More Updates to Come

Dubrovnik City WallsMontenegro - Tara RiverOn the Adriatic Sea

Well, we are back in the states and back in the ole work saddle – Brad actually headed out this morning at 7AM for a work trip! We had rough internet the last few weeks of the trip, so we will be updating the blog for each location we went to over the next few days. Our trip was perfect; no flight delays or lost luggage…and we had an amazing time. Some quick recaps:

Favorite food: African

Favorite country: Tanzania

Favorite city: Dubrovnik

Favorite region: Croatia/Montenegro

Least favorite city: Bratislava

Least favorite food: Irish

Favorite day: Kili summit!

Unread emails in Brooke’s inbox after being gone for a month: 1906 – that’s pretty good!

So, more to come. What an amazing, incredible journey. Very happy to be home with family and friends. Brad’s Bratislava recap is up next…and get ready, cause it’s a good one. Let’s just say that Eurotrip (the movie) nailed Bratislava on the head.



Brunching, Jogging, Bathing in Budapest – August 18

Brooke here again. Today, we decided to explore more of Budapest on foot during a long run around the city. Good timing since we just remembered that we are supposed to be training for our December marathon…oops.

We headed out of our hotel and ran along the riverside path up towards Hungarian Parliament. We saw a WWII memorial by the Danube River and stopped to read about that for a bit. Then continued into the Parliament neighborhood. The building was gorgeous, but is being renovated so we couldn’t get a ton of great pictures. Thus continues my trend of only seeing buildings under renovation in Europe! Happened in each city I went when I studied abroad. We then ran along a bridge crossing the Danube and ran in to Margaret Island. This is a great little island in the middle of the river. We saw lots of cute restaurants, pubs, fountains, and parks. Then, back on the bridge and over to the Buda side of the river. At this point, the Buda side had direct sunlight and it was nearly 100 degrees, so the running wasn’t as great as we would have liked, but it was still an awesome run. We love running through new cities – you see so much that you would miss in taxis or metros.


Time for a shower (what? two showers in two days?? unheard of…) then brunch. We had heard that Hungarians have really bought in to the idea of Sunday Brunch (it’s actually not even translated in to Hungarian – just known as Sunday Brunch). This is great for Brad and I because we love Sunday brunch! It’s our tradition to go each Sunday, and we try out new places whenever possible. The Marriott grabbed us reservations at Gellert Hotel, which is well known for their delicious brunch. And it should be! They had so much food and it was all incredible…plus fresh OJ and mimosas. And an amazing dessert table with all kinds of delicious treats. The man at the table next to us brought his yorkie in for brunch and made him a special plate of food. The yorkie didn’t much care for the food, but eventually decided to try some when he realized Alpo wasn’t an option. We love that everyone brings their dog everywhere here and it’s just fine with shop owners and restaurant owners.

We love going to hot springs in the US, so we knew we wanted to try out one of the Turkish baths around Budapest. Gellert Hotel also has the premier bath establishment, so we hit it up after lunch. We also chose Gellert because the baths are coed (which is rare) and people aren’t naked in the coed baths. Neither of us were keen on the idea of being in a bath with naked people. The baths were gorgeous. There was an outdoor pool that had a wave machine (one of the first wave machines ever!), an outdoor medicinal pool with the hot spring water, and amazingly ornate indoor pools that varied in temperature. We tried out all of these and hung out for a few hours – super relaxing and a really pretty setting. I was also quickly reminded of the common fashion trend of men wearing speedos in Europe, which I had previously blocked out of my memory.

We left the pools and headed in to the hills in Buda to check out a church made out of a cave. It was pretty awesome – see the pictures below. Then, down the hills and over the bridge back to our familiar Pest neighborhood. We walked around, did a little shopping, and decided to stop for a quick beer at a cute Belgian-themed pub. They had amazing beer there! We enjoyed our beer outside in the shade and made our dinner/after dinner plans. After a bit more walking and then changing clothes, we went to dinner at Matyas Pince, a Hungarian restaurant with a gypsy band that played songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow, My Way by Sinatra, and classical music. It was eclectic. Dinner was yummy, and we enjoyed another little city walk. Then, we spent some time on Skype! It was nice to catch up with family – we miss everyone. Off to bed – tomorrow we have a morning left in Budapest then off to Bratislava.



A Crazy Day of Laundry and Eating in Budapest – August 17

We awoke from a good night’s rest following our 24 hour travel marathon capped off by a night in a Marriott bed. The three nights in Budapest were the only three nights we used Marriott points to stay in a Marriott hotel on sabbatical-it is great to experience the local hotels since we stay in Marriotts all the time at home. However, the Marriott came at a good time after 2 weeks of sleeping in different “beds” nearly every night, inconsistent access to electricity, hot water, poor/no wifi, and wondering if we could brush our teeth with the tap water. Brooke’s top secret Marriott Platinum Premier Elite status got us a nice junior suite upgrade, and we had executive lounge access, a great shower that felt like a sandblaster compared to some prior showers, quality wifi, and electricity the whole time! The view from our hotel room was great as well! Check it out below.

