak with a spring in their step.  This would be us soon!

And then we were actually there!  Two years (almost) in the planning!  Shit weasel and I signed up for this trip on our first day in our new job at our current school - before we knew each other at all - in September 2017.  I am gutted that he wasn't on the top of Africa with me today, but I couldn't be prouder of the boys.  They were, collectively, amazing!  Supporting each other, celebrating with each other, sharing Haribos with me! I shed a few tears, ok, quite a lot of tears, as we did group and individual photos.  

Then we had to come down!  Going down 1200m in about 4 miles of scree is hair raising in the extreme!  At one point I very nearly had a hissy fit, but one of the porters took my arm and guided me down! 

Back at Baranfu Camp we had an hour to pack up and rest before lunch.  This would be our final meal with Stu.  He had joined us to travel up the mountain as summit leader and he will be staying at one of the campsites to accompany other groups up the mountain.  I left him with a big packet of beef jerky and our grateful thanks.  He was a real asset to our group.

After lunch we had a 2 hour trek or Millenium Point Camp. I eventually got my second cup of coffee of they day - only 15+ hrs after the first! And I washed my hair with travel soap and water that had frozen on the way up to the summit - that's not something you do every day!  I'm not sure how effective it was, and I could have waited for a shower tomorrow evening - but after a week of no showers it felt very refreshing.

Early nights all around tonight I think!