Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tales from Tanzania - Day 2

So yesterday, after I got back to the hotel (and slathering myself in insect repellant so toxic that it could strip the paint off a Buick), I wandered down to reception to see what there might be to do.  Well, there was a bar.  Problem solved.  I had actually brought along my kindle to catch up on a bit of reading, but instead I got chatting to the only other person there, who, as it turns out, will also be on the same trek with me.

I haven't met any of the others yet, but so far, its me and Perrrrr (it's actually Per, but I got it wrong the first time I said it and was so firmly corrected that I now buzz that "r" for about a minute, just to make sure).  He's a Swedish engineer who was raised in Zimbabwe, so not only does he speak English and Swedish, but three African languages as well, which is all kinds of useful around here so he promptly became my new BFF.  Speaking the local lingo makes the waiters much nicer to you (which is true everywhere but Paris), so we pretty much just stayed put and drank the bar dry.  As you do.

Tonight I meet the rest of our group - I think there are about six of us altogether and I'm hoping for an interesting group.  Perrrrr is good company and of course I'm awesome, so if we get a nice mix, that will make this thing much more fun.  Gentle readers, I hate to love you and leave you, but this will be my last chance to post on here for about a week.  But stay tuned - I'll update as soon as I can, and if the most un-outdoorsy person in the world doesn't end up with about a million stories after climbing freakin' Kilimanjaro?  Well, I'll eat my hat (and my balaclava, because yes, I now own one of those as well)...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tales from Tanzania - Day 1

Last night I changed planes at Doha airport, and as I approached the gate, I saw them:  a herd of sweetly earnest, crunchy-granola types swathed in fleeces, wearing their hiking boots, and carrying their daypacks as their carry-on luggage.  Ladies and gentlemen: the Kilimanjaro trekker.  Quite frankly, I almost changed my mind about the whole thing right then and there.  I mean it, there was a final call for the flight to Paris and I had a serious moment of "I wanna flee back to the land of rude (but chic) city people, I don't know how to do this outdoorsy thing with these outdoorsy folk."  But I went. And here I am.

And so far, so good.  If you're going to do this whole crazy thing, I recommend flying into Kilimanjaro Airport - it's pretty much idiot-proof, which is exactly what I needed.  You go in, the visa forms are on the counter, you get in the line with the huge, bright yellow, hard-to-miss sign saying "I NEED A VISA" (as opposed to the other line, which says "I HAVE A VISA" - you'd really think that would make it idiot-proof, but no, people still somehow manage to get into the wrong line.  I despair sometimes.).  Anyway, you fork over your cash to the nice man at the window and then he sends you to another nice man at another window and you get your completely unflattering and unrecognizable photo taken and the visa slapped into your passport.  One belt for luggage retrieval and you're outta there.  I had booked an airport pick-up and bless him, there he was with the sign AND my eleven-letter last name spelled correctly. 

This isn't my first trip to Africa - I took a pretty good trip around Cape Town and surrounding area a few years ago, and I've been to both Morocco and Egypt (although they're both so much more like the Middle East that it's hard to think of them as African).  But this is my first time in AFRICA Africa and even the drive from the airport had me mesmerized.  It starts off pretty much as you'd expect - beige and dry and pancake-flat, but the closer you get to Moshi, the greener and hillier it gets.  One of the many (many) things I dislike about living in Saudi Arabia is the lack of colour.  Beige dust, beige sand, beige buildings, white thobes on the men, black abayas on the women.  Here?  Colour EVERYWHERE.  We passed the Masai market, which was swarming in long, lean men mostly wearing their traditional crimson, but I saw a few of them sporting my favourite shade of purple and there was one dapper gentleman swathed in a jazzy little patterned number which I deeply coveted for my own wardrobe.  Sadly, it seems as though they were only selling goats and sheep (I considered a sheep, but it would be quite hard to pack), so we moved right along.  Did I mention the greenery?  Green is a big deal when you live in a desert, and Moshi is very green.  Trees and lush plant life everywhere, along with patches of scarlet and magenta flowers and the smell of woodsmoke in the air.  I wasn't expecting it to be so pretty.

