Author Archives: Dan

Majengo Children’s Home

After our safari, Alex dropped us off in the small town of Mto wa Mbu (“em-TWAM-bu”) where we would spend the next five days at the Majengo Orphange and explore the area.

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Mto wa Mbu is not a town on anyone’s “Bucket List.” It is a rundown and nondescript place. The community is poor. HIV/AIDS rates are higher than the national average (which hovers around 6%). The main road has hoards of vendors hawking arts and crafts to passing tourists. The outskirts consist of farmland and mud huts, many of which appear on the verge of collapse.

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Mto wa Mbu is right on the safari trail, so every safari-goer drives through it to get to Lake Manyara, Ngorogoro or the Serengeti. And therein lies the heart of the problem that led Lynn Connell, a Canadian woman who had been working at an NGO in the area, to start the Majengo Children’s Home: corrupt orphanage operators were exploiting the passing tourists for donations, squirreling the funds away into their personal bank accounts, and leaving the kids malnourished and without proper care. (Here’s more color on the history of the orphanage).

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A few years ago Matt McKissock partnered up with Lynn to help run Majengo. I had known Matt through work, so when I learned about what he was up to with Majengo, I got back in touch, and here we are. Matt didn’t sugarcoat what to expect of the town and was very helpful in coordinating our visit (thanks Matt!).

Even with Matt’s overtures, Jill and I definitely felt a bit exposed our first afternoon in Mto wa Mbu. We foolishly didn’t arrange a meetup with anyone at Majengo until the next morning, so there we were, dropped off at a beat up little guest house in a podunk African town with a host who spoke not a lick of English, a barely functional cold shower, and a tiny room that was absolutely roasting in the African sun. Fortunately Matt had also told us about the one tolerable place to eat in town, Miccasa, where we had two dishes and two drinks for a total of $2, and a whole bunch of locals staring at us the whole time.

So we started off our time in Mto wa Mbu with a bit of an “Um, where are we?” kind of feeling (much like Charlie in the pilot episode of Lost).

But that evening, as we got back to our guesthouse, a pickup truck was parked outside and a gregarious Tanzanian guy speaking almost perfect English popped out and introduced himself as Charles. Charles is the Regional Director of ICA Tanzania. ICA is a decades-old global NGO that helps run local community-based projects such as Majengo. He’s the main man on the ground in Mto wa Mbu, responsible for overseeing the orphanage. After going out for drinks with Charles and the two longer term volunteers there (Matt Brewster and Heidi), we definitively started to feel a bit more connected to the place. Charles, by the way, is outstanding. He was a great host to us while juggling a thousand other tasks. He’s smart, passionate, cares about the kids, and is a wonderful local leader for Majengo.

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Majengo is building what will soon be an awesome new facility on land donated by the local government, and so we had been planning on doing some construction work a few of the days we were there. Given Jill’s and my complete vacuum of experience on anything construction related, we were fortunate to be able to partner up with the GiveGetGo volunteer trip from Canada (think “Habitat for Humanities” meets “Intrepid Travel”), which just happened to overlap with us. They were great, and very well organized, so it was good fun to work with them alongside the local workers on the site. As we recently learned: wheelbarrowing is “a matter of balance not strength” (Know who said that? Nelson Mandela. True story).

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The GiveGetGo team basically adopted us into their group for the next two days they were there. We did some more work on the site, partook in their goodbye party with the kids, and visited Mama Anna, who runs a great local private school where about 20 of Majengo’s better performing students go to school.

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We spent one morning in a preschool class, doing Head-shoulders-knees-and-toes (and then trying to stay out of the way the rest of the time so we wouldn’t be a distraction). The beginning of the class was really touching. We happened to be there when a few of the kids were on their very first or second day in the preschool. The teacher, Mathilda, has each of the 20 or so kids go up to the front of the class and say “Hello, my name is…” in both Swahili and English. Some of the new kids seemed completely shell-shocked — hunched over, staring at the floor, and too scared to talk. I know new preschoolers anywhere can be shy, but I couldn’t help but imagine what they may have experienced in their home lives leading them to Majengo. But it was equally as redeeming to see the confidence in some of the other kids who had been there for a little while longer. “Give them a week,” Charles later said optimistically.

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Spending time with the rest of the kids when they were all home from school around 430pm was fantastic. Jill and I were continually impressed by how well behaved and patient they were.