Using Marriott points at the strategic mid-point in sabbatical also allowed us to afford a great waterfront hotel later in the trip in Croatia, which we’re looking forward to. And they greeted us with champagne and cheese in our room. Very awesome.


To begin the day, we enjoyed breakfast in the executive lounge overlooking Budapest from the outside patio. Next up was laundry time-we had a bag of dirty clothing stuffed into a Ziploc compression bag that either needed a good cleaning, or to be burned because the bag contents stunk so badly (all the clothes from the Kilimanjaro hike and dusty safari that we needed for the second half of sabbatical). The compression bag was great to make the clothes compact, and to avoid cross contamination between the clean and filthy clothes in our backpacks. We packed my backpack full of dirty laundry, and found a landromat about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. The washing part was a great experience-the price to wash and dry three loads of laundry was 4,000 Hungarian Forint, which included the detergent and the landromat worker starting the washing machines for us. That price translates into about $15. The fun part came after the clothes were ready for the dryer. There were two styles of dryers available to dry our clothes, and I had to use one of each. The first dryer had 16 different settings each portrayed by a picture that made little sense:

After it took 2 hours to dry our clothes, I did a little Google searching and found that the pictures actually indeed translated into English words:

I found that I had used the Time Drying, Extra Quick Mixed, and the Iron Dry settings in that order to dry to get the clothes to dry faster (with no luck on the faster piece). I ended on the Iron Dry setting mostly because I like that Monopoly piece the picture mimicked, and the other settings weren’t getting the clothes dry any faster.

The other dryer, we did not get a picture of, but I reproduced a drawing of the dryer dial:


Let me explain first what you are seeing, and second how I found out it worked.

The “1” setting is at 12 o’clock.
The “lightbulb” setting is at 1 o’clock (pretty intuitive)
There are then two blank settings
The “2” setting is at 3 o’clock
The “3” setting immediately follows the “2” setting at 4 o’clock
There are then 3 more blank settings
The “4” setting is at 7 o’clock
There were then 5 more blank settings

So the dial was very intuitively laid out. Next how it worked:

First, I was looking for the fastest drying setting, and I figured that the 4 setting would be quickest. But what about the blank setting at 11 o’clock (would that be setting 5? Or 7?). Wouldn’t that be faster than 4? The answer is no. The blank settings don’t do anything even though the dial nicely allows you to stop at each one of them. So I went with the 4 setting, and after 10 minutes the machine stopped, and the clothing was still very wet. So couple more rounds of 4 at 10 minutes apiece, and I was convinced the washing machine was a lemon. Before the 4th round of the 4 setting, I scrolled between 3, 2, and 1. Here’s what I found out:
The numbers don’t equate to heat level at all, which was my previous belief
The 4 setting gives you 10 minutes of drying time
The 3 setting gives you 30 minutes of drying time
The 2 setting gives you an hour of drying time
The 1 setting gives you 2 hours of drying time

I can’t think of how one could make a piece of seemingly simple equipment anymore intuitive than that! So another hour on number 2, and our clothes were finally dry! Brooke was happily blogging during all of this. She also had a fear of these Hungarian washers and dryers and our confusion around them before we got to Budapest. She was right. (Ok, Brooke added that part in)

After returning our clean (and great smelling!) laundry to our hotel, we explored the tourist area around our hotel-lots of shopping and cafes. We then stopped at one of the top 10 bars in Budapest (according to our “Top 10 Budapest” book) Szimpla Kert, which was built in an old apartment complex and courtyard. “Ruined garden” bars are really popular there. Very cool place with lots of nooks to hang out, with an eclectic display of items throughout the place. We then headed to dinner at Karpatia, also a top 10 in our guidebook. We showed up around 7PM and there was only one other couple; apparently dinner doesn’t typically begin until later in Hungary. With our bellies full of Hungarian dishes, we took a long route back to our hotel, which allowed us to see more of the downtown area with shops and cafes, and ended with a stretch along the Danube River-a very pretty walk with all the city lights and bridges lit up.

Maybe tomorrow we will actually do something besides old married couple activities. But the laundry was very worth it.


ImageAlong the river in Budapest (Pest side – Buda is across the river)

ImageDoing laundry

ImageRiverwalk outside our hotel

ImageView of the ruined-garden bar, Szimpla. Sidenote – nothing in Hungarian makes sense.

Image Hi, my name is Brooke and I’m a tourist.

ImageEmbracing her future last name.

ImageA square in central Pest








24 Hours of Travel to Budapest – August 16

Authored by Brad himself!

