When I think of my trip to Tanzania, I get an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and pure contentment. When you leave home and travel 8,900 miles to a foreign place, the experience can put everything you know into perspective.
A place like Tanzania can reveal so much about our Western world. Its raw beauty uncovers the truth about how consumed our lives are with insignificant, frivolous things. From our rat race, to our consumerism, to our disconnection from the natural world, these are factors that are foreign to most Tanzanians.
During the first week in Tanzania, our group trekked up the Machame Route, with the goal of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, “the roof of Africa”. After five long days of hiking, we all proudly made it to the summit! They always say: the beginning of something new is always the toughest. This was definitely the case on our first day of hiking through the rain forest on the lower slopes of the mountain. The forest was wet and cold. It was hard to adjust to life on the mountain, knowing that we had five more days to go. After making it past day one, every other day got a little easier, except for summit night.
The night before summiting, our group went to bed at 7pm, and rose 3 hours later to start the trek to the top. We hiked with headlamps through the darkness, only to be accompanied by thousands of shooting stars. I have never in my personal life experienced a night sky like the one on Kilimanjaro. It was magical! We were near the top of the mountain around 6 am and took a break to watch the sunrise. The air was thin, but the beautiful view made up for the lack of oxygen. I have never pushed myself so hard physically, even though I would consider myself quite fit. Things look a little different when you are walking parallel to airplanes. I had a lot in common with a sloth at that point. Slow but steady, we kept on hiking to the top. Around 8 am, we made it to 19,341 feet, the top of Africa!
The last part of our trip was much more relaxing. After the two-day descent from Kilimanjaro, we hit the road. First, we visited the Manyara Lake National Park, where we spotted an array of wildlife. From elephants, to fields of monkeys, all of Africa’s wildlife assembled in a small area to benefit from Manyara Lake. The lake is the main source of water for this diverse community of animals. (Remember the Jungle Book, where all of the animals congregated near a small body of water during the drought for a water truce? Well… imagine that in real life, it was incredible!)
Our last stop was the Serengeti National Park, which is the home of the fictional Pride Rock featured in the Lion King. Smack in the middle of the park, we set up camp and listened to the lions roar at night. Pulling the sheets over my head, I prayed that no lion would enter the tent. What a thrill! The Serengeti spread for miles, extending from Tanzania to Kenya, with animals hidden in pockets of forest around a few water holes or in the grasslands. It was spectacular to witness these wild beasts in their purest state, in their natural habitat. A zoo cannot compare. The Serengeti was wild and raw. I felt as though I broke into these animals’ private homes and violated their privacy. To my surprise, none of the animals were bothered by us watching them, nor were they afraid of us. They minded their own business and went about their lives. I will never forget how free these creatures seemed and how they could all co-exist in one place.
Tanzania’s untouched wilderness captivated me. From rain forests, to mountains to serene prairies, the landscapes were beautiful. Most of the world’s countries are so over-developed and commercialized. It was refreshing to see that part of the world, relatively untouched by western development. Tanzania is filled with pure nature. This bucket list destination reminded me to appreciate Mother Earth and that this world has so much to offer; all I have to do is to help protect it.
This country has reserved a special place in my heart. The people, the natural landscape, and everything else in between, serves as a reminder to take a step back from my little world and truly appreciate what I have. This place reminded me to practice gratitude, remember my fortune and recognize that there is so much the world has to offer. We just need to learn, help protect and explore!