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The Tanzania Challenge Blog

On 28 January 2016, ten trekkers left the UK to face a challenging hike in high altitude in the Tanzanian Highlands. Keep an eye on this page for daily updates and beautiful photos from the team as they trek through valleys and volcanoes to raise money for Africa's farmers.

To support the team as they trek, you can make a donation on their sponsorship page.

Day 1: Colin Brereton

"It's Friday 29th January and Deborah, John, Miles and I, who flew into Nairobi last night, met up at Jomo Kenyatta airport with Ann Marie, Gordon, Ed and Paul who arrived this morning. Simon will meet us at Babarti on Sunday. We flew to Kilimanjaro airport where we met Ake, Joyful, and the team with the 4x4s to start our journey south to Erri. After about an hour on a very good tar road we arrived in Arusha for iced coffees.

Some of the team wanted to change money and while they were doing so, much to our consternation, Ake bought a map of Tanzania. A bit of a worry when your guide needs to buy a map from a street vendor! We then travelled about 45 minutes to the Arusha Coffee Lodge where we had an excellent lunch and cold Kilimanjaro lagers. Ake provided the team a fuller briefing on the trek and gave us excellent large scale maps of the Ngorongoro crater area showing the whole route. It looks absolutely excellent and we can't wait to get started.

We then had a 3 hour drive south, again on a very good tar road, before turning off on our first dirt road to Erri where we took a short track through the bush to our campsite by a river. Everything is extremely green and there has obviously been a lot of rain recently. We drove through several heavy rain showers today, which we hope is not a sign of things to come during our trek. No doubt we will get wet from time to time but it's pleasing to see the landscape looking so good.

Our campsite is excellent with bigger tents than we had in Ethiopia and camp chairs with backs to them. Now that we can see the climb which awaits us up the escarpment and have an idea of the scale of the trek I'm sure we will be very pleased to have a bit more comfort. Everyone is feeling well, in good spirits, and looking forward to visiting the sesame and forest projects tomorrow. It's been a good start for what promises to be an unforgettable, if not challenging, trek."

Help the team face the challenge ahead by making a donation now.

Day Two: Miles Kennedy

"Today we focused on the main purpose of our trip - the wonderful work of Farm Africa and the people they support. The morning was spent with local farmers who combine bee keeping (African killer bees, by the way - thought I'd mention that) and a great little set up which processes sesame into an amazing variety of 'value-add' products including, for example, a skin lotion made from sesame oil and beeswax.

As the bloke put it (kind of):

I figured that it would be nice
If rather than trying to grow rice
I mixed oil from some seeds
with wax from some bees
And flogged it for ten times the price

Then in the afternoon, we went to see the the sesame farming cooperative, established with help from Farm Africa but now thriving on its own:

The sesame project right here
Has doubled its yield in a year
The reason for this
Is easy to miss
It's the women that run it, I hear."

You can find out more about how Farm Africa helps sesame farmers double their yields here.

Day Three: Deborah Bedford

"Lightning last night was followed by heavy rain pounding the tents - an early wake up call at 4am for the team and bailing out for some! As instructed all were sat down for breakfast by 6,30, packed and ready to go at 7am. But disaster struck, and we were mud locked! Land rovers, land cruisers and trailer were not going anywhere! Team to the rescue. We collected bricks and branches to fill the newly dug trenches and all hands helped to push and pull. After several muddy hours it was mission accomplished and we were on the road! Special mention should go to Miles Kennedy who was relentless helping with the getaway. There was some suspicion that the supreme efforts needed by the trekking team to escape the river bank camp site was all part and parcel of the training regime!"

Don't forget to visit the team's sponsorship page to make a donation and make all that training and mud worthwhile!

Day Four: Gordon Coutts

"End of the first day walking. Seven hours and ending up at 2,400m overlooking Lake Eyasi. We are all tired and aching a little. However I am reminded about how impressive the Farm Africa visits were. Having seen sesame oil and cosmetics made we then visited a warehouse and spoke to the local cooperative. Impressively 5 of the 10 committee members were women. After explaining about their local innovations including Costa's new drilling machine we heard about their commercial and marketing efforts. On asking how their four to five fold increase in yields, thanks in a large part to the support from Farm Africa, translated into income a fabulous lady in a splendid red dress explained how she and the other women are more empowered and are using the money to educate their children. So, meaningful change is occurring and the whole co-op were incredibly proud of their achievements. Equally impressive have been the Farm Africa staff themselves who are so committed to creating sustainable change in local economies. Of special mention is Beatrice, who has recently been elected onto Barack Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative. With this calibre of staff in the field the money we raise will be put to good use."

