I exit the bajaji with 4 of my good pals. We wait for the folks from other CBTs. Somehow there is a village out here. I thought we were in the middle of nowhere.
Of course, we draw a crowd of children. Reenactments of scenes from Star Wars Episode 3 commence. You were supposed to bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness! The kids are entertained. Chuckles abound.
When everyone arrives our fearless leader Hannah talks with an elder of the village. They find a kind young man to be our guide. No, this is not his job. No, we did not call ahead. This young man dropped whatever he was doing today to be our guide.
Following him, we walk on a path through fields of corn. The path is narrow. It’s rough. This ain’t no Washington Trails Association trail. We pass multiple adult males dressed sharply, walking with a purpose to who knows where. You’d think a helicopter full of business men crashed in this tropical wonderland. I’ve never seen someone look so out of place.
After walking a while on flat ground through farms we find another small village. More gawking children. I do love making faces at the kids. They pretend to be scared and run. I pretend to be evil. There’s one young lady that doesn’t pretend to be afraid. She stands her ground and makes faces back at me.
I like her.
We continue on our journey. It’s hot. How did all of us forget sunscreen? This hike is getting a little more real now. I didn’t think it would be this steep. Wait, is that a river I can wet my face and hair in? Yes, yes it is. The visceral feeling of something cold on my hot and sweaty face has never been so powerful.
Let’s continue on. Wait, is that a waterfall over there? No one said there’d be a waterfall. This hill is steep. Whew. We need to stop often. How is this a corn field? Do people tend this?
Oh wait, he does.
Me: Shikamoo! (I respect you elder)
Him: Marahaba! Za kwako? (I don’t know what Marahaba literally translates to, but essentially means "thank you" or "at ease". How are you?)
Me: Nzuri sana. Na wewe? (Very well. And you?)
Him: Safi sana. Karibuni. (Very well. You all are welcome here)
Me: Asante sana! (Thank you very much!)
Time to keep struggling up this damn mountain. Who’s idea was this anyway? This sucks. But woah. Can you believe that view behind us? Incredible. Breathtaking. Up and up we go. Is that a colony of ants moving their home? It sure looks like they have eggs in their mouth. Are we there yet? Probably not. Wait. What? Is that another village up ahead? How? Well, time to greet everyone. Hold up, is that a soccer field? Looks like its time for a pick up match. These kids are no joke on the field.
Oh hey, we get another guide.
This guy has on a thick jacket and flip flops. I’m in shorts and trail running shoes. I feel like a failure.
Back to the grind. More up hill, but this path is much better. It’s wide, and has a more acceptable incline. How is it so lush up here? Am I in Jurassic Park right now? Oh hey, another river. Well, probably the same one as before. I wish I could drink this water. Bad idea. More walking. There are some cool people in this group. I really didn’t think this hike would be so long. Wait, are you serious? Another village? This has to be a mirage. I mean, what? How does anything get up to here? Where did all of that metal for the roofs come from? Do these folks have beds? This village is huge! Woah. Everyone in this village is outside greeting us. I mean everyone. So many smiles. So many welcoming greetings. And the children. Lots of children. They’re like a swarm of locusts.
We make it through the village and the young boys from the village are coming with us. A lot of them. They laugh as we struggle to take every step. This path isn’t so much a path anymore. I’m doing as much climbing as walking. It’s muddy. If any one if us makes a wrong move we’re in trouble. We’re over a kilometer above sea level. Getting hurt up here is bad news bears. But we push upwards. Lots of slipping. Lots of mud on hands and butts. Lots of excitement. Wait, we’re almost there. Wherever "there" is. It’s flattened out. We’re in a wooded pocket up here. We can’t see much though. Oh snap. There’s the clearing.....
What a view.
We can see for miles off in the distance.
This is a feeling I haven’t felt for a while.
My mind drops the wrench out of respect for the sight it beholds.
My mind empties itself.
My anxiety chained up outside.
The stress can wait. This is a moment we need to remember.
Soak it in.
Time for a good break. My mama made me chipsi (french fries), nyama ya n’gombe (meat of cow) and tikiti maji (watermelon). She is a wonderful cook. Thanks mama. I need to remember to tell her just how happy I am to call her my mama. I am lucky to have so many wonderful moms in my life.
Hmm. It looks like the boys from the village decided to scale the peak next to the one we’re in.
That looks hella sketch. A lot of people don’t think going is a good idea.
It’s definitely not.
I don’t think I’ll go....
If I die climbing a beautiful mountain in Tanzania with a bunch of new friends and cool kids from a rural village, so be it.
Hmm, this is a little sketchy, but not bad. Not nearly as bad as I thought.
Oh, wait. This peak has another peak behind it? What the hell? Will this hike ever end? Alright, on to the next one.
Woah, this path isn’t really a path. This is decomposing plant matter that could fall away any second. WOAH! That was a close call. Much more slippery than I anticipated. Ouch! Why are all of these plants so stabby?
Finally, we’re climbing to the top of the next peak. My muscles feel like jello. I’m surprised I can still move.
The village boys are waiting for us and singing a song to us that none of us understand. It’s encouraging. I can do this.
I made it.
This view is even better.
A 360 degree view of everything around for many miles. This is insane.
Time for the photoshoot. The landscape, the mountain, the trainees, and the boys from the village all get their time in the spotlight.
Well, now is as good a time as any to descend. There the kids go. Running. As we cautiously and slowly descend.
Time to do it all in reverse passing back through the villages and down the slippery inclines. The boys race down with us to their village and all of the children start singing to us as we leave.
It’s an emotional moment for myself.
These people are so welcoming and loving to us foreigners. Even if they laugh at us, make fun of us, etc. they welcome us into their villages without a second thought. I feel an incredible sense of community and love. There is nothing better than this.
We make it back down without a hitch. Other than being exhausted and extremely sun burned we come out unscathed.
I’m already excited for the next mountain.