Moshi, Tanzania

Yesterday I arrived to join up with the rest of the 2014 Kilimanjaro Dream Team in Moshi, Tanzania. At the airport 5 people had bags which had their climbing gear. We finally heard at ~9pm local that the bags arrived at the airport and we will be starting the climb tomorrow morning. If they hadn’t shown up we would have waited one day and taken out one acclimatization day.

Last night after getting into the hotel we had dinner then spent the night drinking and chatting. In the morning after breakfast we had a team meeting to discuss the first day of the climb and planning for if the bags didn’t show up that were missing. Just afternoon we headed into Moshi to go around downtown and had lunch at a local restaurant. On the way back we stopped at the Old Train station.

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Later in the afternoon after a swim a few of us headed on a walk to see the local fields.

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Finally late afternoon the clouds cleared for a nice view of the mountain.

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Tomorrow morning the group will head out an start the climb. April 8th we should be reaching the summit shortly after sunrise and be back down on April 9th.

Thank you to those that have show their support with donations to Dreams Take Flight.

http://dreammountains.com/2014/jeff-wilson-2014/

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Johannesburg

For my last full day in South Africa I did a tour around Johannesburg. It started off with a drive through the centre of the city. The first stop was at the Apartheid museum. I took about 3 hours to go through. It was quite interesting to learn all about life during the Apartheid in South Africa and the changes that took place. There was also a special exhibit on the life of Nelson Mandela.

For the afternoon I was taken for a tour of the Soweto, an area with a lot of history. The second stop was at the Hector Pieterson Museum to learn about the student uprising in 1976. The Mandela House was my next stop for some more history on the life of Nelson Mandela. The fourth and final stop was at a local restaurant for an excellent lunch of South African food. The old power plant cooling towers in Soweto has been turned into a beautiful mural and is also used for bungee jumping. It’s quite a diverse township with houses ranging from affluent houses to some that aren’t much more than shacks. The people all over were very friendly and welcoming.

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Photos from the day.

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Safari Day 3 & 4

For the last three game drives on the trip I was able to see much of the same wildlife as before. In the morning drive on Day 3 after a coffee and biscuits we could hear the three young male Lions letting out a few roars in the distance. We headed off looking for them. About 20 minutes later we spotted two of them laying in the grass just off the side of the path. Stopping less than 10 metres away I was able to get some great photo and probably my favorite from the trip so far.

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After lunch I wandered around the lodge area taking pictures of some of the birds in the bird bath and one large male Nyala that let me walk past ~5 metres away without a problem.

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On the evening game drive 4 Wildebeests posed nicely for a photo for me. As well I was able to see a group of 6 White Rhinos. There was a group of both Wildebeests and Zebras we passed by a number of times. Just before dark I finally got to see my first Elephants of the trip off in the distance.

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On the final game drive was on the morning of my fourth day at the lodge. Not long after starting out we spotted a 3 week old Giraffe and it’s mother. Later in the drive a large White Rhino bull crossed the path right in front of the truck and sprayed marking his territory.

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Day 3 Photos
Day 4 Photos

It was a great experience seeing the various animals in their natural habitat. It surprised me how calm most were when the vehicle was nearby. Midday Friday I headed back to Richards Bay to take a flight to Johannesburg.

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Safari Day 2

For the second day at the Lodge I went on two game drives, one in the morning and the second early afternoon.

In the morning we spotted the three male lions from the previous night relaxing in the sandy river bed. On the afternoon drive they had moved only about 20 metres to keep in the shade. _DSC1462

As well on the drives I was able to see more Impalas, Nyalas, a couple Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeests and quite a few spiders. The rest of the photos are here.

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Safari Day 1 Photos

The photos from the first day of safari are here.

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Sodwana Bay Diving Photos

Finally able to upload my photos from diving here.

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Safari – Day 1

This afternoon I went on my first game drive. On the drive there were a number of Impalas, Zebras, Wildebeests, a couple Waterbuck, a few buffalo, a giraffe, a Kudu, and some Warthogs. Early on we came across a White Rhino and her small Calf. Later on I saw a set of three White Rhinos, one of which wandered to about 10 metres away from the truck.

Just before sunset we stopped by a water hole and got out of the truck to strech our legs and for a drink & snack. (Mom you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph) Our ranger advised us to stay close by as in the morning lions had been spotted in the area. About five minutes after stopping we heard the roar of the three young male lions approaching. We calmly got back in the truck. They were about 200 metres away on the far side of some trees. They slowly walked parallel to the road stopping to lay down periodically. Quite a few times they let out some deep roars letting us know that we were in their territory. After finishing our drinks in the truck we headed back to the lodge for supper.

The internet connection here is quite slow so I don’t know if I’ll be able to upload any pictures until I’m back in Johannesburg on Friday.