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One of my favorite moments happened when we arrived for the first time to play with them. I went inside the office and asked Irene, a local volunteer there, if they had a simple picture book I could read to some of the kids. She gave me one with a bunch of animals. So I wandered back outside to find a few kids who might want to partake, and suddenly every kid in the yard sprinted past me back toward the house — “Good timing,” I thought, and assumed they must be going to dinner. I sat down and started chatting with Jill alone in the courtyard, and Irene pops out, confused, and says “What are you doing? They’re waiting for you in the classroom!” I walked inside and sure enough about 50 kids were crammed in there waiting for me to read them the story. Definitely not what I was expecting! Their English at that age is only marginally better than my Swahili, so I just showed them the pictures of the animals, said the names in English, did my best to make the animal noises, and then had them make the noises with me (I “nayed” for a zebra…who knows?).

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With the all-too-free frequent corruption and exploitation at orphanages around the world, Majengo is one of the good ones. Some of the kids were literally dropped on Majengo’s doorstep, starving and malnourished, by friends or relatives who could not care for them. Those kids now have a shot at a healthy life and an education — things we often take for granted but are game-changers for the kids at Majengo. And every year Majengo assesses the children’s home situation or checks in with relatives to see if the kids are safe to move back in with family.

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Majengo runs on a remarkably lean budget: just over $100k a year to support 74 boarders, plus 40 more kids served three meals a day and cared for, 18 staff members, facilities, supplies and all other costs. I was impressed by how much they are able to do with so little.

The new location is going to be an amazing step up for these kids. Several acres of land, more spacious living quarters, a garden to provide them with fresh fruits and veggies, a soccer field and more. And it only costs a few hundred thousand dollars to build.

If you have read this far and are interested in contributing you can click here to learn more or donate.

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Thanks to Mike Duran, Will Adams and Mark Strauch for encouraging us to go, and a very special thanks to Matt McKissock for making it happen. We look forward to staying connected with Majengo and are excited to see all the positive changes coming in the near future.

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Tanzania Safari: The Serengeti

We drove straight from the otherworldly Ngorogoro Crater to the neighboring plains of the Serengeti, a name derived from a Massai word meaning “Endless Place.”

The whole drive was spectacular. Leaving the crater takes you into an adjacent valley, which is equally lush and green with Massai villages lining the inside, and young Massai herders weaving their livestock through a few zebras and wildebeests that share the valley. We even saw a handful of giraffes there just snacking in the trees.

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Once we got into the Serengeti, Alex took a surprising sharp left turn off the road and headed out into the plains. There were no roads, no end in sight, no other vehicles, and plenty of wildebeests, gazelles and hyenas to keep us entertained. Pretty unexpected and very cool.

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In the Serengeti, we stayed at one of the semi-permanent Halisi Camps (ours was called NunguNungu), which consists of a dining area and about a dozen large private tents. There is no electricity or running water — they use a pulley system to lift one bucket of warm water per person per day above your tent, which then flows through a shower head inside.

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The Halisi Camp was an amazing experience. You are living right in the middle of the Serengeti. You are not allowed to walk around at night unescorted, and spend little time doing so during the day either. Elephants, lions and buffalo are known to wander through. We had several buffalo grazing behind our tent one night, and the host insisted that we not step outside — buffalo can be the most aggressive, often more dangerous than lions or elephants because they are more likely to charge.

One of the coolest parts of the camp was the “white noise” at night. You have never heard such a cacophony of different creatures’ sounds quite like the Serengeti at night. We slept like absolute babies/stones/logs. Sitting outside early the next morning to have a fresh cup of coffee (for me) or tea (for Jill) was heaven.

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After an early breakfast we got into the car and took off into the plains again for a dawn game drive. There are well over a million wildebeest there, which is hard to comprehend. You can see a few thousand right up close and what looks like hundreds of thousands more just dotting the horizon as far as you can see. Then you drive to another part of the plains, and see an entirely different group of equal size.

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We saw a bunch more giraffes, a few lions, tens of thousands of zebras, gazelles, hyenas and even a rare feat of a mother cheetah teaching her cubs how to hunt a gazelle (she was unsuccessful).

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All in all, the safari was a really unique experience and Tanzania was an incredible place to do it.

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Tanzania Safari: Ngorogoro Crater

Following Kilimanjaro, we had our detox night at Mbahe Farm then took off at dawn the next morning to begin our safari.

Our guide, Alex, needed to make a quick stop at his home en route to our first game drive. So after successfully thwarting Jill’s kidnapping attempt of his one-year-old son Caleb, we were on our way.

