July 22, 2023
It’s hard to put u to words just how amazing and transformative our time together in Africa these past few weeks has been, but I think I speak for everyone when I say this trip is something we will never forget.
What started out as a group full of strangers in a new country quickly became a group of friends, and not long after that, a family. Service taught us to be more appreciative of what we have, Mt. Kilimanjaro taught us to be humble, and safari reminded us to be more curious and to explore the world as much as possible. We have learned a lot of things, done so many activities, and been to countless new places. Rose and I are so proud of this group and how much everyone strives to make the most of each moment we had with each other. We have all gotten so close to each other and shared so many incredible experiences; We have shared laughter and joy, tears and sorrow, and all emotions in between. None of us are ready to say goodbye. All things however, must come to an end.
As we all gathered for the last time in the JRO airport, we reflected upon what lessons we wanted to take home with us and how we might teach others back home about what we have learned during our brief but impactful stay in Tanzania. Everyone is so appreciative for this opportunity that they have been given; none of this would be possible without loving and supportive parents like yourselves!
We look forward to seeing you all so very soon and sharing all of our amazing experiences with you!
George & Rose
July 21, 2023
Our trip to the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park did not disappoint! We saw beautiful views and too many different animals to keep track. Along our journey to the Ngorongoro crater, we stopped at an art museum full of paintings and wood work where we saw wood carvers chipping away at actual tree trunks. At the museum we also learned about a precious Tanzanian stone called tanzanite that is mined at the bottoms of Kilimanjaro. When Turner discovered that this gem is the only one in the world that contains three separate colors, he bartered and purchased one for his sister. After experiencing all the art museum had to offer we continued our way towards the Ngorongoro crater which we learned was named by the Masai tribe for the sound cowbells made when they would take the cows down into the crater to graze. Once arriving at the gate of the crater we were greeted by many baboons and were warned to keep our doors closed because the animals are known for climbing into cars. We went to the breathtaking viewpoint of the crater and then arrived at our first camp, located on the edge of the crater. Late that night Daniel spotted the wildebeest roaming the premises right near our tents!
The next morning we woke up bright eyed and in good spirits, eager for our first day in the Ngorongoro crater. We began our day with many dad jokes from our safari guide Papa John, who loved to sing out different tunes the kids might know. Janie joined in and sang “in the jungle” with him and then spotted our first animal we saw – the cape horn buffalo. We explored the crater seeing a rhino resting, the migration of the wildabeast, flamingos in the alkaline lake, and SO MANY zebras. Next we had lunch and ice cream near a lake full of hippos, where Lucy spotted a baby hippo and teared up with joy. After the Ngorongoro crater, we continued our journey to the Serengeti and had an “African massage” along the extremely bumpy roads. As LOD that day, Eliza reminded us to soak up all the sights in the Serengeti and to never take Tanzania’s beauty for granted.
On day two of the safari, we woke up early for the first official game drive. We learned that Serengeti meant “endless plain,” for it seemed that the land went on forever. We enjoyed an early morning sunrise filled with the sight of nine cubs and four mother lions walking right next to our land cruisers!! Not too far away were two males, which our guide Dennis explained meant we were seeing a whole pride. Jasper spent his day asking questions nonstop reminding us to take every moment as a learning opportunity. While Henry spent his morning a little differently, taking amazing photos of animal after animal- including his favorite the secretary bird and elephants throwing cold mud onto themselves to protect their skin and cool down from the sun. Carson especially was in awe of the baby elephants following their mothers, mimicking them, and nursing under the Serengeti trees.
After a night full of roars from lions, the group set out for another safari day where we rounded out seeing “the big five” which consists of elephants, cape horn buffalo, rhinos, leopards, and lions. We searched far and wide to find the last animal on our list – a leopard! During our adventure, Alex spotted her spirit animal (the leopard) in a tree, along with its meal, a dead gazelle. After a day full of fun and many animals, we experienced the most beautiful sunset we’ve ever seen with blues purples and highlighter pinks decorating the sky. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in the Serengeti.
The next morning a family of giraffes wished us a final goodbye on our way out of the Serengeti. We headed to our final campsite in Karatu, where Sirius dominated everyone in a game of rummy (making his mom proud). And later that day, Jane secured a win in the game birdie on a perch, where she was the best birdie a partner could ask for. That night, Anna shared a special quote from her book the alchemist about living in the present moment for our last day and a half together. We have been soaking up every moment – full of laughter, dancing, singing, games, and a whole lot of sight seeing. We cannot believe the end is fast approaching and we will be so sad to say goodbye at the airport tomorrow!
