Friday, February 10, 2017

Back from vacation!

I've been silent for a while because we've been on vacation. We went for 2 weeks to Tanzania on a safari vacation and I will be writing about it in the next few posts. It was fabulous. Everyone who can, should go on a safari vacation at least once in their lives. It is amazing to see the sheer number of animals, at ease and at home in their natural environment. Tanzania has done a great job setting aside large areas as national parks (no domestic animals or humans living there permanently) as well as conservation areas which are shared with traditional tribes and their domestic animals. They also have hunting areas. But in the parks and conservation areas, all hunting is off-limits. So the animals are not bothered by the humans who are confined to their vehicles. It makes for a truly spectacular and unique experience.

Along the way, I finished knitting the other two pairs of wrist brace liners that I started in Dec.
 I knit this pair on the plane and on the first and last days we were in Tanzania when we had a little free time. Once the actual trip began, there was no time to knit.
I finished the first one of these on the plane coming home and the second one at home. I don't especially like the colors but I bought the red yarn without thinking about combining it. Then I found that a pair took a little over 2 balls so it would be a waste to buy 6 balls to make 3 pairs. The pink was the only color that the LYS had that even remotely went with the red. So there I am. Fortunately, these get worn under wrist braces and at night. With these colors there is no danger of my leaving them behind anywhere.

The yarn is CoBaSi from Skacel. It is a bit loosely spun and tends to split. Plus there isn't as much elastic in it as compared to Cascade Fixation, which is what I used for the previous generations of liners. Let's see how it holds up. I bought this because the LYS carried this and not Cascade. It tends to stretch out over a week's wearing but snaps back on washing. I'm all set for a few more years till these start to fray.

We arrived in Tanzania a day early and left a day later than the actual trip. The reason was that we didn't want to spend extra time in flying by adding connections and the prices on the route we wanted (NYC-Amsterdam-Kilimanjaro International Airport) were cheaper the day before and the day after. Cheaper than a hotel room and meals for 2 people.

Our first day was quiet. We went out to look around Arusha, the city we were living in. One of our tour group members' daughter had done a project in Arusha a few years ago. So we stopped by the place where she had worked. It is called Global Cycle Solutions and they create products that use pedal power as well other renewable energy to create solutions for developing areas like Tanzania.
It was interesting to see the small solar lamps that provide light where there is no electricity. The way it works is that a buyer can either buy the system outright, which is more expensive than they can usually afford, or they can pay a monthly fee for the use of the system. In the latter case, they are sent a code in a text that they enter into the system once they have paid. The code activates the system for the duration that they have paid for - a month, 3 months, etc.

We also saw an NGO incubator where GCS got its start. This is a place with tools and a workshop that allows entrepreneurs to come in and work out their prototypes and manufacturing. In the US we would call it a maker space.

 This is the workshop/maker space. There are some offices around it.
 This is an irrigation system that is being worked on or was worked on.
 This is an example of pedal power. In India, they manufacture a maize huller that is hand-cranked. That is the blue thing mounted on the cross bar of the bike. Here the hand-crank has been replaced by a gear that connects to the bike. When you pedal the bike the huller is driven and you can hull the ear of maize. The bicycle is on a stand because it doesn't need to go anywhere.

We spent the afternoon by the pool and I knitted while chatting and getting to know members of the tour group.
This photo is looking out over the gardens of the hotel.

 This is Mt. Meru, a relatively tall mountain close to our hotel.

The next morning we were going to climb the first stage of the ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. We went up the Marangu route to the first set of huts, the Mandara huts. Marangu is one of the easier routes and more comfortable than most because you can spend the nights in huts vs. tents. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is a minimum of a 6 day trek. 5 days to climb where you do the last stage at night, spend 10 mins at the peak and immediately start your descent on the 6th day. The oxygen levels are low at the peak which is at 19,000 ft - give or take a few ft. And people don't use oxygen to climb so you can't stay up there too long. It is also the only high peak that is scalable without any mountaineering equipment. You just walk up.

Here is the information on the ascent from one of the companies that outfits you for it.
 These are some shots I took as we drove to Mt. Kilimanjaro - or Kili as it is affectionately called.

 Our first view of the peak from the road. The downside to the Marangu route is that you can't see the peak as you climb. It is all through forest.
 The start of our hike.
 Our guides. You have to be accompanied by guides when you climb. They make sure you are safe and they even carry your backpack if you want. I carried my own up to the top, though.

 Markers along the way. We had boxed lunches which we ate half-way up. Some of our party descended from the half-way point but 5 of us continued to the huts.
 Views on the trail. I was trying to capture monkeys and birds but I think I only got plants, no animals.

 Another marker.
 This is the entry to the park office at the huts on the left. Straight ahead to the right one is looking into Kenya and there was a city there we could see. But my camera couldn't capture the faint view.
 And the sign that told me I had reached the top. I had collapsed on the steps and one of the other members actually took this photo because it was higher up than the steps.
 On the way back home we were treated to a fabulous sunset.

Two photos of Kili at dusk. It was our last views of the mountain because when we came back at the end of the trip, it was a cloudy day and she was hidden in the clouds.

We got back to the hotel sweaty, dusty and exhausted, but thrilled that we had made it. I accrued more than 30,000 steps on my Fitbit that day.

The next morning we set off on the safari. All the other posts will be photo heavy.

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