06 March 2013

Cameroon to Tanzania to Thailand

These past few months have just seemed to fly by.  So much happening and so quickly.  In December I really started to tie up loose ends in Cameroon and bring my work at UNICEF to a close.  It was a really bittersweet time.

During my last week in Cameroon, which also happened to be the first week of 2013, I was lucky enough to have a good group of PCVs in the capital.  We celebrated the New Year and basked in all of the good things that Cameroon has to offer – cheap food and drinks, warm weather, good friends, relaxation time.  It was a great way to start off the new year.  As my departing air flight approached, I started to panic a bit and seriously considered staying in Cameroon.  My whole life was there, my friends – make shift family, my work, and my comfort zone.

But it was time for me to leave, and so leave I did.  My host uncle met me at the Douala Airport just before I was about to leave.  Seeing his warm and friendly face was comforting as I embarked on a new unknown journey.

My flight stopped in Nairobi, where I had a few hour layover before taking a smaller flight to the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.  In Nairobi, I was exposed to a real airport with western style restaurants! Then I landed in Tanzania pretty much in the middle of the night in a very small airport.  Leaving the airport, the only option is taxis, which cost $50 for a 30-minute ride, and no room to bargain.  I then met my friends, Ans and Storms, at the YMCA in Moshi. It was a short reunion before we all needed to get some rest for the next day.  On the following day we woke up at 4:30 am to leave for a safari to Tarangiri Park.

It was a beautiful day, filled with lots of elephants, giraffes, birds, and monkeys.  We even got to see a pride of lions teaching their young how to hunt.  The baby lions sat out to watch as their parents slowly surrounded a group of wildebeasts and then sprinted in to catch a few of them.

The next day was the start of our Mount Kilimanjaro hike!  I was surprised by how many people were going to be hiking along with us, including guides and porters there were probably about 1000 people out on the trail with us each day.

The hiking was pretty enjoyable, we had nice weather and we could go at an easy pace.  Each day we climbed a good deal in altitude.  One the first day we left from 1800 meters and slept at 3000 meters.  The second day we slept at 3500 meters.  Then on the morning of the third day Ans had been feeling sick and was reaching a breaking point.  He was showing all the signs of altitude sickness and so decided not to continue and head down for medical attention.  He spent the next few days recovering and resting while Storms and I continued on.  I wish that I would have taken more pictures.  On the third night we slept at 3600 meters.  Then the fourth night we slept at 4600 meters.  Each camp was pretty cold, especially in the morning when we woke up.  But a nice thing about the 4th camp was that it was essentially above the clouds and thus warm and sunny during the afternoon.  We got to camp early and rested well, because on the fifth day we woke up at midnight to start the ascent for the summit.  By around 6am we finally reached a ridge and the sun was coming up.  These were probably the hardest six hours, it was cold, you couldn’t really see anything, and you just kept going uphill.  But once we got to the ridge we could see summit and I regained all of my motivation to continue.  The summit was fairly anti-climatic in that it didn’t feel like you were higher than the point before.  It was so cold up here that my water was frozen and Storms and I were struggling to stay hydrated.  We took a few pictures at the summit sign before heading back down.  

Downhill was pretty difficult. The last day I couldn’t even wear my hiking boots anymore because going downhill hurt my feet so much, so I wore flipflops instead.  Ans met us at the end of the trail and we celebrated the end of the hike.

That night Storms had to leave and get back to her job, while Ans and I still had a few weeks left to our trip.  The next day we took an all day bus to Dar Es Salaam.  It was a pretty typical African bus experience, except it lasted a lot longer than we thought it would – about 11 hours.  In Dar we stayed with some Cameroon RPCVs before taking a ferry to Zanzibar.

Zanzibar was beautiful and we really just enjoyed the sun, sand, and water.  This was the relaxation time of the vacation.

From Zanzibar we took a ferry back to Dar and then had a slight fiasco trying to get to the airport in the middle of the night.  Eventually we did make it.

We had a day layover in Turkey, but by the end of the day we were so exhausted from time changes and traveling.

Then we had another flight before getting to Bangkok.

Almost instantly I fell in love with Thailand. 

Here is Kanchanaburi

Then Koh Phangan

Full Moon Party


Rock climbing

And Lopburi

The whole trip was such an amazing experience and it has really given me the 'travel bug'. I find myself  wanting to keep on exploring and the idea of settling down somewhere does not feel like something I want to do for a while.