Hi friends! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted here. A combination of a ferocious travel pace, slow internet, and limited data storage put this project on the back burner, and inertia got the better of me. I have a crazy amount of photos from the remainder of my travels around the world, so I am committed to posting my favorite shots from each region.
Previous posts followed our overland safari through East Africa. Most recently was a spectacular boat cruise getting up close to hippos and crocodiles in Uganda. Next up, the rest of our tour trekked to see mountain gorillas (permits were way above our budget), while we visited a local tribe and got a hands-on lesson in how to make fast fermenting beer.
We may have also gotten married. We’re not quite sure how official it is but it was a beautiful ceremony nevertheless.
We passed briefly through Rwanda. Just long enough to visit the remembrance museum dedicated to the victims of the 1994 genocide. It was curated with great care and deeply moving to learn about. The country has come a long way in the 20 years since, and the lessons taught in their museum sadly seem as relevant as ever.
After about 3 weeks into the trip, all the bouncing around the back of the truck followed by nights in damp tents were starting to take a toll on everyone. Steph hadn’t been feeling that great for a few days, but as we prepared to cross from Rwanda to Tanzania, she was downright sick. Hot to the touch, she felt like you could boil water off the heat from her arm. Many countries have infrared sensors at their borders to detect people with fevers and prevent them from entering. Tanzania is not one of those countries. Had they been, she most certainly would not have been let in.
Two days and two brutally long drives later, we arrived in Mwanza, a mid-sized city on the southern bank of Lake Victoria. Steph’s condition was getting worse. The high fever hadn’t broken and we feared the worst: malaria. Visits to two separate clinics tempered those fears by telling us it was just a cold.
Left for dead
The tour was due to drive to the Serengeti early in the morning, but Steph’s fever had other plans. As the rest of the group packed their gear into the truck and ate breakfast, Steph was completely laid out by her sickness. The trip leader broke it down for us: if we get on the truck, we’ll be a two-day drive from medical help. If we don’t get on the bus in the next few minutes, they’re leaving without us.
There’s not much to prepare you for a decisive moment like this. I wanted to believe that Steph could power through her illness, but she could hardly keep her head up. A game drive in the savanna clearly was not in her best interests. We said our tear-filled goodbyes, collected our belongings and watched as the truck rumbled out of the campground.
Backpacking around the world is full of challenges. That’s a given. I never expected it to be easy. I also never expected to be abandoned on the edge of a remote town in Tanzania while my girlfriend lays immobilized by illness. I took a moment to wallow in the helplessness of it all.
Fortunately, we had a couple things going for us. Mwanza has a hospital, where the 3rd round of blood tests confirmed our suspicions: malaria parasites were to blame. Steph was prescribed an emergency dose of antimalarials and told to rest. Before he left us for dead, our trip leader arranged for us to be put up in one of the campground’s bungalows until she got better. And get better she did, eventually. You should read Steph’s account of her harrowing experience with malaria.
She pulled through like a champ. In less than a week the meds did their job and the doctor gave her a clean bill of health. We even found a flight to the coast later that week and were able to reunite with our tour for one last night in Dar es Salaam. Before we left Mwanza, there was one last surprise for us: one of the most radiant sunsets of the trip…