part 1 - page 2

June 2

It was a morning of nervous excitement. During breakfast, one of the Springlands Hotel staff said our boxes were found at the Zara Adventures office in Moshi and were on their way. Felix arrived shortly afterwards. Terry and Michael would meet the rest of the crew at the park gate. Joining Terry and Michael on their climb would be a seven person support team ... Felix, their guide, an assistant guide (needed, should Terry or Michael have to come down while the other continued), a cook and four porters (one which would also serve as a waiter). 

This was Day 1 of the climb and as Michael had done each morning on the West Coast Trail, he took a picture of the two of them ... father and son.


Final equipment check. Felix insisted that Terry and Michael rent heavy duty duffel bags for their backpacks which will be carried by the porters on their heads.

It was a fine, dry morning, with some scattered cloud, when they climbed into the Springlandís van which would take them some 45km from Moshi to Park Headquarters at Marangu Gate on the eastern side of Kilimanjaro - the start point for the climb.

After weighing packs (clients are limited to 15kg each), a final check of supplies and equipment is made and then porters, cook and assistant guide move out. Felix, Terry and Michael complete the necessary paperwork, present passports and shortly after 11:00 they too are underway. Spirits are high ... the adrenalin is pumping ... weíre full of nervous anticipation ... with just a touch of apprehension.

The trail is wide and climbs gradually through a lush forest of towering eucalyptus trees. Bonus - few flies and even fewer mosquitoes. Stopped for a bagged lunch break around 13:30 - what we donít eat is distributed by Felix to support people we meet who are descending the mountain.

Although porters are carrying most of Terry and Michaelís gear, Felix is carrying his own.

Terry and Michael drink more than their usual amount of water as dehydration at high altitude can be most dangerous. They are also taking altitude sickness medication (which acts like a diuretic) so the two combined make for frequent "pee" breaks.

Arrived Mandara Hut, elevation 2720m, at approximately 15:30 under partially overcast skies. Although the A-frame sleeps four, Michael and Terry will have it to themselves tonight.


Unpack. Abraham delivers a basin of warm water which is well received, followed by a bit of relaxing over coffee, tea and popcorn before Jacabo arrives to guide Michael and Terry up to Maundi Crater. Itís a 15 minute hike above camp and offers great views of Northern Tanzania and Kenya.

On the way back, we see numerous Colubus monkeys. They are beautiful black monkeys with long white hair around the face, white from the shoulders back and bushy white tails.

Back at camp, Abraham calls Michael and Terry to supper just before 19:00 and it is attacked with vigour. Itís been a good day.


June 3

Day 2 on the mountain.

The seemingly constant need to urinate makes for a fitful night, but Terry and Michael are up and packed by 7:00, the basin of warm water is again welcomed and short work is made of breakfast. Underway before 8:30.

The roughly 13km climb to Horombo Huts should take 6-7 hours.

Itís a bright, clear, warm, morning as the rainforest is slowly giving way to heathland shrubs. We were feeling fantastic but the effects of the thinning air were beginning to be felt and Felix was insistent that a slow pace was adhered to. "Pole, pole" which is Swahili for "slowly, slowly" is heard often on the mountain.

The intimidating peaks of Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi are visible ahead and the challenge they pose begins to hit home.


Appetites canít match the size of lunch and what is left, like yesterday, is distributed to others.

The shrubs are getting smaller and open grasslands are beginning to dominate. Although the sunshine is intense, air temperature is cool.

We note, with interest, that about one third of the climbers we met are female.

Giant senecio and lobelias begin appearing.

By mid afternoon mist and fog roll in obscuring the peaks ahead and by 15:00 Horombo Huts are shrouded in fog. Checked in, rested and before dinner met with Felix who proposed a change in plan - rather than spend tomorrow at Horombo Huts acclimatising, push on to Kibo Hut which will shorten our time on the mountain by 24 hours. We told him we would discuss it over dinner.


Dinner is picked at, rather than eaten, we talked over Felixís suggestion and advised him we wish to stay with our original plan.

A rather restless nightís sleep.


Meanwhile back in Moshi Sherrie was looking in boxes ...


