July 16, 2018
After having an incredible experience with the Red Sweater Project and then 14/14 of us reaching the summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, I think all of us were thinking nothing could top or even compare to what we had already done. Somehow our final four days of this trip, on Safari in the Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks still found a way to blow us out of the water.
Our guides, Amani and Emanuel picked us up Friday morning in our Land Rover Safari cars and we ventured off. In two separate groups we started our four hour journey to the Ngorongoro Crater with no idea what the day had in store for us. From the minute we entered the parking lot of the national park things were wild. Jewlz’s car was greeted by a family of baboons as they pulled in and one even jumped on the roof of their car. Mary-Mackenzie loved the show the baboons put on; they had her giggling the rest of the morning! Emanuel and Amani quickly told us all to roll up our windows because they’ve been known to jump in the cars looking for food.
As we ventured further into the park we quickly realized how amazing this safari would be. In the first 30 minutes we had already seen lions, antelope, hyenas, and zebras roaming free around our safari car. As we continued to drive through the park the sun began to set into one of the most iconic sunsets any of us had ever seen. Shannon was mesmerized at how the sun seemed to melt each successive cloud, leaving a purple, orange, yellow, and red hue in its path. Izzy set the mood with music from the John Butler Trio and the sun slipped below the horizon as we drove back to the campsite marveling at what we had seen.
At the campsite we prepped for our night amongst the stars, the moon, black mambas, and lions. The hippos also chimed into our nightly nature chorus. As a testament to how close our group has become, every night all 14 of us piled into a tent to do our nightly Debrief, MoonUp. Sharing space, stories, laughs, and life has been an ever present part of our journey.
The next three days were spent in the Serengeti. We woke up super early to get started. We young grasshoppers jumped up early before the sun rose to get the day started. We drove into the Serengeti and were welcomed at a distance by elephants, hippos, and wildebeest. Curiously, the most prized animal of the day was the Ostrich. With skinny , human looking legs and a bush of a body, the Ostrich made for laughs all around. Jackson and Julia both got epic pictures of it all.
Corley lost his hat twice in front of a pride of lions and almost had to go to the bathroom among animals. Luckily Amani was there each time to ensure he didn’t have any close encounters and saved his hat from the wild. Carter made some friends with the other tourists in the national parks and even started rousing games of rock, paper, scissors with other tourists as they passed us in their jeeps.
At lunch Taylor narrated a checkers game, somehow channeling her inner World Cup announcer to turn the sleepy pastime into a game fit for royalty. Lauren’s favorite animals were the giraffes because they remind her of her favorite childhood movie: Lion King. We couldn’t get her to stop singing the Lion King songs for the entire safari. On the final day our guides took us to a special spot where we saw a pride of 18 lions! Liv was especially stoked to see the lions on the last day, watching them rest in the shade and climb on the trees. Tom took keen interest in the leopards sunbathing on the rocks and prowling for their next meal. Duncan bounced back and forth between the two sides of the Jeep to make sure he didn’t miss any scenes. Katie almost couldn’t contain her excitement when we pulled off of the road to see a family of cheetahs resting against a termite mound.
All in all our days in the Serengeti were awe inspiring. I’m sure all of you will see the pictures when the kids get back and understand what we mean. With only two days left on the trip left, we’re ready to spend the rest of our time together soaking up each other’s company. It’s definitely going to be tough saying goodbye after this incredible month together.
Izzy and Jewlz
July 11, 2018
Hey and Hello friends and family!
Writing in with the best news! All 14 of us have officially summited Mt Kilimanjaro. Yes that is right, these 12 epic kids along with myself and Jewlz made it to 19,341 feet. It was definitely not easy, but as all the kids can attest it was a life changing moment none of us will ever forget.
After packing our bags and making sure we had all the right gear, we got on a bus to the starting point. This is where we would begin our 7 day trek on the Machame trail to hopefully all summit this epic beast of a mountain. After a quick lunch at the gate, we were all anxious to start walking, especially our energizer bunny Katie. The first day we walked through the wet rainforest. The trees were canopied above us creating a shady, wet trail. Starting our hike at about 8,000 ft we were all comfortable the first day and excited to get to our first camp. Once we arrived at camp we were absolutely in awe of our porters. Lauren would speak of this feeling continually throughout our time on the mountain. Just complete shock and awe of the tireless work our guides and porters put into our journey to ensure that we all summited safely. When we got to camp all of our tents were already set up and there was a mess tent with the table already set for dinner. Our first day on the mountain was over and we were ready to rest, anxious to see what the next few days had in store for us.
The next morning we were woken up early by our porters by the sound of them knocking on our tent, offering us warm water for washing and hot tea or coffee. Taylor and Mary-McKenzie were left feeling so grateful for these incredible humans supporting us up this mountain. After a good night’s sleep we packed up and got ready for our day. The guides and porters got us all in high spirits because it was Tom’s birthday! Definitely an epic place to celebrate 17 and we made sure it was a day to remember.
By the time we reached camp we were greeted by our team of porters who led us in a celebratory song and dance. Jackson, our group photographer, of course captured the entire thing so you’ll have to wait to see the video because the feeling was indescribable. The joy and welcoming feeling our team brought to camp each day was inspiring. They continuously refer to the mountain as their office and Julia said she could feel how much they love it with each note, whistle and dance move as we celebrated another successful day.
