Friday, October 17, 2008


Well Team,

this is it...

the last report from the great continent, from the great adventure. (I hope I didn't get to wordy :)

How did it all go down? What was the big finale?

It started with some dancing, some Re-meets, and some Mopeds.

After the Spice Tour, we met a bunch of people at the fish market for some wonderful fresh fish and Tanzanian Pizza. There was a big group of people gathering from different tours. People I had met on safari. People I just said "Jambo" to in the Market. We ate, we chatted, we sat at a beach bar drinking Kilimanjaro Beers asking questions and having some good laughs.

Then Victoria, Katrin, Patrick and I hit the disco. A large outdoor place on the roof of a hotel with a swimming pool in the middle of it. The pool was HUGE, 12 feet deep, and empty! A perfect place for some drunk folks to dance! And we did dance, although the music we seemed to like to dance to was less popular than the raeggaeton and Sean Paul and such that the African's enjoyed. Funny but fun. And to think, I was only approached by one hooker while I was there!

She said "Hello, what's your name?"

I Said "John"

"I like you John"

"that's nice. Have a good night"

she seemed very confused that I walked away so easily.

The next day was the first of the MoPed days!

Katrin, Patrick and I rented Mopeds (you have to have a temporary license for Zanzibar). We were taken to a soccer field to practice (good thing), and then were off on the roads of Zanzibar. It took us 2 hours to reach the east coast, with only one minor wipeout along the way. Patrick hit a bump and fell down, but was okay.

It was HOT, but the Indian ocean breezes hit us and we stopped at some bungalows and swam in the beautiful turquoise seas, with the perfect white sand beaches, and the perfect water as the sun went behind the trees and the full moon rose over the ocean. We ate fish fish and more fish! with green curry and bananas. (that's for you Rachel and Dave!). Yummy.

The sun set and I was off riding to Nungwi in the north, while Katrin and Patrick headed back to Stone Town.

Tangent: Did I talk about how awesome Stone town is? A literal maze of buildings, alleys, streets, twisty turney coolness. You can literally just wander around and be surprised at every turn. A shop. A Mosque. People playing Karem (basically pool with disks on a board.) I joined them for a game. I wasn't very good.

In fact in Stone town there is a Church built on the site of the former Slave Market, and Across the street is a Mosque. And between them is a white pillar with the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth". And here it does. Christians are invited over for the end of Ramadan celebration. Prayers are conducted, greetings are exchanged. Next door to this is a Hindu temple. It would be good for those who don't think the religions of the world are all meant to be here in harmony, it would be good for them to go to Zanzibar and take a look around. They might learn something about what every religion really teaches...

Tangent done, back to adventure:

MoPed. Dark roads. Confusing streets.

2 hours later I pull into Nungwi. Land of dozens of resorts both big and small, cheap ($20 a night) and astronomically expensive ($1200 a night!!!!). I'll let you guess which one I stayed at. :)

Problem was, at night its just darkness and rough roads and no clear idea where to go or what to do. Eventually I found someone to ask and they took me to the place I wanted to stay at. Right next to the water. A nice beach. A little restraunt and bar. About 5 budget places all next to each other.

I was so tired I hit the hay.

Up at 6:30am the next morning, walk on the beach. The tides here are HUGE. It's at least 150-200 feet difference between low and high tide. At low you can walk along the beach under the bungalows and balconies. At high tide the waves hit the rocks beneath them. There's no way past but to swim. The locals go out at low tide and walk amongst the rocks and corals in search of shell fish and clams and such. Hundreds of people. It's cool.

I ended up jumping on with a last minute scuba trip to the Mnemba Atoll. I haven't been in 2 years, but it all came back right away and I had a couple nice dives with thousands of fish in huge schools and a cool sea turtle. I love breathing underwater, especially turning on my back and looking at the bottom of the surface glistening in the sun above. Light streaming through. You really owe it to yourself to get certified, just to see it. Its amazing.

Got a little sunburned, but felt good, and then overheard 2 gals talking about the "FULL MOON PARTAY!"

That's right team, tonight is the full f-in moon partay!

So a nap was had, there was a Re-meet of the awesome Phia and Markus (whom I had met on Safari in Tanzania), and a group of us walked along the beach to find the partay. We heard what we thought was Karaoke on the way, but alas it was merely live music. (So no, 5 weeks, and no karaoke in Africa. In truth I never even saw a place that had karaoke and most people had no idea what I was talking about when I asked. :)

The partay was good. Basically a crowded beach bar with a cool acrobat show and then 4 hours of dancing. The full moon was bright. Some of the music was great, some was not. It was what I expected every bar in Nungwi to be like, but this is a much more chilled out place than Ko Phan Ngan, Thailand (home of the 20,000 person full moon partay I went to in 2005!). Still a good time.