Before our departure from Vancouver the three of us put the word out that we were going to maximize our aircraft luggage allowances by accepting donations for African orphanages. Friends, acquaintances, realtors from HomeLife Benchmark and dentist, Dr. W. Yu, in Burnaby were most generous. To fit as much as we could into the right sized boxes, we used a Food Saver to vacuum pack bunches of childrenís clothing. School supplies, shoes, games and crafts were pushed down into any available crevice (Terry is an excellent packer). We put a label with our name, the Springlands Hotelís address and contact numbers inside each box in case the outside labelling went missing. The boxes were then wrapped tight in duct tape and labelled with the same information on the outside of the box in indelible felt. It was surprising that these are the three boxes which went missing and were so hard to find.

Sherrie asked the Springlands reception staff about orphanages in Moshi and a gentleman at the front desk arranged a car and driver and helped carry the boxes from the room.

The driver, Simon, who grew up in Moshi, twisted and turned the van through the streets and down a maze of rutted dirt roads until we arrived at Kilimanjaro Centre for Orphans and Street Children (Kili Centre). A young boy opened the big gates to let Simon drive into the grounds. It seemed very quiet ... most of the children were in school.

Simon stayed in the car while Sherrie got out and walked around the building ... "Habari [Hello]" she called. A man, appearing to be in his late twenties answered. It was Michael Mpombo. Michael, once a street kid himself, founded the Kili Centre two years ago. Itís now a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which provides care for orphans and street children. It currently provides a safe home and the basic necessities to 38 children (18 girls and 20 boys).

Michael took Sherrie on a tour. It felt more like a home with lots of children than an institution. The girlís bedrooms were small and furnished with simple bunk beds ... each bed with a mosquito net. Here and there on the walls pieces of paper displayed childrenís art work.


Michael is passionate about his goal to help as many children as possible. "If we commit to making this a home to these children," he said, "we have a chance of giving them a sense of belonging in the world. If we donít do something to help them now, they will be lost. We believe children have rights ... a right to clean water, food, healthcare, a roof over their heads and clothing to wear. If they miss getting an education and the skills to support themselves; as adults they will turn to crime purely as a means of survival."

We went into a room with benches and tables ... this is where they gather to eat and spend time together. An old tv hangs from the ceiling. An adjoining room, a converted veranda, looks like a miniature school with benches and narrow table like desks. "This is where the children can do their school work. We have volunteers who come in and help them with parts of their schooling in which they are having difficulty. We donít have a school here," he continued. "The children go to the public school and then come home here." With pride he rightfully added, "We have two girls in secondary school."

Before leaving the building we stopped at a door which had an additional privacy curtain. "This is the medical room," Michael explained of the little room with a high bench and some simple, mostly empty, shelving. On a shelf under the window, Michael fingered the contents of a small cardboard box, "The childrenís medicine is kept here. When it is time for them to have their medicine we have them come here to take it so it is done correctly."


Outside we stepped down into a rectangle shaped dirt courtyard where four lengths of clothesline stretched lengthways between the buildings. A young boy reached high to add a wet white T-shirt on the line.

On the other side, cement steps climbed up to a covered porch with another two clothes lines hung with clothing and a treadle sewing machine waited near a corner for an operator to fix the stack of clothes piled beside it.

Two teenage girls, one sitting on a plastic bucket and the other on a door step, sorted through dried beans taking out bad ones.


"Buying beans which need sorting means they can be purchased at a cheaper price," explained Michael showing Sherrie a smooth red bean and a shrivelled one which had lost its colour."

The boys rooms were bigger ... more dorm style with space in the middle. At one end of the long, but pleasant room were cupboards, two high. Michael said something in Swahili to two young boys, searching among their personal belongings, they turned and smiled.

The kitchen with its open doorway to the courtyard was a small room with a large stove. Not a "stove" as most westerners would imagine; this stove was concrete with openings over which to place pots and a shelf below on which to burn a fire. No turn-on/turn-off luxury here ... even with 38 hungry kids and assorted adults.