George and Rose
July 17, 2023
What a wild and wonderful week we have had! It all started off early on Monday morning as we piled into our big bus and began the long drive to the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Everyone was so sleepy, but a healthy mix of nerves and excitement kept anyone from napping on the way to the mountain. As we sat together on the bus taking in the views and listening to music, the cloudy sky slowly began to clear up; it wasn’t long before we had Kilimanjaro in our sights and everyone’s jaw dropped. Even when we were still multiple hours away, it towered over the landscape. No one could believe that the mountain before us, the one whose top pierced the clouds around it, was the one we would all be climbing up in a few short hours.
Sure enough however, we did arrive at the base of the mountain and drove through the Machame gate and hopped off the bus wide eyed and pumped up after listening to a few pump up songs queues up by Turner! Before actually beginning our hike, we all sat down together at picnic tables for a nice lunch prepared for us by our porters. While eating, some sneaky monkeys watched from afar, eager for an opportunity to swipe some of our food. Although none of our food got taken, we did watch another group of hikers have some of their fruit snatched up by one of the Monkeys! Henry, our trip’s star photographer, managed to get an incredible picture of the monkey that looked as though it belonged on the front of a National Geographic catalog. With food in our stomachs and excitement in our hearts, we began our first day on the mountain!
The first hike was fairly long, we had to go up by nearly 5,000 feet in elevation that day. The whole way up we were surrounded by luscious jungle plants with long green vines stretching across the branches above us. It was hard to believe we were still in the same country! As we made our way up the muddy trails, Siorus helped keep everyone intertwined with his vast knowledge of both fun facts as well as riddles. By the time we reached our campsite for the night, the trees that had once been 20 feet tall were half the size as our camp was located between two different climate zones. Because the porters carry our big duffels for us and set up our tents, we were all able to eat a quick but delicious dinner before heading off to bed, eager to begin our first full day together on Kili.
Climbing Kilimanjaro definitely isn’t easy, but our incredible porters try their best to make it as comfortable as they can; each morning we are woken up and offered the choice of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate to drink in our sleeping bags as we wake up and get ready for the day! After packing up our belongings we head to the “dining hall,” which is what we call the large tent that has a long table we all sit at together for each meal. After eating some delicious crepes, eggs, toast, and porridge, we put our backpacks on and continued our journey upwards towards the clouds. The higher we climbed, the smaller the trees became. Soon we were completely out of the rain forest and entered into the heather moreland; we were finally able to see just how far we had already traveled! The views were like nothing we had ever seen before, it’s not every day you get to hike above the clouds. A couple trail songs later and we were arriving at Shira Cave camp! Upon our arrival, our tents were already set up for us and there was hot tea and popcorn waiting in the dining hall. We chatted and played cats games like ERS and Rummy, all the while letting it sink in that we really were on Kilimanjaro and that it all was not a dream. Later that night after dinner and Moonup, Eliza and Jane found a nice rock to sit out on as they stargazed. Soon everyone came to join them; together we sat in awe and silence as shooting stars and comets raced across the night sky. It really is unbelievable how beautiful the stars can be when there isn’t any light pollution.
The next day was one of our longest; we had to get up extra early in order to make it to our next camp on schedule. Not only was today difficult because of the distance we had to cover, but because it would be our first time being at over 15,000 feet in elevation!! Although the hike was long and tiring, Jasper made sure to keep the energy levels and moral of the group as high as possible; he really kept everyone going with all of his hilarious stories. In order to have the greatest success when summiting the mountain and minimize the symptoms of altitude sickness, we take part in a process known as acclimatization. Essentially the goal is to climb high during the day and sleep lower at night. We hiked up to a location called Lava Tower where our porters had a nice hot pasta lunch waiting for us. After eating and acclimatizing we all continued towards our camp which was around 12,000 feet in elevation! After such a long day, everyone slept like babies in their warm sleeping bags.
The next day we sprang right into action as we began our hike by making our way up a rock wall that is named “Barranco wall”. Despite some of us being a little scared of heights, Lucy, Janie, and Carson’s joyful singing made it hard to be scared for long, and before we knew it, nearly everyone had joined in on the fun! After scaling the near 850 ft wall, we were treated to an incredible view of the mountain peak as well as an endless sea of clouds that went on for hundreds of miles. We happily snacked on our protein bars and candy as we soaked it all in! There was only about two hours of hiking after that, and we got to camp hungry for lunch. Our porters served us pizza today and it didn’t take long for everyone’s plate to be completely clean. Between lunch and dinner we did a quick acclimation hike up to a nice viewpoint before heading back to play games, journal, and take much needed naps. We closed out the day with a wonderful Moonup before heading off to bed. The next day we climbed another few thousand feet upwards before arriving at our final camp before we would attempt to summit. The camp we stayed at goes by the name of Upper Barafu. Despite being at such an incredibly high altitude, everyone’s spirits were still high! Although it can sometimes be hard to eat much food at high altitudes, we did our best to eat as much as we could to set ourselves up for the highest chances of success the next morning. We got to bed very early, hoping to get as much rest as possible as we all knew we had a big day just over the horizon. It’s hard to describe what exactly it felt like trying to drift off to sleep before such a momentous occasion but the closest thing I can compare it to is how it feels when you are a child going to bed the night before a big holiday; so much excitement, so many nervous thoughts, and definitely some adrenaline as well.
