Travel

Traveling In Israel — Part Two

Traveling Israel in summer 2018, visiting and studying historic sites. Second part of two posts.

Israel takes time to get adjusted into. Grasping the historic, cultural, religious breadth and depth takes a while. Jerusalem is the holy city for three major religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, no other place on earth has such significance.

Pro tip: when visiting Jerusalem, the old town in particular. Download Jerusalem Audio Waking Tour app from your app store. It has several interesting tours you can follow your own pace, and focusing things that interest you. Besides, it’s free.

Jewish Temples. Over the course of long history, Jews had two significant temples that are long since been destroyed, but hold a special place in hearts and minds of the Israelites. First temple was built during reign of King Solomon (reigned BC970–931), the most famous king of ancient Israel. Solomon’s predecessor King David had brought the Ark of Covenant into his new capital of Jerusalem. But it was Solomon that built the permanent temple for keeping the ark secure in a chamber called holy of holies. Solomons temple was destroyed by Babylonians (BC587) and Jews were sent into exile in Babylonia. Similar incidents occur throughout the Jewish history, Palestine being in a cross roads of three directions where major powers grew: Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greco-Roman world.


Large model in The Israel Museum, of Herod’s Jerusalem, circa AD70. Jewish Second Temple is domineering structure above rest of the city. Museum houses also famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Definitely worth a visit, but reserve enough time, 5hrs at least!


At Western Wall. Current 500meter wall was once a section of Herod’s Second temple.

Centuries after returning from Babylonia, a Second Temple built at the site of previous one. This was then largely improved and re-engineered during reign of Herod (reigned BC37–4). Herod wasn’t independent king like Solomon had been, but a Roman client king of Judea, and thus not as popular ruler. Although he did grand building projects, those were to be short lived. Judea would erupt into open revolt against Romans, and Herod’s temple would be destroyed as a retribution once rebel had been quelled. Other outcome of the civil war was Jewish dislocation into other countries, that would last almost 2000 years, until foundation of modern Israel in 1948. Herods Second Temple is still a source of pride and identity for Jews, especially after archeology has revealed how majestic it actually had been. Western Wall, known also as Wailing wall, is the only surviving part of the temple. Wall was the destination of Jewish pilgrims during all the centuries of diaspora. These trips were often dangerous and expensive, sometimes completely denied, when region was controlled either by Christian or Muslim rulers. After 1963 Six Day War, old city of Jerusalem and Western Wall returned to control of Israel.


Hurva Synagogue.

New-old synagogue of Hurva has been built many times over the centuries. Even it’s name means ruin, as most of the time it’s place has been vacated by rubbles. 19th century Hurva was neo-Byzantine style, construction was supervised by Assad Effendi, the sultan’s official architect. It was destroyed by Arab-legion in aftermath of Israeli independence war in 1948. Current synagogue is reconstruction of it and was completed in 2010. To my eye current building resembles also grand mosques of Istanbul.


Immovable ladder.

Christian holy sites. Once Christianity had became state religion in Roman Empire (AD324), and especially later in East Rome, state became active patron and guardian of the holy sites of Palestine. Members of Byzantine royal house and other notables helped to organize and fund improvements of churches, monasteries or facilities such as guesthouses that growing number of pilgrims needed. Emperor Justinian (reigned AD527–565) was famous for his grand building projects. For example the impressive Hagia Sophia of Constantinople was built during his reign. In Jerusalem magnificent Nea church (New Church of the Theotokos) was described as jewel of Byzantine Jerusalem. Nea church as long since disappeared to history, but its foundations are still visible today.


Via Dolorosa is famous route that Jesus supposedly walked into his crucification. Christian pilgrims have followed this route for centuries, from Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, through Jaffa Gate into old town, and then to Golgatha, place of Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Exterior of Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Interior of Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


The Aedicule, which contains the Holy Sepulchre. The Aedicule has two rooms, the first holding the Angel’s Stone, the second is the tomb of Jesus itself.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre (consecrated 335AD) is perhaps the most important church of whole Christianity, and very impressive sight to this day. It’s built on a site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Golgotha, from pages of Bible, is actually inside the church, likewise is his grave and several other stages of the biblical legend. Because such an importance, six Christian religious orders claim rights over the use of the church. For centuries this caused friction of church affairs, until Ottoman sultan in 1852, tired of governing the various squabbling ordered the status quo: nothing in church to be changed or moved. Immovable ladder above the main entrance is seen as a symbol of this state of affairs. Christians also do not have control to the keys of the church. For centuries, it has been trusted for safe keeping by a local Muslim family.


Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’ body is said to have been anointed before burial.


Nazareth. Modern basilica is built above the sunken grotto which according to faith was the home of the Virgin Mary, and the place where she received the announcement of the imminent birth of Jesus.


Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. It is one of the oldest churches in the world, original was completed sometime between AD333-339 (Armenian Etchmiadzin Cathedral is even older, being first built in AD301. See more here). Citadel-like structure of Church of the Nativity is built on top of the cave where Jesus was born to Mary. To reach Bethlehem, one has to cross the border to Palestinian side.

In usual Christmas imaginary, place of Jesus birth is often depicted as stable or barn. Place in Bethlehem is actually a cave.

What do the maps tell?

1400 year old Mabada Map and current satellite images. North is on the left side of both images.
Cardo maximus was main street in ancient Roman cities. Looking carefully, its outline is still visible in Jerusalem old town today. It is marked as blue in both maps, beginning from Damascus Gate (blue circle) as two parallel streets. It was also main thoroughfare for shops and markets. Mabada maps show location of Church of the Holy Sepulchre and site of New Church of the Theotokos (“N” in lower map) that does not exist anymore.


In red, Via Dolorosa, Christian pilgrim route to Golgatha (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) where Jesus was crucified. Green circle is Dome of the Rock, holiest site in the city for Muslims. Mabada map was made during centuries when Jewish Second Temple had been destroyed, but Muslim shrine hadn’t yet been built. And yellow line, Western Wall where Jews go to pray their God. Western Wall being only surviving section of Second Temple.

Advertisements

In Holy Land — Part One

Traveling Israel in summer 2018, visiting and studying historic sites. First part of two posts.


Dome of The Rock is third holiest site for Muslims (after Mecca and Medina). Its not a mosque, but a shrine built on an ancient Jewish temple site. Nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque is also from the same period, when Muslims had first conquered the Palestine, late AD600.


Current walls around Jerusalem old town were rebuilt around 1535, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire. History of east Jerusalem (old city) dates back least 3 millennia.

Zion Gate, scarred by riffle fire from 1948 Israeli Independence War.


Old port of Jaffa as a backdrop for easy going beach life. For centuries Jaffa was gateway to Palestine. Jerusalem is inland, and road from Jaffa gate leads all the way into this port. Nowadays Jaffa is historic neighbourhood and part of city of Tel Aviv.

Traveling in Israel is easy. Everything from transport to finding a way and getting around is convenient. Public transport is efficient, automated, and runs often (excluding during the Sabbath). Also because the area of Israel is so small, it doesn’t take long to travel across the country. Israelis embrace the digital to the fullest. Once I couldn’t even walk into a pizzeria and place my order, without needing get mobile app to my phone for it. People are skilled in languages. Besides domestic Hebrew and obvious English, they often master third or more languages.


Beersheba downtown. City is modern, although it has few historic sights to see.

Beersheba. Arrived to town in Negev desert after an hour bus drive from Jerusalem. Beersheba itself, is an hour drive from Dead Sea resorts such as Ein Bolek and Ein Gedi. Temperature there rises to tormenting heights, saw 45 Celcius in mid summer mid day sun. Sea is 350meters bellow the normal sea level. Swimming is interesting experience, water is very warm and because the salienation, human body is actually lighter than the water. It would be impossible to dive under, if someone would be crazy enough to try. Salty water in eyes is painful experience!


Dead Sea seen from Ein Bolek, two hour drive from Beersheba. Opposite coast belongs to Jordania.

Sabbath. Was caught off guard by Israeli weekend. I knew “everything will be closed” but didn’t expect it to be so thoroughly like-Christmas-night closed. Friday is day of rest and prayer for both Jews and Muslims. Everything from small kiosks to shops, restaurants and cafes are closed. Sabbath is family occasion above everything else, and streets are almost void of traffic.


Shrine of Baha faith in city of Haifa.