At one end of the courtyard a small building and at the open end, still outside, a long double sided concrete sink. Six cross pipes with twelve taps were spaced equally along its length. A young boy around eight years old, dressed in yellow shorts and a coral T-shirt, was rinsing out a cloth or shirt while a girl in a purple dress looked on between spoonfuls of cooked beans from a orange plastic bowl. On the other side of the large double sink a boy carefully washed two pairs of shoes and a girl wrung out washed T- shirts from a blue plastic bucket.


"These children deserve an education;" said Michael, "they also need life skills to become happy, self-reliant members of society."

"How do the children come to you?" Sherrie asked.

"They are not grabbed off the street or taken by police," Michael emphasised. "Shop keepers, residents and street vendors let us know about children they see on the street. We find the children, talk with them and ask if they would like to come and live here where they can be safe, have food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and counselling. We ask, but they make the decision to come or not."

We walked up behind the second building to a vegetable garden under cultivation ... beans, pumpkin, carrots among others. A lady volunteer was hoeing. "We try to do everything we can to help ourselves," said Michael of his large extended family.

Through the tour and talking with Michael it was clear every contribution of support was utilized to the fullest ... every donation was stretched to the maximum to make a difference in these childrenís lives ... and each effort was appreciated.


Much of the clothing we brought was suitable for children two and under, Kili Centre is more 4 years old and up. We walked to the van and rummaged through the boxes. School supplies were pulled, games and puzzles, shoes, jeans, baseball caps, needles, threads and ribbons, cosmetics, beads, felts and craft supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Michael called out for help to carry the items. Before it all went into the house we captured three of the smiles on camera to share with the generous folks back home.

Michael told Simon where we could take the baby clothes and with a smile, a wave and a promise to tell others of the need here in Moshi we went back through the big white gates leaving Michael to continue his goal, not only to meet their daily needs and help them grow into productive adults, but also his endeavours to work with families, communities, other organizations and government authorities in an attempt to address the root causes which are putting children at risk.

If you would like to know more, visit their website at www.kilicentre.org. If you would like to make a difference in these childrenís lives, you can contact Michael at michaelmpombo@kilicentre.org.

The place Michael had directed Simon to was the Upendo Childrenís Home & Kindergarten. It is run by the Missionary Sisterís of the Precious Blood.

Simon pulled the van into the grounds of the institution. There were children running about on the grassy playground.

A little girl in a long pink dress watched as Sherrie got out of the car. Without hesitating, the little girl ran across the expanse of lawn and flew up into Sherrieís arms, wrapped her little arms around Sherrieís neck and held on tight.  It was difficult to stop the puddle of tears in her eyes from spilling down her cheeks. Soon many little children were crowding around, hanging onto legs and arms, Sherrie couldnít move in fear of hurting someone. The nurses-in-training who had been watching the children came to break-up the love-fest and Sherrie asked for directions to the office.


Near the front door she was greeted by Sister Yacinta, a cheerful lady who beamed kindness.

They walked back to the van together and opened the door. Like a starting gate at Santa Anita the children again sprang into action away from the nurses and divided their attention between Sherrie and the opportunity to investigate the inside of the vehicle. In the flurry of activity we are still not sure how the boxes were taken from the van into the home. Sherrie used the camera to attract the attention of some children away from the car and soon their were enticed back to the playground while Sister Yacinta gave Sherrie a tour of their facilities.


They peeked through the window of the "newborn nursery", the little dark hand of the youngest resident, only a week old, stretched above the tiny cribís padding. The next window looked into a room full of cribs except for a cheerful space just on the other side of the window where a nurse was watching nine or so babies laying on their tummies on a blanket, heads raised and bodies wiggling in development. At the nearest crib another little one was pulling herself up itís leg. Perhaps a recent development because the little girl seemed very proud of her accomplishment and beamed a big smile at Sister Yacinta who beamed a smile back just as large.

They entered another room of cribs. A older boy of around four lay fully dressed in the crib nearest the door and seemed content to watch figures come and go. Two others on the floor giggled with delight when they spotted the Sister and pulled themselves up on her legs as soon as she was within reach. She spoke with a soft gentle voice that was obviously familiar to them. They were reluctant when passed to a nurse so the tour could continue.