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The first game drive was through Lake Manyara, which I hate to say was not all that exciting. Even leaving at 6am from the farm at Kili, we arrived in the heat of the day at noon when most of the animals had retreated to cover in the shade. We saw a bunch of zebras and flamingos in the distance, a few blue monkeys and tons of baboons. But it was a pretty uneventful first day.

The next morning we went out into Ngorogoro Crater, which was absolutely stunning. It’s a massive 100-square mile caldera, which is effectively a sunken crater from a volcano that has descended into the earth over the past few million years. Ngorogoro is believed to have been a larger volcano than Kilimanjaro.

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You start by driving up to the rim, where you get a view of the crater. It looks like a massive coliseum… and functions like one down below: over 30,000 animals live there, with buffalo, zebra, hyenas, lions, wildebeest, rhinos, elephants and more all inhabiting the same playing field. It’s about as close to the Land Before Time as you can get… except for the dozens of Land Rovers, but you get over that. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it was going to be.

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Driving into and around the basin is an amazing feeling. Even with all the vehicles around, the animals seem relatively relaxed and just go about their business — which consists of eating grass, sleeping, and steering clear of lions.

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The lions were definitely the most impressive part. Amazing creatures, clearly running the show in the Crater — seemingly docile but with a power and ferocity you knew they could unleash at any moment if they wanted to. Much like Pete Sampras in his prime.

The lions are completely unfazed by the cars and seem to have an implicit agreement with the vehicles: you can take all the photos of me you want if I can sleep in your shade. They only hunt and eat once a week, so the vast majority of their time is spent resting and conserving energy.

While we certainly got a little stir crazy being in a car all day after being so active the previous seven days, the Ngorogoro Crater was an amazingly beautiful and unique experience.

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Kilimanjaro: The Summit

Sorry for the false post a few days ago — this is the real one.

Summiting Kilimanjaro is not for the faint of heart. Turns out, I’m extremely faint-hearted. Good thing my wife is less so, otherwise I’m not sure we would have made it.

The first five days were a cakewalk. Our vital signs were great, we felt great, and 4-6 hours of moderate hiking was pleasant. Then came the summit, which was like going from kindergarten teeball to the Major Leagues over night.

Here’s how it went down:

At dinner on the 5th day they tell you what to expect: Don’t look up. We’ll go extremely slowly so that we need very few breaks due to the cold. “Should I wear this third layer?” Yes. “How about this fourth layer?” Yes. “And I have this fifth layer…” Yes. “Also, should we bring toilet paper?” Yes.

They wake you up at 11pm after a post dinner nap, if you can sleep — we hardly could because of the anticipation, as well as the altitude (16,000 feet at Barafu Camp) and the cold. You have a brief snack around 11:30pm, make final preparations, then head out at midnight.

It’s pitch black, except for an endless trail of headlights straight ahead — rather, straight up. Everyone tells you not to look up, which makes you want to do nothing but look up. It’s truly daunting. And when you hike up for what seems like hours to the first “ridge,” you realize it’s not a ridge at all and the headlight ants continue for miles still.

Pretty soon into our midnight hike, Jill started to feel awful. Very nauseous. She seemed wobbly on the trail, which is steep and narrow, and I got nervous for her. She sat down on a boulder and tried to close her eyes for a second, which is when I first thought something might be seriously wrong — it took a reminder from Ayumwi that she couldn’t doze off there (in the middle of the trail in freezing temperatures). She was in bad enough shape that we contemplated turning back. But she got up, went “to go see a man about a horse” a little further off the trail, had some electrolyte-infused water, a bite of a Cliff Bar, and then soon started to feel much better.

Just about as soon as Jill started to feel better, I started to tank. I felt lightheaded, nauseous and just exhausted. The altitude was crushing me. We were only two hours into the summit hike and I was completely miserable. Ayumwi and John kept telling me to throw up if I could — and boy did I try — but I just couldn’t get it out. We must have seen six other people throwing up on the side of the trail, so I clearly wasn’t alone in my state.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get better. As we kept climbing, I kept feeling weaker and weaker, and more and more nauseous. Jill and I had both tested great on our vital signs up to 16,000 feet but I guess those last 4,000 are another story. Every step was brutal. We couldn’t feel our fingers or toes, our remaining water was completely frozen, we were physically exhausted, and the altitude was eating me alive (and while I wasn’t exactly thrilled that Jill took this photo of me at time, it makes for good blog material).

