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Off the Beaten Path

Today we went on our first “real” adventure! Up to this point everything we have done outside of the compound has been scheduled; however, today we decided to let one of the doctors and his coworkers take us on a walk to see a clear view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is something we have all been wanting to do since we arrived and have been waiting for a nice clear day to do so. I do not think, though, that we quite understood what the word “short cut” entailed when we started the journey. The trail leading up to the top of the hill was not bad; in fact, a few us wanted to run to the top and enjoyed the challenge. Once we got to the top, the view was spectacular. You could see mountains in every direction, and you could clearly see one of the two peaks of Kilimanjaro quite well. We took many photos and waited to see if the clouds would cooperate to get a better view of the more famous peak, but unfortunately we were not able to fully see it. We were however able to see one side of the snow covered slopes as it peaked through the clouds, and even though it was not the entire mountain, none of the pictures we took could do it justice. It was incredible to stand there viewing this mountain with the lush green forest beneath it. It is so beautiful here! The vividness of the green in contrast to the bright blue of the sky is enchanting, as if it were plucked straight from the pages of a story book. Thinking of this image in my head along with all the sites we have seen thus far just makes me think of how beautiful this country is. The people, the clothes, the environment — there is so much vivid color everywhere. It is something that I think we will all hold onto as we leave this country, but back to the adventure!

After taking many photos, I think we all thought that we would walk back down the same way we walked up. However, we were all quite mistaken, and this is where the real adventure began. Much of the trekking down involved no paths, or paths that were just wide enough for one foot in front of the other, and had many of us side stepping to avoid tumbling straight down. Much of the decent was very steep, and many of us joked that it was like walking straight off of a cliff. There were many holes and a lot of loose dirt that made it imperative to watch every step that you took. Even though the entire decent was not that far, the caution that was needed to ensure we all did not go rolling down the hill like bowling balls made it seem like miles. At one point we thought we had reached a road, and in fact we had, but instead of taking it, the guide stepped over the road and “over the cliff” we went again. We stumbled across a few natives along the way, smiling and yelling "Jambo" as we passed, and I think for many of us we felt in complete awe of our surroundings. Adventure has an incredible way of forming bonds with those you travel with and also aiding in connecting yourself with the foreign place to which you have traveled. Although some may argue that the entire hike was not enjoyable, as a few ended up falling here and there, I think overall it was one of the best things we have done so far. Some of the best memories are made when you wander off the beaten path and aren’t necessarily sure of what lies ahead or where you are going! There may have been a few grumbles along the way, but as we were all walking back through the gates of the compound, there was nothing but smiles on all of our faces.