Day Five: Paul Dillon-Robinson

"We left our overnight camp just before 7.30 and staggered into our new one some ten and a half hours later, having covered 45,075 paces (or 34 kilometers / 21 miles). According to Ake this is the longest day - and it feels it now, as the team compare blisters, torn toenails, sun burn and aching limbs, but the sense of achievement is great.

The compensations have been stunning views over both the Serengeti at one time, and then into the Ngorongoro Crater a short while later, but also the beautiful countryside scattered with Masai herdsmen. I just wish that the hills weren't quite so high!

We have also been treated to the thrill of walking through a landscape scattered with wildebeest, giraffe and gazelle, as well as glimpses at such inhabitants as the golden jackal, leopard tortoise, eland and ostrich. Our last stretch into camp was through deep undergrowth, with our Ranger (Lyimo) on extra alert in case of buffalo.

On a personal note, because this adventure is in support of Farm Africa, one of my reasons for being here is in memory of my father who was a farmer in East Anglia, an early supporter of Farm Africa and a founder of a grain co-operative (amongst other things). I was particularly impressed by our visit to the sesame project and the co-operative that they have set up. Their enthusiasm shows just what a difference can be made."

Day Six: Ed Mitchell

"We've just reached camp underneath Olmoti, after just over 27km and 10 hours on the go.  It is a beautiful spot, but just at the minute all that matters is a chair!  

We set off at first light, up towards a dry season Masai village, deserted at this time of year, and were treated to the sight of nearly twenty giraffe of all ages and sizes showing great curiosity at the rather strange group weaving up towards them. Then into deep forest, climbing up to the rim of the Ngorongoro crater, climbing in and out of fallen trees and among tarzan-style creepers and beautiful flowers and ferns.  The hardest bit was trying but failing to avoid the stinging nettles - which have quite a bite compared to the ones at home - I can still feel some on my hands several hours later.

Reaching the rim, you can't but be blown away by the view. It is strange how it feels quite busy when you drive down into the crater, yet from the top it looks like the 250 square kilometers of wilderness it is. The early explorers must truly have thought they had discovered a lost world. We walked around about a quarter of the crater rim, with areas of deep forest giving way to magnificent views from an angle that very few others get to experience. We stopped for l
unch, to fuel up and to repair sore and blistering feet, before leaving the crater rim for the last time and heading out towards Olmoti.

After about three hours of pushing through and around great big tufts of grass, up to waist height, we were all beginning to lose our sense of humour as we stumbled around, not being able to see where to put your feet. Fortunately I still had a couple of balloons left over so was able to award a golden one to the most grumpy person, which cheered the rest of us but not him... Then a nasty little climb up to the camp - 500m in total - and feet relief at last!  Roll on tomorrow."

Sponsor the team today and help spur them on for day seven of their trek. 

Day Seven: Ann Marie Swart

"Day 4 of trekking and we have settled down into a rhythm that involves an early morning blister/knee/sunburn/chest infection check then on the trail around 7. Everyone has developed their own signature cough. Walking in the heat at altitude is hard. We get through it with encouragement from Ake, Charles and Limmo, snacks, lots of water, and banter involving a certain amount of toilet humour and schadenfreude. Today we saw lots of very healthy cattle from a splendid bull to a young calf that wanted to follow us, zebra, antelope and jackal. It's very cold at night but fun to sit round the fire wearing everything moderately clean that we own.

The variety of the scenery, plants and wildlife is overwhelming and everything can change within a days walk. You can see the close relationship between the people and their habitat. Everyone is incredibly hard-working - from people in the villages that we pass, small children on their long walks to school carrying firewood with which their lunch will be cooked, old and young herding animals, to the guides and Summits Africa staff looking after us. Tanzania is an amazing country but it is huge and the scale of investment in infrastructure, health and education would be a challenge for any country. The land is incredibly fertile but there is a growing population. Farm Africa’s goal to raise people out of poverty by investing in people and projects locally to help keep people healthy, happy and secure in their own countries is really compelling for those of us on the challenge who have had the privilege to experience this first-hand. 