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Finally, the first sign we were close was the sunrise over neighboring Mewenzi Peak, which at 18,000 feet is the third highest in Africa. We were told it would take anywhere from 6-8 hours to reach the summit, so if we had left at midnight and were now seeing the sunrise we were getting close. And getting out of the dark certainly helped our spirits a bit too.

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Those last thousand feet or so to the lip of the crater were just brutal. I had to go about ten steps at time then take a break. But there was no way I was turning around. I knew it wasn’t about winning… ok it was all about winning and goddammit I was going to make that stupid summit.

We hadn’t been on remotely flat ground or taken more than a 30-second break (due to the cold) for seven hours, so when we finally reached the ridge I just about completely collapsed onto a boulder and stared out into the crater. I couldn’t speak. Jill came over and we were both crying. It was that punishing, and that rewarding.

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The final kick in the shorts was that we still had another hour to hike up around the rim to reach Uruhu Peak, the actual tallest part of the mountain and the single highest point in Africa. That hour was just as brutal as the last. But reaching it was an unrivaled feeling.

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After about 10 minutes at the summit taking photos, we got the hell outta Dodge. It only takes 2-3 hours to get back to camp because you slide down this massive meandering loose dirt trail alongside the one you went up. Descending can be more dangerous than summiting, since trekkers are completely exhausted and therefore super accident-prone. I watched a guy right next to me try to slide down too quickly, slip, and break his ankle. Three guides had to carry him down the remaining 3,000 feet from the summit to get him in a wheelbarrow-like stretcher — and then down a horribly bumpy trail for the last 16,000 feet. Our guides later told us that three people that morning had to be taken down in a stretcher. We also found out later that a nice guy gamed Eric to whom we had given a ride from the Kili airport made it to 19,000 feet before vomiting blood and needing to be raced down the mountain due to acute altitude sickness.

We slept like babies that night then had a relatively easy five-hour hike back down to the gate, where we had a final picnic lunch before heading to Mbahe Farm for our first shower in a week and a farewell dinner party with all of our porters.

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So given all that… Would I recommend summiting Kilimanjaro? Absolutely. It was brutally hard, and perhaps harder for me and Jill than others, but we both consider it the greatest physical achievement of our lives. Simon’s company, SENE, earned a Triple A+. Amazing competence, professionalism and support from top to bottom — from Simon himself, the office, our guides, our porters, Mbahe Farm, the food, everything. Thanks to Catie and Sharon for introducing us to Simon at Catie’s wedding in California!

All in all, an experience we find ourselves reminiscing about constantly, and one we’ll surely never forget.

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Official 2-month Beard Update

Friends, Family and Strangers —

Like Luca Brasi, the beard sleeps with the fishes.

The 100-degree heat of Bagan, Burma (to-be-blogged about) and my desire to eat soup again without needing to shampoo my face afterwards led me to have it shaved.

For those of you who supported the beard, thank you. For those who opposed it (a well-organized militia led by my sister Amy), I completely understand — it was pretty gross. And for the 99% of you who couldn’t care less, I completely understand that too — we’ll be back to blogging about more interesting parts of the trip shortly.

Here are the before and after. And please excuse the nudie photos in the background… an international requirement for male barber shops:

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(I still needed to shave that beast myself after the barber was done with me).

My man charged me $2.50 for the standard haircut (the old “Burmese schoolboy” chop) and said it would be another $2.50 for the beard. Probably the first beard the barber has ever shaven. My taxi driver stuck around and got a real kick out of watching.

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And now back to finishing our Africa posts…

Kilimanjaro: Pre-Climb Prep and Mbahe Farm

(By Jill)

When we landed in Tanzania, not only were we a little unprepared for the visa situation, but we were also a little off on our itinerary dates and packing lists. Instead of starting the Kili climb on Feb. 6th, we were scheduled to start Feb. 7th — which was a welcome surprise as we had been on-the-go and were in need of an extra day of rest, not to mention some extra time to pack.

Our first morning in Moshi started with a leisurely bike ride around town with Simon as our guide.

