February 06, 2015

I Want to Get Away

All I can think of is that song from the 90's - you know - the Lenny Kravitz one.
I want to get away
I want to get away
I want to get away
I wanna fllyyyy awaaayyy

Last Friday afternoon a friend reminded me about the hash that was taking place that weekend, only this time it would be Saturday instead of Sunday afternoon, because there was also an option to camp overnight.

I immediately thought, "Yes. Doing it."  I was so ready to get away from Moshi.  I just wanted a break, a true get-away.

But then my brain battled with my heart and gut because the reality of getting ready for an overnight camping trip with such short notice was daunting. I told Bill about it that evening and he was all for it too - except we knew absolutely zero details.  Location.  Cost.  Primitive-ness. Nothing.  We decided "Yes, if we get enough details by Saturday morning."
Saturday morning we did receive enough details to make our decision, and we just did it.  With about 3 hours to pack, run to town and grab food, make a batch of muffins for breakfast, run to our friends to borrow a cooler & some foam to sleep on, and make & eat lunch with some other friends, we did it.  Even arrived at the site early!

When we arrived to the little 'cove' that was the 'campground', just about an hour outside of Moshi, we pulled up next to the last of three tents in a row... only to discover we had pulled into a swampy marsh.  Whoops.
It took 5 men about 30 minutes to push us out of the soft ground, and once we parked on solid ground we started unloading our stuff.  We had 15 minutes before the hash started, so we timed ourselves setting up our 4 man tent.  Me.  Bill.  Owen.  No one talked at all and we had our tent up (rainfly on) in 7 minutes.  SEVEN minutes people.  That's some kind of record. We loaded what we could into the tent (which was about 20ft from a river filled with enormous boulders) and got ready for the hash.

A hash is a non-competitive hike/run/walk through a path that's been laid by a 'hare'.  He/she goes before the group a few hours and lays flour along a dirt road, footpath, etc. to show the trail.  At certain places there will be an X of flour, which means you have to figure out which way to turn, one trail will be the right one.  Lucky for us, we aren't runners, so by the time we get to the X's the runners have already been through and laid an arrow out of sticks or leaves telling us which way is the right way (proper hash etiquette).  Also, a hash is not a leisurely walk through the woods.  You have to book it.  Like power-walking.  Because the hash starts at 4 usually, and that gives you only 2, maybe 2 and a half hours until dark.  And this is Tanzania, folks, you don't want to be walking around in the woods after dark. :)

Bill carries Owen in the Boba, and I carry our snacks and the camera in my backpack (he definitely got the short end of the stick - but he offered!  He said it'd be good for his half-marathon training) :)

The first 40 minutes of the hash were completely up hill.  Like, there should have been stairs.  I'm not even kidding.  Hair-pin turns every 30 yards on a dirt road to get to the top of a small mountain.  Motorcycles coasting down and cars driving past leaving a trail of dust so thick you couldn't see 5 feet in front of you an had to stop and turn around to avoid getting 'dusted out' (live here during dry season and you'll get really used to that term!) I didn't take any pictures but I wish I would have.  I was too busy self-talking myself to the top and praying that God would give me the strength to get there. When we finally turned off the dirt road I was able to enjoy the scenery.
The footpath was just wide enough for one, and many places were overgrown, but it. was. beautiful.  It's at a higher elevation than Moshi so it was very green and dense with foliage.  So much beauty! This is my favorite part about hashing - you get to see areas you would never otherwise be able to see, even by car.  It's so amazing and it really brings me closer to God being out in nature and soaking it up like that.
After we made our way down the footpath we began hearing running water, sure enough, a bridge awaited us.  It was about 20 feet long, and about 15feet up from the river below.

To the left was this:
At several points during the path, there wasn't a path.  So we had to walk along the aqueduct for a good bit of it.

It was only a little bit scary when there wasn't anything on the other side of the aqueduct... well, you know, except falling down the side of the mountain.