Our alarm awakened us at 1AM to begin our 24 hour travel marathon to the Eastern European half of our sabbatical. The previous night, the hotel concierge told us to allow for about an hour to the airport. However, our bus driver (and by bus I mean a frame wrapped in tin foil with a small diesel engine) took advantage of the roads with light traffic and got us there quicker, blasting by two instances of cars stopped in the traffic lane of the dark highway to change flat tires. The bus driver even cranked the volume on the scratchy 25 watt speaker when “Love in this Club” came on by Usher and sang along to the chorus. Then the radio station changed to English lessons, reciting awkward and simple conversation like “Red is my favorite color. What is your favorite color?”. Thankfully our first and last ride in Africa during the nighttime. Nearly all of the driving there was terrifying.

It didn’t take long to pass through security at JRO, and then we boarded our turbo prop plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As we taxied to the runway, things didn’t look good. The pilot shut down the engines because “something” wasn’t working. He literally said “something isn’t working”. Whatever was wrong must have fixed itself as once the engines fired again, and we took off. After a touch down in Mombasa to drop off some passengers, we continued on to Addis Ababa where we arrived at 9AM. We had about an hour layover before our next leg to Frankfurt, Germany, so we didn’t get to stop and enjoy the Ethiopia Airlines hub. When we got to our gate, we received updated boarding passes and were informed that we had been upgraded to first class on the upcoming 7.5 hour flight!! Thank you United for our Silver status, and thank you Ethiopia Airlines for being a member of the Star Alliance!

Our flight was excellent-lots of food and drinks and AMAZING service! Plus mimosas – Brooke’s soft spot. We had a choice of “traditional” food, or ordering dinner from the Ethiopian menu. Brooke and I are both skeptical of airline food, so we opted for the traditional menu. However, the flight attendant came by and offered us samples from the Ethiopian menu anyway, and Brooke and I found the food delicious!

Upon arrival in the Frankfurt Airport, we stopped to get a German beer to kick off our 4 hour layover to celebrate Brooke’s first time in her ancestor’s homeland and our engagement-moon. After realizing our electricity converter was in the checked baggage, that the big iPad was totally dead, and that Brooke had wanted to do some blogging and was now a bit crabby about the converter situation, I left Brooke to go exploring for a way to fix the situation. I updated our boarding passes at a Lufthansa service station since the last leg of our flight was a Lufthansa flight. Our boarding passes showed that we were Star Alliance Gold status (although Brooke and my United status is both Silver-maybe we were put as Gold due to the previous upgrade?). Regardless, Star Alliance Gold gets you free access to the Lufthansa Senators Club, so we headed into a Senator’s Club, where there was a self service bar, good food and desserts (enough to fill us up without a separate dinner-way better than Delta or United Clubs), and a 110 volt electricity plug so Brooke could blog! I think Brooke was more proud of me than she led on for finding our way into the club. (This is Brooke now – I was proud and certainly less crabby!)

Finally it was time to make the last (1.5 hour) flight of the 24 hour travel day. Brooke and I both slept on the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Budapest. When we got outside the Budapest airport, we were given a number corresponding to our taxi. Also, there are set rates depending on which region of the city you were traveling to, so we didn’t have to worry about a surprise taxi fare, which was nice. After the clock struck midnight, we checked into our downtown Budapest Marriott and went to bed, just over 24 hours after awakening in Tanzania (accounting for the one hour earlier time zone). It felt great to hit the Marriott bed, a familiar bed we sleep in more often than our own.

Today’s greatest surprise and piece of advice to travelers with airline points: Our flight across the equator covering over 3,500 miles from Tanzania to Budapest cost 30,000 United points per ticket, + $160. If we had purchased the tickets, it would have cost over $1000 per ticket. We were able to quite easily book the flight crossing over from Ethiopia Airlines to Lufthansa due to those airlines being in the Star Alliance with United. The upgrade and club access made the trip that much sweeter!


ImageShouldn’t it be takeoff to landing, we care??

ImageScored the upgrade to Cloud Nine, first class on Ethiopian! Sweet surprise for an 8 hour flight.

ImageView of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from the airport.

ImageLast look at a Tanzania shilling 😦 This is like 50 cents



Mimosas to kick off the engagement-moon!

ImageBrooke’s bridal magazine that ended up costing her like 20 dollars…

ImageVery relaxed in first class! These stickers tell the flight attendant if you want to be woken up for lunch or not.







Last Day in Africa – August 15

Today is a bittersweet day. It’s our last full day in Africa, which is the most amazing place I’ve ever been too. It also marks our last day with Nick, which I don’t like thinking about either! We are excited to celebrate our engagement on our two week European adventure though – lovingly termed the “engagement-moon”.

We arrived in Arusha last night after a 2 hour drive from Amani. We finally saw the peak if Kili too! At least we know it’s a huge mountain, no matter where you look at it from. We only saw the top part through the clouds.

