By: E. Capobianco
When we first arrived in Dar Es Salaam (after traveling for maybe 22 hours in total), my first impressions of the city was that it was very warm, polluted, smelly, humid and crowded. We got onto a bus and drove to the Inn we were staying at for the first 2 nights of our expedition called 'Safari In'. On our first day in the busy city, the group was split into 2 or 3 smaller groups. Each group was in charge of either buying food from the local markets or cooking utensils. After the two days or preparation, we began the 10 hour journey to Hondo Hondo campsite.
The next part of the trip was easily the most physically challenging. We begin the trekking phase by doing the Prince Bernard trail and Nijukamoni trail on the first day. Those trails with a combined 8 km took us to a small waterfall and around parts of the mountain. The second day was the most challenging as we did the massive Hidden Valley trail. This huge trail was definitely a challenge as we had to trek 17 km one day (usually we would trek this trail across 3 days and camping at the mountain). We even had to take an armed ranger in case we encountered elephants or leopards (say, we didn't see any). Despite people's difficulties, we all survived for the final and best trail: the Sanje Circuit. This 15 km trail took us up to the 3 layers of the Sanje Falls: one of the largest waterfalls in Africa. We were even able to swim in the first and third layer, which was one of the most satisfying experiences of the trip.
After we completed trekking, we went on a 6-7 hour road trip to 'Mosumbo' campsite run by an 'American' family; one of the members being BB, the cutest old lady I have ever met in my entire life. She warned us about these little animals called 'bush babies' that make the most absurd noises at night (had she not informed me about them, I would have thought someone was being murdered in the woods). We stayed at that 'Mosumbo' for one night, the next day we had to pack our things to move to a campsite on Kibebe farm (which was closer to the school were we're going to be working with). We stayed at Kibebe for the duration of the project. Day 1 was the opening ceremony, the children greeted us with a song which I assume is called 'Karibu' (which means welcome in Swahili), part of the group was mixing cement while the other part was fetching water. Day 2 was fairy similar to day 1, we mixed more cement, brought more buckets of water and helped to plaster the walls. Day 3 was the same, but this time, we painted the inside of one of the classrooms. Day 4 was the final day, we finished painting the inside and outside of a classroom, plastered all the front walls of the buildings and the floors of the bathrooms. We had lunch at the school and then had a friendly football match against the school (which we won, credits to Enzo, Schahin, Andres and Michael's penalty shoots at the end). Every day of the project started with everyone trying to wake up at 5:30-5:40 am, followed by breakfast and a 45 min walk to the school. We would usually arrive there at 7:30-8:00 and would only leave at 15:00; and on top of the 6 hours of work, we still had to endure another 45 min walk back to the farm. Interacting with the kids was the best part, I picked up some words in Swahili and learned how to bring a bucket of water on my head. One of the amazing parts of this life changing and eye opening experience is that despite that these children didn't have much, not a day went by where I didn't see smiles on their faces or hear laughter.
The final part of the trip (rest and relaxation) began the day after we finished our project. We remained in Kibebe Farm until 11 am, then we left for Rueha National Park. We arrived at our hotel 2 hours later and had a massive lunch before setting off for the first trip around the outskirts of the park. On this first day, we were able to find many animals: giraffes, elephants and more. However what we found was nothing compared to the second day, where we had a morning safari. The day began as we spotted empalas as zebras, however, this changed when our guide received a call about a lion nearby. We rushed to where he was and it went up hill form there: we found water buffalos, hienas and more; however the highlight of the day was a massive leopard we found just as we were leaving.