Sunday, April 3, 2011

Absence, Explained

Hi Friendly Folks,

As with any amateur blogger worthy of that moniker, I have let ye olde blog slip over the past couple months. The first half of that absence can be easily explained, while the second half is probably best chalked up to simple inertia.

Wildebeest Camp - Solar Umbrella
What is this "absence" I speak of? Well, it starts off with someone very near and dear to me venturing off to Arusha, Tanzania to assist with the prosecution of alleged genocidaires at the United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda during a five-week internship. As I am easily persuaded to venture to far off places, I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to spend a few weeks in East Africa at the tail end of this internship.

The journey had an auspicious start as I found myself staying at the serene and friendly Wildebeest Camp in Nairobi. The camp's use of miniature solar panels to power both their indoor and outdoor lighting fit nicely with the camp's overall approach to reduce, recycle, and reuse their local resources.

Wildebeest Camp - Indoor Solar Lighting
Following a restful start to the trip, I took the overland 6-hour bus ride to Arusha, enjoyed my first African border crossing and arrived just as the nighttime ban on bus transport descended on Tanzania. Over the next few days, I took in a couple of trials at the ICTR, including one of a prominent member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development which was the ruling political party of Rwanda from 1975 to 1994. Sobering stuff but heartening to see the international community working towards justice for the victims.

The fruits of deep-sea fishing adventure: calamari!
After a botched attempt at a Rwandan trip, due to the recently implemented visa requirements for Canadians in late 2010, it was decided that attacking the Indian Ocean coast with vim and vigour would be the new itinerary. Snorkeling, medium-sea fishing and general beach merriment was enjoyed thanks to the hospitality of the Peponi Beach Resort (for sale, fyi) and their neighbours. Having enjoyed the ocean so much, it was only natural that instead of heading for Dar and its modern docks and ferries, an attempt would be made to take a 15-foot wooden boat from Pangani to northern Zanzibar.  Gilligan had nothing on this 4-hour-ish tour. How our crew of two navigated sans GPS, compass, sextent or shorelines is beyond me. 

Cafe in Stone Town
Somehow despite getting down to the emergency 15 hp emergency outboard for the last 40 minutes of the voyage, we arrived with our wobbly sea legs on Nungwi's beaches. The extensive resort development was in stark contrast to the minimally-intrusive development on the mainland. Happily, great care is taken by the scuba outfits at Mnemba Atoll to minimize human impacts. The highlight of Zanzibar was a spiced cuppa in Stone Town. The first cafe in Toronto to put Zanzibar-spiced on their menu will have a customer for life!

Finally, it was time for the main invent: a seven-day Kilimanjaro trek! An incredible team of 17 (guides, cooks and porters) accompanied four wide-eyed muzungu up Machame Route. We enjoyed an incredible stretch of gorgeous weather spoiled by about 15 minutes of rain/hail on Day 3. Otherwise the main challenges were acclimatizing to the altitude and protecting the knees of some steep descents. The former won the battle on summit night (departure from base camp at midnight) somewhere above 5400 m. At 3:00 a.m. with no end in sight to a pounding headache, I pulled the chute and made for base camp. Fifty percent of our party made Kibo peak but had to turn around as quick as they came.  The wind, cold and constant sand in the nostrils did little to make that part of the trek enjoyable. Nevertheless, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Kilimanjaro, Kibo Peak
Having slowly readjusted to home life and catching up with local energy news, you can expect me to start blogging with a little more spring in my step. Thanks for your patience and indulgence, everyone! I look forward to reconnecting soon.

~Rob

Kili Breakfast
Peponi Beach Resort

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