A large part of the first day was dedicated to counting and arranging food and kit for the duration of the 19 days. The team was to carry enough food for the five days, until the first food drop. In River Valley camp site, we organised the logistical distribution as well as identifying the routes which would enable sourcing local food from villages along the way.
We set off from just outside Iringa town, towards the hills and the first 7k of the trek. The sun beat down unabating as we got used to our walking boots, carefully treading through the rocky dirt tracks that were occasionally tinged with green and brown from surrounding shrubs. In just under two hours, we arrived at camp and had our first stab at starting a fire and putting up tents on the wide ranging, grassy plain. Other jobs camp included fetching water, which was 20 minutes away and digging a short drop with a privacy tarp. Camp ready and food sourced from the nearby village, it was time to establish the first day leader, which Nick volunteered for and was subsequently briefed on responsibilities; waking fellow trekkers, delegating camp tasks, organising morning energiser and deciding on breaks through the walk.
The next day was a massive contrast, caused by torrential morning rain. Once it stopped, we could once again appreciate the landscapes, which changed by the hour. We were also treated to some spectacular knowledge about the wildlife, courtesy of Morris. The lessons began when he halted the group in front of a line of ants crossing the road. As Morris explained, these were slave maker ants that deployed scouts to survey colonies of other species, in this case termites. After that, scouts would return and recruit soldier ants, thereby initiating the process of slave raiding, the meaning of which became apparent as we all looked down on the ants carrying not only pieces of the termites for food, but also their eggs. These would be hatched and incorporated into the ant colony work force. Moments of learning such as these were ever present which earned Morris the nickname ‘Tanzania’s Attenborough’.
The blisters started accumulating after the 14k walk to Hot Springs camp, which was followed by 16k to Ilala Simba on day three. Despite the irritation emanating from our feet, we nevertheless found ourselves in a fortunate position. There were no worries, just objectives. And we felt compelled to achieve them. Pack up camp, trek fast to avoid the sun, look after each other, appreciate the landscape, set up camp, cook, sleep. Repeat. As the team bonded, banter overpowered blisters, laughter trounced leg cramps and Alpha 1 conquered ground.
The 12k to Ingangidungo camp, half of which consisted of hills, was particularly challenging but more overwhelming was having to leave the team at the day’s destination. I was scheduled for five days but would have readily continued for the rest of the trek. The self-government and determination of Alpha 1 incited the spirit of adventure, with a freedom to perpetually evolve together. Being a small part of the adventure had a considerable impact I am thankful for.
Words by Miguel. Images by Miguel.