Old Akko (Acre). Like port of Jaffa, Akko was gateway to Palestine for centuries. It was important port during the time of Crusaders. 1799 Napoleon also tried to muscle his way in, but was stopped by local Ottoman forces helped by British navy. Today old Akko is popular tourist destination, while modern part of city can be seen as part of Haifa metropolitan area.


In West Jerusalem. This part of city started to grow in 19th century, outside the confines of over crowded East Jerusalem.


Jerusalem at dusk.

Israeli Defense Force Soldiers. Having strained relations with its neighbors, Israel is in constant state of military readiness. IDF soldiers can be seen everywhere and most seem around 19 or so. It’s strange to see kind youthful face, almost a child still, lugging an automatic weapon in public places. And, how normal this is considered by everyone. Soldiers usually wear green/brown uniforms and boots, but it’s not rare to see soldier on a holiday, wearing shorts, t-shirt, slippers, and carrying a weapon. Or a young lady, with a chic handbag slung over one shoulder, and assault riffle over another. After 2-3 year long military service, it’s a tradition to take a long vacation abroad. South East Asia, South America… Somewhere away from stressful army life.


West Bank Wall separating the Jewish and Palestinian neighbourhoods.


Graffitis in West Bank wall, tradition that has continued since 2005 by artist Banksy.

South India: Kerala, Cape Comorin, Madurai

Journal entry of traveling southern India in winter ’11-12 (Reblog with more images).

January — Crossed border of Tamil Nandu state, and arrived to Cape Comorin. Kanyakumari, as locals call the cape, is the most southern tip of Indian subcontinent. There are couple of temples and large statue of Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet, is standing on an island. This is the only place in India to see both sun rise from sea, and landing back there at dusk. Lot of tourists visit it also for this special feat.


Statue of Thiruvalluvar was built 1999.

Kerala was an interesting experience. One of the curiosities that caught my eye was the Communist posters and ads everywhere. Arriving north, I stopped first in Kannur, then Calicut, neither didn’t offer much to see. After arriving Kochi thought its the same story, but it turned out to be best visit in Kerala.


Gone fishing. Chinese fishing nets in background in Kochi.

Kochi is complex of islands, archipelagos and backwaters. Town in continent side is called Ernakulam, that’s also where bus and train stations are. Old Fort Kochi is next to the beach and Chinese fishing nets and provide interesting sights to explore and photograph.


Munnar, a picturesque hill region is famous for tea plantations.


Exploring Kochi backwaters.

Kathakali is dance performance particular to Kerala. It is storytelling by dance and gestures. Actors are men only, and do roles of women as well. They are covered in strong makeup and elaborate costumes, careful preparations before performances is part of show. Stories are ancient Kerala’s and south Indian folklore, mixed with legends from Hinduism. Shows are arranged frequently in Kochi for travellers to see. @ Kanyakumari


Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum. Read fascinating history about this place: link.

February — Arrived to Madurai couple days ago to see its famous temples. Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple is in the center of the city. The complex is just as ancient as it is enormous. Spirituality and sounds from rites pulse through the thick stone walls. Temple itself is inside the several high walled perimeters, and there are numerous side shrines for various Hindu deities. Visitor can come across big elephant, or small mouse running at sides of corridor. And anything in between! @ Madurai


Photos from Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

India in Miniature: Varanasi

Journal entry of visit to Varanasi, spring 2012. (Reblog with more images)

Varanasi is said to be first places on earth where light-bulb of human civilisation lit up. It is contemporary with cities such as Babylon, Niniveh and Thebes. While these civilisations have long since disappeared, Varanasi has been continuously inhabited during all this time, 3-4000 years. Travel guides describe Varanasi as India in miniature. Its good and not so good features, all compressed into one place. Colourful pilgrimages from all around the vast country, worshipping and purifying themselves in the holy river Ganges. But also, herds of tourists, touts, beggars and drug dealers. And not forgetting numerous cows, buffaloes, dogs, monkeys, and other tail-waggers.

March 17 — First day in Varanasi has been incredible, the place overwhelms even after several months in India and its hard to spare superlatives describing it. After dusty sweaty day; dusk surrounds the river, old town, ghats (washing and purification platforms), and all the life that goes on. As orange disk descends behind the buildings, sparrows race lower air, haze blurs the purplish horizon. Another day in the eternal city has come to an end, night ceremonies are awaiting to be started.