After what felt like a blink of an eye, we were awake and it was SUMMIT DAY! At 1:30 am, we all were woken up by our porters. It was below freezing outside and there was frost covering our tents. Leaving the warm and comfortable haven of our sleeping bags was definitely a challenge. Lucky for us, we had something big to motivate us; the opportunity to summit the tallest freestanding mountain on Earth and one of the famous 7 summits. We layered up on our clothing, making sure not to forget the essentials like long underwear, fleece pants, jackets, hats, hand warmers, gloves, and to top it all off our big puffy Moondance parkas! Inside of the “dining hall” we are a light breakfast of toast and porridge while listening to pump up songs like “Free Bird” and “Thunderstruck”. As we exited the dining hall one by one, adrenaline began pumping through our veins as the reality of the moment set in. Right before we began our final ascent, George read an amazing pump up speech to the group and we all began cheering and howling with excitement as we took our first steps of the day. For the first few hours we hiked in darkness with nothing but the stars and our headlamps to guide our steps. The sound of heavy breathing filled the air as we all focused on the placement of our feet and the rhythms of our heartbeats. Each step at that altitude feels like 20. Unfortunately about two hours into our ascent, Anna developed really bad altitude sickness and had to return back to Upper Barafu with Rose. On the way down however, Rose and Anna had a really beautiful moment together as the took a break to watch the sun begin to rise. The warm orange tones washed over Kilimanjaros neighbor, Mawenzi peak, until soon enough we could all feel the rays of sunshine land on our own faces and slowly reheat our skin. To make things even better, Abel, our lead guide, surprised us all with hot chocolate and hot ginger tea. So as the sun warmed us on the outside, our piping hot drinks warmed us up on the inside. It wasn’t long before we were back at it, our guides making sure we were walking “pole pole” which means slowly in Swahili. The way up was incredibly long and often times deceivingly so as it would the top always looked a lot closer than it really was. Luckily, the whole way up we had Alex there with us doing such an amazing job at keeping morale high despite many not feeling their best. With a little patience and a whole lot of encouraging, we finally laid our eyes upon the famous Kilimanjaro summit sign. As if someone snapped their fingers, all of the aches, pains, and nausea that plagued us vanished. Five long days of hard work had finally paid off, we summited Mt. Kilimanjaro!!! Naturally the next step was to have an all out photo shoot to document our momentous achievement. Daniel and Alex both pulled out flags they had bought at the front gate of Kilimanjaro a few days prior. Daniel had a USA flag and Alex had a North Carolina flag, both of which we got some pictures with! We spent some time on the summit reflecting on all the effort it took from some many people to get us there ranging from our own legs, the porters strength, all the way to you all as parents giving your children such an amazing opportunity. Rose and I cannot explain how proud we are of each and every one of these kids and we could not have asked for a more joyous, kind, and determined group. It was a team effort making it to the top and it is definitely something that none of us will ever forget.
Finally, we began our descent down the mountain as we reflected on how much each of us had grown individually and as a group over the past week together. Everyone made it safely down the mountain and we celebrated the occasion with a wonderful pizza dinner followed by a closing ceremony in which our porters sang and danced for us! After we said our thank yous and goodbyes to our porters, we were given official certificates to verify that we did indeed summit the tallest mountain in Africa.
Next, we turn our focus towards the safari section of the trip, which will be a wonderful opportunity to see some amazing animals and rest our bodies after such an exhausting week.
George and Rose
Carson – Hi guys, I did it I summited Kili!! I’m having so much fun but I miss you guys and hope you had fun in Florida! Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, Tanzania is amazing and I love and miss you all! Also, Dad you’ll be happy to know that my hiking boots worked quite well lol. Hug Jack and Josie for me.
Turner – I made it mom and dad. Tanzania is a lot of fun.
Jasper-Hi mom and dad, , my goodbye text did not go through sorry. The mountain was crazy; camera died but I am using a friends camera. Looking forward to safari and let felix know for me, love you all!
