July 7, 2022
Greeting from Kili 1!
Following a successful descent from the Mountain, the group returned to Arusha to celebrate our success and prep for our safari! We enjoyed a well-deserved pizza party upon arrival back at our lodge; 12 pizzas was almost too much for the group to handle, until Julian put the team on his back and killed the last handful of slices to empty out the final box. We took the same route to safari that we traveled at the start of the session, only now weeks had passed and we had all climbed Mount Kilimanjaro- an incredible feeling! We soon arrived at the Ngorongoro crater where Kal wasted no time in photographing the vast view we saw and Eddie smartly used the highest zoom function to spot a herd of Wildebeest down below! The rest of our drive revealed a herd of elephants to Holtie, Claire, and Markley, while Avery, Julian, Kendal, and Kal spotted several giraffes sticking out of the trees! The animals then wasted no time saying hello in our campsite, as we had a pack of Zebras who loved to peruse the camp and munch on the abundant grass. Claire, Palmer, and Eliza awoke in the middle of the night to hear a zebra right outside of their tent door grazing!
The next morning brought our first full day of safari, with the group waking up well before sunrise to get down in the crater for some morning wildlife. On the descent, Dive and AJ spotted a solo male elephant from afar making his way across the crater! It is harder for these large creatures to descend the steep crater walls, so it was a treat to be able to see one so early on in our day. This was a particularly special day, as it was Oakes’ 25th birthday, so we had a celebration for her at dinner with singing, dancing, and cake! Holtie had secretly bought a big party hat to surprise Oakes with, and we topped the day off with some celebratory ice cream at the campsite which fueled our bodies for an epic dance party. Our dance circle was electric and you could definitely count on Jack being in the middle of it.
On Monday we drove from the crater down into the plains of Serengeti National Park, but not before we stopped at the famous Olduvai Gorge. This archeological site is known for being the place where the oldest and earliest of evidence of modern humans has been discovered so we all took some time to read the signs and appreciate the history. Once we made it into the park, no time was wasted in seeing incredible animals. Within the first hour, we were able to see lions, elephants, ostriches, giraffes, and even a cheetah lying in some tall grass! Seeing dozens and dozens of hippo all sharing one pond was an incredible sight, albeit one that was painfully pungent. After encountering some traffic in the form of giraffe and elephant crossings on the way to camp, we arrived at our new home and enjoyed our first sunset in the Serengeti. The stars rivaled those seen on the mountain and we all went to sleep eagerly awaiting what Tuesday would hold.
Another early arising for a morning safari paid off in spades, as within the first hour we got word there was a leopard hiding behind a rock near the road. After about half an hour of waiting, a hyena approached the leopard’s hiding spot which caused him to stand up and retreat! Everyone got a full view of this majestic creature and we took another half an hour in awe. The rest of the morning brought several families of lions, including one with a small cub (Simba!!) along with all three safari cars getting to watch cheetahs hunt a pack of gazelles! Cheetahs are as fast as advertised, if not faster, and left our whole group with our jaws dropped at the speed and efficacy with which they hunted. Lunch back at camp was not a slowing down point for the day, as a massive 40-50 year old male elephant decided he, too, would have lunch at camp, as he munched on leaves 10 yards away from our dining building. The guides then took us out for a late afternoon/sunset safari, where we had to stop to let roughly 30 elephants pass on the road, including some that were only a few months old. We took some amazing group photos at a resting stop in the Serengeti and soaked in one of the most majestic sunsets we’ve ever seen on a ride back to camp through the golden hour of the Serengeti. Because it was our last night in camp, Cat and Julian decided we should do our moonup around a bonfire at camp, which was an incredible capstone to our time camping together.
The following morning we woke up early and had a 7 hour drive ahead of us, which consisted mostly of good tunes and naps. We stopped for lunch and eventually made it back to Arusha. We enjoyed dinner and somehow were still excited for a night of sleep even though we were in a car all day.
Thursday we woke up and unexpectedly had to change hotels. Although not a part of the original plan, our group was incredibly adaptable and went with the flow. We then surprised the students with a visit to the Snake Park and Maasai Museum. We all agreed it was a good thing we visited the snakes after camping outside for 23 days because had we known what snakes were out there we might not have slept as comfortably. To help calm our uneasiness, we obviously got ice cream. Then went back to the hotel where we cleaned up before dinner. It wasn’t our final banquet but boy did we feast, an endless buffet! Following was, however, our final Moonup that lasted over 5 hours. Our group was incredibly reflective and expressed our deep appreciation for one another, full of laughs and tears. How thankful are we!
Friday we woke up to pack our bags and eat a little breakfast. Then we headed out and grabbed a quick lunch where we had our graduation ceremony/ handed out Kili diplomas and did superlatives. We headed to the airport afterwards and had to say goodbye to Joe. That was the first heartbreak, many more to follow later. Eventually we made it back to the States! Safe and sound.