My night train from Siliguri (at foothill of Himalayas and Darjeeling) arrived well ahead of schedule. I was lucky to wake up around 1.15am when train motion stopped. Stepped outside my cabin to ask how many stations still to go for Varanasi, and thats actually where my train was standing! A miracle that didn’t forget anything in my cabin, while rushing out of train half asleep and unprepared. Finding accommodation at that time is another story, waiting morning at the station simply wasn’t an option. Local travelers had already camped the floor space, benches and everything. I was also surrounded by hotel touts and tuk-tuk driveres that seem to wait in the station at all hours. Circling around the station for a while, finally gave up to one of drivers who took me to hostel owned by his pal. Anyway, even just one day here, easy to see this is going to be one of highlights of my trip! @ Varanasi


OMG.

March 21 — Varanasi is an ancient maze of buildings, labyrinth of corridors, usually not more than 2-meters wide, full of people, scooters, cows, dogs, chicken, monkeys… After leaving the river front, it can reveal nice surprises like restaurants and shops. Knowing that river is never far away helps with fear of getting lost. Found a nice restaurant that serves personal South Indian favorite, Masala Dosa. Here in North its not so common, been missing it!

Varanasi is for Hindus what Mecca is for Muslims. Legends say it was found by Shiva, supreme God of Hinduism. One should visit least once in a lifetime, and to die here, will release a devout Hindu from the cycle of rebirth. Funerals are taking place in two cremation ghats by the river. Body of deceased and his/her relatives arrive to funeral from all around India. Carrying bodies (wrapped in cloth) to cremation site is yet another surprise unaware traveller can come across here. When cremation fires have burned, ashes are spread to Ganges. Not everyone needs purifying fire in their funeral though. Bodies of children and pregnant women are considered pure and can be buried to river without cremation! Praying and purifying rituals are ongoing by the river throughout the day, but main event is the sunrise around 6-7am.

Ganges water isn’t warm, noticed it last night when washing my feet and sandal after stepping in a darkness to a “mine” dropped by a passing cow. This morning, woke up at early to see sunrise, and while walking to ghats, cheerful young dog joined me. Spotting nice view by the river, left my camera bag on ground and started taking photos. When finished, saw my camera bag was promptly “marked”, and dog disappeared. So another wash at the cool waters was needed. Hindu’s consider every drop of Ganges holy. Pilgrimers fill bottles from the river before starting journey back home. Saw often people washing themselves, including washing their teeth in it. @ Varanasi


Prayer rituals at night time are spectacle of their own.


Ganges makes a long curve, and ghats are situated so that pilgrims face directly towards east where sun is coming at morning. Its easy to see why location was chosen for the prayer site all those millennias ago.

Rajasthan — India’s West

Visiting Golden and Blue City in Thar Desert, spring 2012. (Reblog with more images and information)

April 8 — Rajasthan sun is merciless. Hot dry breath of wind blows over the dunes and through the ancient desert town. Am in India’s western border. Jaisalmer used to be trade post between east and west, until sea trade replaced camel caravans. After independence and partitioning of India, 1947, Indian-Pakistani border closed much of the regional trade as well. Name Golden City comes from yellow sand stone that is building material for majority of buildings.


Jaisalmer Fort.

My guesthouse arrange camel safaris to the desert. Decided to go with a traveling pal I met in the train. Seemed then like a great idea then. Now am wondering how on earth am going to survive, when even the shade of town seems too much. After washing, clothes are dry after two hours of hanging. @ Jaisalmer


Visit to desert.

April 10 — Back from desert! Air is exhausting from 9am to 5pm and temperature hangs over and under 40 Celsius. At evening winds get cooler and night air is almost chilling. I slept outside in open desert. Its exhilarating feeling, lying in bed and gazing up to bottomless silent night sky. Stars shine as bright as they possibly can. All sounds are natures own: camel munching grass, fire rattling in campfire, night bird cocooing somewhere in darkness. At first its hard to catch a sleep, but eventually the inevitable happens… @ Jaisalmer


Mehrangarh fort.

April 14 — Continued my journey to Jodhpur, the Blue City. Weather here has been nice relief after Jaisalmer. It has rained every afternoon. Yesterday night winds were strong and thunderstorms did show of drum and light over the Mehrangarh fort. Fortification stands on a cliff, and city has grown around it. Houses are colorful and have more variety than in Jaisalmer. Areas in old town are painted blue, from which city has gotten its name. Tradition originates from cast divisions that dictated who were living where.