The problem was I somehow was there after the music stopped and everyone had cleared out and there was no way to walk back (tide was in). So I went up to grab a cab, thinking others would be going back... but everyone was gone. So I had to negotiate with these cabbies who wanted 15,000 shillings ($13) for a 5 minute cab ride. Really? So a person I'd been chatting with said "go with those guys. It's 3000"

"who are those guys?"

"Friends. They're cool"

so I jumped in with 8 Rasta guys, jammin' the Reggae -- and smoking joints all around.

This'll be interesting.

Sure enough, we were stopped at the Police checkpoint for 10 minutes as I'm sure the driver had to pay some bribes. I mean, duh, the checkpoint is a permanent set up blocking the road to Nungwi. Did they really think the cops wouldn't be out on the full moon partay? :)

My final day was perfect.

I moved to a $23 room right on the beach. I ate a relaxed lunch with these two awesome folks from Belgian that I had been hanging out with. I went for a 2 1/2 hour walk/swim up the beach, through seaweed, crashing waves and white sand. I took a moped ride around town, where at least 300 folks were watching a football (soccer) match. I got a little sherbet cone for 100 shillings. I rode along the paved road for 20 minutes as the sun got low. I made it back to the beach for sunset, amazing sunset over the water. I took a sunset swim, and sat there as it got dark thinking about this absolutely fantastic trip I have gone on. I thanks my wonderful grandma for leaving me the inheritance which I used for this trip. Even though I have the money from work, I like to think that thanks to her I was given the chance to take this fantastic journey. I thanked my Mom for watching over me on my travels. It was perfect.

I ate a candle lit dinner on the beach under the full moon. The "menu" was to take me to the table and point out the different fish I could eat. Kingfish was had. It was good.

I then hung out with friends I had made at the beaches until midnight.

I feel good. Relaxed, and in truth ready to travel some more. :)

And travel I did... 45 hours from the time I jumped on my Moped in Nungwi, Zanzibar until I arrived at my front door half the world away in Los Angeles, California. I took a moped through the rain. Walked. Rode the ferry for 2 hours in crazy salt spray. Took a taxi (not getting ripped off for any of it going this direction). Took 3 plane flights: 1 where my seat had been given away. 1 where I had an emergency slide blocking half my leg room. 1 where I had space and could watch whatever movies I wanted! (Semi-Pro and The Wackness were the ones I watched). I even read 100 pages of the book I brought. (up to this point I'd read 10 pages the entire trip).

And now I'm home...

Los Angeles.

A world away from Africa.

A world away, but is it the real world?

Not really.

Africa is just as real as America to me now. Not that I'm planning on moving there or anything (I drank from the first water fountain I found when I got back! Hallelujah!), but Africa is no longer just something in books and pictures and movies. Africa is real. It's an amazing place full of wonderful people, fantastic scenery, animals, mountains. It's a place that tested me and rewarded me. It was a grand adventure, and one that I can't entirely process right now. When I look back at the pictures, It seems like a million years ago that the Gorilla touched me. Yet it feels like yesterday.

I've come back to the USA, and everything is mostly the same. Some good things have happened (Jared finished his album!, Scott and Lauren got engaged!), some bad things (the economy went to shit, fires burn southern California), but really it is mostly the same. As it is, things change slowly in daily life.


It Fricking rules. :)

You owe yourself a trip there. Don't be afraid of it. Don't think it's all the horrors and sadness you see in the news. Sure, unfortunately there are places that are like that, but just because there is a crime somewhere doesn't mean the whole country, or continent!, is bad. It's not bad at all. It's amazing.

If I could tell you how I feel right now I would... but it's to much to explain.

Go see for yourself.

Get out there and live it, don't just trust me.

Get out there and travel... to Africa, or Asia, or to the mountains outside your home town.

Whatever you do, get out of your routine. Get out of the rut of daily life. Make your life the adventure you want it to be. Don't waste it. It's to precious. To amazing. This world is full of things that will take your breath away and blow your mind, and you can't get it from reading about it or watching it on TV. Go ahead, stand on the side of Kilimanjaro at sunset, have a Gorilla touch you, watch 10,000 wildebeest stampede across the plains, hear the sounds of children laughing and singing and dancing in the rain.

Don't miss it.

And though I thank you for reading all of these emails, trust me: It is so much more than these words can ever capture.

This is just the surface.

This is just a glimpse.

This isn't Africa...

But I've seen it.

And I'm so lucky.

This is Craig Ouellette,

last surviving member of the Nostromo

Signing off.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


It's true Team...