With much love from Joe and Oakes, we don’t even know where to begin our thanks for this trip! The students changed our lives. They are kind and selfless, curious and adventurers, strong and ambitious. Thank you to all those whom contributed to their participation on Kili this summer. These friendships are just getting started and we can’t wait to reunite! Until then, yum yum….if you know you know!
Joe + Oakes
June 25, 2022
Jambo friends and family!
This past Saturday we began our epic journey on Mount Kilimanjaro! We departed from Arusha early in the morning and arrived to the base a few hours later feeling nervous but very excited. We were immediately greeted by our guides and porters who helped carry all the gear and would set up camp each day. While our bags got measured, to make sure they weren’t overweight, we ate lunch and played games as an attempt to distract ourselves. Jack came up with the idea to make a human pretzel and watching the students try to untangle was quite entertaining. Finally, we were ready to begin our trek on the Machame route! We started off in the first of five different ecosystems, the rainforest. We arrived to camp after dark but had popcorn and hot chocolate/tea waiting on us before dinner. We woke up early on Day 2 to begin our first full day on the mountain. The goal was to travel through the moorland from just below 10,000 feet up to 12,500 feet. By the end of the day we were camping above the clouds! Since we gained a decent amount of elevation it was important for us to acclimatize; we took a short hike to a cave then walked up on top of a mound where we had a clear view of the Kili summit! This is when Holtie’s daily photo shoot began; simply, he would chug his water bottle as an attempt to make the catalog cover. Once we got back to camp, Joe and Oakes guided a leadership grid game in hopes of enlightening the students on their personal leadership style. Afterwards we had free time. AJ, Dive, Cat, Kendal and Joe played card games while Holtie and Palmer found themselves in the middle of a dance circle with all of the porters. The videos they captured are incredible. We then met up in our dinner tent and slept under the most breathtaking stars. Day 3 we hiked a little over 6 miles but ended up camping only a couple hundred feet higher than the night before. We made it to Lava Tower for lunch, around 15,000 feet, where everyone definitely started feeling the altitude…in a goofy way. Following lunch we began the descent to our campsite. We slept in a valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which casted an unbelievable sunset. Yes, we had a massive photo shoot, where the chest bumping photos of Eliza and Oakes continued. After dinner we had a dance party in the tent with Eddie’s strobe headlamp and tried to sing songs we all knew the words to. Tuesday morning brought sunny weather and a new terrain to tackle on our way upwards to Karanga camp. The guides briefed us on the beginning of our hike, starting with “The Breakfast Wall” which is a navigable path that ascends a rock face just next to camp, nicknamed for its reoccurring ability to claim the stomach contents of those who climb it. Fortunately, our group wasted no time scrambling up the wall and ascended safely and swiftly with no one losing the breakfast we had eaten that morning. After an hour of scrambling and hiking, the group was rewarded with one of the best views yet, a clear sky and a viewpoint well above the sea of clouds we could see below. Oakes and Eliza continued their streak of taking chest-bumping photos with the most scenic backgrounds as possible, as did Holt while waterfalling from his moondance Nalgene with the clouds in the background. The mountain was visible in its entirety and the group took some funny and loving photos relishing in the massive scale of the mountain we would soon finish ascending. The afternoon stayed clear for the rest of our hike and we finished our day with an ~800 foot descent into a valley before immediately ascending its opposite side up to our campsite, Karanga camp, located at 13,100 feet. The group ate a well-deserved lunch before taking an afternoon hike up the hill behind camp in an effort to help with acclimatization. Our gracious cooks prepared us popcorn and tea upon returning from our hike and the group enjoyed some time in the warm kitchen tent. Tuesday night brought arguably our best sunset yet, with an incredible golden hour illuminating both the mountain and the clouds. Kal wasted no time in setting up his camera to capture the beauty and excitement that such magnificent views inspired. A warm Moonup was the capstone of another amazing day on the mountain before the group retired to our warm sleeping bags. Wednesday morning brought jitters and excitement, as later that night we would be waking up to head for the summit. We hiked for four hours through the high alpine desert, landscapes that Eddie noted closely resembled Tatooine from Star Wars! Eventually, we reached our high camp of the trip, Barafu, located just a hair under 16,000 feet in the air. The group took afternoon naps before eating an early dinner and retiring to bed as soon as possible, as midnight was our wake-up time to get ready for the summit push. The wind at Barafu made sleeping tough and even ripped a few of the tents’ rain flies! Even still, we managed to get a few hours of shuteye before Freddie, our head guide, made the rounds at midnight informing us that it was time to go! AJ and Dive led the charge up and set the pace towards the summit, with the bitter cold and wind making us very glad that we had our thick parkas to keep us warm! The group leaned on each other to keep spirits and morale high, despite the increasing difficulty of climbing given the heavily decreased oxygen levels. Several members of the group stayed particularly hydrated after Avery graciously shared the bountiful amount of liquid IV she brought with her on the course! After five hours of climbing, we