Rich merchants used to show off their wealth, by building their homes extravagantly. They are called Havelis in Jaisalmer.


Zenana Deodi. The inner courtyard of Mehrangarh fort was once guarded by eunuchs. This is where the Maharaja’s wives lived.

Fort is definitely worth visiting. Audio guides were excellent, and place is fascinating adventure to history both in and outside. Marwars of Jodhpur had semi-autonomous status during reign of Mughal centuries (1526–1857). Wild desert region and proud warriors living here proved too much for even mighty Mughals to repress entirely.

Sati and Jauhar Traditions of Rajasthan

While walking by the big entrance gate of Jodhpur castle, I noticed curious hand insignia’s carved by the gate wall. They were painted in red and had decoration of fresh flowers on them. This is a shrine for widows of Maharajahs that had committed a Sati (seti, suttee), a self immolation.

Sati was practiced among aristocrats, and was at the time accepted practice in Hindu religion. Michael Edwards, British India 1772-1947:

… In 1780, the deceased Raja of Marwar was joined in death by sixty-four wives. A Sikh prince of the Punjab took with him ten wives and no less than three hundred concubines

Jauhar had to do with harsh reality of desert life: isolated communities living where marauding armies could (and did) appear out of nowhere and without warning. Jauhar, for men meant fighting and dying a certain death in hands of enemy. These events repeated several times during the history of Rajasthan. British banned immolations in 1829 and later independent India continued the work. Sati Prevention Act from 1987 makes it criminal to aiding, abetting, and even glorifying the act of Sati.

Coincidentally, years later learned another angle about the topic. This time in a museum in Iran:

Paintings … include the scene of a banquet in Persian and Indian style in which the wedding ceremony of Reza Qoli Mirza, son of Nader Shah and an Indian princess is shown. Another part of the picture is “Seti” ritual in which some Indian princesses commit suicide by being burnt with the corpse of their deceased husbands and this is regarded as a sign of their intense love.

Aside the fact that such ritual was also known in Iran, during the rule of Shah Abbas the second an event happened which connected this ritual with Kandahar conquest episode. Probably the significance of the event for the Safavid culture system caused its illustration upon a Chehelsotoon wall.

One of the most important historical events during the reign of Shah Abbas the second was re-conquest of Kandahar by Iranian army from Indian Gurkanis (Mughals) in 1655 AD. As a story goes twenty days after the beginning of Kandahar siege by Iranian troops, one of the high ranked Rajas of Indian Gurkanis by the name of Matrodas … passed away suddenly. His distressed wife decided to observe the Seti ritual according to her ancient religion. Therefore, she adorned herself with various jewellery and got ready to set herself on fire. Afterwards she took her husbands body and went toward the fire accompanied by her relatives. At this time, Dolat Khan, governor of Kandahar tried to change her mind by giving advice but she remained silent and reluctant. When Dolat Khan and his attendants found out that she is very determined in her cause, they allowed her to go on. At this time the woman began taking off her jewellery on her way and throwing them toward the crowd. After reaching the destination she sat down and embraced the head of her husband. By this time, her relatives had brought a pile of firewood and after putting it around the dead man and the bereaved woman, had set it on fire. Rajput Hindus of the time believed that the words of anybody who was committing suicide in this way was trustworthy and would come true doubtlessly. Therefore, Dolat Khan sent a man to ask the dying woman whether the kind of India would dispatch any reinforcements to break Kandahar siege and whether the Qezelbash army would return to Iranian court empty handed?

The woman answered: “No reinforcement is on its way from Indian king, therefore the victorious Iranian army will conquer the castle in forty days. But about India it must be said that after eleven years a great languor will occur all over the land.”

At this point the woman was not able to talk anymore because the flames consumed her entirely. After this event the messenger of Dolat Khan told him what he had heard which made the governor and his attendants quite disappointed. After forty days her forecast came true and the Iranian army entered Kandahar.

Shah Abbas the second became very impressed by this story so he ordered the depication of it on the walls of Chehelsotoon in order to pay his respects to that courageous woman.


Cannon in Mehrangarh fort museum.

