I no longer have the luxury of prewriting my mass e-mails so this one will be short and 47% less humorous. I think it is due time to update those who are following this adventure so here is my "level best," as a Tanzanian student would say, at a short, yet sweet, update:
Jeff came and, in his words, has been nothing but a beacon of light on this trip. After my week of solitude in Dar es Salaam I met Jeff at the airport with joy. We spent a couple days exploring Dar and the surrounding area before we took a boat to Zanzibar and spent six days on sandy white beaches and extremely hot sun. It was quite the experience, especially because I have had quite a hard time adjusting to the tourist life. We spent a few days trying to explore a bit and get away from the mainstream white tourist flow. It proved exceedingly difficult for me, but Jeff has maintained a constant level of enthusiasm that only a young man, in the prime of life, and has no illegitimate children to support, can. It has been great and difficult to keep up with at times.
Next we went up to Arusha. This was equally as annoying for me. When you get into these tourist towns it is near impossible to meet people because they only want to sell you a safari, mountain climb, or some other excursion. The second you are not interested, they are no longer your friend. Super annoying and you leave with a bad taste in your mouth that none of the people there are really genuine.
We did go on a safari though. We got thrown in to a group that turned out to be full of really great people, and viewed a few extremely large animals. I was hesitant to go because I didn't think i would enjoy seeing them more than in a zoo, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed the experience. There is something totally different about seeing all the animals, doing their animal thing, together out on the plain. I don't know why they don't integrate the species more at the zoo exhibits. It's way more natural for a troupe of monkeys to be hanging out with a bunch of gazelles than anything else. All the major players made their cameo, the only animal we missed was the rhino. As a consolation, however, we had a double cheetah spotting.
After the safari, we went back south to meet up with Rob and put together a Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Rob was getting over a bout of the flu/pneumonia and I was regaining my strength from my third bout of malaria so we decided to do the seven day climb, giving us an extra day to acclimate. The first five days of hiking were deceivingly easy. I didn't experience much in terms of altitude sickness and was thinking that the summit day would go the same way.
Turns out, climbing 1300 meters in the middle of the night takes quite a bit of effort. Rob, who had beat us on all the previous days of hiking, fell a bit behind on summit day. Me and Jeff trudged along, cursing ourselves in our head about why we would ever want to take on such a task. But, at 5 am, we made it to the peak, snapped a few photos, and began the decent. The guides basically run you down from the peak. It's about as difficult as climbing to the summit. It took us, in total, two days to descend the entire mountain. In this time, I learned that the state of my leg muscles has plummeted to something deplorable. There is now no difference between my leg muscles when resting and when flexed. And you wonder why I don't wear "skinny" jeans. I would look like a flamingo. To sum it up, we made it to the top, my legs KILLED all the way down, and my arthritic ankle held out until the descent, which really wore on it a bit. Overall, it was a good time.
From Moshi, we headed to Lake Victoria and have been hanging out in Mwanza and checking out Ukerewe island for the past few days. We found ourselves in the middle of a political rally and have gotten to see both of the leading parties go for their last push before elections in Tanzania, which happen on Oct. 31st. We are plotting our adventure to meet up with The Tony Scherman in Uganda but are having some trouble figuring out the right boat/bus combination that will get us there. It's proving a bit more touchy than previously imagined.
That is all for now, I am running out of minutes of internet! There are many exciting things to come, including a bike ride through the only national park in the area that doesn't require a guide or a ranger, yet still has a lot of big/wild animals! Hopefully, by the conclusion of my journey, I will be able to sort out all of the complex feelings that I am having surrounding the relationship between the tourists and the local population/culture. I've gone through many different thought stages about the whole thing, but it doesn't change the way I feel about the government here.
I hope all is well at your respective homes, I am sending you all love.