We are staying at Planet Lodge in Arusha, which is a super nice hotel. We wanted to splurge on our last night and enjoy some serious pool time before Nick had to head back. He deserved one relaxing day out of 14 :). Dinner was amazing, as usual, and we ended the night with our typical card games.

Today, we woke up without an alarm (first time on the trip!) and enjoyed a yummy breakfast and some spotty wifi access. Finally got to tell our parents we were alive, which was very exciting! Then, Nick and I headed in to Arusha proper while Brad stayed at the hotel and hung out. We visited the natural history museum and learned all about different animals, the colonization of Tanzania (German, then British) and met a very nice tour guide. He was in university for Art History and showed us some neat things around the museum. He could probably also tell you more about current events than we could! We purchased some awesome art, then headed downtown for lunch at AfriCafe. Delish. Nick had his regular mango juice and a bacon cheeseburger, which I clearly made fun of for the remainder of lunch! I enjoyed some rice and veggies. Gosh the food here is amazing. We headed to the bank so Nick could get out some shillings, went to a super market to buy some African wine, then waiting on our shuttle back to the hotel. I LOVE going to super markets while traveling – you learn so much! You get to see the food, the people, the prices, and there are awesome finds there. Our shuttle arrived (we didn’t realize it was our shuttle at first and ignored it – poor lady had to show us the Planet Lodge brochure to convince us to get in the car!) and took us back to the hotel. We paid for the shuttle after an unfortunate mishap where the receptionist told us it was 80 dollars then we realized she meant 8…

The weather in Arusha always started out cloudy, then got sunny in the afternoon. Today was no different and we got back to the hotel to find Brad lounging by the pool with a nice North Irish family. We grabbed some Safaris and bocce ball and started a rousing game of bocce. Nick won, again. Sigh.

Then, dinner time. Tonight we deemed engagement celebration night, so we had another awesome dinner and enjoyed some South African wine that we got at the market. Nick attempted to teach Brad how to play chess, then we defaulted to our normal card games on our balcony. A great last day in Africa…

Early bedtime – our flight leaves JRO at 4:25 tomorrow AM and our shuttle arrives at our hotel at 1:30! Long day ahead…and trying not to get too emotional about leaving this amazing place.


ImageOur very cool hut at Planet Lodge

ImageOur room. Swanky!

ImagePlanet Lodge grounds

ImageNick’s bacon cheeseburger 🙂

ImageHow we found Brad after getting back from Arusha

ImageEngagement wine!

ImageWashing off after a rousing game of bocce during which we got filthy for some reason…







Day at Amani Children’s Home – August 14

Today we had the distinct pleasure of visiting Amani Children’s Home in Moshi. We were really excited about today – Nick hosted a pub crawl in June to raise money for Amani, and Brad and I easily convinced our coworkers to donate all kinds of goods for us to take to the school. See earlier post- we had huge bags of things, including markers, puzzles, hair clippers (which we got to see in action – it was haircut day!), thermometers, soccer balls…it was unreal. Nick’s mom does great work with the school and introduced us all to what Amani does and helped set up the visit. Before we headed out to Amani, our wonderful Jacaranda innkeeper made us an amazing breakfast. The eggs here are divine – so fresh and cooked perfectly. We had a yummy homemade juice, fruits, toast, coffee, tea…you name it. They were absolutely wonderful.

Our taxi arrived and drove us to Amani. What a neat building – we entered the gates and were greeted very warmly right away. The building is really bright and colorful and makes you feel welcomed right away. Plus the giant elephant painting that says Karibu helps! (That means welcome).
We met with the staff and they showed us a great Amani video and took us on a tour of the facility. We saw classrooms with teachers in action, the lunch room, the futbol field, the in-progress carpentry center, basketball hoops, and swingset. The dorms were adorable – bright, with mosquito nets and futbol themed. We fell in love with it right away.
Amani does really great things for the street children of TZ. I stole this from their website because they describe it better than I could, and linked out the website below. I encourage you to check it out. After being there in person, it’s an absolutely amazing place with wonderful people. Hearing about their upcoming projects was inspiring as well – many awesome things in the pipeline!
For over 10 years, Amani Children’s Home has been dedicated to the protection of Tanzania’s most vulnerable population: street children. Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, was founded by Tanzanians, and over the course of the past decade has rescued hundreds of children from the perils of life on the streets, where they face numerous dangers including malnutrition and abuse. Amani provides healthy food, education, counseling and medical care for every street child who turns to us for help. When possible, children are reunified with (extended) families.