Our third day of hiking was a challenge, but a success! It was the day we gained the most elevation and it was mentally challenging as we climbed up to 15,800 feet only to climb back down. Olivia was a champion as she climbed each hill with poise and strength. This was to follow the “hike high sleep low” strategy in the hopes of acclimatizing ourselves before summit day. As we reached our highest point of the day, Lava Tower, we were greeted by our amazing support team with a hot lunch in our mess tent. Seriously can’t emphasize enough how awesome our porters were. Additionally, our group carried a surprise “golden egg” up to lava tower which Corley did the honor of opening. We were ecstatic that in the egg were GUMMY WORMS to enjoy at the top!
Our fourth day of hiking started with an eventful morning. We hiked up “Breakfast Wall”, appropriately named as we needed every ounce of energy from breakfast to climb up. Shannon reveled in this experience as she felt like it was like an adult jungle gym. While this day definitely was the most intimidating as we started our day staring up at the giant wall knowing we had to make it to the top, our group proved themselves yet again by powering through with no issue. We celebrated at the top with a quick break and blasting some music from Jewlz’s speaker taking in the unbelievable view of endless clouds off in the distance.
Our 5th day tested our strength with steep hills and long switch backs. Though just a short 4 hour day of hiking, we really felt prepared for our summit bid the next day. Finally, it was time for summit day. Our day started with a 3AM wake-up call and a 4:30AM departure. Through the cold, dark, starry night we marched single file. We slowly paced up the mountain, each step more difficult but more beautiful than the last. At 6:30AM we witnessed the most beautiful sunrise we had ever seen. Carter caught a beautiful picture of the sunrise that made each of us jealous. By 10:30AM we were all feeling the effects of the altitude as we reached Stella Point but were determined to push through to Uhuru Peak, the official summit of Kilimanjaro. Finally, at 10:45AM, we conquered the mountain! All 14 of us danced our hearts out on top of the mountain, so excited that we had made it! Duncan picked the song “Ain’t no mountain high” to hear at the summit and wow what a perfect song to sum up our experience.
We are now safe and sound back at our and are prepped for our 3 day Safari that will begin tomorrow. Thank you all for all of your support and positive vibes, we’ll check back in soon!
-Izzy & Jewlz
July 11, 2018
It has been a WHILE since we’ve seen or spoken to all of you and WOW do we have so much good news! These last 9 days have given us so many gifts and so much love that we are absolutely overflowing! Here’s a little bit of what we’ve been up to:
We met each other in the Atlanta airport and Izzy and I could just tell that this group would be special. They instantly connected and conversations started flowing from the get go. That good juju followed us onto the plane and 20 hours later we had arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport! We were then whisked away by our bus driver to our hotel accommodations for the night. The following day we traveled to the on city of Mto Wa Mbu where we would take part in our service project. Not even our highest expectations could have prepared us for what would be waiting for us there. We were welcomed to the Mungari School, the site of the Red Sweater Project, by the staff and the students with warm open arms and big bright smiles. This introduction to our 5 day home was the warmest some of our students had experienced in a new place in their lives.
Soon after our initial greeting with put on our work gloves, took up HOS, and started our work expanding the school’s garden. Lauren’s green thumb blossomed in front of us as she found her niche working in the garden. Mary Mackenzie impressed the local students with her effervescent personality and her dexterity maneuvering a wheelbarrow full of dirt and stones. Jackson wielded a machete to cut the corn husks which would soon be used as the base for mulch with such expertise we wondered if he does this as a hobby at home. After a morning of work we stopped for lunch. After lunch it was all fun and games. Soccer games to be specific. Tom immediately connected with Dominique, a student of the Mungari School. Together they tore up the field and were inseparable for the 5 days we worked at the school. Shannon & Olivia showed us all why they are so good at soccer as they keep up stride for stride with the Mungari school students, some of whom play for the local team. By days end we were exhausted but still so excited to do it again for the next four days.
The next two days followed a similar pattern as the first: working in the garden in the morning and playing with the students in the afternoon. The third day, however, took a turn for the adventurous. On day 3 we hiked to a waterfall close to the school. Julia made a new best friend who showed her exactly which stones to walk on and celebrated with her as we made it to the waterfall. Once we arrived at the waterfall the sight was breathtaking. Duncan commented on how this was one of the most beautiful scenes he had ever looked upon and how the caravan of students that we came with made it even more spectacular.
The next day we woke up early and walked to school. Our walk was about 2 hours long. We learned that this was customary for the Mungari students as many of them walk 2 hours or more to school each day. Carter enjoyed our walk as we passed through small city roads, rice fields, traditional Massai village huts, and finally to the schools gardens. Katie mentioned how incredible it was that in addition to being brilliant, these student’s desire to learn shone forth through their dedication to walking such far distances each day.
The final day at the Mungari School was definitely the hardest. The connections we cultivated and the memories we made were so incredible that saying goodbye tugged at our heart strings. Corley was so moved with emotion that he said his final goodbyes through tears. Taylor, equally as overcome with emotion, described how this place held within it a magical quality that she had yet to experience in her life. As we left the village with misty eyes and full hearts we vowed to never forget this place and the lessons that it taught us.
We spent the next few days prepping for our hike up the big hill we call Kilimanjaro. We can’t wait to report the story of our triumphs!
We love each of you!
-The Kids, Izzy, and Jewlz
July 9, 2018
Hello Kilimanjaro Families,
We have great news! We have just heard from Jewlz and Izzy via satellite phone that the entire group has made it to the summit! They are headed back to camp now reveling in their accomplishment and are, understandably, in great spirits.We are thrilled for this group and can’t wait to read their official update in a few days.
June 27, 2018
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
Our leaders just notified us that the group has safely arrived in Tanzania! We are so excited for them to get their trip started bright and early tomorrow morning.