Hiking the Usambara MountainsAugust 14, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C
Waking up for your body needing to continue its symphony creation is never a good sign before starting a multi day hike, but I was determined to not let it stop me! We made sure to have both our water bottles full, disinfecting our tap water with our Steripen, and I finished most of a bottle during breakfast alone (and obviously filled it again before leaving). This is where we meet our now best friend and chameleon enchanter, Rogers. I have a terrible memory, so I might be forgetting someone, but I can honeslty say Rogers has been my favorite guide of all times. He's funny, has great English, young at heart and played with all the kids and said a warm hello to everyone we passed.. He could answer any question we had and was a master of chameleon spotting! We started counting the chameleons along the way, joking that he would need to reimburse us the hike if we don't see 50. We got to 21! And last was just as amazing as the first - bright, colorful and changing before your eyes. Amazing creature.
We spent the day walking through villages, up and down littles trails and ending with a walk on the main road going through the national forest. The sun was shining, birds chirping, everyone we passed was happy to say hello to us, the kids were excited to see us (but not in an annoying teasing way, just genuine excitement to say hello). It was absolutely wonderful.
But then we sat down for lunch. Jack and Rogers made some fresh guacamole which we ate with chapati, it was so so good. But I had to go the washroom. Now if we were in the forest, I likely wouldn't have had an issue. But we were in town. And my shyness wouldn't let me ask for a washroom for fear the local villagers would dislike the symphony I would create for them. So I said nothing, and kept hydrating. Once we stood to continue our walk, it's like havind had that break allowed my body to realize it didn't want to continue. I became weaker, tired, my back was hurting from my backup, the uphill road ahead seemed impossible...
After seeing me struggle with my bag, Rogers noticed I wasn't doing as well as the morning. He insisted on taking my backpack but I of course, being proud, refused. That didn't last long, and within a few minutes of the offer Rogers had his bag on his back and mine in his front. I managed to convince both Jack and him that it was just back pain. That I was doing great without the bag... The longer we walked, the weaker I felt. I grew quite. Jack noticed. She knows me a little too well at this point. But she also knew we had no choice but to finish the walk, so I under played it, says I was just tired from the day's hike, and we continued in silence. When we finally arrived to our destination village Lukozi, where a car was waiting to bring us to our accommodation, I wanted nothing but to lay down. I sat in the car while Jack and Rogers explored the town.
When Jack got into the car, she asked for a full update, knowing I wasn't telling her the truth. I had full body aches, my back was spasming, I felt faint despite having drank more then 2L of water, and damit I needed a washroom! Once we got to our room (with private washroom thank god), I had the biggest master piece yet! Full orchestra. Then I layed in bed. Shivering. Aching. Yes, I had a fever. One heck of a fever. And as a tourist, diarrhea might be normal. Vomiting might be normal. But a fever - you don't want. Jack did her nurse / partner thing and fed me Tylenol and refilled my water bottle. I napped for 2 hours. And by nap I mean laid shivering in bed, not able to find a comfortable position.
I got up for diner time, knowing that if I wanted to hike tomorrow, I needed to eat, which I did. Nausea was not a problem. I ate a full plate, no problem. My fever hadn't broke all the way when I started shivering again. I couldn't stop my teeth from clamering, and I wasn't due for more Tylenol yet. I left the table feeling worse then earlier, and went back to bed. Jack came in to 'evaluate me'. No rash. No nausea. No headache. Just diarrhea and a wicked fever that wasn't going away with Tylenol. That leaves a few possibilities, most likely (or hopefully) viral, and yes, potentially malaria. So as nurses, we made the decision to treat what we could - I took Cipro hoping the diarrhea was simply travelers diarrhea. And we decided to wait out the fever, took a second dose of Tylenol early (don't worry, I didn't exceed my 4g per day) and tried to rest. It was a long, shivery night.
Cipro turned out to be our best decision ever! I woke up feeling weak, but no fever, and for the first time I didn't have to run to the washroom!! I can honestly say that was the sickest I've ever felt while traveling (or in general), but magically the fever never came back! I continued a much smaller, string cortet in my washroom visits, but so much more controlled! Modern medicine.
Jack admitted to me in the morning that she was quite worried for malaria... She was already planning in her mind our return to a larger city in preparation for medical treatment. Jack here - I don't recommend reading the health section of Loney Planet when you're loved one is feverish. The concern that fever was indicating something serious, when in the middle of a mountain village, is a hard place to be. Back to Fred: It's amazing to think that something so easy for us to take, so much better after a single dose of Cipro, is inaccessible for so many people in this world. I'm not usually one to over treat, so for me to say I took 8 pills this morning is funny and ridiculous! I started my morning swallowing 3 pills for my morning dose of sertraline (yay anxiety!), 2 Tylenol, 2 naprosyn and 1 cipro! Fyew!
Without my agreement but with my gratefulness, Jack reorganized our bags. And by that I mean she basically put all of our things in my 30L bag, took it and left me with her mostly empty 20L bag. By the end of day, we were both tired from the hike, but healthy! I hydrated, ate breakfast and lunch, I'm amazed of how well I'm doing! The hike was beautiful, through villages and fields and chatting with everyone along the way.
We stayed in a convent the second night, and I didn't burst into flames, yay! Had ourselves a much needed hot shower and relaxed until diner was served buffet style with other hikers.
The 3rd and final day started off similarly with hiking through villages, but ended with a walk through a forests where we saw our first and only colobus monkey! I love me a good monkey!
For some reasons, the kids have learnt how to give high fives here - but they all seem to have the goal of the strongest high five! My hand hurt after a few of them. 'Props' was even worse. They'd wind-up before, and go fo a full punch. We sat for a water and banana break and were instantly surrounded by about 8 kids starting at us. My earrings have been the biggest attention draw so far. To distract them from us, I decided to give them my phone with this toddler game I have called Sensory Baby Fish. All you have to do is touch the screen and you feed the fish, the phone vibrates. I have it on my phone for my little buddy Noah. These kids were skepticle at first, but ended up loving it! They were all pushing to get a chance to touch the screen. Cute to see.
Rogers is a man of many talents - he also is an artist, sells paintings during the low season, and he sings. We started singing random songs together and Jack decided he needed to be introduced to ABBA. Here we are, belting out to Mamma Mia while Rogers held the phone to his ear to actually hear the song. We got some Aerosmith in - I Don't Want to Miss A Thing. I sounded beautiful in these mountains, I tell ya.
Lunch in a village, we said goodbye to all the other hikers we had met on the way and off we went to our final destination - Magumba Viewpoint Inn. This is the most randomly luxurious room! We got the best room in this place and it was included in our hike! Huge round windows in our room overlooking the viewpoint. All the Usambara mountains bellow us, clear skies... Gorgeous way to end a hike. There's even WiFi! We did some much needed laundry and relaxed, enjoying the view, still so so thankful of how well I'm doing. I stopped the cipro after 3 doses because I was doing much better, and this left us with 3 cipros which should cover another round of tourista.
This 3 day hike was informative, fun, challenging at times, and rewarding. It's not often I speak only good things of a hike, but this was great. I highly recommend Rogers - if anyone is reading this hoping to head to Tanzania, call him up!
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