The coast and Zanzibar are HOT and Humid and pretty frickin awesome!

After my day off from Traveling in Moshi, I headed here. In Moshi the

power went out around noon and was out until maybe 10pm. It flickered

on here and there. Some places had generators, but mostly that was it

for the power. They say it's rationing. They say sometimes its 30

minutes, sometimes it's more. They say "It's Africa!". :)

The bus ride was hot and sticky as we passed mountains on our way to

the coastal plain. We had to RUSH out of the bus and into a taxi in

order to get to the ferry in time. We ended up getting ripped off for

about $8 each, and I knew it was happening, I called them on it, but

we barely made the ferry in time, so I guess it was the "Don't get

stuck in Dar es Salaam" tax.

So here I am in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Home of a maze of city streets,

tiny alleyways, wonderfully illogical buildings, a fresh fish market

every night lit by lanterns, old palaces of the Sultan (they ruled

here for many hundreds of years), and the site of the last Legal Slave

Market in Africa. A site shut down in the 1870's by the works and

efforts of a Doctor Livingston, I Presume. I had no idea that that

famous line was about the man who rallied the Church and the English

government to shut down the slave trade. (though it continued

illegally for a many more years). There are old slave chambers under

the church... the ceilings are not even 5 feet tall. For such a dark

part of history it's amazing how casual most African's are about it.

As if it is just some fact in a book and not reality. I guess it's

been 130 years, so maybe that's why.

Ran into some friends I'd met earlier in the trip. Cheryl from the

Gorilla trek is here (and gone again already. Hope the RBR is going

well Cheryl!!!! :), Victoria and Peter from the Tanzanian Safari...

just saw them today. And it looks like we'll have a good crew to

actually go DANCING tonight at THE disco in Stone Town. (I asked

about Karaoke but no luck... dammit! :)\

tomorrow it's off to beautiful beaches, Moped exploring and eventually

scuba diving.

I've got 3 days and 4 nights left until the 40+ hours of travel to get

from paradise back to LA. Gotta make 'em count!

Hope you are all well.

Come to Africa. :)


Wednesday, October 8, 2008




Po-le (Slowly)...

Po-le (Slowly)...

Yep Team, I am down from Kilimanjaro.

My legs hurt like hell. I can barely walk down steps. Strangely, going up was much easier on my muscles. They only started hurting when I came down.

So, for a soundtrack to this email. You can listen to the songs that were in my head for almost the whole trip. I had a lot of time for them there since it was only me and my awesome guide Wilson ("Wilson! Wilson!" says Tom Hanks in Castaway. I kept thinking about that the whole time).

The songs would be

"Only" by Nine Inch Nails (surprised there's a NIN song in the bunch?:)

"Getting Closer" by Nitzereb

"Be Good To Yourself" by Journey

and "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister

(yeah, the 80's are coming back).


So, it's just me and my guide. Wilson is a 61 year old former science teacher who has climbed the mountain for 20 years. (Dad, get off your bum and go climb a mountain! There are people older than you going to the top of this thing. :) He did fantastic preparation for me and my hypoglycemic needs. He made sure there was meat for all the meals and had the right food for me. Which is great since on the Inca trail (my next biggest trekking experience) I was not given the right food at all and there were some problems. Not so here, he took care of me, was very informed, smart, fun to talk to. He would say things like "you know your body. I can't know your body". and "If the Big Boss says we can make it, we'll make it".

The only problem was that it was Only me. No other clients. So since we were just me and him most of the days. And at meals I didn't have group to talk to. Eventually it starts to get lonely. I would try to socialize, and would here and there. But it wasn't like I was IN THIS TOGETHER with someone else. As a result as one day turned to two turned to four and more it started to become difficult.


Because hiking 30 miles each way from 6400feet up to 19,300 feet is one tough bastard of a thing to do! Holy cow.

"One step

Two Step

Getting Closer,

Getting Closer

Let them believe me...

I've got to say that it HURTS" --- Nitzereb

The scenery is fantastic! It goes from Cultivated farmland (before the trail starts), to tropical rain forest (like in Uganda), to Moorland (like in England except at 10,000 feet! often cloudy and misty), to Arctic Desert (because you are above most of the clouds! Like an island in the sky!) to Glacial Ice Cap (which is like the moon...with some ice:)

I have so many pictures.

The peak of Kilimanjaro is called UHURU. There are other points, like Mawenzi to look at along the way.


I took the Marangu route, which meant that I had Huts to sleep in at night. This was good because the first two huts, had four beds in them. Night 1, I was by myself! (which is good for sleeping, bad for socializing). Night 2 was with a German couple (who asked about Obama), and a fellow named Jose from "the Basque country" of Spain. He was trying for his second time. He had attempted 25 years ago and not made the top, and was back to kick it's bootay. (I don't know if he made it).

