Well, I survived the bus rides, and the dalla dalla rides, and Kilimanjaro...barely. I have never had a day in my life where I imagined my death so frequently, and in so many ways. death and injury. I was tense for the first 45 minutes of the bus ride. i stupidly said to kyle, "at least we're not going that fast and not overtaking every car in sight" Not 5 minutes later the driver hit warp speed and started passing every car on the road. The bus sat two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other side, but there is also a fold down chair attached to every double seat so that you sit four across, with no aisle. A fire hazard nightmare. Plus other people stood as well. Oh, and the best part is that on several windows towards the back, including the window where i was sitting, there were spiderweb shaped cracks in the class that i imagine could only be made by a human head smashing into the window. They were just that size and height. reassuring, indeed. some time into the ride i accepted that we probably weren't going to die. When we arrived in Moshi alive, I was relieved. we checked into our hotel to drop off some stuff, and then headed to Mangaru for the gate to Kilimanjaro. we had to take a dalla dalla to mangaru, and I have to admit this was my first real dalla dalla ride. I walk everywhere, and take cabs home after dark, so i haven't had the need to ride the dalla dalla. It took us 53 minutes to travel maybe 30 kilometers, and we stopped probably 12 or 15 times along the way. i don't know if any of you are familiar with the dalla dalla, but it's basically a van with 16 seats. However, on our ride to Mangaru, i counted 29 people in the dalla dalla at one point. People will just sit on others' laps, stand up and squeeze in between the seats and the walls, and hand you a baby to hold. They bring their livestock on board as well. I thought i saw a guy put a goat in the hatchback, but he didn't. My friends have ridden with chickens. During the ride we were overtaking a car and ran another dalla dalla off the road onto the shoulder. It was pretty terrifying. then came a 10 minute taxi ride to the gate, and we fit 7 people in one taxi.

We arrived at the gate and i expected something much more exciting or a big deal than what I saw. there were bathrooms, a chalet where you registered and paid, and a shop. and about 3 dozen guides and porters waiting around to start climbs or be hired. The fee per day for an East African is 2000 shilingi, or about $1.60. For wazungu, the price per day is $60 USD. this is the case in all national parks in Tanzania. it's insane. But, it's how they make money. We started the climb around 12:30. we wanted to go all the way to the first hut site where people who are going to the summit camp the first night. the guide said it would be impossible to do that and return in the time we had. the park closes at 5. At first, I thought, this is no problem. not too steep, i feel good, I'm breathing fine (even thought I have a cold), hakuna matata. That lasted about an hour. then we hit the harder parts. steep inclines, rocky path and the guide and two of my friends were practically running up the mountain. granted, their legs are much longer and they're all about 10 years younger than me. And, i am admittedly in almost the worst shape of my life. But, I persevered. At one point i did start to get dizzy and I was breathing so heavy I started to hyperventilate. but i just stopped for a minute and chilled out. I kept imagining dying on the mountain and them having to get my body, or just passing out. I kept thinking it there were worse ways to die than climbing kili, but even then it should be closer to the summit at least. eventually, we made it to the Mandara huts. We went past the huts to a crater so we could get a good view. Here we climbed above the forest line and entered the desert altitude of Kili. it was bizarre. One minute we're walking through dense, beautiful humid rainforest and you can see your breath...the next we're walking amid cactus and sage and it's hot and sunny. it was a very cloudy day, as has been almost every day I've been here, so clouds draped the mountain and hid the peak from view. Throughout the walk, there were areas where we were walking through the clouds, and I'd look ahead and see them actually moving along the trail. it was incredible. i felt like i was in an Akira Kurosawa movie or a Can song. It was so dreamlike. We took some pictures at our high spot, which was about 2900 meters. good thing, cause they say if you have a cold not to go past 3000 meters. again, the clouds hid our view of everything, but it was well worth it. the time was almost 4 then, so we literally almost ran down the mountain. i kept imagining my ankle breaking, or falling and busting my face open on a rock. I did slip three or four times, as did others. it was hard on the knees, but we had much haraka the whole time. hurry hurry, chop chop. we did the entire ascent and descent in 5 hours and 10 minutes. our guide said that was a record for him, and he's been climbing Kili for years. so i don't feel bad about it being tough. another of our group got an altitude headache, and everyone felt like their hearts were beating out of their chests. it was similar to climbing st. Mary's glacier in Denver. You sweat the whole time. had we gone a bit slower it would have been much easier, but we didn't have time. by th time i was done my body felt like it did after doing the half marathon. my legs and groin and butt were tired. I wasn't sore the next day though (i sing hte praises of magnesium). we got back to the hotel , went to dinner and ate a lot of food, and then sat in the bar on our roof, relaxing, drinking pineapple fantas (well, that's what I did). the nexy mornign i had my first hot shower in weeks, and saw some tv in english while I was getting ready, which was exciting. martha stewart and tyra, no less.

I am out of time, but I'll try to get to the internet tomorrow to write more. i have more stories and definite strong feelings to share. i don't want to leave here. i love it.

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