In another room she greeted a little girl, sitting up with the help of straps, and the oldest boy at Upendo. The girl was brought to them having no use of her joints. With dedicated therapy, she is now able to raise her right hand and sit up. The loose straps are a safety precaution. The boy, mentally and physically handicapped, is a most handsome lad whose smile has the strength of the sun in warming the soul.

"We have 53 orphaned, unwanted or abandoned children living with us right now," Sister Yacinta said leading Sherrie back to the inner courtyard, "five are mentally and physically disabled." We try to provide the children with a home until they are either adopted or if possible returned to their families. If they are still with us at school age, we help them in our kindergarten to establish a good learning foundation."

"How is the home funded?"


Care of the children is looked after by the Sisterís of the Precious Blood, students who study at the institutionís nurseís training centre and other volunteers. "If the child has a family, we ask them to pay 10,000 Tanzania shillings ($10 USD) per month; or to bring something that can be useful for the children but sometimes even those small requests cannot be met. It is difficult.

We try to support ourselves with farming and selling some of our own products, but that is not enough, so like most orphanages," she said with a what-can-you-do-about-it shrug, "we depend on the kindness of others. On behalf of the children, we gratefully receive donations of money, foodstuffs, toiletries, clothes or shoes ... itís all needed."


If you would like to learn more and/or contribute to the care and raising of these little children, you may contact Sister Yacinta at upendo-precious-blood@elct.org .


June 4

Day 3 on the mountain.

Horombo Huts (3720m/12,205ft).  Acclimatization day.

Spent early morning relaxing and visiting with other climbers both on their way up and way down. The challenge of our adventure becomes increasingly apparent as we chatted - not everyone makes it to the summit. Seemingly healthy, fit individuals are going home with a dream unrealized - most the victims of altitude sickness. We changed our greeting to descending climbers from "Did you make it?" To "How was it?"

Prior to Terry, Michael and Jacabo climbing up past Zebra Rocks to the Mawezi Hut junction, we got together for a "team" photo.

Itís a bright, clear, cool morning and the views of Mawenzi Peak are stunning.

Zebra Rocks is an exposed cliff face with zebra-like stripes caused by water trickling down the rock face leaving light deposits on the dark lava.


The grassland is slowly changing to alpine desert as water becomes scarce and soil thins.

By the time we reach The Saddle lookout, high cloud has moved in obscuring the peak of Kilimanjaro but we can see across to Kibo Hut, our destination tomorrow. From there the climb gets much more serious.


As we headed back down to Horombo Huts, we were satisfied that we did the right thing by spending an extra day on the mountain. Climbing to 4350m and then returning to 3720m to sleep helped our bodies adjust to the thinning air as did the extra time on the mountain.


Meanwhile back in Moshi Sherrie received a note from the mountain that Terry had passed to climbers on their way down from Horombo Huts.

"It's Day 3 of our "Quest for the Summit" Just sitting down for breakfast - it's very bright and sunny with all clouds well below us. This is our acclimatization day - the plan is to hike to Zebra Rocks and maybe a little higher. We are managing quite well - I had a real sinus pain over my right eye the first day but it was gone the second. We are having an amazing time - it's everything we imagined but it gets much harder from here. Felix wanted to change plans and summit during the "warmth" of the day as he feels it will be too cold at night for me -- but we are sticking with our original plan."


June 5     

 In Moshi Sherrie took a walk around town.

Negotiating a fare with a taxi driver, Sherrie and three other Springlands guests took a cab to the bus station on main street. No one was catching a bus, but it was a good reference point, across the street from the mosque, to start a self-tour of Moshi. From there Sherrie and Sam, a fellow from New Mexico on the hunt to buy a gift for his grandchild, walked around town and had lunch.

Restaurant IndoItaliano, which serves Indian and Italian food, sits on a corner tucked off the main streets. The outside tables afforded a view of everyday comings and goings by Moshi residents - an unhassled view thanks to the diligence of a very pleasant waiter, Saub Njiti, keeping any hawkers at bay. Sherrie had the eggplant parmesano while Sam ordered a pizza. Both were excellent in quality, flavour and quantity.