The last night before the climb is at Kibo hut... more on that in a bit.

At Hirombo hut I saw the mother of all sunsets. No exaggeration, maybe the most beautiful, if not in the top 5 sunsets of all time. We were above one set of clouds, below another and there was a cloud that looked like a mountain peak in between. The top clouds were dark, the bottom light, the middle glowing like gold. Absolutely breathtaking.

So I was on a 6 day trek, that somehow became 5 days. I felt fine at Hirombo hut (hut number 2) at 12,700 feet. So Wilson said lets keep going. He's seen people not make it in 6 or 7 or 8 days, so if you feel well, best to keep moving. So we did.

I actually didn't have much problem breathing and my oxygen level (he had a little gadget that checked it and my heartbeat), was high, so off we went.

The Alpine Desert was amazing. The peak dome looming across a rocky landscape. Clouds surrounding and below us. It was like walking in the sky. Awesome.

Just put one foot in front of the other. 5 to 7 to 18 HOURS in a day. (the 18 on the summit day). Getting Closer...


So Kibo hut is at 15,650 feet.

Higher than I'd ever been before.

Unlike the other huts it was actually just one building. All the others were A frame huts with beds in them and a separate dining hall. Hirombo hut could sleep 150 people. So more like a camp than a "hut".

Kibo hut had 5 rooms, 14 beds a room.

I got there at 2pm. Tried to eat, but couldn't eat much. And laid down for a nap as a huge group of retired Japanese tourists were getting ready.

Then I started to feel nauseous...

...oh shit.

I rushed outside and puked up my lunch.

...oh shit.

So I found Wilson, told him and he said "Do you feel better? Then that's good. Is okay to throw up, as long as it's just food and not blood".

Great. :)

So I walk back to the hut and no less than 3 people were puking outside the door. And I got inside and there was puke on the hallway floor and puke in the doorway to the room I was in.

Fantastically Unsavory to say the least. (what was more unsavory is the puke was there all night long.)

So at 5pm I have dinner.... or what little I could eat.

...oh shit. Mr. Hypoglycemia isn't able to eat. I have an 8 km hike to do. It's 4000 FEET! up 'til the summit. It takes 7-8 hours up. 5-6 hours back to Kibo hut. Then another 4 hours hike back down to Hirombo hut. And I can't eat.

...oh shit.

So I'm starting to lose it. I have no one to talk to, I'm getting bummed out, and frankly a little scared. If I pass out on the side of that mountain, Wilson and my summit Porter, Roman will have to carry my ass off that mountain. Let alone the other possible consequences if they cant...

So what to do?

Wilson says sleep, see how I feel in the morning.

The morning is 2AM. That's my wakeup. Other people get up at 10:30PM or Midnight. Yes, most of your vertical hike is in the dark. They say it's "easier" cause you can't see how far you have to go. I say it's fucking retarded because it's cold and demoralizing.

I sleep, I dream. I try to stay positive. But I have no food, and anyone who knows me knows that without food I am anything but positive.

...oh shit.

So I'm up at 1am. Everyone else is gone. It's about 30 degrees INSIDE the hut (but actually not much colder outside.) Wilson says we are lucky, it can be a lot colder than this.

I try to eat. 2 crackers and some Milo in 30 minutes.


I don't think I can do it. I'm a wreck. I'm so tired and sore. And I have no energy. I think about going down. Screw it, I'll just go down, it'll be easier.

But then I thought about THREE O'CLOCK HIGH, the movie. (funny what comes to your mind).

In that movie our hero has been trying to avoid a fight after school with the school bully. Doing anything he can to get out of it. In the end he offers to pay the bully money to leave him alone. The bully takes it but says this. "You're the biggest puss I ever met. You didn't even try. How does that feel?"

After some soul searching, our hero comes back and says "I'm no pussy, asshole. Fights on at three".

Fights on at Three tonight too. I tell Wilson how I'm feeling, the situation, and off we go into the night.


But first we take hands beneath the starry sky and Wilson prays for us, for a safe climb, to see the wonders of God's creation, the great mountain Kilimanjaro.

Tears came to my eyes.

Here we go....

Po-le, Po-le.

That's what they say here. Slow-ly, Slowly. And we go SLOOOOWWWWWW.

I mean, each step is careful and slow. Maybe 10 steps a minute. Maybe less.

We head up and up and after about 15 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, I have to stop and try to eat.

I can't eat but a bit of chicken.

We head up...

Stars stretch forever. Including stars from the headlamps far above on the mountain. I mean FAR above on the mountain.

15, maybe 30 minutes later, maybe 5... I have to stop and eat.

