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Tanzania Expedition 2019

Over 18 months ago an excited group of students met to discuss the possibility of taking part in an expedition to Tanzania – opting to trek in the mountain, work on a Primary School project and take part in a safari. During this time we saved hard, met weekly with Mrs Jowett and Mrs Darnton and thought carefully about our kit and what it would feel to camp in the mountains in Africa. 

On the 16th July this planning became a reality and the group set off early for their planning day in Ascot, ahead of their flight the next day. Final arrangements were made with kit, tents checked and unnecessary clothing and equipment left behind – giving a true meaning to ‘travelling light’. The group boarded a Turkish airline for the 13 hour flight to Kilimanjaro Airport. Arriving in the early hours of the morning it quickly became evident we were in a very different place – the new sights and sounds were overwhelming.

The first 2 days were spent in the busy market town of Arusha where the students quickly got used to haggling in the local market and choosing food suitable for mountain camping in the local supermarket. Hostel rooms soon looked like mini market stalls as all the food, bottled water, camping fuel and our very own cooking pot, named ‘Lord Hereford’ were organised ahead of the trek. 

Setting out for Mount Longido on Day 5 felt both scary and exciting – the journey was beautiful and we were amazed to experience 3 giraffes crossing the dual carriageway. We were met at the mountain by 3 Masai Guides who would be with us for the 3 day trek. The walk to the mountain camp was challenging, particularly as we were all carrying full packs on our backs and the temperature was around 26 degrees. The camp was sparse with the tribesman gathered around their fire but we quickly made it home with our tents, cooking area and hand-made toilet (which involved a small spade). Those who climbed to the summit the next day experienced a gruelling 11 hour trek and challenging steps at the end to stand on the top of Mount Longido with Kilimanjaro in the distance. Those that achieved the summit were exhilarated by the experience and couldn’t hide their excitement when they returned to camp. There is no pretending that this part of the expedition challenged the most resilient and put many outside of their comfort zone – something we will remember always.

We had mixed feelings leaving our mountain camp as it was so peaceful with such incredible sunsets and views of Kilimanjaro. We enjoyed the walk back down and were privileged to visit a Masai village and talk to a mother cradling her baby in her own mud hut. It was amazing to hear the lengths Masai mothers go to take care of their children and to provide for their needs – education is a priority for them. We were sorry to say goodbye to our Masai guides who had cared for us so well on the mountain but we were grateful for our time with them and all they had taught us. Their burning wish is to visit London and it was humbling to hear of their admiration for our country and all that we are fortunate to have.

We spent another night in Arusha to restock our food supplies before moving to the village of Poli where we would work on a construction project in a primary school. We were fortunate to have Mr Palanjo as our host in Poli and camped in the security of his beautiful garden. We quickly set up camp, were able to wash our clothes with water boiled on the fire and enjoyed the limited facilities provided for us. During our first day we were welcomed at the school with a feast of bananas and bread and enjoyed meeting the teachers and headteacher. Facilities within the school are limited and we were required to help build the initial external wall for their new dining room. Over the 5 days on the project the team worked hard at carrying water, mixing cement, moving breeze blocks, assembly the walls, cutting the blocks and pointing neatly. It was hard work but we all enjoyed the challenge and again, the resilience this part of the expedition taught us will not be forgotten.

Each day whilst working hard on our building site we enjoyed seeing the children coming out to play in the sunshine – enjoying the freedom to run around in their playground, singing, laughing and playing simple games. The team quickly introduced the children to the idea of flossing, high 5s and they loved singing the Okie Kokie. We were able to join some of their lessons and were very impressed at how smart they all were and their enthusiasm in the classroom at answering questions. On our final day we were invited to the local church and loved the sheer joy on the faces of those attending when singing and praising. It was most uplifting. At our farewell in the school there was a wonderful feast prepared, including cakes and bottles of coke – we were very humbled to be treated so lavishly by people who have so little. In turn we presented the school with stationery items that they desperately need, and we pledge to continue supporting the school with future fundraising projects. We were also treated to a farewell meal by Mr Palanjo and his family, and again, they were so lavish in their feast for us.

Leaving the project was very emotional as we all felt that a small part of us would stay in Poli and particularly in the school that we quickly became so much a part of. Our final 2 days were spent in the luxury of a 3 star hotel with a pool before enjoying our safari. We were all so excited to see the animals at the end of our busy trip and it didn’t disappoint. During the 4 hour safari we were fortunate to see elephants, giraffe, wilderbeast, ostrich, mongoose, deer, lemur, baboon and we did manage to spot a lioness with her cub. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was amazing and being so close up meant that we could almost look them in the eye.

After 13 days in Tanzania it was time to begin our long journey home and the group began to feel excited about seeing family and returning to the comfort of their beds, a hot shower and luxury of home cooked food. During the time away none of the students had access to mobile devices and it was limited for the teachers – what an amazing experience that was in itself. As we touched down at Heathrow on the 30th July and began our journey along the M4 we reflected as a group on everything the expedition had taught us. We all agreed that trust had been at the heart of the trip – trusting each other but more importantly trusting all the new friends we had made who had looked after us so well. It was a challenging trip physically and whilst we returned to Howell’s stronger in our bodies it was our mindsets that had truly grown – we knew how privileged we had been to visit such a beautiful country with people who enjoy every day in the simplest but most life affirming way. For all involved in the expedition this will be the first of many future adventures as it has given us all a desire to travel further afield and relish in the diverse cultures across our world.
 

06 September 2019