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Then we headed to the SENE office to take a look at our gear and see if we were missing any important items for the climb. Conclusion: we were missing every single important item found on any basic Kili packing list. There are people who show up to climb Kili with every accessory imaginable — Osprey daypacks, Camelbacks, a 10-day supply of electrolyte tablets, and warm clothes sufficient for the Canadian arctic. Then there was us…

Simon took one look at my low-top Merrel hiking boots and was beside himself. My boots were beyond insufficient, we had zero warm clothes for the summit (which is 0-10 degrees F.), no suitable daypacks, and my headlamp was somewhere in southern Chile. The list goes on, but let’s just say we felt like we had shown up with a bag full of swimsuits and flip flops for a 7-day climb of Africa’s tallest peak.

Thankfully, Simon rescued us again. He gathered extra gear from the SENE office (mostly men’s sizes for Dan) and raided his wife’s closet for me (thank you, Tara!!) the only thing missing was boots for me, which Simon insisted I rent at the trailhead.

After lunch at Moshi’s best pizza place, Joseph (of visa-rescue fame) drove us up to Mbahe. Mbahe is Simon’s family farm in the foothills of Kili, where all SENE guests stay before and after the climb. The farm is like a pre-Kili retreat center — fresh air, beautiful rolling hills and waterfalls, gardens filled with fruits and vegetables, and an amazing staff to make you feel at home. And at 6,000 feet, Mbahe also gives guests a chance to acclimatize a bit before the trek.

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Our Mbahe host was Wilson who at age 67 had guided over 1,000 successful trips to the summit before Simon recruited him to work with guests at the farm. Wilson was a fountain of climbing words of wisdom (“Nothing easy is worthwhile doing” and “You are number one! Not number two!!” were repeated in my head many times during the tough moments) and made us feel at ease about our climb.

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After settling in, we took hot showers, ate a delicious farm fresh dinner, and slept for ten hours straight — only to be woken by Wilson’s knock at 8am the next morning.

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We spent the next day walking around the farm and surrounding village, including a stop at the nearby Marengo trailhead where I succeeded in renting some awesome hiking boots. Woohoo!! Once I had the boots on, both Dan and I started feeling much better about the climb.

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Wilson and our guide, Ayumwi, walked us through the map of the Machame route, pointing out each campsite location and elevation. We also practiced taking our vital signs (which we would do every morning and evening on the mountain) — oxygen saturation, heart rate, respiration patterns, and water intake. We quickly realized we were in very good hands with SENE.

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Then it was goodnight Mbahe, goodbye peaceful farm and cozy bed (+ running water, electricity, episodes of ‘The Good Wife,’ etc…) and onto our big adventure….

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Rwanda Part 2: Gorillas in the Mist

(By Jill and Dan)

After much anticipation, the gorilla tracking day had arrived. We woke up at 5:45 AM for an early breakfast, then drove into the village where all gorilla tourists, guides, and drivers convene. The guides and trackers meet and divvy up groups based on hiking ability and gorilla location. There are 19 gorilla families, about half for research and half for tourism. We were assigned to the ‘Kuryama’ family (Rwandan for ‘sleeping’), along with six other tourists and one guide, Augustin.

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We drove a short distance to the park entrance and were met by a large group of porters. Many of the porters are ex-poachers, hired by the government as a way to offer an alternative career to poaching. Hiring porters is a good cause, can be very helpful, and for $10 seemed like a no-brainer. Our guide, Magezi, highly encouraged us to hire one for each of us. Of course, the two oldest couples in our group didn’t think they needed the porters, and they got CRUSHED on the hike up. Slipping in mud, totally exhausted, and ended up Shanghai-ing our porters to carry their stuff and help them through the mud. Oh well. At least one of them was a dead-ringer for Larry David (we added one photo of him in this post — you’ll know).

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The hike into gorilla territory was about two hours uphill along private farmlands, then another hour through the thick jungle with the trackers. The trackers used machetes to cut back brush, and it was a good thing we wore gators because we were about a foot deep in mud at some points. It had rained all afternoon the day before, but we were lucky to have zero rain on our hike, especially because the gorillas run unexpectedly as soon as the rain begins.

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After an hour through the jungle and days of anticipation, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there was a rustle in the bushes, then an enormous tuft of black hair. We found the Kuryama!!
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Per tracking guidelines, we had one hour to spend with the gorillas. We had gone from a group of ten humans, to a group of ten humans and ten gorillas. We were amazingly close to the gorillas, and at one point a juvenile ran by us and brushed against our legs. The gorillas sat eating, chomping on ‘white celery,’ completely undisturbed by our presence and endless photos. They eat, roll on their backs, and tumble down the hill to find more food. Pretty nice life.