I sit, I eat... and almost fall asleep sitting up. (Devin, Vanessah, Lawrence... you might remember this situation from the Anasazi Death March in the Grand Canyon 10 years ago).

We head up...

10 min, 20, 30 later. I don't know... I sit again.

I can't eat. I can't FUCKING EAT!

I take a bite of beef, try a sip of drink, and puke up nothing cause there's nothing to puke up.

but that is it.

third times a charm.

at 16,300 feet in the dark on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro my attempt is done.

I can't fucking eat.

and unlike the normal non-hypoglycemic person, if I don't eat, I can't just push on.

my body has betrayed me.

and the climb is over...

I tell Wilson. He isn't going to push me "you know your body". And I sit there as the sun starts to glow on the horizon behind Mawenzi peak. It grows brighter and brighter and brighter until it breaches the clouds and blasts us with light. It's amazingly beautiful and as disappointed as I am I know I have made the right choice. It sucks cause I wanted to stand on top of this mountain so badly, but as the Stones say "you can't always get what you want".

So I spend about an hour there. As the sun came up, taking pictures and some video. Watching the brilliantly bright sun go up over the Alpine desert and the clouds below. It was like being in heaven (Hi Mom!, nice to see you up here on the mountain.:)


Turns out I was about 200 feet below Anderson Point. I looked past the rock and Wilson said that that was 16,500 feet. I said, "Let get there". Truth is with the sun up it was easier to climb, and I thought maybe I'd given up to easily. Wimped out.

But I hadn't. Once we started up it quickly leapt back at me that I had no energy.

No fuel.

But we did make 16,500.

There is literally a painted mark and sign that says "Anderson Point. 16,500feet".

So that's my highest yet.

And that's pretty cool.


Heading down the mountain.

2 1/2 hours to get up. 30 minutes to get down to the hut again.

I try to eat.

I'm done.

But we have 4 more hours of hiking to get back to Hirombo Hut.

And people are starting to return from the summit.

I want to get out of here. I don't want to talk to anyone.

So we head off, the wind is blowing. The clouds are beautiful.

My mood is shit.

And as we go down, the "walk of shame" begins. Because we began to pass all the people I had met briefly on the way up. Those who were coming for their next day summit attempt. And every single one of them asked "Did you make the summit?" And I had to explain over and over, as Wilson would speak in Swahili to the guides and porters about how "I had enough food, but couldn't eat and my body is hypoglycemic and had no fuel, blah blah fucking blah"

It sucked.

The hike was SO hard and SO long (I can only imagine the people who actually did the full summit hike and then had to walk this).

When we finally got to Hirombo at 1pm I ate and slept until 5pm.

Woke up, ate (alone again, next to the retired Japanese climbing group. 5 of the 6 of them made it. great. just great). And watched a cloudy night come in.

My mood jumped all over the place. I was able to eat better now and my oxygen level at 12,500 feet was 98 percent, which meant I was totally acclimatized to this altitude. I have no idea what happened up above. One minute I would say it's worth it, I'm going to find out a powder or pill so this doesn't happen again at this altitude. So I don' t have to stop because I can't eat, I'll be able to push on. Then the next minute I would be pissed off and depressed that 60 year olds can climb this and I couldn't.

Couldn't find anyone to talk to.

Listened to some good old Nine Inch Nails on my iPod. felt better.

Went to bed late... it was about 8pm. :)


The final day came. And I sat and talked with two gals I had met briefly on the way up. One from south Africa, and the other from Orange County, California. They said I have climbed Kilimanjaro. I've trekked 5 days. I've seen the views. They spend less than 3 minutes at the top. The top is not the mountain. I should be proud.

The walk down was LONG. 14 miles. Yahoo. My legs decided to get painful. And now that I'm back I can barely walk. I listened to my iPod on the way down, and that made it go much faster. Some NIN, A lot of Journey, Some Genesis, and Metallica. Kept me walking. Felt good. Wish I would have listened to something besides the songs and voices in my head on the way up. I'm a people person and though I like to be alone, being alone on a trip like this is very difficult.

Alone Craig? What about your guide? Yes, Wilson rules. But he is working, and it's not the same as being with someone else in the situation. Perhaps the last song should be "We're in this together now!" by Nine Inch Nails. But it wasn't.

As it went on, and I realized that with tip and rentals this has cost me $1350 for 5 days (instead of 6, I probably wont' get any money back even though we were on the mountain one less day), I couldn't decide if it was worth it. It's pretty miserable, yet pretty amazing. It's painful and exhausting, let awe inspiring. And monotonous... this was twice as long as my previous mega trek, the Inca trail, and in only one more day. And at thousands of feet more elevation.

