An excerpt from the chapter “Day 2”

Morning sun danced on the colors—every shade of green, some yellow and a red flowering plant that caught my eye because there, dipping into the small red flowers, was an iridescent blue-green bird. Reading through Stedman’s guide before I’d left home, I found color photos of birds, monkeys, rodents, lizards and plants that one could expect to see on Kilimanjaro. Of them all, there was one bird in particular—the Malachite Sunbird—that I’d hoped to see. Breathtakingly bright green and blue, it looked like a jewel in the photo, just stunning. Before I left home I’d thought to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that bird?

It was smaller than I’d expected, based on the photo, and fast. I learned later that the birds at Mbahe Farm are Variable Sunbirds, which are similar in coloring to the Malachite Sunbird but smaller, and bright-yellow breasted. It was a beautiful thing to see in the morning sunlight and in that moment, it seemed to me that a wish I’d made had been granted. I was excited by this little gift and filled with gratitude; I had a sense that it was there to welcome me to Tanzania, to Kilimanjaro.

Mbahe Farm is actually on Mt. Kilimanjaro, across but some distance from the Machame gate which leads to the Machame trail, one of the trekking routes for Mt. Kilimanjaro. I looked often for this little bird while I stayed on the farm and enjoyed watching it flit around the red-flowering plant it liked so much. I took a few videos to bring home and share with Mom, who loves birds and loves to bird watch. What a gift!

I had breakfast with Pascal, who I learned later is the brother-in-law of one of my guides, Wilson. Pascal greeted me and said, “You are like Jane Goodall,” which struck me as funny; I was both complimented, as he intended, and proud of myself. “Yes,” I realized, “I am a woman travelling through East Africa solo. And I’m about to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro solo, too.” Well, sort of . . . there would be a team to support me.

Breakfast was hearty and started with platters of fruits, all local, all organic, all delicious. The juice was thick, rich, blended tropical nectar. The coffee was light, and I decided that my second cup would be Earl Grey tea. The honey knocked my socks off! Also organic and from Mbahe Farm, I found out that the honey is from killer bees and the hive was here on the farm, just off the path we traversed last night.

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