Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Impossible to post!

My esteemed readers,

Im currently in the north of Ethiopia, visiting such marvels as Gonder, Axum, Lalibela, Bahir Dar, the Simien Mountains, and perhaps the Danakar Depression. However, there is not a single broadband connection in town (Bahir Dar), and the Blogger website will not even load over dialup, especially when its shared with 5 other people in a café, so youll just have to wait. The trek report is written. Its coming. But not yet. And certainly not with photos!

Incidentally, a schedule update:

I am leaving dear Africa on 12th February, with Emirates via Dubai to Amman, to visit Petra.

Will spend about a week going through to Istanbul, another week to Athens and on to Italy, then another week to England.

See you all soon..

Samuel Gizza Job Crawley

P.S. Im posting this via email, in case you are puzzled over the contradictory headline.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Summit of Kilimanjaro

Uhuru Peak on the Kibo Volcano of Kilimanjaro, at 5895m (19,340ft), was reached this morning, 25th January, at 05:10 local time (GMT+3).

The team

The result!

Full report shortly.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Ascent of Kilimanjaro Starts...

..tomorrow, 20th January. Wish me luck! I shall be following the Machame route, taking 6 days with an option on 7. The weather is described as unseasonal, in that they are experiencing rain and snow in what is usually a dry time of year. Still, I've been to Nepal in the monsoon ("definitely finished" says Raju), so nothing can faze me! I'm looking forward to it. I will currently be travelling "alone" in so far as that is permitted, i.e. with a guide, a cook and two porters. Ah well, if you can't make friends, you can always buy them.

Photo from Britannica

The spiel from Wiki:
Kilimanjaro with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawensi, and Shira, is an inactive stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania. Although it does not have the highest elevation, Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world, rising 4,600 m (15,100 ft) from its base, and includes the highest peak in Africa at 5,895 meters (19,340 ft), providing a dramatic view from the surrounding plains.

Observation from me:
5000m climb with no bars along the way. This one's going to be tough!

Full report in a week or thereabouts.

Sam’s Trek Pre-Trip Checklist

Bill Tilman's philosophy was to travel as light as possible

Here's a list I drew up for my first trip to Nepal a few years ago, which might come in handy for those of you dithering as to what to take if you're going trekking somewhere. When I ran this past Rob, my friend who had been there several times, he was slightly baffled and suggested that he just threw a few clothes in a bag and set off! Each to his own approach, it'll work out one way or another - use your common sense, and the rule of "half the stuff, twice the cash" is usually right.

Note things marked @ are items potentially can be shared in a group

Medical Stuff
This should be done well in advance!
Dental check and medical check

General principle is the less weight the better. It’s easy to buy essentials out there if required.

Large hold-all, ideally lockable, to leave off trek
Large internal framed backpack, with lockable compartment, for trekking
Small daypack to keep valuables (camera, phone, passport)
Lots of waterproof plastic bags inc. zip lock ones to section stuff into to avoid water damage
Large strong plastic bag to wrap main backpack in when flying

Lightweight waterproof walking boots. walked in, use them before going abroad
Hiking socks x2pairs
Few pairs of normal socks (not cotton)
A pair of flip-flops or light shoes for non-trekking or when in camp / lodge

Light t-shirt, not cotton, best to get one of these special wicking tops
Lightweight jumper type thing
Fleecy jumper
Gore-Tex jacket
Light trekking trousers
Merino Wool Tighty things
Underpants – I’ve seen it suggested they should be warm, but that sounds strange to me!
Swimming shorts
Knee Support band things
Good pair of dark sunglasses with real UV protection!
Warm woolly hat

Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bag rated to appropriate temperature for destination. Very important!
Sleeping bag liner – NB you could make do without actual sleeping bag for some places if blankets available (eg Nepal).
Compression sack for sleeping bag

Food @
Foxes Glacier Mints or equivalent.
Wash and Medical Kit
Towel - Tea towel sized or travel towel
Small soap @
Sun cream @ (though need to make sure we have plenty)
Sun lip gloss
Blister treatment stuff @ - this is important
Iodine or chlorine for water treatment @
Medical/First aid kit, including Imodium stuff @

GPS, but do you really need it? Will you have to carry it?