While up there 3 people were brought down on these stretchers. I saw none of them. One guy, they said his lips were totally blue and he wasn't moving.

Kilimanjaro is no joke. The routes are hard. The timing is far to short. These should be 8, 9, 10 day treks with half the elevation gain each day. People die on this mountain. Probably to many. It's only 19,000+ feet. It's not even to the death zone (26,000 feet). Not even CLOSE. So we "know" the risk (hardly, not until we've done it), and yet people do it anyway. To get to the "roof of Africa", to get to their own inner limits, to see God on his terms.

Is it worth it?

Exhausted, hungry, filthy, I said "thank you and goodbye" to my four porters and Wilson in the parking lot. The smiles on their faces as I said thank you and offered a tip were large. These guys work harder than almost any of us. They trudge so much weight up that mountain on their heads and backs, and you can see them struggle. But in the end, they've got smiles on their faces. A "Jambo!" ("Hello in Swahili) on their lips, and a spirit that so many people I know in the more "civilized" world don't even know they have inside them. If I ever think my life is hard and my work is hard I'm going to think of my crew and chill out. How we face life is what matters, the rest is just circumstance.

Is it worth it?

After saying thank you. Wilson got the guys together and they sang me the Kilimanjaro Song. They clapped their hands. Wilson did a little foot stomping dance and they wished me safe journeys. (I asked them to do "take two" since my memory card ran out of space and I wanted to record it. :) Always the filmmaker). But the truth is I wanted to hear it again. Because hearing them sing and dance about this mother of a mountain. To see the smiles on their faces and the spring in their step after all that work. To shake their hands and look them in the eyes. To see Kilimanjaro vanish into the clouds, I think that answers the question for me.


PS: If you'd like to watch a video / photo diary of this adventure, goto, it's called "There Is Only Me (And The Mountain)"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I"M ALIVE!!!!!

That's right team. you heard about an American who died on Kilimanjaro (no bullshit), but it wasn't me. I have climbed the mountain and returned safely (and painfully) to the ground in Moshi, Tanzania where I am spending a much much MUCH needed day of rest. (Although at midnight last night the key broke off in my padlock to my room, so we spend an hour trying to break in with the hotel staff. Yep...those things work! No luck, so I had to sleep in another room and they are still waiting for the carpenter to break in and get the thing open. As a result I’m walking around Moshi early in the morning not getting my break, but that's okay, Hakuna Matata).

Wait Craig, did you just say "Hakuna Matata?"

I did. It means No worries, for the rest of your days...

So, where have I been for the 9 days or so?

Well first I was on a 3 day Tanzanian Safari to Lake Miniera, Tirengerie National Park ("Warthog River" National Park), and the crème de le crème: Ngorongoro crater. I was with 2 Danish girls named Maibrit and Christine, and for 2 of the days Victoria and Peter from Poland. We got along well and had a good time camping and getting dusty as can be. The safari was a bit more expensive than in Kenya, but was still fun. Got to sleep under the stars and see lots of animals (but unlike in Masai Mara you can't drive off road to see them so you have to accept the distance you have which is better for the ground but not quite as cool.).

Still, we had a wildebeest/zebra mini stampede across the road that was awesome. Those guys can fly when they want. About 300-400 animals charging between our parked cars. Leaping over the side of the road. Not really sure what they were afraid of, but it made for some very dramatic photos. That was in Tierengerie.

And the Ngorongoro crater is fantastic! SOOOO beautiful. It's about 7 miles diameter crater with 2700 foot tall walls. It's a collapsed volcano and because of all the water there is a lot of wildlife down in the basin. Masai warriors bring their cattle in to feed and it is quite amazing to see. Dust, rain, cliffs, hippos and lions. And when you stop for lunch you are by a hippo pool with Black Kite birds flying over head. Seems peaceful...until the crazy bastards dive bomb you for your food! I had one hit the top of my head from behind as he dove in for my chicken, taking it out of the box on my lap. Then one, two more over my head and tore the lunch box apart!

At that point we all went inside the safari van to finish up our lunch. :)

a great time including a rowdy game of Danish Spin The Bottle! They say they play it "all the time". Given the rather fantastic girl to guy ratio, seemed like a fun plan.

BUT, nope, this game is not what you think. Danish spin the bottle is basically "dare or Dare" where you say what happens when the bottle lands on someone and then it's random who has to do the dare. The best was to go up to the tent of the two Spanish gals who went to sleep and howl and pound your chest like a gorilla. in the morning we found out it scared them pretty good (though they had earplugs in so it wasn't as dramatic as you might think. ) Still very funny. Markus and Phia from Sweden joined in. (yet another awesome couple from Sweden... are they all as cool as the people I've met? If so Sweden RULES! :)

Anyway, that's safari, after 7 days in Safari vans and safari surfin' and even playing Frisbee on overlooks with elephants down below, I'm ready to not be in a van anymore. Ready to be out in nature, walking, maybe hiking a mountain... a BIG mountain....

next episode.

