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Spelke Travels Update #1 (January)

The start to a wild adventure through East Africa and beyond

For those of you not already aware, my twin brother and I are on a seven month trek around the globe thanks to all the motivational support from many at home and the burning sense of adventure Peter and I can’t seem to get rid of! If you’re receiving this it’s because you’ve either shown interest in our where a bouts or I think you should have an interest. I plan to make these emails as brief of an overview as possible for the busy people that don’t have time to read a book. For those that want more, I’m doing my best to update my Facebook with pictures and details…and if you’re not on the FB then please join the 21st century (j/k- I would be happy to send you some pics of the highlights). I've also started this blog to share pics and past experiences...

We have almost finished our first month here in African and have already had many amazing experiences and developed wonderful relationships with all kinds of people. We left Denver January 3rd and after 20 hours arrived safely in Nairobi. Had a day to see the sights of the capital of East Africa before a 4-hour drive west for our Habitat for Humanity Build location.Fired-clay bricks

Fired-clay bricks

The small town of Bomet, (inhabitants of 35,000) tucked up in the Great Rift Valley was our home base for the next 10 days. The Kalenjin Tribe claims most of the land in the region and is know as a peaceful, native farming culture. The family that we helped build a home for belongs to this tribe and runs a healthy 40-acre farm 20 miles from the town of Bomet. Each drive to and from the job site was filled with children racing to say “Jambo” (hello in Swahili) and parents waiving with a smile: a great way to feel the welcoming spirit of rural Kenya!
Each morning the Habitat Team of 24 volunteers would circle up for stretches before starting on the backbreaking work of building a stone/brick home. A little cheesy but Pete and I spiced the routine up with the introduction of “Habitat Jax’s” (inspired from our football days…jumping jax with a breakdown of “Build Kenya”)! Construction consisted of moving a lot of material around (i.e. stone, bricks, concrete, aggregate, framing) and helping the locally hired masons with whatever they needed done. These directed activities consisted of digging down to form the foundation, mixing concrete & mortar, laying stone & bricks with mortar and setting the framing required for concrete pours. It was very powerful to see how well everyone worked together and how quickly we were able to bring the 5-room house to life. IMG_1076.jpgThe family was impressed with our hard work and rewarded us with delicious tea breaks and home-cooked Kenyan lunches each day. By the end of the build we had made friends with many of the locals; Pete got killed in a race against a really fast neighbor, I was invited to the existing homes to gain an understanding of the magic behind the Kalenjin homestead, the Masons offered us a job, and we are both invited back anytime we want!

A perfect way to end a perfect African volunteer experience is to go on a safari! The whole team loaded into safari vans and headed 3 hours south to Masai Mara National Reserve. The better known Serengeti National Park is just on the other side of the Kenyan border in Tanzania. Masai Mara (meaning spotted land) is the same landscape as the Serengeti but with more animal density. We stayed at a camp with fixed tents overlooking the reserve and only a half hour from the thick of big game country. In the three days we were there we spotted zebra, water buffalo, impala, wildebeest, elephants, cheetah, hippos, and lions (to name a few)!Masai Mara Game Reserve

Masai Mara Game Reserve

Each night, after a delicious dinner and time around the fire we were escorted back to our tents by real Masai Warriors in the very rare case we would come across any dangerous animals. The only danger was monkeys finding there way into your tent for food and not having food to feed the cute bush babies on your way. It was sad to leave the magical Masai Mara and head back to Nairobi for our final team dinner but all of it came together great, couldn’t have asked for a better Habitat Global Village trip experience! I would suggest it to anymore seeking a true cultural experience in a developing country to look into it. See their for upcoming trips and ways to support.

From Nairobi we were on our own and decided to have some touristy fun in Tanzania before our next volunteer commitment in Rwanda. After crossing the border we first headed to a different kind of safari experience in the famous Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.DSCF1241.jpg This 12 mile wide crater is the world’s largest calderas (collapsed volcano) that is not a lake. When we read this magnificent landmark holds the highest wildlife density in Africa with the best chance to see predators in action and the almost extinct Black Rhino, it became a must! In order to be there early to see the best game, we stayed the night before in nearby, Mto wa Mbu. This small village is nestled against the soda (large salt flat) Lake Manyara and is known for the large variety of banana the land produces. We toured the lake and village by bike, making sure to stop to hand out pencils to the children, observe a small banana plantation, and enjoy the local’s banana beer (less than 3% alcohol and actually pretty tasty). The next morning started with an early climb and a 1,200ft decent to the bottom of the animal invested crater. We saw almost all the animals witnessed in the three days at Masai Mara within the first 3 hours of being there including a large population of wildebeest. Although the Black Rhino was spotted a few hundred yards out, we still can say we saw it. We also had close encounters with jackals, lions, hippos, and falcons before climbing out of the 7hr safari!

The next spot on the list in Tanzania was Moshi. This quaint and welcoming town sits at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro; on clear days (like the few we were there) you’re able to see the shy 19,344ft peak from town.Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro

There is no lack of “mazoongoos” (white people) in this town and one nice Steeler fan (I know, rare) we ran into told us the cultural coffee tour was a must and since Pete is a sucker for Steeler fans we went ahead with the suggestion. Happy we did because not only did we get to enjoy a delicious (“organic”) cup of coffee made truly from scratch that we participated in making we also had the local coffee master show us a 300+ft waterfall tucked into the lush forest base of Mt. Kili! Waterfall near Mt. Kili

Waterfall near Mt. Kili

The next day we set out to experience the first leg of climbing Kilimanjaro. We were proud to reach the first camp at 9,000ft (Mandara Hut) in 2.5 hours because most programs take day #1 to climb this first 3,000ft. After a quick lunch and exploring a small caldera we made our decent back to Moshi town early enough to make sure not to miss our flight to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Pete and I are now white-sandy beachside on the island of Zanzibar enjoying the sun before embarking on our next experience in East Africa. I welcome adventurous souls to join us on any leg of our trip and please feel free to reply with any advice on the following itinerary…

• End January: Tanzania (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam)
• February: Rwanda (Kigali, Bridges to Prosperity)
• March: Uganda (rafting Nile headwaters, Global Livingston Institute)
• April: Portugal, Spain, France, Switz. (with the girlfriends)
• End April: Germany, Scandinavia
• May: Easter Block, St. Petersburg Russia
• June: Slovakia, Austria, Germany (fly out of Munich)
• Mid-June: Greece (with the mommy)
• July: Nepal (Everest Base Camp), Japan
• End July: Hawaii (finish with a good friend's wedding)

Miss home already and all the wonderful people that make it the best place on earth!

With happiness,

Chris Spelke

“Follow your bliss. The heroic life is living the individual adventure”
-Joseph Campbell

“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid”
-G.K. Chesterton

Posted by cspelke 14:59 Archived in Kenya

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