Mistaken for Justin Bieber by the Majengo totos...😂
Mood-setting fact: dung beetles spend their days feasting on balls of faeces, yet are the strongest insects in the world.
I have read over my last couple of posts and realised two things. Firstly, I have really bastardised the use of colons and semi colons, and secondly, my depiction of #TZlyf has been a tad too romantic. I’ve been heavy-handed with the lion cubs and Kilimanjaro sunrises, neglecting the tremendous wheelbarrows of shit that also make up the everyday in Arusha. So today, I’d like to scatter some manure to keep the fragrance nice and authentic. Let’s dive in.
This week I was mugged on my way to work, in broad daylight, by eight men. I swear there were 20 guys, but my witness Justine says eight, maybe ten. Nevertheless I was swarmed by a cocoon of hoodlums who fronted as dalla dalla conductors hassling me for business. But no, the phoneys were not just after a 400 shilling fare to Ilboru. They all hollered as they zeroed in on me and my mzungu trappings, crafting the ideal cacophony under which to conduct their thievery. I was reciting my hapana asantes (‘no thank yous’) as I waded through the chaos, when suddenly I felt one arsehole pull at my backpack, while another yanked at my money belt. It all happened very quickly but my money belt is sacred – I don’t endure fugly robber-proof accessories for nothing – so no way was some lowlife taking off with my Korjo fanny pack.
They picked the wrong girl. The dormant Power Ranger inside me kicked in and I flipped out. My arms windmilled, and I shrieked FARRRRKKKKKKKOOOORRRRFFFFFF!!!!!!!! at the very top of my lungs. Deafening and shrill, it worked. The eight-to-ten-or-20 bandits scattered, and my raging red Alf Stewart face drained to a deathly white as the crescendo subsided. Justine looked at me half in fear (#psychopath), before she spent the rest of the morning calming me down, with lots of Kit Kats.
In the same 24-hour period, a hand grenade was thrown into a local Indian restaurant that all our friends had been licking their fingers at only days prior. Although there were no deaths, eight souls were horribly injured. In a separate attack the same week, a bomb blasted a Muslim cleric’s private home, severely wounding two. Apparently both incidents were attributed to local business disputes, but who really knows. The police are terrifically corrupt. When an officer pulls you over on the road, you must sling him a few shillings ‘for lunchy’ in order to keep driving. There is no point becoming overly irate at the traffic cop, as he must pass up the majority of his spoils to the guy above him. And that guy, to the guy above him, and so on. The chain up to the fat cats is long.
But we can keep shovelling here. Today I picked up my third course of antibiotics to treat my latest African malady. And on Monday, we visited the poorest neighbourhood in the city, with the filthiest kids, who often survive on just one bowl of porridge a day. As the tsunami of hopelessness inside me peaked to come crashing down in that slum, I narrowly missed stepping on a human turd. Yep, human. There is not much in this universe that is more revolting.
So in many respects #TZLyf boils down to shits and giggles, but the bad days fertilise the good days. Cheers to the dung beetles for the inspo ✌.
ROFLS: Riding the bus with a chicken in a box
NOT SO ROFLS: Fry Mate is a premium yellow ‘cholesterol free’ vegetable cooking fat enriched with vitamins
Warning: this post may contain an extreme number of adjectives to convey strong, once-in-a-lifetime-style emotions.
WE JUST CLIMBED KILI. I refer to my party-mix of Australian Swedish and Japanese rafikis (Justine, Axel and Kenta); myself; two guides; a cook; nine porters; and Mount Kilimanjaro: all 5895 metres of it. The four mzungus summitted Uhuru Peak at 6.10am on Thursday 3rd July 2014, just as the sun burst above the clouds.
From afar, Kili poses as the quintessential snow-capped knoll. With verdant rainforest at the base, heather in the lower-middle, alpine desert in the upper-middle, and some snowy icing; it is a perfect emoji mountain. Up close, the summit looks a bit like the moon. An old volcano, it sports a big crater, glaciers, and jagged chunks of ice and rock. However this recollection may be distorted, as the ten minutes we spent there are a cosmic blur.
The final ascent, on day four of our six day expedition, was probably the hardest slog of my life. Having hiked all day to reach the Kibo Hut base camp in the afternoon, we took a short rest before departing again at midnight to take on the six hour climb to summit. Clad like Michelin men against the sub zero climes, head torches affixed, we marched into the pitch black. After only a few hours, we began to pass scores of other climbers who had failed, and were cowering in various caves and small clearings. Porters took over their gear and prepared for their descent, and all we could do was block out their wincing faces and push on.
The gurus say that getting to the top is 10% physical and 90% mental. I’ll 100% attest to that. Tired, anxious and freezing, with laboured breath from the scant oxygen, you literally cannot move any faster than a shuffle. Our guides ensured we progressed pole-pole, Swahili for 'slowly, slowly,' as otherwise your body cannot acclimatise. Eg the risk of death by pulmonary or cerebral œdema really skyrockets. The altitude is like an invisible fortress, and the last 400 metres to the Uhuru signpost took a much-anguished eon to reach.
But we got there. And collapsed and cried in pain and joy. As day broke, the neon bar of light on the horizon cast dramatic shadows across the pebbly panorama. It was effing sublime and I blubbered all over my balaclava. We shook off our mittens to brave the -15°C degrees, and battling emotions and exhaustion, managed some desperate photos before our camera batteries all froze. There was a lot of hugging, and we drank in the euphoriant that comes with arriving at the top a mofo mountain. Not because our water bottles had also frozen, but because reaching summit has a lasting flavour. With a serious fist-pump after-taste. And yep, that's about all I remember. Fatigue and delirium won over as we turned around and descended for another lazy seven hours back to a safe altitude to rest.
Apart from days four to five, conquering Kili was an absolute pleasure. Sure we got sweaty everyday, didn't shower for a week, and our calf muscles have never looked more robust; however the more hardcore mountaineers refer to our Marangu route as the Coca Cola route: there are huts to sleep in, and less vertical scrambling than on other trails. I didn’t exactly bring my ice pick with me to Tanzania, you know, so we went Bear Grylls Lite (still more than tough enough). While there were certainly no refreshing soft drinks or other such luxuries, we did bring music to the mountain (only ACDC's It’s A Long Way To The Top...Of Kilimanjarooo will get you out of your sleeping bag at 6am), and made a point of wearing matching bandanas (Survivor style) for the entire trek. We thought perhaps our guides may be mildly amused by our cheese factor, though when we weren't busy hauling ourselves into the heavens, we would often bust them on ganja breaks. The Kili shrubs are full of crouching porters chilling (Swahili for getting blazed), so you need to be careful when choosing which bush to go and pee behind.
The perils of Kili may be many... but boy does she deliver.