Off to bed now, my feet at least don’t hurt unless I stand on them. Looking forward to more tomorrow."

Note from Richard Macdonald, Farm Africa's Chairman

"We are having an amazing trek across the most amazing countryside, albeit very tough walking country. I just wanted to highlight to all the followers, family and supporters of the trekkers that we are having a fabulous time, but boy is it tough. Blisters and sore joints abound! So, as we conclude day 4 of walking, a big big thank you to everyone who is sponsoring this group of amazingly determined and sore people.” 

Day Eight: Simon Mutinda

"I didn't think I would be doing this today, but now, sitting around this fire, sipping ginger beer under magnificently beautiful acacia, I think I have earned a right to blog although I will be scant with details after walking for close to 25km.

As usual during this week, I was the last to leave my tent. The blisters on my feet did not make it easy to go for breakfast but Ake would hear none of it. After a good serving of millet porridge and honey I finally livened up and fortunately for me, I had an appointment at Dr Ake's state of the art 'blister clinic'.  Unfortunately Ake could not sort out John who has been bravely giving the team moral support despite his illness.

After the usual morning group photo we set out in search of Empakai Crater. A few zebras and elands made the trek worthwhile before a magnificent view of the crater. I wished we had stuck to the original plan of going down to the crater but the view from the rim was simply to die for.

Down we came, on our way towards another spectacular view of Ol Doinyo Lengai [Mountain of God in the Maasai language], a world renowned active volcano. Obviously, one Maasai girl thought it other than wise when Paul released a special burp!

Suddenly a sea of red and blue appears. It's market day at Naiyobi village. What a spectacle! Merchants, passers by and of course the market idlers. Lovely scene.

I'm really enjoying the trek, and supporting Farm Africa. I come from Kenya in a semi-arid region and food security and water access have been my passion. I also could not do this with such a good team!"

Day Nine: Richard Macdonald

"Well, we made it!!  After 102 miles we have arrived at Lake Natron camp, only the second ever group to achieve this feat.

Last night we stayed in a beautiful site under yellow acacia trees and a clear starlit night up on top of the Rift Valley. After a 5am wake up call, we set off shortly after 6 and soon started the 5,000 ft descent down to the Lake Natron basin.  Following a donkey trail down a very steep path for over four hours we eventually reached the bottom, all pretty shattered and with blisters and sore knees. But the scenery is breathtaking - the active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai stood right over us for the whole day (not one to climb though, as it's over 7,000 feet to get to the crater at the top). Then the hard work started as we crossed the Natron plain in over 38 degree heat, eventually getting to the shores of the lake after another 4 hours! In total a 9 hour trek in blistering heat with Colin showing amazing stamina to do it all effectively on one leg, and Ed complaining the whole way about vertigo! The camp has a natural spring with wonderfully cool water pouring into a stream where we all sat with a much deserved Kilimanjaro beer. A fabulous day to finish a truly wonderful week.

I think all will agree that it’s been a terrific week. Most of us didn’t know each other before we started but we have gelled incredibly well and the schoolboy and girl humour by the end tells its own story. It has been lots and lots of fun despite tough all-day walking in high terrain. The countryside and views are truly spectacular and every day has been different. We have really pushed everyone to their limits and all of us collapsed over the finish line. Everyone has blisters to show for their efforts and plenty of aching joints too. But I hope all will agree it’s been a week that will stay long in the memory.

Lastly, can I say on a personal note as Chairman of Farm Africa how enormously grateful I am to all the trekkers for their super company; for giving up a week to join this trek; and for all their fundraising efforts for Farm Africa. Thank you too to all the sponsors and supporters of this event - and if you haven’t sponsored any of the group yet, I can assure you they have worked their socks off and deserve anything you feel you can give - and they have seen first hand the great work Farm Africa does in Tanzania. And lastly can we all add our huge appreciation and thanks to Ake our guide and his team of guides and camp staff for their truly outstanding all-round support, which has made this trip possible, safe and so enjoyable.

Tomorrow we all go our different ways, some back to London and Nairobi; some taking some days off. I hope we will all meet again soon, but until then Kwaheri and sante sana."