Our task for the day was painting a wall in the carpentry center. We grabbed our paintbrushes and started to work. Luckily for Brad and I, Nick is an expert painter and quite tall, so he got the hard parts! We took a break for tea time with the kids, then back to work before lunch. We finished up the wall around 1:20, just in time for lunch, and headed in to meet more of the kids.
Lunch was yummy, and the kids were so wonderful! They waited their turn, washed their hands, washed their plates after lunch, and then dove over to the playground to get some playing in before class started again! Amani does a great job of teaching the kids various skills – washing dishes, doing their own laundry – and that was evidenced at lunch time. After lunch, time for Brad and Nick to warm up the ole soccer skills. We’ll post a video later, but it’s pretty hilarious. I started to play too, but one of the Amani kids politely told me to sit on the sidelines. I don’t blame him 🙂 It was a rousing match, and I’m still not sure who won (I believe Nick is disputing a closely called goal) but then the bell rang and back to class. Once class was over for the day, we played frisbee and more soccer, during which time I warmed up my 23 year old goalie skills and blocked a shot from Brad! Muah hah hah. Let’s just say our kids won’t be soccer stars. We hung out with a few kids practicing their acrobatic skills too!
During this whole time, the kids were so friendly and warm and we loved hanging out with the staff and learning more about what Amani does. This was absolutely, 100% my second favorite day of the trip (summiting Kili and getting engaged is pretty much impossible to beat, though this came very close!). We had an amazing time and really did not want to leave. Thank you Amani for being so welcoming and for doing what you do! Followers, I encourage you again to check out their website.
Time to head to Arusha…

 ImageAre you taller than a giraffe? Brad’s not!


ImageLaundry center

ImageAdorable dorms

ImageAcrobatic skills! Brad tried this. It didn’t work out.

ImageOur wall, in progress.

ImageFinal product!

ImageUs in front of the laundry center and lunch room

Image Outside area

ImageFront of the home








Tarangire National Park, Safari Day 3 – August 13

Today marks a special anniversary – third day in a row that Brad and I are wearing the same clothes! Gross. We didn’t really pack for safari or think about it when we were packing; I had my hat, and Brad had some khakis. You get absolutely filthy from the dust, so we ended up having to wear the same casual clothes each day. Sigh…so when you see our pics, you have a heads up as to what’s going on.

Ok, today was our last safari day and we spent it in Tarangire National Park. Tarangire is tar-an-guy-er. We weren’t too excited at first about today because we drove through the park for about 30 minutes last night to get to our hotel, and everything looked pretty brown and we really didn’t see any animals. It’s the dry season here, so that makes sense, but one of the awesome things about safari has been seeing the pretty scenery. We also wanted to see the “Big Five” while we were here. The big five include lions, elephants, water buffalo, rhinos, and leopards and refer to hunting difficulty. It’s a cool thing to see all five, and thus far we’ve only seen three. Leopard and rhino are left. The rhino that lived in Tarangire was poached (very sad) so we knew we wouldn’t see one. That only left leopards, and apparently they are impossible to find because they are fast and climb trees. Plus, safaris can be tiring! We have no idea how someone does this for a full week. Nick’s mom warned us about that, and she was certainly right (sidenote – thank you Diane! All of your tips made our trip awesome!). However, we hopped in the ole Land Cruiser and headed off, determined to make our last day awesome.
We saw giraffes and elephants and zebras – all our old friend – and continued our quest for a leopard. The drive was pretty brown, but we learned that Tarangire was a LOT bigger than the other two parks and included a swamp. We drove towards the swamp and it was super green and really pretty! We saw an elephant walking in the swamp, and wildebeasts and ostriches hanging out nearby. Then, one of Casey’s guide friends alerted us to a very cool sighting – a leopard with two leopard cubs! We headed towards the tree that housed the leopard, and I still have no clue how these people found this thing. Pics are below, but that is zoomed in 80x! We sat and watched the leopards for awhile through the binoculars – the cubs were adorable and awkward and just so fun to watch. We were thrilled to see them. We saw a lot more elephants hanging out by the watering hole, then saw a tour group with a guy screaming at his wife and screaming obscenities at his tour guide for what seemed like no reason. That was pretty disappointing to us – everything on our trip has been incredibly peaceful – just driving around the parks in silence and listening to the animals has been amazing. Ugh. It was a reminder to us to appreciate our surroundings and where we were because this is an amazing experience!
Ok, enough venting. We ate lunch and saw a baboon attack a group of lunchers near us. Apparently baboons are known for breaking in to cars and stealing food from people. Basically like armed robbery but with monkeys. The people freaked out and a guide chased the baboon away. It was pretty entertaining, to be honest!
Something that’s weird is the HUGE cameras that people on safari have. We had my little canon and I loved it and it worked great for us. The cameras I’m talking about literally look like telescopes. What’s weird about it though is that people stand up in the jeeps and look through the pop top roofs with these huge cameras. Out of the corner of your eye, it looks like a bazooka coming out of a huge military tank, and I did a double-take multiple times.
After the game drive and lunch, we headed back to Moshi. We saw some groups on the side of the road selling African art (we bought some yesterday – Brad showed off his bargaining skills to get an amazing painting) and all read and dozed off on our 6 hour drive. We arrived at Jacaranda B&B and said goodbye to Casey. Saying goodbye to him was as tough as saying goodbye to our Kili guides! Our innkeepers at Jacaranda were great – in true Tanzania fashion, they got our breakfast order, fixed up our taxi for the morning, and told us where to get dinner. We walked in to downtown Moshi, asked for some directions (scary at first, but we quickly realized that everyone is amazingly nice) and arrived at our dinner place. It was clearly a tourist place :). But the food was amazing – they had Indian and Italian food. We enjoyed a super long dinner, made longer by the 45 minute attempt for the restaurant to use Nick’s credit card, grabbed a cab to our B&B, and settled in for the night. This B&B was 20 bucks a night. Unreal! Tomorrow is Amani School day!
Giraffe enjoying a tree snack
ImageMama leopard in the tree. So gorgeous.
ImageBaby leopard cub!
Climbing down the tree to see the other baby cub – such awkward climbing!ImageWildebeasts and ostrich and cool cactus tree. My favorite safari picture – shows how the animals just live peacefully there.
ImageUs in front of the super green swamp
ImageMama and baby at the watering hole
ImageMama and baby walking around. These guys can get pretty fast!
ImageOur room at the Jacaranda B&B. A TV!