reached Stella Point, located at 18,500 feet, the notorious false summit on the mountain, but a motivating sight nonetheless. The summit sign could be seen in the distance and the group was ready to cap the morning off with success. The push up summit ridge did not come easily, as a few of our students really started to feel the effects of such decreased oxygen levels. Nevertheless, the group stayed as one and took it step-by-step before all sixteen members reached Uhuru Peak together at 8:00 AM sharp, rejoicing in the reality that we had finally done it. The group enjoyed half an hour on the cloudy and windy summit, posing for individual and group photos, while all sharing hugs and tears of joy. Julian pulled out his UGA national championship flag he had been eagerly awaiting to pose with on the summit, while Markley took a quick but very well-deserved summit nap. After half an hour and plenty of cold toes and fingers, the group began the descent back to camp at 16,000 feet to eat lunch and pack up before descending all the way down to our final campsite at 10,000 feet. Our knees were screaming and our feet were burning, but after 12 hours of hiking, we reached our final campsite and rejoiced in our summit success. Two more great meals from our amazing cook team along with a loud and proud porter dance party sent our team off down the final stretch of the trail before reaching the park gate where we would be picked up. The students agreed that this climb was the hardest thing they had ever done, but that they were so glad they completed it. Watching the excitement, gratitude, and realization of potential play out in our students during summit day was one of the most amazing experiences we as leaders have ever had the privilege of being apart of.
-Joe and Oakes
June 18, 2022
Mambo from Africa!!
After meeting up and spending a fun eight hours together in the world’s nicest airport in Doha, Qatar, the group emerged victorious from the travel time warp and touched down in Tanzania! Our first afternoon was spent fighting the jet lag and taking some very welcomed showers and naps after 40+ hours of travel.
On Friday evening, we were treated to an incredible outdoor acrobat show at our first lodge, during which we all got to participate in a limbo and group jump rope! Jack, Markley and Cat crushed the jump roping and had the whole group cheering as they skipped over the rope synchronously. After a hearty dinner and an exciting first Moonup, the group retired to our rooms for a much-needed good night’s rest.
Saturday brought our first full day of the trip, despite the fact that we met on Wednesday back in the states! On our three hour bus ride, we got to see some of Arusha, markets, and stop for some group snacks! Holtie and Palmer were our LOD’s for our first full day and got to select the snacks in a Tanzanian supermarket, far and away the most organized grocery store any of us had ever been in! After a few more hours of travel, we arrived at our first campsite, all exiting the bus with dropped jaws at the beauty of our our temporary home. A pool overlooking Lake Manyara was not something any of us expected, nor was the steel fire pit nearby! After setting up our tents and getting unpacked, the group enjoyed some food and pool time! Julian showed off his aquatic nature, demonstrating perfect kick-turn technique and smoking everyone in swimming races. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing frisbee, bocce ball, and soccer. Kendal and Claire threw the best bocce and emerged from the first match victorious, followed by sneaky victories from Team Avery and Palmer. Later we got to meet our first activity facilitators, Allison and Sheb, to hear about the exciting community service we would be working on for the week! Two years of drought has been detrimental to the school’s ability to grow crops and provide ample food, and our project would be doubling the school’s gardening space. We had the luxury of being able to have Moonup around a fire with an incredibly bright moon, a wonderful cap off to another day full of movement towards our first home base!
On Sunday, Allison and Sheb provided us with a briefing on the program, school, and cultural guidelines that we would need to know for the week. Following our briefing, they walked us into town to see what life around here is like and where we would get to shop later in the week! On our way down, we saw dozens of baboons hanging out on the edge of the national forest, as well as crossing the road! Kal came well-equipped with a camera, two lenses, and a GoPro, and immediately sprung into action taking incredible shots.
Monday brought our first day of getting to meet the students and getting our hands dirty, and we dove right into the gardening and landscaping work! Our students found immediate friends in the school’s students and got to work, with the kids showing our group the way! After a few hours of hoeing, shoveling, and digging, we got to spend the afternoon playing soccer (football) with the students! Claire and Eliza showed off their soccer skills and acted as the player/coaches and team managers, although the school students showed us up with their speed, skills, and endurance! After a fun and busy day in the sun, we returned back to our campsite to enjoy a dip in the pool and some group games.
To start our second day of service, we joined our friends on their walk to school, which took almost an hour! We then got to work, with AJ running point on breaking up the manure pile which was then used to make the soil needed in the garden. Even with dirty jobs, the group’s attitude and excitement never wavered and we enjoyed getting to assist in such a meaningful project. That afternoon, we also played basketball, where Dive, Eddie, and Cat stole the show with their hooping skills, with Dive and Eddie getting nearly every rebound but always dishing the ball back to the kids to shoot! The glee was palpable both from our students and the students at the school.