After one of our jaunts on the aqueduct we came out to a beautiful vista!  Only captured it on my cell b/c we had to keep it going at a pretty quick pace.
Then.  Oh and then.  We came to a flour X.  And there was tons of brush around but we saw what we thought looked like an arrow made of banana leaves pointing in one direction.  We saw flour spots going in both directions (sometimes the hare will do a false trail).  We started walking and a nearby Tanzanian came out and said she saw a bunch of wazungu (white people) go the other way.  The 'other' way was a lot less down-hill and scary looking than the way we were about to take.  So we took her word for it and went that way instead.  It was all fine and dandy until we realized it was the false trail.  It was too late to turn back.  We had brought ourselves, quite literally, to the edge.  There was no longer a path to take us down the side of the mountain.  Only very dry, loose and dusty dirt that caused rocks to slide down at every step.  Only grass to cling to to avoid falling down the side of the mountain.  I was praying fervently at this point. My husband had our child strapped to his back and I had no idea how I was even going to get down, let alone him.  Oh, and the piece de resistance - there was a stream at the bottom you had to jump over at just the right spot to avoid falling in.
I managed to squirm my way down, keeping low and grabbing grass for support for about 15 feet.  I was still another 15 feet away from the 'jumping' point but I stopped to help a 5 year old boy get down before me.  As he came down dirt shifted, I was slipping.  I told him to perch on a stump while I regained my footing.  But alas, there was no dirt left to regain my footing on, so I slid, on my butt, 15 feet down the side of the mountain. With no footing to make the jump across the creek, I landed right in it.  Perfect.  Mud, rocks and of course water, filled my shoes and we were only half way done with the hash.  My hand was bleeding in a couple spots and I felt a pang of pain on the back of one of my legs but I didn't care.  I was only a little less than terrified about Bill making it down with Owen strapped to his back.

He tried as hard as he could to avoid the places I had stepped because as each person from our group made it down the mountain it became less and less stable, and sure enough, he slid about the last 5 feet down, landing in the river.  On his way someone above him moved, sending a rock about the size of a baseball careening down hitting Owen and then Bill.  Luckily just minor injuries.  After getting back on the real path and recovering from the shock of what just happened Owen asked me to take off his crocs because they were filled with dirt.  So I did, and one fell in the creek and started to float away.  So, being super-mom and all, I jumped back in the creek and grabbed it.  Saving the spiderman croc.
After that amazing adventure the fun continued; we got back on the right path and kept moving - our little false trail took some time from us and it was getting dusky.  We went through some areas there wasn't even a path - the flour to mark the trail was sprinkled on giant leaves at eye-level or thrown on tree trunks.  We even came to a place we had to cross a log bridge. It was only about 4-5 inches thick and it was about 5-6feet long, no one fell in this time, thankfully, and we soon found our way to another fun obstacle - rock-jumping across the river.

It looked a LOT like the river right on the other side of our tent, so I thought, "Surely, we will end up at camp after this!"  Not-so-much.  It wasn't far off, but it was a good 15 minutes more before we made it back to the dirt road, and walked down to the campsite again. 

We took Owen out of the Boba and let him walk once we got to the road, and when we got to camp where everyone was eating, someone said, "Looks like someone went in the river!"

Nope, that's sweat.  The only thing wet from the river was Bill & I, from the knees down.  So I took my shoes & socks off and went down to the river to wash up, prepared with my flip flops for the rest of the trip, since I only brought one pair of socks. (This is hot season in Tanzania, never thought I'd want another pair of socks!)

It's tradition after a hash to have a little cookout so we enjoyed some samosas, crisps, and sodas and talked about our adventure on the hike. There was a little girl there only a few months younger than Owen and you would have thought they'd known each other their whole lives.  They hit it off right away and were playing non-stop.
After dinner the hashers all went back to town, and there were only a few of us left behind to camp.  Owen's new friend Maxine and her family stayed to camp, some friends of ours from church, an older couple, and another guy with his wives and son.
We had a lovely evening, enjoying the brisk, cold mountain air, waiting until the last minute to bundle up in our long pants and jackets, then finally getting a campfire going. We had good company and enjoyed getting to know some new friends as we chatted around the fire.

We went to bed around 9, exhausted from the hash.  Already sore in the legs, I knew I was going to pay for this for days.  But it was so nice and such a change to be cold, it was quite enjoyable.  Until we couldn't fall asleep because of it.  It.  Was.  So.  Cold.  I was wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt and a hoodie with the hood up AND a cotton quilt on top of me and I was still cold.  All the flaps were zipped up in our tent and the rainfly was on, keeping in as much warmth as we could.  We ended up sleeping all three of us cuddled on about 4 feet of our 6 foot wide mattress, sleeping maybe an hour or two, and that was with melatonin.
We woke up the next morning to a happy bear, having had so much fun camping.

He actually started crying when we told him we had to pack up our tent.  Not whiney-bratty crying either, just sincerely sad about it crying.  We enjoyed a lovely breakfast before tearing down camp, and as soon as the sun hit our little patch of ground it was hot enough to want to put on shorts and a t-shirt again.  And we even spent some time walking around barefoot in the (really cold) river because it was getting so hot!

On the way home that day, and even the night before as I lay awake shivering in the cold, I couldn't help but think, "I'm so glad we did this," over and over again.  We were sporadic, we took a chance going camping not knowing anyone we knew would be there, and we just did it.  We got away.  Just the three of us.  And it was just amazing.  All kinds of amazing.  It's like God said to me, sometimes you just have to do it.  Just go.  Just get out of your comfort zone, take a risk, listen to ME, and GO.
And we are so much better as a family for having done just that.

And there will be many more weekend getaways in the future! :)