Kilimanjaro 2015.08 Dispatches

For our final day of Safari we woke in the fog and mist all along the Ngorongoro crater rim.  The Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge served up one it’s famous breakfast buffets to completely fuel us up for the day in the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera: the Ngorongoro.

Via our trusty LandCrusiers, we descended the 2,000 feet to the crater floor on the switch-backed road taking us well below the clouds.  In the cool overcast morning, some of the animals took novel approaches to finding a warm place to rest, including a pair of lioness laying right in the middle of the road.  Our photographs were from not more than six feet away – I wisely kept my window rolled up!

Just after this we were delighted to spot the extremely rare Black Rhino at some distance, thereby completing our capture (photographically, of course) of Africa’s Big Five.  What a thrill!!

We once again found our lunch spot occupied by some locals.  In this case, some very active big hippopotamus! No reason to argue with the most dangerous mammal in Africa over location, we found an alternative place to eat.

After lunch we headed up out of the crater and on to the Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha where our group formally concluded the Madison Mountaineering 2015 Kilimanjaro climb and African Safari.

Half the team headed to the airport for flights home while the other half are continuing their vacations with  some time on the beaches of Zanzibar!

Thanks for following our adventure.  This concludes our Kilimanjaro 2015 dispatches.

Why don’t you make plans to join us next year?
   
    

A long view of the rare Black Rhino

    
    
 

There is something quite magical about waking up in a tent on Africa’s Serengeti!  After watching the sun rise with a hot cup of coffee in hand, we enjoyed a full breakfast before loading once again into our LandCruisers to continue our exploration of the Serengeti.

Our animal checklist checklist grew with Crocodile and Hippopotamus sightings.  But the animal of the day was the Lion.  So many Lions!  Most were found resting in the late morning heat under shade of the acacia trees while  very actively keeping an eye on the nearby Zebra.

We did have a chance to see the pre-Lion and post-Lion states of the Cape Buffalo:  alive and dead.  We came across a group of Lion guarding their fresh Buffalo kill.  This caused a minor skirmish between the Lions and a group of Elephants who came to use the watering hole.  Real life Wild Kingdom stuff!

Out of necessity, we had our lunches in the vehicles.  Reason being that our biggest surprise of the day was waiting for us at our picnic site.  Once again located on a bluff overlooking the plain, our picnic area had stone tables and benches shaded by trees.  But hidden within tree branches was our rarest sighting of all:  Leopards!  Three Leopards had taken to the trees for rest and tourist watching.  We were quite lucky to see these amazing cats so up close as they are, by nature, nocturnal and wary of humans.  Best to stay in the car and eat rather than get out of the car and be…

After lunch, we said goodbye to the Serengeti and headed back to the Ngorongoro crater rim for an evening at the spectacular (and I mean it) Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.  Each of our rooms have a terrace that overlook the amazing crater.  Tomorrow we will venture down into the crater for our final day of safari.  Everyone is hopeful to spot a rare Black Rhino to complete our African Big Five bingo card.

   
    
    
   

Today we travelled in our LandCruisers through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area along the Ngorongoro crater rim to reach the adjacent, legendary Serengeti National Park for another day of game and bird watching.

Highlights of the day included amazing numbers of Thomson’s Gazelle and Zebra, close encounters with Giraffe, and a knock-your-socks-off African sunset over the Serengeti plain.  Sunning!

After dusk we arrived at the Kisura Camp for our overnight on the Serengeti.  Each of our huge, multi room tents included a full bathroom and shower to allow us to freshen up for the outstanding supper in the mess tent.

After our meal, it was wonderful to end the day drifting off to sleep to the distant sounds of Hyaena and perhaps a Lion or two.

   

 

This morning we left our climbing gear behind and loaded into two fully custom pop-top Land Crusiers and headed 60 miles southwest of Arusha to the Tarangire National Park for a day of viewing the big game animals.  Immediately after passing through the park gates, we were greeted by a herd of elephants.  And if you can believe it, from there it just got better and better!  Zebras!  Wildebeasts!  Giraffes!  Oh my!  It is everything you imagine Tanzania and Africa to be.

