Sometimes I catch myself wondering if this is really happening. It feels like I’ve been here forever and sometimes it feels just like home until I hear snaps of Kiswahili and remember – I am in a foreign land. I am not going to wake up in the morning and find myself cuddled under my desi quilt. I’m not going to hear my grandmother complain about how cold it is and how the world is ending.
I AM living my dreams and that’s the problem with dreamlike events – I have to pinch myself every hour or run up to the window to catch glimpses of my beloved Mt. Kili. This is real. This is also surreal. I can’t believe this is happening and I am here.
Life in Kilimanjaro is different. Everyone speaks English. Its green everywhere. It’s cold. It’s snowing even on the lower slopes. I don’t have to climb trees for the internet and at night, when the clouds lift – the ice cap and the stars are all you can see. Just their vastness and your tininess. It’s life changing. It really is.
I have started to just sit out after dinner and watch the mountain. There’s something about the beauty of nature that makes philosophers and poets of us all. There is no electricity and no roads on the mountain. It is untouched except for Maasai cattle roads that the trekkers use every other week. But sometimes you can see flashes of light in one part of the mountain and then it’s response from another part. It makes me think about life when I see this go on into the night. It is a Maasai warrior trying to find his way back home, maybe a sign to steer clear of the tourists. There are people who live without being touched by the changes in the world – with its brutality and dreadful loneliness. It makes me think of all the things I take for granted even here on this grand mountain. It also convinces me that I could live in a solitary house close to the mountains for the rest of my days and not want anything more.
The immigration man was really helpful and it seems I could stay here for a year without hassles. It will take 2 weeks or more to get the official permit but he told me there wouldn’t be a problem getting it. That makes me day dream about all the things I could do while I am here. The national park is 3kms away and the Jane Goodall Institute is here as well. I wonder if I can just walk up and ask them if I can volunteer even if only for a day. I worry because of my limited finances – I can’t do the tourist thing of visiting national parks and spending $600 per safari. That is my entire budget when I am here. But maybe I can make friends with locals and pass through as their guests.
If I go to Bukoba, I can go through Nairobi, see a bit of Kenya and in Bukoba I can see Lake Victoria, I can walk across to Rwanda and Uganda too. And then if I go to Mwanza, the bus travels right through the Serengeti National Park with its splendid animal life. If I volunteer with Caritas in Same, I get to see the Usumbara Mountains and the rock paintings, explore their caves. Maybe if I’m careful about spending, by the end of the trip I can take a boat to Zanzibar and then to Madagascar to see the stone forest!
See, I told you, day dreams. It’s the mountain air I’m telling you! I can’t help myself and even when I am in transit I feel like travelling more and more and more, like I have been starved all these years. Let’s see. I’m going to take it as it comes. Just as I am going to hitch a ride with this truck right now and ride standing up at the back with the wind in my hair and a spectacular view of the Kilimanjaro mountain range.