Other Stuff
• Lenses, lens cleaning kit etc as applicable
• Spare battery for camera
• Charger for Camera
• Big or multiple memory cards
Plug adapter
Small padlocks (combination) for bag and for room
Scissors, safety pins, tape @
Penknife @
Small screwdriver for spectacles if appropriate
Sewing kit @
Cigarette lighter/matches @
Head torch, spare batteries if required
MP3 player
Trekking poles
Ear plugs
2x1L Plastic Water bottle/Platypus/Camelback
Bits of rope for tying stuff to backpack @
Notebook and pens
Playing cards @
Reading books – this could be the time to conquer Ulysses
Andrex Toilet paper (for when only luxury will do)
Wet Wipes – I have a three-pack – one each of 80 wipes @

Money and Passport
Passport [check validity – three months after stay!]
Spare Passport Photos
US$ for visas and unexpected border charges @
Credit cards and bank cards for ATMs, do you know your pin? And phone number to call (from abroad, 0870 etc don’t work) if problem.
Paper photocopy of passport main page, tickets, plus copy left at home, and emailed to yourself as digital picture
Travel insurance, including phone and policy numbers, plus copy left with family at home
List of people and addresses to send postcards to!
Small Gifts – Things like postcards and, for example, DK Travel Guide to UK

Eric Shipton with his essential piece of luggage

Have fun!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Through Dar to Moshi, and to a Hospital Bed!

Many updates to the blog today, so if you are an avid reader, click on the January 2008 link on the left.

I don’t sleep well, probably because I plan to get up at 5:30am, so do the waking up hourly thing all through until getting up, having a cold shower and heading out. The chap who runs the place kindly offers me a limited breakfast, but my appetite isn’t stirred by tough chewy bread and tea at this hour. It’s a pleasant quiet walk down to the ferry port, the other side of town. Despite the Call to Prayer being over an hour ago and the sun being up there seems to be little activity. I’m glad it’s quiet around the port, as this is Tout Central during the day, but at this time it’s easy to work out where to buy my ticket, priced at more than double the local price, at 35 US$ or 50,000 shillings. A quite bit of mental arithmetic suggests that it’s cheaper in dollars, so I hand them over, and am given a small ticket to write my name on. Round to the “Passenger Terminal”, i.e. some benches before the boarding point, where Immigration check my passport and ask me to fill out a form. I suppose it’s a token gesture, as Zanzibar is semi-autonomous within Tanzania, having their own President and civil service.

The catamaran ferry, the Sea Star I, leaves just after 7am, and is comfortable, despite me not forking out the extra 5US$ for the VIP seats upstairs, and it’s smooth on the water – I hear there were some rough crossings last week.

Kath meets me in front of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and I spend the rest of the day organising my bus ticket to Moshi, buying some new sandals, as my Crocs are about to fall to pieces, eating some nice grilled fish and doing nothing much in Dar. Not that there’s any need for guilt, the only sight in Dar is the National Museum, the description of which in LP was not especially enticing. So, technically, arriving into Moshi tomorrow (16th) I could be heading up Kili the following day! I presume it will take a day or two to organise things though. The thing that worries me about Kili, apart from the fact that the majority of those I’ve met recently failed in their attempt to reach the summit, concerns precisely that point – it’s a very goal-oriented affair – unlike Nepal where the whole hike is a beautiful experience, Kilimanjaro is all about whether you make the top or not. Nothing much else to see, no villages, no valleys. One mountain, and up you go. My Uncle Michael climbed it a few years ago, and according to Grandpa Cliff, the last few hundred metres were not the easiest!

In Dar I’m staying in the Kariakoo area, which is the main market of Dar, and really something to be seen if you’re into anarchy! People, carts, cars, buses, all flying in all directions, all busy, impatient, and allowing little room for a by-stander. Not really my kind of thing.

Luckily, as I’m using New Scandinavian Express buses tomorrow, I can walk to the terminal, instead of the others which all leave from an enormous place out of town which is apparently rather chaotic. Dar es Salaam to Moshi is apparently about a 7 ½ hour journey, and I’m on a so-called “Super-deluxe” coach. Full report tomorrow.