At midday when we arrived at our picnic spot located on a high bluff, we were treated with a view of the Tarangire River and plain below that was as beautiful as any painting.  It was impossible not to take an amazing photo.  Many animals were gathered along the gentle flow of the river creating an everlasting image.
After lunch we drove on and caught a long distance look at our first lions, resting in the shade of two Acacia trees.  Hopefully more to come!

We have now arrived at the stunning Endore Lodge, our home for the evening before heading on to the Serengeti tomorrow morning.  Wonderful accommodations and fantastic food have created the perfect end to our first day of safari! 

  

    
    
 

Today we awoke at the Mweka camp on Kilimanjaro, after our successful summit climb the day before. The team is feeling great and is excited to continue the adventure. From the lush forest we descended 5000′ to the Mweka gate where we enjoyed a delicious lunch and said goodbye to our Tanzanian porters and guides. Tonight we had a team celebration dinner, and tomorrow the group heads off on Safari, a 4 day extravaganza to the great game parks of Tanzania! Stay tuned for upcoming dispatches from the Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ngorongoro!

Celebration post summitCelebration dinner!Kilimanjaro from the forest

Our summit day began at midnight, as we awoke for a quick breakfast then left camp to begin our ascent. We dawned headlamps and climbed through the pre dawn hours, reaching Stella Point (18,652’) just as the sun rose over the plains of Africa. In the dawn light we climbed the remaining distance to Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa at 19,341’. At the top we savored our accomplishment and the incredible view, then made our way down back to our high camp, where we had lunch, then continued down to the Mweka camp for the night.
Stats for Day 6:
Start: Kosovo Camp, 15,700’
Summit: Uhuru Peak, 19,341′
Finish: Mweka Camp, 10,204’
Distance: 8 miles
IMG_6036The glacier near the summit with Mount Meru behind

Today we climbed to our high camp. We left Karanga camp and crossed the barren hillsides to reach Barafu camp, and continued on to the Kosovo camp, our special high camp that rarely sees any other climbers. This camp puts us in a position above most other climbing parties, so that our summit day is shorter and we can get out ahead of any potential crowds at the start. Before bed we talked through our summit day strategy, then went to bed early in preparation for an ‘alpine start’ tomorrow morning. We hope the weather will be good for our summit day!
Stats for day 5:
Start: Karanga Camp, 13,335’
Finish: Kosovo Camp, 15,700’
Distance Traveled: 3.5 miles
Snow & Ice on Kili

After breakfast we left camp and began our ascent of the Great Barranco wall! This scramble provided us with a great morning workout as we topped out at 14,500’ with spectacular views of the plains below! Then we descend to the Karanga river and hiked up a short distance to Karanga camp.
Stats for day 4
Start: Barranco Camp, 13,066’
Finish: Karanga Camp, 13,335’
Distance: 3 miles
  

We left Shira Camp and traversed the mountain, working our way up to the base of “lava tower” at approximately 14,800 ft. Some of us made a quick ascent of the lava tower, a fun scramble up with great views from the top, then descended down to Barranco Camp. From our camp we have a great view of the Great Barranco wall, our challenge for tomorrow morning!
Stats for day 3
Start: Shira Camp, 12,355’
Finish: Barranco Camp, 13,066’
Distance Traveled: 6 miles

    
Night time view from our camp

Today, from the Machame camp we started hiking up the trail through the forest and gained elevation very quickly, as the landscape changed quickly from the lush forest to moor lands with large Senecio trees dotting the hillsides. We gained the Shira Plateau where we now have a great view over the valley below. Each day upon arriving at our camp in the afternoon we have a dance party with our porter team, the climbers are learning the dance and songs of the Chagga tripe! Our team is doing great and we are having a wonderful time on Kilimanjaro!
Stats for day 2
Start: Machame Camp, 9,927’
Finish: Shira Camp, 12,355’
Distance Traveled: 5 miles