Tazara Railway and Victoria Falls

Tazara stands for Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority, originally this 1800 km track was built by Chinese in 1970’s. This journal entry is from my trip from Dar es Salaam to Victoria Falls in autumn 2010. (Reblog with more images)


On the journey somewhere in Tanzania.

September 26 — First day in Dar es Salaam, or “Dar” as locals call it. City is by the sea, there are few restaurants and hotels, but not as much as one could expect from the size of it. This was once center of German East African colony. British annexed it during First World War. Some buildings e.g churches are from that period, although most seem newer. Population is mix of Muslims (city was found by them, and has easy access from Middle East), Christians that came during colonial period, and Indians, also relatively close. Nowadays Chinese seem to grow their presence in this part of world. New cars and motorbikes are Chinese, infrastructure projects also done by them. Dar is biggest city and main port of Tanzania. It’s also industrial center of this otherwise rural country. There are also tourist attractions near by, Zanzibar for example. @ Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Views from Dar es Salaam harbor and fish market.

September 27 — Managed to find myself way forward from Dar. Solution is Tazara train from Dar to Capiri-Mposhi, near Lusaka in Zambia. From there Victoria Falls should be relatively close. @ Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

October 2 — Tazara is around 1800km track built by Chinese in 1970’s. Chinese letters come by everywhere, in buildings, machines. 40 years ago during cold war, Africa was divided into two sides like rest of the world. Zambia had copper available for world trade, but difficulties delivering it abroad. Mao’s China stepped in to help with African comrades, Tazara railway was largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by China at the time.

Our train left 12 hours late from schedule! At night, we thought there was riot breaking out at the station. People were protesting delays, everyone exhausted and angry of waiting. Heard two possible causes for the ordeal: technical problems with the old train, and politics of two jointly operated railway, between Tanzanians and Zambians. Eventually train got rolling, and has been going steadily ever since. Train is nice way to enjoy views of African countryside, relax, read and just hangout more freely than in sardine can of a bus. @ Train from Dar es Salaam to Capiri-Mposhi


Views along the route.

On every station people were selling fruits and food for the passengers.

October 4 — Our trip has progressed nicely, two full days in train from coast to inland. Irony of long delay in the beginning, was that train could have not arrived better time in early morning. From Lusaka I got nice impression, and would not mind to stay there a while, unless transit didn’t arrange so conveniently. Bus to Livinstone started interestingly, preacher marching in our bus back and forth and waving his bible. He shouted to us about dangers of AIDS, poverty and other things people dislike. Finally after couple hallelujahs he collected alms, thanked and left. Blessed trip indeed! Least from quick glance from bus, Zambia seems more industrious than Tanzania did. Roads are better, houses in good paint and modern equipment in agriculture, machines instead of human and animal labor. Been meeting interesting travelers from USA, Australia, Japan and of course Africa. @ Bus from Lusaka to Livingstone


In Livinstone.

October 5 — Livingstone is small Zambian town at the Victoria Falls, and has managed to turn its tourism revenues in favor for local community. Main street can be seen in 10 mins, but there is basically everything one can ask for: markets, banks, post office, few bars, restaurants etc. Streets are good, road was excellent all the way from Lusaka, town is clean.


Zambian-Zimbabwean border.

Falls themselves are just as stunning as one might expect. Peak of rain season is in April, thats when water masses coming down from cliffs are in their biggest. Rocks are reverberating due to falling water. Now in October it wasn’t bad either, one can go walking to rocky upstream, go swimming in natural pools that river has carved. Some pools are only few steps away from two hundred meter fall, it’s surreal feeling to go swim in them. Falls are by the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, both sides have great views. At the entrance there is statue of Dr.Livingstone, founder of the falls and African explorer, big hero of his time. He eventually died in this town because of Malaria, and buried in England in 1870’s. @ Livingstone

Kilimanjaro Climb Diary

Diary from camps along the climb highest mountain in Africa, autumn 2010. (Reblog with more images)


Crossing Kenyan-Tanzanian border.

Sept 18 — After a ~6 hour bumpy drive from Nairobi, I crossed Kenyan-Tanzanian border and arrived to Arusha. Moshi and Arisha are two towns at the foot of Kilimanjaro mountain. Road was very bumpy and both we and our bags were jumping along the way. While road was bad, views were interesting. Never seen African savanna before. Tomorrow begins my 5 day climb to Kilimanjaro, tallest mountain of the whole continent. @ Arusha, Tanzania


Climb beginning from densely forested foot of the mountain.

