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I used to own a pair of spare shoe laces. I carried them around with me for a year and a half. I wanted to use them when I finally went up Kilimanjaro. It would have been glorious standing on the top of Africa, my hair blowing majestically in the wind, my shoe laces sparkling in the rising sun. It was a nice dream. And then someone decided to break into my room and steal them.
They also decided to take, amongst the usual money and expensive looking gadgets, my head torch and my harmonica. Perhaps the strangest robbery in Tanzania. I wasn't the only one to be done over, 2 friends (Shu and Ion) who had flown out to do the trek, had also lost some things. The day got worse as we headed to the police station to file a report. The police were not nice to suspects, tormenting them into saying or doing something stupid, and then arresting them to "teach them a lesson." We had many many troubles at the station.
Climbing Kilimanjaro itself was an experience, despite my lack of spare shoe laces. I was blessed to be accompanied by not only the 2 mates from home but also a classy Indian/Chinese/Japanese/American girl. The climb up through every kind of weather imaginable took 4 and a half days, the climb down 1 day. The onslaught of altitude sickness didn't help things but the weather for our midnight ascent to the summit, at -21oC, was the real killer. In spite of the slow and disorientated climb we did make it to the top, Stella Point, in time for an unbelievably beautiful sunrise. I felt great about this...until I got down to the bottom and saw that everyone who had made it to Stella Point had actually gone on to Uhuru Peak, the highest point, a mere 45 minutes walk further. Psychological failure. Made it to the top, but didn't. Not sure I can be bothered to do it again.
Going on safari to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater was another huge highlight of Tanzania. I saw the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo), amongst other animals, and even saw a newly born zebra still in its birth sac struggling to take its first few steps! Shame there were so many hyenas about as this meant that taking a leak in the middle of the night was a real chore, involving bodyguard-like tactics and, more often than not, a bladder of steel. The bush pig attack on a neighboring tent was another one of those frighteningly good experiences though I was consequently not a happy bunny when my tent mate forced me to throw my tic tacs away at 3 in the morning.
Go on safari in Tanzania. I thought it would be boring, but it was a real experience, in spite of the mass tourism, such as when 15 jeeps surrounded a family of lions, dampening the surreality of it all.
The safari, Kilimanjaro and loss of much luggage over and done with, my uni friends and I headed over to Zanzibar.
This tiny island where Freddie Mercury took his first steps was the epitome of paradise. Blinding white sandy beaches drenched in sunshine, beautiful turquoise waters and fresh seafood every night was the perfect setting to sit back and take it easy. Which is what the 3 of us did. We hired a car for the week and spent our time driving all around the island. And there was plenty to do. Once I went diving and swam with a turtle. Another time, in the evening, we sat on the beach drinking fresh mango milkshakes whilst smoking sheesha. And yet another time we were (repeatedly) stung by racist jellyfish (they left the white guy alone.)
2 weeks on Zanzibar was more than enough. I headed back to the mainland with Shu, Ion having already returned to the cold of 'ol Blighty a week earlier. We spent our last 2 days pretty much living in the casino before heading our separate ways. I dropped Shu off at the airport where 100s of Simba (local footy team) supporters were going nuts in anticipation of the arrival of a new coach; and I went to the train station, to get on my 2 day train ride to Zambia. South Africa is now within touching distance.
(Soz everyone, no Zanzibar pics as camera was stolen...and few pics to come as well - my bad)