Saturday, 29 October 2011


Being back home is wonderful in some ways, and frustratingly exhausting in others! Despite the arduous physical nature of the Meru climb, I did get a wonderful rest from dealing with squabbles, wet beds, endless "what if..."speculations that have replaced the endless "why?"s and the repetative "Mama.....". Having slept very badly last night, due more to a blocked sinus than my still painful legs, I found myself getting extremely irritated today by the continual demands, which began with the Mancub coming into our room every two minutes between 6 and 6.15 to ask various questions relating to getting up.

On the other hand, it's lovely to enjoy their cuddles, strange wisdom and ramdom foolishness and to know that, even if they weren't at all put out to have me gone for four days, they were still very happy to see me back. How can relationships be such a mix of opposites?
Trying out the mountain gear
Being remarkably cheerful about the long walks in Amani

Mount Meru climb

Grandfather and I made it safely back home yesterday lunchtime after the physically hardest few days of our lives! Climbing Mount Meru involved almost no horizontal walking. Two days of steep uphill for 4-5 hours followed by a summit day of a solid 5 hours ascending 1000m in the dark over rugged terain, then 3 hours descending back down, with a short rest before another 3 hours descending another 1000m. Then a final day descending the further 1000 m down to the ranger post to be taken home. Legs are killing me but otherwise we're fine!
Anticipation - the view of Mount Meru as we entered Arusha National Park
Nice lunch spot
Oh dear - tired already
Strangler fig!
The ash cone, with our park ranger Vitus
First hut - Miriakamba
The view from the hut setting off on day 2
Beautiful forest to climb through

And then out into tall heather moorland with some other interesting plants...

and occasional tantalising views of Little Meru
Reaching the summit of Little Meru on the afternoon of Day 2, having first waited out a violent hail storm in our bunks.
No photos of summit climb as we set off at 2 am and did all but the last 10 mins in the dark. Here I am on the peak. Grandfather got to within 300m altitude (but with another hour and a half of gruelling up and down climbing to go) but exhaustion drove him back.  I only just made it myself

We did the whole climb with a swiss lass called Hannah, who was great company. She and I were very pleased to be the first to the summit that day!
Views on the way down - thank goodness we couldn't see any of it on the way up!
interesting plants just below the summit
this little chap was waiting for us back at the hut, to see us off on the final 3 hours of the day back down to Miriakamba hut for 11 hours sleep...
Last day - lovely waterfall near the bottom.
and big beasties to negotiate - buffalo here
And finally driven back home for a hot shower and collapse. Great to have done it but I think once was enough!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Day 682...

It's a long time since 11th December 2009. But still there's no final resolution to the saga. If we've not been updating about it recently, it's not because it's all over, just because nothing much happens and it's not really worth updating anything just to say, "well, we're told it's all going to be over by the end of the month..." yet again. But finally there is a new chapter to report on - no final resolution, mind, but a new set of tales about deniable meetings and shady encounters in airport lounges...

Whilst on the beach last Thursday I got a call from the lawyer's agent in Dar saying I needed to come to Dar on Monday morning at 8am to finalise things. Right, methinks, here we go again... What, exactly, was I going to be required to do? Well, turn up at immigration and meet some people who'd ask me about my statements on the matter and, possibly, then do something else he couldn't tell me about on the phone. I just needed to be there and it would all be resolved. Ah, I thought, so I'll need to bring all the passports then? Hmmm, well, they might be needed. Oh, so not definitely 'stamp in the passport' type resolved then? Right...

Still, after some last minute booking on Saturday I did indeed get myself to Dar on Sunday evening, via a brief trip to Zanzibar, and was happily put up by friends for the night. Early the next morning I headed off to find the shiny new immigration offices, prepared for a long wait. Ariving (on time!) at 8am, I then waited 45mins whilst the lawyer's agent arrived to meet me and after a brief explanation that I was to first meet a really rather high up official in the immigration department (actually, the one who'd originally signed by 'intention to deport' letter) and, if he thought I was genuine, he'd arrange a meeting with someone who really can fix it all up. Right. So we sat there for another 45 minutes before he arrived (though the class of seats inside the new building are much better than the hard wooden benches I've sat upon up to now), and we then had a 20minute chat about things, interrupted about 3 times by various things, before he decided I was fine to pass on to the shadowy Mr L. So he made a call, passed on my number, gave me his number and we concocted a story about how he had come to know about my situation and how the various people were involved without there being any significant paper trail.