We have dinner at the Chef’s Place, what seems like the only decent recent restaurant in town. Strange that they don’t offer beer though.

Next morning, as I walk down to the bus station, I walk past vast selections of newspapers, and nearby men sitting in big groups drinking tea from a communal pot. It’s good to see there’s a free press here – in Kenya the President has apparently banned live broadcasts. Interestingly there’s a worry here expressed regularly in the newspapers that Tanzanian tourism will be hit by the troubles there – however if anything my experience is the reverse – people are aborting their Kenyan trips and redirecting to Zanzibar and the Serengeti.

On my bus, which does look like a South American bus which had reached the end of its life, we head off on the 7-8 hour journey.

I’m feeling a bit under the weather, flu like. An hour out of Dar, the rains start, which is kind of amusing as I read today’s newspaper, the headline article of which is about droughts across the country! It’s interesting to watch pineapple sellers hiding between HGV wheels, small kids standing soaked to the skin in their uniform, holding hands, a crowd of locals sheltering under a tiny canopy, squeezed together comically.

It’s noteworthy that Tanzanians love their road bumps. All along this road, a national highway, we hit big ones, small ones, ribbed ones, especially on dips near bridges, but also in places where there’s no clear reason to have them. They also have police checks on a regular basis, most of which we are waved through. Also weigh bridges, which we pass through twice.

Most goods carried about on two-wheeled carts pulled by young lads, along the relatively empty roads, past buildings mostly brick with corrugated iron roofs, moving to mud walls in the more remote areas. There are lots of fern-like trees with red flowers, very pretty. Locals are mostly on bicycle. One doesn’t see many motorbikes either.

We make a brief stop at Ubungo Ubungo, the main bus terminal. Even after our stop here, the bus is fairly empty, great! They put on a Nigerian soap on the TV up above us. I’m getting quite into these Nigerian soaps with their sequential storylines, always with a moral.

In Tanzania, whacking crows with catapults is a popular kids pastime, and I even see a dead one pinned up to a telegraph pole for practice.

We make a lunch stop. I ask for chips and a sausage, but am told they don’t have that in the ready-made polystyrene trays. What, even chips and a sausage isn’t cooked fresh? I'll wait till Moshi!

We drive along into the bush, consisting of short spiky trees, sparsely spaced in the orange soil. There are also irrigated areas with small spiky plant, like a yuka without stem, perhaps palm trees?

Foothills start rising up from the plains, and I think I see Kilimanjaro silhouetted against the horizon, though later decide it couldn’t have been, the weather we head into is too bad for me to have seen if from that distance. I’m proud of following in some of Tilman’s grand footsteps across this continent. The woman behind me suddenly whacks me on the head. I turn round to find her apparently fast sleep. She does it again, harder. Still sleeping.

One interesting cultural quirk that I believe LP comments on is the practice of using one’s indicators to suggest safe passing, sensible given the slow speeds many vehicles adopt here. However, often in Tanzania, the drivers get confused and despite driving on the left hand side of the road, indicate right to encourage one to pass, which is of course the reverse of what one would expect – I wonder how many accidents there are when the indicating car then actually turns into a side road?!

Torrential rain as I approach Kilimanjaro! Doesn’t bode well!

As much as I get to see of Kili today!

Visiting a local hospital – as a patient!
On arriving at Kindoroko, I feel so awful that I take to my bed, and am there for the next three days, shuttling between the bathroom and the bed. Not enjoyable. Finally On the third day, I’ve had enough, and my self-diagnosing myself using LP’s Heath advice suspect I have Giardiasis. Turns out I was right! Anyway, I can tell you this – with Giardiasis, you can’t just let you system flush the bad stuff out then be done with. Your system keeps flushing, and flushing, even though there’s nothing more to come. A sip of water would pour out the other end five minutes later.