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At one point we did get a bit too close to the family, and a huge silverback stood up, pounded his chest and roared (just like Jungle Book) which did the trick — we were all scared out our minds and hiding behind each other, even as Augustin commanded, ‘Do NOT panic!! Walk backwards slowly and do not turn your backs.’

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The cutest member of the Kuryama family was the baby. It was so little and cuddly, rolling around on the ground, acting silly and putting food on its head. It took every ounce of strength not to grab it and run.

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The one hour flew by and in no time we had to say goodbye to the gorillas and make our way back out of the jungle. Though we had high expectations for tracking they were still exceeded — we never imagined we’d get so close to the gorillas. We also loved the experience of tracking them by foot, and standing with them in their natural environment. It’s completely different than a driving safari.

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The price tag for gorilla tracking permits is exorbitant and still increasing every year as they try to limit the number of tourists. This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us — not only because Rwanda is so far away, but also because the permits are a serious investment.

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So another amazing experience in a country I never imagined visiting. I now have very fond memories of Rwanda — the children crowding the streets as our truck drove up the mountain, waving their hands, running along with us, yelling ‘hello!’ ‘good morning!’ or ‘good morning teacher!!’ (they start each school day greeting their teacher with ‘good morning teacher’ – and it sticks 🙂 ). The people we met in Rwanda were happy and welcoming. The scenery is picturesque, green, clean. And the gorillas, of course, are magical.
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Rwanda, Part 1: Kigali and Beyond

We headed to the “Land of a Thousand Hills” to track the mountain gorillas (Part 2, coming soon to a blog near you) and started off with about 36 hours in Kigali.

We met a solid young American lad named Martin within about 15 minutes of arriving at dinner at our hotel and agreed to explore the city together. Martin is from Newton, MA and I forgive him for attending Williams College, the quasi-rival school of my beloved Middlebury.

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Visiting the Genocide Museum was the core of our day in Kigali, which was a gut-wrenching experience. In three swift months in 1994, one million Rwandans were killed, two million displaced, and hundreds of thousands more were tortured, raped and maimed — we passed multiple people on the streets about our age with missing limbs. This all happened in a nation of only eight million people at the time, so it truly devastated the entire country. It was pretty near impossible to comprehend.

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While the genocide haunts all Rwandans alive today who lived through it, what’s really amazing to see is how the country has bounced back. Rwanda today is extremely safe — we’ve heard people refer to it as the “Switzerland of Africa.” We felt totally safe walking around the city day and night. The economy is booming. Education and healthcare are top priorities. And there a number of really interesting policies, such dedicating the last Saturday of the month to cleaning public spaces, which virtually everyone does, including the President. They use close-knit community structures to apply peer pressure in positively reinforcing ways.

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The following morning our awesome guide, Magezi, picked us up to head three hours north to Parc National de Volcans where we would have a free day before our gorilla tracking. The drive is gorgeous, with rolling lush green hills and private farmlands covering the entire landscape.

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The hotel was definitely our nicest so far (we hadn’t stayed anywhere “nice”), which was a welcome treat. But it was still very remote — no Internet and a generator ran only a few hours a day to provide electricity. They light a fire in your room and put hot water bottles in your bed (Jill’s new favorite thing on the planet) to keep you warm at night.
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It’s a pretty secluded property, so we headed out the main dirt road for a long walk. We made it about 500 yards before meeting a few super excited kids about 10-12 who insisted we come with them to go see their school and meet more of their friends. We asked them where it was, they pointed through the woods to nowhere in particular, so naturally we said “sure” and wandered off into the woods with strangers, just like our parents taught us.

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More kids kept popping out of the woodwork — literally — including four-year-old Eme (in the pink hoodie and younger brother to the tall boy in the tan shirt).

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Eventually we did clear the woods and came across their school, where even more kids joined the flock.
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After an hour or two we wound back around to our hotel, where they all insisted on getting our email addresses. Pretty fun little excursion for our first afternoon in Northern Rwanda, and we came back to a dance performance happening on the hotel lawn. The next day would be the gorillas… Stay tuned.
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Beard Update, one month in

Been growing this thing for exactly one month strong and it’s still coming in hotter than a Brian Wilson heater.

It itched so badly the first week I was scratching my face like a mountain gorilla with fleas. I always knew I had a thick beard but this thing is THICK. Thanks Dad. Pretty sure I can shave it and turn it into the wool carpet Jill always wanted and save us a few hundred bucks.

Alright, below is the official one month photo op: front, left side, right side, and satellite sky cam views.

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