Rock on\


Monday, September 29, 2008


Well Team...

so, I’ve made it across the border into Tanzania! My last country on

the tour (unless you count Zanzibar, which does give you a stamp and

sorta is its own country but thank god they don't charge for Visa's

because Tanzania charges 100 USD! (of course we charge them much more,

so I guess it's only fair)).

Turns out American's are traveling to Kenya! So says Rebecca who runs

the Miliani Backpackers in Nairobi. She says there have been many

more American's than ever before since about April. I asked if it was

about Obama... and it is. His father is from Kenya, and so many

American's are now aware of a bad ass country called Kenya and are

coming. This is good since Kenya tourism is SLOOOOWWWWW thanks to the

problems in January and February. Rebecca also told me about how she

and her family survived the riots and people blocking roads, throwing

rocks and burning tires. Them racing through the line of people with

horn "hooting" and skidding into their apartment garage as the guard

slammed it shut on the oncoming crowd. Straight out of a movie,

except that it was real. Fortunately Kenya is totally calm, friendly

as ever but hurting for the travelers to come back. I'm so glad I was

able to come as my safari was fantastic with only about 1/4 the safari

vans as normal. So get your ass to Kenya so you can enjoy the low

crowds and also help out! :)

So for those who don't know what exactly a Safari is I'll tell you (as

I didn't really know exactly before this trip either). You travel in

a Safari Van (or Land Rover) I was in a van, it holds up to 8 people,

but there were only 3 (and then 4) of us. So we had lots of room.

You drive to the national park with your guide/driver (ours was

Barry...well, until the Van broke down and we were sent with another

crew). The roof pops up so you stand up in the van and look out 360

degrees at the scenery and the animals.

And I mean ANIMALS. Rhinos (the endangered black and white ones),

Leopards in trees and Lions in the grass (Mothers, Babies of many

sizes, including 2 week old ones that squeak like birds, can't see and

even went UNDER the safari Van. The mother came over and picked it up

in her mouth and carried it off). Giraffes by the dozens, Elephants

by the dozens. Zebras, Hyenas, Gazelles, Hartebeests, Warthogs

(Pumba!), a cheetah, a cerval cat, Buffalos by the hundreds. Hippos,

crocodiles, bones and carcasses (oh yes) And yes Wildebeests...

THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of Wildebeests. One heard was over a mile

long, with maybe 10,000 animals. The ground didn't rumble like I

expected (but they weren't running). It was 4 days of viewing,

scenery stretching to the horizon without a power line, cell tower,

paved road or house. Just miles and miles and miles of rolling hills

of grass and escarpments in the background.

We were 1 day at Lake Nakuru, a beautiful lake, (with monkeys!) and 3

at Masai Mara (the Kenyan extension of the great Serengeti Plain).

Sunsets, sunrises and stars galore. I even saw SCORPIO for the first

time that I'm aware.

I was with a very cool couple from Israel Ifat and Shaked who were on

their honeymoon. And Mark, an adventuresome pilot for Luftstansa from

Germany. The camp we staid at had Masai warriors with spears and

clubs and knives that guarded it against animal attacks at night and

wore their traditional clothes (and all had cell phones!).

A grand time.

and the new sport is Safari Surfing. You stand in the van as it

drives and don’t' hold onto the edge and try to stay on your feet.

Its' fun and a good challenge.

Tomorrow I actually go on ANOTHER safari, this one to the amazing

Ngorongoro crater. I had to navigate through the safari touts all

day. It was a lot of work, but the place seems good that I chose.

I’m' 3 weeks done. 2 weeks to go. Its going well. I'm definitely

slipping into the mid trip blues though. It always seems to happen at

some point. Where it isn't quite as fun. When little things become a

bit frustrating rather than amusing. When you stop and think about

how much money is being spent and if you will stay on budget. When

you get a bit lonely and tired of having the same "where are you

from?" conversations. That's slipping in now. I know it will pass in

a day or two and it's fine. It's here. It's hard to go go go go for

5 weeks straight! :) I'm hoping the 3 people on this safari tomorrow

are cool and that I can relax and still enjoy the adventure. After

all, Kilimanjaro is coming on friday... 6 days of hiking...

so hope you are all well and living it up. I'm still in search of

Karaoke and in fact going out. It's Africa and we are always asleep

by like 10pm or so. What the heck? :)

Gotta go, get ready to see more animals. But seriously, come to

Africa. You will be BLOWN AWAY WITH HOW AWESOME IT IS. Awesome.

just awesome.