Sept 19 — We came in the morning from Arusha and started climbing Machame route which is second hardest way to top. Wish I brought enough clothes with me, temp here in 3000 meters is already close to 0 at night. Most of todays climb was in the rainforest, but first camp is just where forest ends. Track was well maintained, should be doable also in rain season. @ Machame gate to Machame hut


Forested low slopes of mountain.

Sept 20 — Nights up here are really freezing, which probably is not surprise to anyone but me! Second day climbing wise was tougher than first but still manageable. Climb took only 5h today, and we started early so had plenty time once camp was reached. Second camp is in more open ground than previous, more space for tents, but winds are stronger. Had a problem getting sleep previous night, hope this is better. @ Machame hut to Shira hut


Arid lava fields and rocky towers.

Sept 21 — Its 2.30pm and am sitting in my tent after climb today. Route was mix of up and down hills and crossing volcanic valleys. Descending was real pain for knees, 0.5-1 meter jumps all the time. Anyway, it went fine without incident, but my back pack felt heavier than before this trip. Nature is simply beautiful and worth all the trouble. Looking at fantastic volcano moulded valleys, cliff walls and towers makes sometimes feel dizzy and risk of losing balance. @ Shira hut to Barranco hut


Having break and rest in between climbs.

Sept 22 — Today was most exhausting day so far, 8hrs of rising and descending hills surrounding the mountain top. We finally reached Barafu hut from where we start climb to top at midnight. Muscles are protesting, but guess one more day is fine. Kilimanjaro, even from this high elevation at 4600 meters looks majestic and remote, impossible to reach. Views from this camp are best so far! Tomorrow after reaching peak, we have last camp, oh I miss it already! 🙂 @ Barranco hut to Barafu hut


Views at the top, around 6000 meters.

Sept 23 — Kilimanjaro is conquered! We reached Uhuru peak at 5985 meters when sun was rising (~6am), after exhausting climb in a dim moon light. Wind and cold top were merciless! Climb would have been tough for anyone, but scenery was breathtaking: gigantic ice glaciers, valleys and volcanic rock formations, curved horizon with cloud mattress reaching somewhere very far! Mountains peaking through floor of clouds, and this all painted in orange, red and yellow colors of rising sun! During climb some people could not handle the exhaustion, and had to turn back. I never done such a climb before, worst was the feel of sleepiness and dizzy head, from lack of oxygen, so that sense of balance gets numb and prone to errors. All I could do was to take smaller steps, and breath high pace like when running. It seemed to work, so remaining challenge was physical load and cold. After reaching the top and awing the scenes, we descended halfway to Mweka hut for last camp. Trees are already growing on these heights. It will be nice to have shower and shave tomorrow after 5-days 🙂 @ Barafu hut to Mweka hut


Sunrise at altitude where horizon is curved.

Sept 24 — Back from Kilimanjaro, and am staying one night in Mochi. Tomorrow bus to Dar es Salaam starts its way at 7am, but been now used to very early wake ups in mountain. Due to cold it simply was not possible sleep enough. Returning from mountain didn’t have any surprises, legs are still like on fire. Looking back, what would I do different before heading to mountain: 1. Travel agent. I used Kenyan one. Moshi or Arusha have tour operators to choose from. These two towns run climbing business and there is also plenty of accommodation available. I’d come directly here. 2. Gear wise I wasn’t prepared well enough. My boots, jacket and clothes were ok during day time. But at higher, and at night just too cold. 3. Tips. Porters (person carrying items for tourists at Kilimanjaro national park) are paid low salaries by travel companies, and tips from tourists mean a lot for them. I had surprise last day when my tips were protested, and had to go for ATM for some more.


Descend has begun.

A final comment. Yesterday in Mweka hut one porter died due to heart attack probably resulting from carrying heavy loads on high altitudes. Man was 6 years younger than me. Its the darker side of Kilimanjaro tourism, work of a slave like porters call it themselves. Kilimanjaro is natural park, without roads for vehicles or even donkeys. All is carried by people. And so they carry things like sun stools and beer for tourists, and get paid few dollars for this crazy job @ Moshi, Tanzania