And the signs.  The signs might be my favourite thing.  I saw one for "Medium School".  So is this the school between Large and Small?  Or a training academy for psychics?  Sign on a gasoline truck:  In God We Trust.  Well, I'd personally like to trust in your driving skill, sir, since you're transporting about a bajillion gallons of flammable liquid, but that's just me.

Anyway - I'm staying at the Keys Hotel just outside of town, which of course necessitated Adventures in Taxi Procurement in order to get into town to buy some snacks and internet time (yes, people, I did this for you - the bottle of wine in my bag is just a bonus.).  The hotel is...well...let's just call it rustic and leave it at that.  I have the occasional success with wifi out there for messaging, but I think a blog post from my phone would have been beyond both my patience and the wifi.  But it's clean and the bed is comfortable and I'm pretty sure it's going to look like heaven when I come down from the mountain (wow, it's all so biblical - maybe I'll find some stone tablets up there while I'm at it.) after sleeping on the ground for a week. 

Well, I'd better go - I have a delightful evening ahead of me: unpacking my suitcase and re-packing my Kilimanjaro stuff into my North Face duffel bag.  Yes, that's right - I am now a person who owns North Face things.  I am now a person who owns polar fleece.  I am now a person who owns a headlamp.  Oh god - am I actually becoming one of those crunchy-granola types?  I am now a person who needs a drink!  And if you've read this far and enjoyed any of it, please consider donating a few dollars/pounds/euros/whatever to Doctors Without Borders (my Just Giving button at top right).  Come on, if I'm going to go all sweetly earnest, I might as well be all good-deed-doing, too.  Ugh.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Miss K on Kilimanjaro - Sweat Buckets Challenge

Has it really been two years, gentle readers?  I'm afraid it has and I'm not sure if any of you are still out there wanting to hear my ramblings, but if you are, I do apologize for the long delay.  Who knew that life out here in Saudi Arabia could possibly be so...interesting!!!  For a while I was afraid to blog because I wasn't sure how much we were monitored and how much trouble I might get in, but I think  that as long as I keep away from certain controversial subjects and only allude suggestively to certain other subjects (if you know what I mean by that, and I think you do, you saucy monkeys), it will be fine.  And wow, do I ever have stories to tell!  But I'll have to tell them a little later because right now, there's a countdown on for an unpleasant (and very sweaty) challenge that I'm willing to do for an extremely worthy cause.  I put it out there on facebook and now I'm sending it out to you as well, I hope you'll help out by donating either at the link below or by clicking on the button on the right hand side of my page:

"All right, I promised you I'd do a challenge in place of the ice bucket for an equally worthy cause, and the best part is that YOU get to torment ME. I'm donating my upcoming Kilimanjaro climb to Doctors Without Borders (also known as MSF -Médecins Sans Frontières) - I've covered all the costs of the trip myself, so all money raised goes to help this fantastic cause. My donations page is at and your challenge is this: for every 100 pounds raised (you can donate in other currencies as well) between now and tomorrow (2 Sept) at high noon Saudi time, I will spend one minute outside in the blazing Arabian sunshine in my full summit night outfit (which consists of: hiking boots, three pairs of socks, three pairs of gloves, a balaclava, a fleece headband, a hat, a full set of silk long underwear, a full set of wool long underwear, fleece pants, hiking pants, waterproof pants, two fleece tops, a down jacket and a waterproof jacket with hood.) The temperature tomorrow should be around 43C, so however long I have to do it will be exceedingly unpleasant! And I'll film it for proof, not to mention comedy value... Right now the total is at 220 pounds, so I'll be out there for just over 2 minutes. 300 pounds would equal 3 minutes, 500 pounds = 5 minutes, etc. (But I'm putting a maximum of 10 minutes on this because I don't actually want to die of heatstroke. I doubt we'd get anywhere near raising a thousand pounds in a day anyway because I'd like to think you don't want to torture me that much, but you never know!) You've now got 15 hours - go for it, every little donation adds up..."

Thanks in advance for any donations you might choose to make, and there will be stories coming...