Anyway, Mr L promised to call, and we went outside to wait with tea whislt it was explained to me that, as things stand, there are only really two options for a final resolution now - either I get deported, or the guy at the immigration office in Arusha who caused all the trouble initially gets the boot. And the mysterious Mr L, as a senior field agent for National Security, is just the man to do the latter job, if he, too, was convinced that I'm an honest guy... So we waited, and there was no call. So I called, and spoke briefly "I'll call you in 10mins" was the message. 30mins later I called again - "Ah, change of plan, I'm on my way to the airport. Where are you?" After a bit of discussion on a bad line, we decided the best option would be to race him to the airport and fix things up there before he carried on to his next engagement. Fast taxi already on standby, we zoomed around, making the airport at 11am, preciely as arranged. No-one there. We called again, and said we'd wait in a cafe. 11.15. Call again - yes, 3ks away, be there soon. 11.30 Call again - I'm coming... 11.40, ah ha! Here he is, excellent. And so we went through the events of the fatful day again in the airport lounge, Mr L taking notes and asking questions once more. Eventually, we copied a pile of the vairous letters from various people - from University of Aberdeen to the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and a whole host of others, shook hands, and said goodbye. But not before being told I should get some valid stamp in my passport.

So, we called immigration again, explained how things had gone and were told we couldn't get another extension this time, we'd have to do it another way. Suggestion being either to take a brief trip to Kenya ('just pay a little something on the way out and you'll be fine'), or to find someone to take our passports there on our behalf so it at least looks like we've been there ('just give them a little something...'). And so we have it! The lawyers assure me it all went perfectly according to the song sheet and that this is the man who will solve the problem. But we'll wait and see...

Meanwhile Mama and Grandfather have now left on their grand climb, making it safely to the first hut today, jsut before a huge thunderstorm struck, apparently. Yellow-crowned Canaries and Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds the avian highlights so far - tomorrow their mission it to find out if there are still Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds up there...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

ABC 123 Nursery

ABC 123 Nursery is the Mancub's favourite game at present, and fortunately Kitty is quite happy to play it for hours on end as well (unless she's in the middle of a particularly gripping book). I'm not sure if it was a joint creation or Kitty's idea but, unsurprisingly, she is the teacher and the Mancub is the pupil. She sets him up with lots of activities, has created a sticker reward book for him and has promised a special reward when the book is complete (according to her this will be a special activity, according to him it will be bags and bags full of presents... hmmm). They are really enjoying sharing a room at the moment (the Mancub's room doubles as our guest room), apart from the inevitable mess needing to be tidied up before bedtime.

The Mancub is definitely more interested in colour than form at the moment

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Amani and Pangani fun with Grandfather...

Surprisingly, our adventure began in heavy rain. Normally, mid October should be fairly dry, but this year we've had rain for several weeks, most days already. So having met Grandfather off the plane on Thursday evening, we got him up and out promptly Friday morning for the long drive down to the coast. In the rain. Which was sufficiently heavy to have washed many of the temporary pot-hole fillings out of the road, making the whole trip rather more traumatic than necessary. And although it had switched to showers by the time we hit the turn-off from the tarmac road for the final 40kms up to the Amani Nature Reserve, the road was still more than a bit sticky and what could probalby be an hour or so drive in the dry, turned into a three-hour ordeal as we waited for lorries to be dug out of the mud and took things very gingerly ourselves, having decided the Suzuki would be fine for a quick coast trip...
Did cause us a bit of delay. The rescue vehicle on the left was still there, even further down the side on our return on Monday!

Rivers were full though...

And the forest rotting quietly...

Grandfather was brave...

When the sun came out in the end, so did the butterflies - here a glden-banded forester

We rested on logs occassionally...

And spotted strangly behaving birds at times too - this a Shelley's Greenbul, doing what they do...

Even looked at plants - these are wild African Violets

Trees are fun!

Juvenile Usambara Bush Viper - I'm fairly sure, but no-one seems to have a pic to compare with...

Walks are great!
Cute seeping prinias on our night walk

Usambara 3-horned Chameleon (wonder why they call it that?)
Still, the waterfalls were spectacular and our three days in the hills were filled with interesting birds and other beasts. The sun even came out on the last day for a bit! Lots of wet walks and muddy fun though, with the highlight for me a night walk to hunt for chameleons. I was very pleased to see not just one, but 5 of the endemic Usambara Pygmy Chameleon, as well as two other species of larger jobs (also endemic to the mountains here). And a night walk in the mud also allowed us to see some sleeping birds - very cute! We stayed at Emau Hill Forest Camp, which was very rustic (and quite damp!), but very good fun!

I like these guys! Usambara Pygmy Chameleon
Tree frog of some kind...
Still, after all that hard work it was down to the beach for four days to play in the sun, with the rain holding off until we woke yesterday morning to begin our drive back. All very good. Much fun was had by all - Kitty was even persuaded into a mask to enjoy seeing the fish when we headed out to Maziwe Island for some snorkling, which was a first for her. Dolphins on the way back were a treat too.
Fun in the sand for all - bury your brother..

Grandfather's wave machine

Daddy's multi-coloured sandcastle.

To the sea!

A selection of terns and noddies were awaiting us on Maziwe

Kitty and Grandather hunt fish...

Now we're back in Arusha for a bit, though I'm making an overnight trip to Dar tomorrow for what I'm told will be a final interview on Monday morning to end the (now nearly 2 year old!) immigration fiaso. We shall see whether that happens or not! I'll be back Monday night in time to take over family duties whilst Mama abd Grandfather head up Meru (hopefully with the rain still holding off...) on Tuesday morning until Friday.