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A 25 year dream come true for me, the summit of Kilimanjaro, eight days of escalating discomfort for 15 minutes of glory. I have returned to earth with eight other climbers, ready to celebrate with beers and lots of real food. The hard part is over and we will reward our efforts tomorrow with another dream adventure, an African safari to Ngorongoro Crater, the Eden of Africa.

But first we assemble after dinner with our guides, for a "pep" talk. They warn us the drive to the crater will be a bit bumpy, and long, through primeval country, wild, pregnant with savage beasts and venomous snakes. They suggest we celebrate less and sleep more for now. And we, of course, smirk. Big deal. We just climbed to the roof of Africa!

I am up before daybreak and watch as a pale dawn exposes the surrounding landscape, a stark and seemingly endless expanse of thick, rolling hills, cobbled with rock and sliced by rut. There is no road, only a dusty dirt track cluttered with potholes. Yesterday's "pep talk" begins to sink in. The sun, nevertheless, fills the world with brightness, and I am in turn filled with an undeniable perkiness. Bring on the next adventure.

And so it is that we assemble for the day's land cruise, nine self-satisfied summiteers, eager for a safari. But first 12 hours in a jeep, with tires, shocks, and seat cushions. The works! How hard can this be? We pile into our cruiser cabins with visions of a long snooze. "Wake us when we get there."

From the first grinding of gears it is apparent our guides spoke the truth. This will be an endurance test of mind and body, a succession of axle-busting potholes and somersaulting stomachs. And so onward we go! For hour after endless hour the jeep lurches along in low gear. And we, in our private worlds of weariness, woe, nausea, and vertigo, have but one rational thought, "Are we there yet?"

The last half hour of this everlasting day is a first gear, four wheel drive ascent to the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, over a primitive but most welcome road. Finally, we crawl out the Land Rover, wild-eyed and wobbly, pale, and streaked about the face with rivulets of sweat. Their is an inexplicable feeling of betrayal. We speculate on what has been damaged most, flesh or ego. We are already discussing the return trip. After all, how hard can a hundred mile WALK be?


After a few game drives to soothe our agitated nerves we visited this Masai village. Tall, stately shepherds, the Masai are struggling to hold on to their traditional way of life despite a rapidly advancing modern world. Case in point-this agonizing 12 hour jeep ride can now be driven in a mere two hours, minus the agitation. The Chinese paved the road with asphalt, 100 miles of silky smooth, nary a single pothole the entire stretch. There are even rest stops with flush toilets, unheard of in Africa except in the finest tourist hotels.

Why the sudden Chinese charity? For bargaining power to purchase agricultural land from Tanzania to feed their own masses. In the meantime Tanzanians go hungry and their corrupt politicians get richer.


© Danny Kimberlin 2015