Lucy – Hi guys! I DID IT!!!! I’m having the absolute best time of my entire life and I’m wishing I could freeze every single moment. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Sending love xo
Henry – hello mother and father, it is me, Henry. The trip has so far been pleasant, I haven’t showered in days and am hoping to take one at the hotel we are going to next. We summited Kili and it was a lot of fun (hardest thing I have ever done I was in extreme pain). Thank you for putting me on this trip, I’ve only lost two things so far!
Eliza – Hi guys! I made it to the top of Kili and even though it was hard I am so happy to have done it and had that experience. Thank you guys so much for this trip it has been so amazing. Love you!!
Alex- Hey Mom, Dad, Kate, and Davis! I miss you guys a lot, but I’m having the best time in Africa and just summited Kili!!! Thanks so much for this opportunity, I loved the service aspect of the trip and made many friends. I love my group too! Hoping Kate had the best time in France. Davis how’s Cassidy. Anyways we are otw to the safari. Love you guys, tell Lulu, Anna, and the 8 I miss them!
Daniel- Hey Mom and Dad, thank y’all so much for giving me this opportunity to go to Africa. I made it to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it was one of the most challenging activities I have ever done. Love you.
Janie- Hi Mom and Dad and Catherine, I miss you and love you so much. I am having such a grand time and love my new friends and LOVE Rose and George. I made it to the summit and cried tears of joy because I was proud of myself and thinking about how much I love my family. I’m craving queso. Hug Tater and Mabel for me!!
Anna- hey mom I miss you so much and can’t wait to see you. Give Bodhi and Gunner a treat for me. I’m expecting shake shack when I get home, I love you more
Jane- Hi everyone! I successfully summited Kili and I’m having so much fun! Dad, thank you so much for getting a bag together for me! I miss you a lot Lucy, you would love Tanzania so much! Happy belated birthday Mom, hope you had a good one! Love y’all so much, see you soon!
Siorus- hi mom and dad. I am so dirty. But also happy to summit Kilimanjaro! Dad had zero faith in me 😔. Im excited to tell you stories about all the things happening over here. Maybe over a plate of 5 guys… I’ll see you guys in about a week. Bye till then!
July 9, 2023
Off to a great start, we began our first week in Tanzania with service at the Mungere School!
Over the past few days we have had the wonderful opportunity to learn about their culture, school systems, lifestyle, all while becoming close friends with them
We got to work in the garden with the kids and helped plant seeds, till the soil, and water it. Daniel had the best digging and seeding operation set up between him and the other students. The garden supply’s the majority of the school’s food and it was special for us to learn and contribute. We had so much fun playing around with the kids – they even taught us dances to their favorite Swahili songs and sang “You Are My Sunshine” to us!
To learn more about the students’ culture and way of life, we walked their normal route to school with them. Jane’s new friend, Bertos, gave her an agricultural lesson on how rice was planted as we passed fields of rice patties. We took in so many amazing views along the way!
It was incredible to see how quickly the kids could form meaningful bonds with each other. Carson got so close to a sweet little girl named Esther. Each day we went to the school she would greet Carson with a huge smile and Carson would give her a piggy back ride each day. Alex also made a bunch of friends and one day let some of the girls put so many braids in her hair!
Another big part of our service days were spent playing soccer with the kids behind the school. The Mungere school students were SO good! However, Henry showed off his amazing soccer skills and footwork which rivaled those of the kids. Jasper was also highly competitive and with the help of Hoba, scored the winning goal in our final game. Sirious also started bringing his volleyball for the group to play with and ended up giving it to the kids to keep at the end of the week. It was super sweet to see the universal language of sports bring everyone together!
After our time spent at the school, we had some well deserved down time at our beautiful campsite where Lucy, Anna, and Eliza were avid readers and enjoyed the beautiful views of Manyara lake. Turner was able to set up his Eno between two trees near the pool after some trial and error and a broken carabiner. At night we spent time around the fire where Janie graced us with her guitar skills.
To begin our final day in Mto Wa Mbu, Sheb led us on a morning hike through banana tree farms and up a mountain to a waterfall where we rested and took in the view. We had the honor of visiting on of the students home’s and getting a closer look at their home life. In the afternoon we went to local wood and paint shops where we put our bartering skills to the test. We finished our day with a surprise pizza party and our final Moonup at camp before our travel day. The kids have immediately hit it off and are so excited to begin our trek of Kilimanjaro tomorrow!
We can’t wait to share about our time on the mountain!
Rose and George
July 4, 2023
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We heard from our leaders last night and the group has landed safely in Arusha! After a few long travel days, the group is ready to get the ball rolling! 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!