Wednesday was our last big push on the garden work and the group functioned like a well oiled machine! We mixed hundreds of pounds of soil and transported it to the garden beds for the school, which will allow them to double the amount of vegetables they can provide to their students on a weekly basis. It was a long and hot day, but morale never wavered and we got the job done! We got to play one more game of soccer on Wednesday before hopping back in the Land Rovers that took us back to camp. After such a long and amazing day, almost everyone of us nodded off on the drive back! Our meals back at camp were incredible as per usual and we had an especially meaningful Moonup reflecting on the impact of the last few days and opening up more about each other’s lives. Despite the differences between our students and the school’s, it was incredible to watch friendships blossom so quickly between two groups of people who had never met prior to this week.
Before concluding our time with the students, we were able to venture out on a beautiful walk to a nearby waterfall. Afterwards we ate our lunches then had to say goodbye to our new friends. Goodbyes are never easy, so we are all hoping it is more of a “see you later”. We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to immerse ourselves in such a welcoming community. Although our time was short, the impact the students had on us is unforgettable. To wrap up our time in Mto wa Mbu, we went back to the wood carving shop and outdoor art gallery we visited earlier in the week. After stocking up on souvenirs, we went back to camp to swim and relax before dinner. Dinner was delicious as always, but the chefs made us a Moondance cake for dessert, with chocolate sauce in addition to the icing! It was so kind and we were all stoked.
Today we packed up camp and headed for Arusha! After a two hour bus drive, we made it to town just in time for lunch. One of our guides, Emmanuel, took us to a local food market where we gorged on shared plates that were out of this world! Then we came back to the hotel to pack before our outfitter meeting for the Kilimanjaro trek. All of the talk and gear gave us butterflies, but the good kind. Later we are a filling meal, had Moonup, finished packing and tucked ourselves into a cozy bed because the next few days we will be sleeping under the stars on the roof of Africa!
Talk to you all soon!
Oakes and Joe
SHOUTOUTS FROM THE KIDS!!
Hey guys! We just finished service and I cannot wait to tell y’all everything! The kids were absolutely amazing. I couldn’t love them any more than I do! I wish I could be with y’all for Father’s Day!! Love you! -Palmer
Hi family! I miss you guys and sushi so much. I got some new soy sauce dishes:) We start climbing kili tomorrow! So exciting! I love you so much and Happy Father’s Day Nestor! -Avery
Everything is going fine currently, no problems at all. The day feels long but the trip itself feels quite short, which shows that I’m having fun. Many activities, meeting new people; Happy Father’s Day as well –Kal
Hey family! We just finished service and had to say goodbye to all of the amazing kids! I’m having the best time and cannot wait to tell you all about it! Love and miss you all so much! Happy Father’s Day! -Kendal
Hi mom, dad, Kate, coco, Caroline, Clai, and all my friends who remembered to read this!!! We are on the way to hike Kili right now and we are so excited! I love our group and I am having so much fun. I hope Nashville is fun and that everyone got to all their trips ok! Happy Father’s Day! Love all of y’all – Claire
Hi Mom, Dad, Jax, Kim, David, Billy, Kelsay, Vicki and everyone else, we just got done with some extremely inspirational service and are heading to Kili. I love being immersed in a completely new culture. I love and miss you all SO MUCH. Happy Father’s Day to the most caring Father and I am praying for y’all’s time in Denver <3.-Cat
Hey parents, sisters, Margaret, and LUCIE. I am having fun. Love y’all. Happy Father’s Day -Eliza
Hey fam, and Ella! I am having fun, we start climbing Kili tomorrow!! Miss y’all tons, see y’all in 2 ish weeks! And happy Father’s Day and birthdays mom and dad!- Markley
Jambo Mambo family! I’m having a great time. I miss and love y’all and I can’t wait to get some sushi cafe when I get back – Holtie
I am having a great time. This place is so cool. Happy Father’s Day dad. I love y’all. – Jack
Hello family just finished service and starting Kili tomorrow. Having a great time. Thank you again for this opportunity. Love y’all. See you soon – Dive
Hey mom and dad! Just got done with the service portion of the trip and we start our trek tomorrow. I’ll see yall soon and I’m havin a great time. Love yall! – AJ
Hey guys we just got done with service, having an amazing time. Starting Kili tomorrow. Love yall see you in a couple weeks! – Julian
Edward- Hey everybody! Mom and Dad, thank y’all so much for sending me here. This has been the trip of a lifetime a far and I can’t wait to start climbing tomorrow!! Olivia, hope things in chuck town are amazing and I’ll see everyone soon!
June 10, 2022
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We heard from our leaders late last night that the group has landed safely in Tanzania. The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!