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Mahale Mountains

Bridget Connelly

The last few months have been a wild ride to say the least. A ride with rivers, waterfalls, peaks, valleys, and mountains. I’ve had to plunge into unknowns, charge my way through the currents and keep climbing, even when I did not really care too any longer. From where I stand now, I am completely grateful I kept pushing, wading, and going forward. This season of my life has been one of the more difficult ones, but also one of the most healing and encouraging ones to date. I have spent the last few months working and living in Africa — a place and time that has broken me down, but has rebuilt me a new. 

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Living and traveling around East Africa taught me so much about myself, who I am and who I want to continue to be. It also lit a fire inside me to keep traveling, immersing myself in cultures and forging connections with people from all over. As my time in Uganda was winding down, two fantastics things happened — I was able to explore Tanzania and do it with two people I love enormously, my mom and best friend. 

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For the greater part of a challenging year for us, my friend Caitlin and I had been trying and not succeeding at planning an adventure together. My mom — who I get my travel bug from — had also been craving a trip that allowed her to move outside her comfort zone. One that allowed her to shut off the craziness that life can throw at you — to be present and to see the world in a fresh, invigorating way. Needless to say, when the three of us put the final details on our trip through Tanzania we were PUMPED.

The first spot on our list was a place I had been dreaming about, but didn't actually believe it existed. A lodge, set on a remote beach, with dramatic mountains as a backdrop and an ice blue lake to gaze out too. The lake, which contains 70% of our fresh water in the world, is surrounded by Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia and the Congo. This distant place can only be reached by a small charter plane (with a few fuel stops along the way) and boat. We planned the trip directly through Mbali Mbali Lodges and Camps. Their customer service was impeccable, especially given our endless inquiries. The travel time and energy to make it to the destination was definitely a process, but every part worth it, and actually pretty thrilling!

As we descended over the Mahale Mountains, our landing strip was in site — which appeared to run directly into the water. We sat wide-eyed, face pressed against the windows, clutching the seats, while we hoped the plane would come to a halt before it reached the body of water head on. Thankfully, it did. We joyfully hopped out of the plane and were instantly greeted by a fantastic staff that would become more like friends in the days to follow. They kindly showed us to our next mode of transportation: the boat. A wooden boat filled with a variety of snacks and cold drinks (we were never short of either in our time there). We boarded this gem and cruised down Lake Tanganikya for a few hours absorbing as much as our minds, hearts and eyes could handle. 

Finally, we saw our lodge in sight — little tented huts tucked along the shore, along pristine beaches, where the entire staff stood waving to us feverishly. We tried to contain our goofy grins as our boat edged near shore. We had made it to the Kungwe Beach Lodge and just like that —  the dream, became the reality. 

We were escorted off the boat, felt the sand between our toes, received refreshing teas and were brought to our tented lodges, all the while pinching ourselves. As if it wasn't already a 15 out of 10, the managers informed us we would each have our own lodge. Our individual homes included private patios with couches made of local fabrics, large cloud-like beds and open air showers that felt as if you were bathing in the actual jungle — complete with animals in the outside view. As we put our belongings down, our new friend and chimp-lead Ram, came to fetch us. Shortly after, we were off on a late chimp trek to finish off the day, followed by sunset cocktails on the beach and capped off with — the first of many — a mouthwatering three course meal.

As I finally hit the pillow that night I felt a hazy, happy exhaustion. With the sounds of wildlife nearby and the waves crashing ashore as my sounds machine, I drifted away fast still beaming over the day and knowing there was still more to come…