Ngorongoro Crater, Safari Day 2 – August 12

Today we woke up in our luxurious (read – it had a mattress – our standards have decreased over the past week!), mosquito-netted bed, took a hot shower, and enjoyed a super yummy breakfast at our hotel. Pancakes in Africa are amazing, and so is the juice. We had this awesome, pulpy watermelon juice that I’m pretty sure we won’t find ever again. The folks at the hotel helped us with our 200 pounds of bags, and we met Casey to head down to Ngorongoro Crater. FYI – all of the letters in Ngorongoro are pronounced.

On the way to the crater, we drove through thick fog – we started to get nervous that we wouldn’t be able to see any animals. Once we got to the crater park, we checked in and headed up the path to the top of the crater. To get to the crater part, you have to drive up like 7,000 feet, then around the crater rim a bit, then down several thousand feet in to the actual crater itself. It was still super foggy during the drive, and we couldn’t see anything. Of course we thought we’d be the people that go to the crater and see nothing! During our drive, we saw awesome trees that were shaped like canopies and lots of local people herding cattle and goats along the dirt road. Casey warned us of the animals we’d see today, including lions (yay, that’s what Nick wanted!), hippos (yay, that’s what Brooke wanted!), ostriches, gazelles, elephants, rhino, water buffalo, wildebeasts, and zebras. Brad really wants to see a cheetah running at full speed. I’m not sure that’s going to work out for Mr. Logan this time. Casey mentioned that we would not see giraffes. Then he added “and now you ask why we won’t see giraffes” :). Turns out the giraffes are too tall to climb down in to the crater. Makes sense. And I’m glad that Casey prompted us to ask!
Once we got in to the crater, it was gorgeous. It was cloudy, but cleared up throughout the day and we could see everything. We passed some warthogs and wildebeasts running at full speed, then saw zebras and a boy ostrich. We drove around a ton and stopped whenever we saw a group of safari cars that were checking something out. About an hour in to the safari, we saw a group of cars and went to check it out. Pack of lions! They were enjoying a morning snooze. That didn’t really surprise us considering we have a housecat version of a lion at home who also enjoys much snoozing. At least we learned more about where Madeleine The Cat comes from! We watched them for awhile, saw one lion stand up (wow was everyone easily impressed with that!), then moved on. More elephants and zebras passed by, and an ostrich cut off our car without looking both ways. The animals really don’t care at all about any of the cars. We passed a hyena, which Casey told us was basically an ugly dog :). Casey also referred to zebras as fancy donkeys. We agree with him on both of those statements!
The cool thing about the crater is that the sides of it are super steep. Estimates on how big the original volcano was before it erupted and created the crater are anywhere from 14000-19000 – this could have been another Kili! 
For lunch, we visited the hippo pool, which made me a very happy lady. We watched them tussle around and move throughout the pool, and heard them talk to each other for awhile. They sound like big ole pigs. They hang out in the water all day to keep cool, and their short little legs are good for that. We loved watching them. After lunch, we learned that the rhino was sleeping so we wouldn’t see it. Oh well. We kept driving around and found a safari car pulled over. They had stopped to take pictures, and two lions decided to seek shade UNDER their car! They were right next to us – see pictures below. Sucks for those people because they couldn’t move their car until the lions decided to move…and those of you with cats know that you can’t make a cat do anything it doesn’t want to do. But great for the rest of us! That made our day. After a few more hours, we headed out of the crater towards Tarangire National Park, where our hotel was and where safari tomorrow will be.
We got to Tarangire, drove through the park to our hotel, and enjoyed a really yummy dinner and card games with safari beers for the night. Monkeys live on the roof here, and it’s not rare for a big animal to stop by since this hotel is in the park. Nick tried reading outside got a little spooked by all of the random animal noises that were very close to him…:)
The crater was the best part of safari so far. The thing that’s really cool is that the animals just hang out together. Being a kid that’s used to the zoo, I always imagined they’d need to be separated or they would kill each other. Nope – the lions were right next to the antelopes. I’m sure when they were hungry, it’s a different story, but most of the time it’s very peaceful.
ImageEntrance to the Crater
ImageWildebeast. Man these guys were fast. Awkward, but fast.
ImageOstrich who cut off our car
Sleeping lions! Very similar to Madeleine The Cat.
Baby zebra
ImageHippos hanging out in the poolImageDozens of hippos enjoying the poolImage
Double hippo yawn!Image
Brad’s new pregnant zebra friend (we couldn’t tell she was pregnant – Casey had to tell us)
ImageLions snoozing under the safari car
ImageBoy lion snoozing
ImageA picture with a female lion! She didn’t want to turn her head when we coaxed her. Similar to another lion we know well…
ImageThe lobby and restaurant of our awesome hotel!