I wanted to get a Doctor to visit me, as I had no confidence in being more than a few metres from my bathroom, but this apparently wasn’t to be, so Haj on reception put me into a taxi to Kilimanjaro Hospital, where I immediately had to fork out 30,000s or.. as I had to do.. 30US$ (a horrendously bad exchange rate) for a consultation. The Doctor seemed to ask all the right questions though, and soon send me off for a stool sample, (4,000s more) which as it happens I was keen to provide as a matter of priority! I had a choice of bathrooms – a Western style toilet with no paper, or a dirty squat toilet, which at least had running water. Nice. Especially given the open wound I have just had inflicted by them taking a blood sample – I think to test for Malaria.

That handed over, I went back to the Doctor, who suggested I should have a lie down on their beds and have a saline drip to replace some of what I had lost over the past few days. I asked whether I could just take tablets instead, but no. So, all fine, until I stupidly asked the Doctor what was in the saline solution. He grabs the bottle which is feeding my line, tips it up to read the side, and I see bubbles zooming down my drip! Help! I don’t know much about medicine, but air in the blood stream is definitely a bad thing.

Then the nurses fidgets about with the bottle and again introduces bubbles! By now I’m getting a bit stressed, but the staff just laugh at me. Why am I paying so much attention to this, they wonder? Could it be because they’re close to giving me a severe stroke when these air bubbles block the blood supplies to my brain?? After the third time, I refuse to continue with the drip. Along at the pharmacy, they issue me with three different drugs (12,000s more). One to combat Giardiasis, a Metronidazole substitute, one to block up my bowels and a general purpose antibiotic (I think). I taxi home, hoping that this stuff is going to work, and hoping I won’t die from all the air in my blood stream!

Next day and I’m feeling slightly better. I think it’s indicative of how loose my bowels are that I can still “go” after taking the “Imodium” equivalent they’ve given me! I tried to eat dinner last night but just couldn’t do it, so this is now day 4 of not eating, hardly the “building up energy for trek” that I’d hope to be doing right now. And so I wait… At least I’ve made it to this net café today, so things are getting better!

Diving the Mnemba Atoll

Dive: Wattabomi, Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar
The spiel: A dive site suitable for advance and novice divers with a depth from 15 to 25m. Amongst others you will see Lion fish, Moray eels, Stingrays, Octopus and big Groupers. The highlight on Wattabomi is the number of resident turtles. During some of our dives we see up to 15 of these fascinating reptiles.


Mnemba Atoll, off the east coast of Zanzibar, is a ring of dive and snorkel sites, with a single island, apparently privately owned by an exclusive hotel. It’s a fair boat ride, about an hour, so lunch is brought along, some tasty pasta with chapattis, and fruit.

On this first dive, we see a small field of Garden Eels, all poking about 10 inches out of the sand, looking inquisitively about. Plenty of reef fish action, but the highlight was a large turtle sleeping on top of a reef, occasionally opening his eyes and looking suspiciously about before closing them again. If he was snoring, I couldn’t hear it underwater.

A 62 minute dive with maximum depth 20m is not one to use the static dive table for, but luckily most people had computers, certainly Norbert, my buddy, did.

Dive: Kichwani, Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar
The spiel: A deep dive from 25 to 40m. Many colorful coral formations with an abundance of tropical reef fish. Big Napoleon Fish, Reefshark, Trumpetfish, Travalleys and Grouper, Oriental Sweetlips and Rays.

Slightly disappointing in terms of dive. There was a good gently current carrying us along the wall, and we did see a turtle in the distance, scuttling along deeper than us, but otherwise not much to see. Highlight for me was a baby moral eel snapping at us, with bright white eyes making him look like he was made of plasticine, very cute!

Again, 62 minutes, this time maximum depth 22m!


It’s lonely on that beach

Norbert, Yasmin and myself. Check the matching gear!

Damn, I don’t get to say goodbye even to Yasmin, possibly the most lovely divemaster I’ve ever met. If you’re reading this Yasmin of East Africa Diving Co, get in touch, you still owe me some sea horses, on Shane’s, in London’s Aquarium or otherwise!

