^ After months and months of training, fundraising, planning and days of traveling we were all finally mounted up and ready to roll. The journey of 400 miles starts with a single push!
^ This is Paulina. For each Ride TZ one of the TFFT scholars who has shown exceptional academic passion, individual drive, and leadership is selected to go on the ride. This year Paulina was selected and even though she had never even been on a bike before, she dedicated herself to going! In the few months from the time she was selected until the start of Ride TZ, she learned how to ride and trained as much as possible...and she crushed it. Ride TZ was her first time being away from her home, and her first chance to ever see the ocean. Her drive, quiet and joyful spirit, and absolutely giddiness to get to the ocean was an inspiration to us all.
^ Our phenomenal lead guide, Ema.
^ Our first leg was supposed to be a quick little warm up ride from the lodge where we all met, over to the Usa River Academy where the majority of the TFFT scholars are schooled for our official big sendoff. Well, the pouring rains the night before made the roads and trails a tad trickier than anticipated. We got thrown right into the thick of it right from the get go...mud, puddles, falls, and steep slippery climbs aplenty.
^ While the majority of us (myself included) timidly walked our bikes around some of the sketchiest mud, Sutton charged right through.
^ Lisa quickly proved that the mud was not to be messed with.
^ Keyla questioning Katie's packing choices.
^ Stu, the only other man-person on the ride quickly became a dear friend and role model as we shared an appreciation for beers and bunny hops.
^ "Aunt" Pam and Charlotte taking me to the gun show.
^ Throughout our 10 days of riding, it never got less surreal to just be cruising through rural Tanzanian life...on a bike.
^ Finally off the mud and onto a stretch of tarmac on our way to meet all the scholars at Usa River Academy.
^ Founder of TFFT, dear friend, and all around amazingly inspiring human, Meghann the the charge for our official send off.
^ I don't fully remember this moment since as I was riding with one hand and shooting. All I was thinking was "don't fall in front of everyone, don't fall in front of everyone."
^ This is the "only 399 more miles to go" face.
^ Out into the countryside we went, surrounded by farmers, donkeys, goats, chickens, and more goats...and more goats.
^ Also, news flash: Tanzania is holy-wow-wow-wow-beautiful.
^ Tanzanian traffic.
^ Out in it. No signs of civilization for as far as they eyes could see. Just dust and sand and goats.
^ Becoming one with the sand. Also, my sweet daughter Grace made me these bracelets to wear on my journey.
^ Then out of nowhere, two young boys and their herd of 50+ camels showed up.
^ Mt. Kilamanjaro finally peeked out from the clouds in the distance!
^ 41 miles and a tad over 8 hours later, we rolled into our camp for the evening. We were greeted by orange juice and an absolutely pristine swimming hole, heaven!
^ Tanzanian camouflage.
- - -
^ AM camp breakdown vibes.
^ Ema taking a final look over the maps for the day's route.
^ Bye for now sweet magic pool, I can't wait to jump into you again in 2016.
^ Don't fall Kaitlin!!!
^ Freshly harvested corn drying in the sun.
^ Fieldworker child care = leaving your kid on top of a high object.
^ Stopping by a local street market.
^ Locals pumping water up from the river.
^ Came to find out that Ema is an avid birder which I dabble in...as soon as he found out, we'd spot birds and he'd bust out his bird bible to help identify them.
^ I don't normally drink soda, but when I do it's the heavenly nectar of pure sugar coca-cola on a lunch break in the middle of a toasty ride.
^ When you break for lunch and ask the local villagers for a restroom to use...
^ I don't remember the conversation exactly, but it went something like this:
Katie: "Ema, seriously I'm about to explode in a bad way, where can I go????"
Ema: "I don't know, but away from me."
^ Katia stretching out Lisa...the villagers who were looking on got a kick out of this.
^ Masai boys out on their Enkipaata, a ritual where a group of boys ages 14-16 travel alone across their territory for a period of up to 4 months before undergoing their circumcision ceremony back at their home.
^ This is Alvin. Alvin rides a bike that by all accounts shouldn't work in rural Tanzania, with it's lack of gears, thin road tires, no suspension, etc. To our group's surprise, Alvin blew past our group on the road, then would stop and wait for us, then blow past us again.
^ Sandy roads that never seem to end.
^ After seemingly endless miles on sandy roads we came out into a wetland valley with a massive lake surrounded by local fisherman dragging in their evening haul. One of the most beautiful places I've ever laid eyes on.
^ Sandy legs and a frosty Kili, perfect end to a perfect day.
^ Our Adventure International crew was so dedicated and amazing. After riding for a whole day, we all crashed and burned and drank our soreness away with Kili beers. Meanwhile, they would get straight to work on cleaning and tuning our bikes to be ready to go at it again the next morning.
^ The same Masai boys we spotted earlier in the day came rolling through our camp.
^ Took some alone time to walk down by the lake by myself and ran into a man named Hamisi who got a kick out of trying to communicate with me through hand gestures.
^ Kaitlin came out to join me for a while and as we were hanging out a local girl came up to us and proceeded to offer a "gift" of a beautiful ankle bracelet to Kaitlin, which she gracefully received. As Kaitlin tried to fumble through communication with her with her spotty Swahili, she soon found out that she actually wanted to be paid for her "gift." We didn't have any money on us, which resulted in the most uncomfortably awkward "return" transaction ever.
^ Dinner views from our mess tent.
^ The night sky in Tanzania is something else altogether.