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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Out of Africa

Caving, climbing and kayaking have all got in the way of my updating the blog before now, but the most recent delay is all down to a month spent in Tanzania! I was leading a school expedition for True Adventure and, unsurprisingly, internet access has been a bit hard to come by lately!

The expedition took us from trekking in the Eastern Arc Mountains to safari in Mikumi national park, a voluntary project in Msata village and finally to some much needed R+R on the beaches at Bagamoyo and Kigamboni.

Uluguru Mountains

We completed two multi-day treks in the Eastern Arc Mountains, starting with 5 days in the Uluguru range, close to the bustling city of Morogoro. Baking heat and dusty tracks were the order of the day to begin with, but by the end of a tough climbing first day we had reached Morningside camp. Set above the point of a beautifully sculpted valley high above Morogoro, Morningside was a delightful spot to camp for the first night and, as the sun descended behind a nearby ridge, we watched the lights come on in the city below, glittering in the cold night.

The second day found us tramping up narrow and thickly vegetated trails to the former German army radar station on Bondwa Peak - the highest point on the trek at 2170m above sea level. A near 360 degree panorama stretched out beneath us: the plains speckled with long dead volcanic hills and the great lake that supplies the town with water.

Persistent rain followed us for the next two days as we slithered and slipped along narrow muddy tracks to the aptly named 'Forest Camp', deep in the woods before emerging at the friendly village of Tegetero. The welcome we received here was only matched by the drunken dancing of one local man who (almost literally) stumbled across our tents in the early evening!

From Tegetero we made our way down to Kinole, a large village on the road back to Morogoro, but not before taking a side trip to the spectacular Kisimbi waterfall. Some of the girls took the opportunity to wash their hair here, thrilled at the thought of fresh running water for the first time in 4 days!

Going on a Lion Hunt!

Our overnight safari in Mikumi national park was a stunning introduction to the range and volume of wildlife that Tanzania has to offer. Within minutes of passing through the park gates we were greeted by the sight of a family group of elephants just a few metres from the gates. Giraffes, zebras, baboons, wildebeest, buffalo, crocodiles... the list goes on. No lions though, they were all a bit too camera-shy.

Nguru and Beyond

The second trek was in the Nguru Mountains, another of the Eastern Arc ranges. This was far less challenging than the first, and took in a more populated area than the Uluguru trek. The track took us along what were once slave routes from the interior. Captured slaves would be forced to carry gold and ivory along these trails to the coastal ports where the survivors would then be sold on to new masters; a sombre place to be. With a slightly less fatigued group, the Nguru trek provided a good opportunity to wind down before a hectic and busy project.

The school in Msata village suffers from severe shortages of water during the dry season, so the team helped to build a rainwater collection system. The teenagers managed everything from buying project materials to engaging a local builder for the technical parts of the job, as well as finding time to scrub and paint 5 classrooms, help out in English lessons and cook for themselves! The effort meant that the team achieved far more than I thought possible in the time they had.

Beach Holiday

From Msata, we made a beeline for Bagamoyo where gorgeous beaches combined with real showers and toilets made our resort seem like luxury! A short side trip to the Mwende craft market in Dar es Salaam, followed by another fine but quiet beach in Kigamboni was all that time allowed before the flight back home again.

Next Adventures

It's still been non-stop here in the Borderlands though: A week spent working on a NCS programme followed by some downtime squirming around a Mendip cave... Next stop Cornwall for some real downtime before it's back to work preparing for the next Borderlands first aid course!

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