After having sorted out our kit, and paid my bill, we head to the adjacent café for some beers, Norbert and myself, a Dutch-German couple and an American couple. They’ve all attempted Kilimanjaru in the past couple of weeks, and none of them made it right to the summit! Doesn’t bode well for me! I leave first, having to catch a Dala dala to Stonetown. This time I just hand over 1,500s, which they accept, so I was charged double last time. Ah well, going rate for screwing foreigners! Strangely, the conductor chap leaves some coins on the road as we drive off apparently in the middle of nowhere. Arriving as it gets dark, I find a room in Flamingo before walking to Amore Mio for tasty Italian fare and decent wine. Plus of course some good ice-cream for the walk home, Pistachio and Banana flavours this evening.

Scuba Babies

Dive: Hunga, Nungwi, Zanzibar

Another day

East Africa’s Dive Centre

On to the boat

Haven’t we forgotten some people?

The Spiel: Only a short boat ride from our dive centre, Hunga reefs offer 3 different divesites at a depth from 12m to 18m. There is a huge variety of Reef fish, some stunning coral formations, Crocodile fish, Stone- and Scorpion fish and many different kind of Flatworms and Nudibranches. Hunga reefs are also ideal for the not so experienced diver and beginners. A truly beautiful divesite on a flat sandy bottom.

So we actually saw – crocodile fish, a blue-spotted ray, schools of yellow snappers, mantis shrimps, big groupers, a fair few small nudibranches, and plenty of nice coral. Overall though I felt there was more to see yesterday, even in the strong current.

In between dives, we are offered a marvellous selection of biscuits, no less than three varieties, but sadly no tea to wash them down with, and sea water just doesn’t cut it!


Interestingly, one sees lots of locals just snorkelling along fishing – I’m not sure if they’re spear fishing or dragging a net. From the boat they’re quite difficult to spot!

Dive: Coral Garden, Nungwi, Zanzibar
CHAKA TUNI: A long streching coral formation at a depth of 20m with many reef fish, sometimes a turtle and some great soft and hard corals. Ideal for beginners and coral fans. Coral Gardens are the extension of Chaka Tuni, beautiful coral and many of the reef fish of the Indian Ocean

Very salty but oh so clear water

On this shallow dive we had a beautiful turtle circle round us before swimming off, saw a large lobster hiding under a rock, and as the name of the site implies, some nice coral.

Back at the Dive Centre, chatting with Michel, who runs East Africa Dive Co, he observes that after seven years living here, he now finds shops very confusing in Germany, as there is such an amazing variety. Apart from places like Zanzibar Town which have swanky shops for tourists, most of Africa is served by shops which all sell the same small selection of goods – toothpaste, noodles (not that anyone seems to eat noodles), and a few other bits and pieces – the essentials I suppose. Doesn’t make shopping into an experience to particularly anticipate with glee.

I go for a beer with Norbert, my buddy from the dive, who is from Wurzburg in Germany. Again, we admire the local scenery:

On the way back to my hotel, I bump into Yasmin, the beautiful Kenyan Girl, she’s on the beach on her day off as a Divemaster! I query this – surely you’d try to find mountains or something if you work in the sea, but no, she loves it enough to want to spend all her time about the ocean. Misty eyes…

In the evening I have a Thai style curry, which well, wasn’t really Thai style, and wasn’t much of a curry. Beer was consistent at least. And what do you know – mid-dinner I discover evidence of extra-terrestrial activity over the Indian Ocean! You saw it here first!!:

Sunset started off innocently enough, yes?

Quite beautiful. But suddenly..

All your base are belong to us!

No doubting it

Diving Nungwi with East Africa Dive Co


Ah yes

At Nungwi, a chap directs me down to Jambo Brothers, but they don’t have any singles, I leave my bag with them and wander about until I find a place called Safina Bungalows, where I get an acceptable en-suite room for 15,000s, about 6 pounds, per night.

Safina Bungalows

I walk back along the beach to collect my main pack. Most of the places along here have raised walkway or seating bits over the sand, these double up as protection from the sun, which is sorely needed – it’s intense here.

Sun protection

East Africa Dive Company was recommended to me in Tofo, and they seem like a friendly bunch.

Grace supervises me filling out the forms and laughs at the photo on my Advanced PADI card with Yasmin, a very hot Kenyan divemaster here.