Rock on


Sunday, September 28, 2008


Hey Team!

This is going to be a quick update, the details to follow, just wanted to let you know I was alive and well after journeying through Rwanda and Nairobi, then a 4 day Safari at Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Kenya is great, Rwanda is great. I Saw a bunch of Lions at 10 feet! Including little 2 week old baby cubs! awesome!

I'll give a better update tomorrow (I hope), when I will enter Tanzania and go to Arusha which looks up at Kilimanjaro.

But before I go, a few words on Rwanda.

1. the roads are great

2. The people are super super nice

3. They speak French, not English, so the language barrier popped up for the first time this trip and I remembered how much harder it is to get around when you have to communicate with signs and smiles.

4. The genocide memorial is sad, touching, disturbing and heartbreaking. However, unlike the Tual Song Prison and Killing Fields in Cambodia, it isn't as horrible. The reason is that it is a memorial built to heal and teach. The mass grave outside of 250,000 (!!!!!) people is covered in a granite slab. In Cambodia you are walking on bones and teeth. The horrors are no less terrible or real, but the experience wasn't as devastating as Cambodia. However, there are churches in Rwanda with clothes and bones and even one where the bodies are all preserved in Lime 14 years later, including hundred of children. So had I made it there I'm sure I would be so fucking disturbed and angry right now I couldn't contain myself. The things that people can do to each other is just staggering...

5. It's a beautiful country of hills, mountains, hills, and more mountains. Kigali is a safe city you can walk around at night (unlike Nairobi).

That's what I got for now, I'll tell you about the Safari in the next update.

Keep traveling and visit Africa, it is amazing.

Rock on


Monday, September 22, 2008


So A few things new and some that I hadn't mentioned yet.

This morning I was woken by a helicopter taking off. I went out and
walked around and a bunch of soldiers wanted to take pictures with me.
They didn't speak very good English and I'm not sure who they thought
I was.

Learned some more about what's going on here. How the missions work.
Mostly rescue or aid missions, though unlike Rwanda in 1994, they have
a Chapter 7 Charter which means they can fire when necessary. In
Rwanda it was Chapter 6 which meant only if you were being shot at
could you shoot back.

Around noon the clouds were forming high over the volcano, promising
rain (that never came) and thunder was booming. I was then informed
that that wasn't thunder but ROCKET ATTACKS from about 10 miles away.
They pointed out the difference. Not quite as low and more continuous
sounding. Crazy.

I then talked with a guy who is from Kenya and as a test of manhood in
the Masai Tribe they actually go hunt Lions. And he told of how he
and others went after a lion and he was the second one to strike it
with his spear which meant that he was not the new ruler of the tribe.
You had to be first. This still happens once every few years.

And that brings up the car crash...
Car crash you say. Craig, were you in a car crash in Africa?
No, I was not, so don't fear.
However some of you reading this were.

After our fantastic Gorilla trek and the great time with the singing
children, we loaded up in the cars to go. 3 of our crew and the guide
in training got in a Toyota Rav 4 and headed off. I was in a land
cruiser a minute or so behind and when we came around the first corner
there was debris all over the ground. And a moment later saw the Rav
4 Upside down and sideways blocking the 1 lane dirt road. We jumped
out and ran to check on everyone. 3 people were sitting on the
roadside, and Nigel (another trekker) and I came around the car and
there was red liquid all over the ground. "oh shit". We looked
inside and the car was empty. It was some sort of car fluid (thank
god). There was momentary chaos as people were helped. Fortunately
the injuries seemed not to serious. Cut fingers. Bruises. Bumps.
Dizziness. A scraped cheek. Scary, but lucky. As it turns out the
brakes failed just as they started down the hill. The driver didn't
know what to do. They pulled the E-brake and then turned the car into
the cliff wall to stop it (smart, since the other side was a 300 foot
drop). The car caught and flipped, rolling over 3 1/2 times before
coming to a rest on its roof. The folks inside all thought "well,
this is it. I die now, here in Uganda". When the car stopped, it sank
down crushing in the hood. One of them yelled "get out now" and they
all were out in moments.

I have video of people pushing the car back on it's wheels. The thing
is totaled, but the people are okay, and that's what matters most.
Scary as hell.

Well, I think I’ve caught you all up on most everything. The
adventure continues tomorrow with a UN truck trip to Kigali, Rwanda
and a visit to the Genocide memorial. Then it's off to Kenya for some
wildlife and a very different part of Africa.

Thanks for reading
stay safe
and drive safe.
And watch out for lions.