Lake Manyara – Safari Day 1: August 11

Today we headed off to Lake Manyara for our first day of our three day safari! Marangu Hotel arranged for us to have an earlier breakfast than usual (can we say again how great they were??), so we enjoyed our last breakfast with them of eggs, all kinds of breakfast meats, cereal, breads, juices, and fruit. Then, our safari guide (Casey) arrived at the hotel to take us to Lake Manyara. Poor Casey had to figure out how to haul all of our crap plus us in his land cruiser! Keep in mind that we still have all of our donations for Amani School with us that we are taking around everywhere – two huge and heavy bags, plus all of our climbing gear and Europe stuff! We loaded up the Land Cruiser (with a safari pop top and a big crack in the windshield covered by a “I have visited Ngorongoro Crater” bumper sticker 🙂 ) and were off. We were prepared for a two hour jaunt to Lake Manyara – then it ended up being a 5.5 hour ride through Moshi, Arusha, and rural Tanzania. We saw camels without the humps and several housing abodes along the way. The roads in TZ leave little to be desired – there aren’t many roads, they are bumpy, and they all have random stops along the way, speed bump style.

As we were driving, we saw a sign that said “Zumba – the climax of happiness.” Not sure what that was getting at, but I felt it worthy to jot down :). We also saw another hard top suzuki samurai! My dad has a hard top samurai – originally was my grandparents’ – and I always look for another hard top. Never seen one until Africa! So, another one does exist…

We finally made it to Lake Manyara and ate our picnic lunch in the park while Casey set up the pop top. Brad and I had seatbelts in the Land Cruiser that didn’t release…so it took us some time to climb out of those. Imagine climbing out of your car if your seatbelt didn’t release! It was a pretty interesting challenge.

Then, time to start safari! We headed in to the park, and it was pretty much what I had imagined. For anyone that’s been to Disneyworld and done the safari ride there, they pretty much hit it right on the head! Everything is super dusty and bumpy, and everyone hangs out of the car searching for animals. We first came across a baboon tribe that was enjoying eating some fruit. Then, we saw more monkeys…then elephants! These elephants were so close to us – they just didn’t care about the car at all. We got to watch them eat, and see the baby elephants. It was very cool. 

After the elephants, time for zebras, wildebeasts, water buffalo, and some flamingos out in the distance on the lake. The lake was gorgeous – Nick and Brad definitely wanted to water ski on it. The plants and trees are gorgeous too. This place looks just like the Lion King’s Pride Rock. After lots of pictures and videos and just watching the animals, we headed off to our hotel for the evening. This place was absolutely gorgeous. Dinner was delicious, there was an infinity pool, and our rooms were great. Plus, wifi for the first time! Nick and I played cards and enjoyed some Safaris, then time for bed. Casey gets here early tomorrow to take us to Ngorongoro Crater, which is supposed to be amazing. 

Another quick Casey note – when he first picked us up from the hotel, he looked at me and excitedly said “are you excited to hunt the elephants?!” while acting out something with his hands. Man, did I come to a halt. Of course we would be the people that accidently signed up for some kind of black market, illegal hunting/poaching trip. Then we realized he meant “take pictures of the elephants”. Very unfortunate mixup! Nonetheless, Casey was absolutely amazing.