The beach is a bit special, this is right in front of the dive centre:

It would seem the majority of the islanders are Liverpool supporters, based on flags posters and stickers. Furthermore, the majority are employed as photocopiers, if one goes by the number of secretarial service venues in Zanzibar town. A fair few people though are dressed in tribal “Masai” dress. In town I thought this was just a touristy thing, but now I’ve seen them out in the villages, I’m beginning to suspect they may really be wearing this gear for real. They also have rather impressive knives strung round their waist.

Taking time out from the Heineken Cup

In the bar as the sun sets and I read The Importance of Being Earnest (marvellous by the way), I try a Safari Beer. Not impressed to be honest. Stronger in terms of alcohol and yet not much in terms of flavour. I switch back to Kilimanjaru for the next round. These resorts are made for sunsets, looking, well I thought east, but that can’t be the case. My bearings clearly need examining, as my resort must face west.

Dinner next door at the Z Hotel, presumably a W Hotel rip-off, but it’s still very nice. I have a wrap with chips for a mean 10,000s for the wrap plus 3,000 for the accompanying beer.

I would say you pay for the nice surroundings, but I was sandwiched between a group of American college students and a South African couple (mixed race though, hurrah!)! Oh well..

Back Underwater
It’s Revolution Day today, a Zanzibari holiday.

Over at East Africa Dive Company, we assemble gear. Two boats are going out, and unfortunately I end up on the one that doesn’t have the very pretty Kenyan dive instructor. Next dive perhaps!

Dive: Shane’s, Nungwi, Zanzibar
Anyway, we head out to a site called Shane’s with the German owner of EADC, Michel, a bunch of German divers and my buddy, a Scottish chap called Alan. We’ve got steel tanks and I’m wearing a short wetsuit so I’ve only got 4kg on my weight belt, but it’s more than sufficient.

Down below we find a strong current which we swim against. There are periodically humps of rock covered with coral, along with a busy floor. Despite the current I really enjoy the dive because of the fantastic variety of sea life we see, including some quite unusual creatures, like a purple Leaf Fish, floating on a rock looking just like a leaf, a Giant Reef Ray sitting underneath an overhang, with a tail that you certainly wouldn’t want too close to you, other rays and pufferfish, a tiny cow fish with two small horns, some stone fish including a red-coloured one, scorpionfish including a Mauritian variety, lobsters, shrimps, and as we ascent, we see a Sepia, like a giant squid, scoot along below us.

Dive: Hunga, Nungwi, Zanzibar
Second dive site is not far away, but we need a surface interval to give us sufficient time to dive the second time without experiencing decompression problems. Again a strong current, but this time not so consistent, and somehow I find it harder to swim against. The visibility is also much worse than the first dive. Plenty of small reef fish on this dive, and some of the same as the previous dive. Strangely the others seem to enjoy this dive more than the first one. Each to his own!

Back to the shore, and the tide has gone right out, so the boats can only get within about 30 metres of the beach.


We need to wade back with our equipment, the only issue being the rocks below are dotted with sea urchins!! Thankfully they bring out a bag of wetsuit booties to wear, but we still tread carefully back to the beach. Alan and I head over to the adjacent café for a tuna mayo sandwich and a couple of Serengeti beers for lunch, whilst admiring the view.

I find internet at Galaxy Café, just beyond the football pitch and supermarkets, it’s 800 bucks per half hour, and is very slow. But they have AC, so all is forgiven.


Why sponsor Poor Tourism? Am I missing the point?

Later I end up eating at the Fat Fish restaurant, as they are showing Middlesborough Liverpool, or rather they showed two thirds of it until the signal packed up.

Anyway, I tried a Biriyani, which was tasty, except I did note a ridiculous number of cloves in it, perhaps because this island is the home of the things.

Another wonderful sunset enjoyed alone. Sob.

Incidentally, studying the map of Mt Kenya, and her approaches, I notice that there is a Tilman Peak just before Pt Lenana (4985m), the one I hope to scale. This of course warrants further research – I presume it is named after HW Tilman but who was responsible for the naming?