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Diving in Sodwana Bay

For the last week I have been diving in Sodwana Bay, South Africa. In total I was able to get in 13 dives. There are a number of reefs each named by the distance out: 2 mile, 3 mile, 5 mile, 6 mile, 7 mile and 9 mile. I made it to each of the outer reefs at least once with the rest being on 2 mile. On 2 mile reef there is 10+ different sites so there was always something different to see.

The diving was done from small rigid inflatable boats. The gear is loaded up and tied in the centre of the boat on the beach. With the divers on each side of the boat a tractor pushes the it into the water. After pulling it enough into the water everyone hops onto the boat. The skipper has to carefully time the exit from the beach between the waves coming into the bay. Depending on the day the ride to the dive site can be on calm water or a stomac churning ride through 2-3 meter swells. On the calmer days the first dive was usually at one of the reefs further out. With rougher seas we would dive a bit deeper to avoid some of the surge. Once at the dive site we would finish suiting up and all at once back roll into the water.

This was some of the more challenging diving I’ve done. Depending on the depth there was usually a decent amount of surge. On the rougher days it would push you 5-10 metres back and forth. This meant I had to really pay attention to the surrounding reef to avoid getting pushed into the coral. After a few dives I started to get used to it. The surge also caused me a few problems with sea sickness. One thing I had forgotten was to pick up something for sea sickness before I left but luckally the dive shop on the beach had some. After the second day I didn’t have any more problems.
The topography of the different reefs varied quite a bit. Some were fairly flat while others had swimthroughs or a wall with sandy bottom. There is a huge diversity of marine life one the reefs. There were dozens of different kinds of fish, 3-4 different rays, eels, some sharks as well as dolphins. Some of my favorites were the clownfish, manta rays, potato cod, honeycomb rays, and dolphins.

Sunday morning the ocean was nice and clam enough to go to 9 mile. Halfway to the dive site we stopped where there was a pod of at least 10 dolphins in the surf. For about 10-15 minutes we snorkeled with the dolphins. A number of times 6 of them swam close together right past me. They were quite playful and inquisitive. I don’t have any pictures because I forgot my camera back in my room at the lodge.

There was one quite brave clown fish that swam right up to my mask and tried to stare me down. He stayed there swiming back and forth for about a minute before returning back down to his anemone. On the last dive of the trip we had a potato cod that followed the group around for around 20 minutes like a dog. He would swim close by checking us out with his big eyes. I’ve got a couple pictures of him that I’ll post later.

After the dives the skipper would pull our BCD/Tanks back on board before we climbed in. There was always lolipops for the ride back. Getting back to the shore was almost as challenging as heading out. The skipper would time it between waves and the boat was driven right up onto shore. The tractor would pull it up a bit further to be unloaded then turn it around to get ready for the next dive.

A majority of the other divers were from South Africa with the exception of the group of 48 divers in a group from a Toronto school that were there for the first few days of my visit. Friday was a public holiday so the weekend was really busy with people coming for the long weekend. It was quite busy for the three days but really quieted back down on Monday.

I still have to go through and edit my photos so hopefully I’ll post some of them in the next few days. To give my self some time between diving and climbing the mountain this afternoon I headed inland to a game reserve for 4 days on safari.

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Training Complete

Last week marked the end of 5 month training for Kilimanjaro. The training consisted of mainly three things: stair climbing, traning at the gym, and hiking in Gatineau Park.

Stair training was probably the hardest of the three. At the Minto Suites Hotel downtown I would climb the 32 floors (450 stairs) up to 12 times. This was to get my legs in shape and improve my cardio. In total I did 190 sets (up and down) which works out to over 6000 floors or 85000 stairs. I started out only being able to do 4 sets but by the end 10 sets wasn’t too hard.

I started training at the gym with a personal trainer in January. The two 1 hr sessions a week helped improve core strength and target specific excercises to help with the climb.

Lastly the hikes in Gatineau Park every week or two was good for getting used to layering clothes and adjusting depending on the temperature.

On Sat I headed out to South Africa for two weeks before the climb. I’ll be diving in Sodwana Bay for 7 days. After that I’ll be heading inland for a safari before meeing the rest of the group for the climb.

With data rates fairly high in South Africa I may not be able to upload too many pictures until later.

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Cozumel Trip

I’ve been a bit busy lately and kept forgetting to post since I got back from Cozumel almost 4 weeks ago. I went down with a group from my local dive shop for 1 week. While there I did two more of the PADI specialty courses in Deep Diving and Drift Diving. I’ve picked up a couple new skills and put more to practice.

The water was fairly warm and had good viability ~80-100 ft most days. Saw quite a few turtles, nurse sharks, and a variety of fish. On the two night dives even saw quite a few octopus. The two dives on the C-53 wreck were quite fun. Inside got to see the engine room and made a quick stop in the washroom.

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Got a nice closeup of a turtle that passed a few inches above my head.

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All photos from the trip are here

Will start posting more about my Africa / Kilimanjaro trip in the next few days.

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