-b&b imageLast Marangu Hotel breakfast (our room was 29).imageIn the Land Cruiser with NickimageSafari jeeps and pop topsimageBaboons eating fruits! So peaceful – we listened to them for awhile.imageZebra friends next to our carimageZebra funimageOur new elephant friendimageOh hi there!imageBaby baboon friendimageClimbing treesimageLake Manyara parkimageBaby elephantimageWater buffalo. These guys are pretty funnyimageOur gorgeous pool and view of Lake Manyara from the hotel

Climbing Kili – What We Learned

Well, now that we summited Kili, we wanted to compile the top 20 things we learned and would do again if we had to climb again. Which, by the way, we do not need to climb it again. Once was enough! Our mountaineering days are over…

1. Diamox – Brad and I both took diamox, Nick didn’t. Nick was fine, but I would never do anything like this without diamox. It makes you have to pee more and it makes your hands and feet really tingly, but overall it forces you to breath more and pull in more oxygen (that’s why you get tingly). I had limited altitude issues and thought it must just be because of the pole pole walking. Not the case. I stopped taking diamox after we summited and the worst altitude issues I suffered were later that night at Horombo huts, some 7000 feet below the summit. I could barely walk to dinner without being winded. If I had continued to take it, I think I would have been ok. If I could go back in time, I’d take it until the last day.
2. Marangu route – we chose the Marangu route. You can get up the mountain quicker, and it’s regulated well by the park. This is also the only route with huts and we liked that. Marangu gets kind of a bad rap sometimes. It’s called the easy route (coca-cola versus whiskey route, which is Machame) but I don’t know of anyone that thinks climbing this monster is easy. Desmond said that because there are huts and Marangu is so popular, it’s actually cleaner and less crowded since it’s more cared for. On Machame, where you tent camp, it’s not regulated and has been really overcrowded recently. Our guides also said that tent camping up there is really uncomfortable and cold. Weather changes in an instant; we’d rather be in a hut.
3. Length of your climb – because of the diamox, we were ok with 5 days, but apparently that’s rare. People were really impressed that we did it (from other climbers to locals) but all the credit goes to our guides who got us up there. I got psyched out because we were the only 5 day people we met. If you are impacted by altitude and are nervous about 5, go with 6. It would have set my mind at ease more, for sure. And Kili is as much, if not more, a mental than a physical challenge. Now, I wouldn’t go back and change this decision. 5 was great and gave us more time in Africa.
4. Don’t overeat before the summit. Your body won’t digest things well and you won’t get the energy you need. Little cookies and candies are great. Cliff bars are not.
5. Running water does not equal showers! Bring shower wipes with you. We used shower pill brand and they were great.
6. Porters – look in to how your company treats porters. I saw a few that had WAY too much stuff. It was very upsetting. Our company was great and I would go with them again in a second (Marangu Hotel). 
7. Drink lots of water! Its the best way to combat altitude issues. 
8. Sleeping bag liners – Brad’s great friends Greg and Chelsea told us about sleeping bag liners before our trip, and we decided to try them out. LIFESAVER!!! We got the “extreme” kind from REI and stayed very warm all night. I even wore mine around at Kibo when I was freezing. The sleeping bag by itself was not enough, even if it’s made for cold. Plus, the liner can be used on its own in the summer, so we will get use out of it! Best thing we purchased.
9. Guides climb Kili in button down shirts and nice church-style pants. It was shocking to us! If you have some equipment you can leave behind (like our headlamp, or a backpack or anything) consider bringing that and sharing with your guides at the end. It’s appreciated and many of those things are just not available in Tanzania. Also made us feel like lame-os that had to have our high-tech shirts and under armour!
10. Batteries – batteries hate cold. Desmond told us to sleep with our batteries in our sleeping bags (not our full cameras though because of condensation). Great tip. We each had 2 camera batteries and used them both up because of the cold. It would have been worse if we hadn’t have slept with them, too.
11. Camelbaks – our camelbaks were great, but they freeze near the top. Bring a water bottle too. And bring more water than you think on the last day. Brad and I ran out near the top and had to rely on Nick for some much needed water! Especially given the dusty run back down the mountain when you crave water even more.
12. Sleep with your socks and gloves in your sleeping bags. Then you don’t have to put on cold things in the morning.
13. A quick dry towel is great. Mine was a lifesaver and is super small.
14. Your day pack doesn’t need to be huge – I had a very small backpack (like, tiny). No mountain backpacks needed. Only bring things you really need – backpacks get heavy quickly. I took like half of my stuff out of mine the second day.
15. Our Marangu hotel walking sticks were awesome. You only need one walking stick, and it just needs to be a basic stick with a sharpened tip.
16. Bring a few garbage bags to protect your stuff in case of rain or snow. Also, your stuff will be filthy. Muddy, dusty, and just dirty. This is a good way to protect your clean things! Additionally, if you are going elsewhere in Africa after the climb, this is a necessary way to quarantine your disgusting, horrible smelling clothes. Our big ziploc bags and compression bags were key for keeping clean things clean!
17. Save a pair of clean, dry socks for your last day. Climbing down the mountain results in bad blisters.
18. Before leaving for the summit, take an advil and pepto bismol proactively. 
19. Bring a little notebook with you. You can write down fun memories or brainstorm random things. Climbing Kili teaches you a lot and you think a lot on the way. What you are worried about when you go up is very different from when you come back down. This puts a lot in perspective. Cards and bocce ball were crucial too.
20. Top of Kili = best place to propose 🙂

Off to safari,