Field Hockey's Shannon Regan spent a month in Tanzania, spending most of her days at a construction site helping build a school. Her last week there, Shannon and other group members hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here is her final blog that tells about her last days in Africa.
Weeks 3 and 4: May 26-June 5
For our last couple days as a whole group together in Tanzania, we went on an overnight safari. On the first day we went to Lake Mynyara. We saw so many pretty animals and the scenery was amazing. It was a lush forest with a big lake in the middle. This was also my birthday, and a spectacular one at that! At night we stayed at a campsite overlooking the Ngorogoro Crater. The view was incredible, especially at sunset. We had a bonfire at night and sang campfire songs. The next day we took our safari down into Ngorogoro Crater. The crater is this huge wide-open space with little trees and plant life. It was exactly what I pictured a safari to look like. We saw every animal possible; lion, leopard, giraffe, hippo, flamingo, jackal, rhino, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, and so many more. The animals were so close to us… it was awesome! We got some really great pictures and it was a great experience. After the safari we headed home to Arusha. For our last night together we had a party. We danced all night and had so much fun. The next morning, 20 of our 35 group members left to go back to the states. It was so sad saying goodbye to people I had spent every day with for the last three weeks. The fifteen of us that were left stayed to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. We started the climb the next day. It would take us four and half days to climb up, and one and half days to hike down. Climbing Kili was hands down the hardest thing I have ever done. The first four days we would hike for about six to seven hours a day. We each carried a daypack during the day with water and necessities, while the porters would carry our big bag with our sleeping bags and overnight things in it. The terrain changed often as we went through every climate but it was very steep and very rocky. At night, we would have hot dinner in a tent and then go to bed pretty early. We slept in two person tents that the porters set up for us before we got to camp. The scenery was beautiful… we were above the clouds! What made Kili even better was our amazing guides. We had about ten guides that led us. They were the most genuine, funny, and caring people I had ever met. We all became very close by the end. On the fourth day we went to bed very early (around 7:00 p.m.) because they woke us up at 12:00 a.m. to start our climb to the summit. When we started the hike around 1:00 a.m., it was pitch black outside, -5 degrees, there were 60 mph winds, and we were breathing in 50 percent less oxygen than normal. The summit was the hardest part of the climb. It was both physically and mentally challenging. We didn’t take very many breaks in order to stay warm. At about 6:00 a.m. the sun started to rise… the view was breathtaking. Thankfully, one of the porters asked if I wanted him to carry my daypack for me, he was a lifesaver. Since they had done this climb 100+ times, they were much more used to it than I was. As we got closer to the summit it was harder and harder to walk. I would take two steps and take three long breaths just to keep going. We arrived at Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters at 7:00 a.m. It’s the tallest point in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. It was something I will never forget. Unfortunately, one can only stay at the top for a very short period of time so we took a couple of pictures and immediately started our descent. The descent to base camp was about two hours. Once we arrived back to base camp, we slept for a couple of hours and then continued to descend. Thirteen out of the fifteen in our group made it to the top, which we were told was a pretty good number. I was lucky enough to not experience altitude sickness, but many others on the trip did. After we got back down to sea level we went back to Arusha for one last night and headed home in the morning. My whole experience in Africa was life changing. After climbing Kili, I feel like I am capable of anything I set my mind too. The trip taught me what’s important in life, and I made many lifelong friends along the way.
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