From the restaurant they walked over to the market. From spices to shovels, from T-shirts to trinkets, from paintings to potatoes, from baskets to barbequed meats ... in this square block of commerce, with sellers elbow to elbow, a shopper can find almost anything.


Sherrie and Sam made their way back to main street passing many women and men busy at treadle sewing machines on the sidewalks in front of tailor shop windows displaying an array of fabrics. Back at the bus station corner they walked down the main street to the last side road at the edge of "downtown". The walk required manoeuvring along cluttered sidewalks and the busy dusty road while shedding off a continuous barrage of friendly persistent hawkers trying to make a living. Sherrie kept saying "Hapana asante [no thank you]" or, if they spoke English, explaining she was not buying anything today; but Sam found the culture shock a bit unnerving.


Leaving main street they passed another market and continued down the rutted dirt roads greeting people in front of their humble mud brick homes until they reached the garden sanctuary of Springlands Hotel.




Meanwhile it was Day 4 on the mountain. Horombo Huts.

"Pole, pole"

Once again the grassland thins as favourable conditions for plant life recede.

Alpine desert conditions are the order of the day as we broach the lip of The Saddle - a long, sweeping depression that connect Mawenzi and Kilimangaro peaks.


Another night with little sleep. Day dons bright and clear with high wispy cloud. Intensity of the sun at this altitude has to be experienced to be appreciated.

Trail steepens and becomes a little more difficult to traverse.


Down and across The Saddle we go. Temperature drops 1įC for every 200m increase in altitude and although itís early afternoon and we are working hard, we are really starting to feel the cold.


Arrive Kibo Hut (4750m/15,520ft) approximately 15:30. "Man, is it cold!"

The clouds part - we see the challenge ahead to Gilmanís Point and glaciers near the summit.

Supper served around 17:30. We just stare at it - no appetite. Then itís into our sleeping bags in an attempt to keep warm and hopefully to sleep.


Sleep alludes us and when rousted out around 23:00 we are depleted.

Decline food.

Getting dressed (layer upon layer) is a real chore and seems to take forever.

A Slovakian couple, who we had seen several times over the past few days, are the first to leave at 23:45, followed by a pair of Dutch climbers at midnight.


June 6

Day 5 on the mountain. Today is the day!


Michael, Terry, Felix and Jacabo step out into the cold and darkness at 00:15. Order is determined - Felix to lead, followed by Michael, Terry and Jacabo. Terry and Michael have made a pact. If one needs to turn back the other will continue on.

The clear night sky is full of stars; what a sight - no pollution at this elevation. Head lamps are switched on and weíre underway.

Focus for Michael and Terry is the lower leg and the feet of the climber in front - the area illuminated by the headlamp. Terry concentrates on a mantra to keep his mind positive ... "One less step, one less step" each time stepping into the spot just vacated by Michaelís foot.

We zig-zag up a steep field of shale and sand step by step for two to three hours. The loose footing is tiring. Felix only allows very brief stops before urging us forward. Terryís hands are very cold - wrong gloves. Around 03:00 we reach Hans Meyer Cave and find it occupied by the Slovakian couple and their guides ... we donít see them again ... assume they turned back.

A point of light appears above us on the mountain ... it is coming down towards us.

Scree gives way to huge boulders and more solid footing, although the incline has noticeably steepened.

The single light is still moving down.

"Pole, pole."

The light moves even closer. Who could it be and why would they be coming down at this hour?

It nears. It is one of the two guides with the Dutch climbers.

If a guide has to turn back ...? Thoughts mess with our minds. Back to our mantras.

"One less step ... one less step ... one less ...."


"Step into the circle [of light] ... step into the circle ... step ..."

Snow appears among the boulders and soon it is almost constant underfoot. Felix is increasingly hesitant and looks around as if unsure of the trail. "Is he lost," we wonder. Suddenly, right in front of us is the Gilmanís Point sign ... "You are now at / GILMANíS POINT, 5681m / Tanzania / Welcome and Congratulations" ... we literally walk right into it. Felix wasnít lost.

Itís 05:45 - the sky is beginning to brighten in the east. Jacabo passes around a thermos of warm water he has brought with him.


Felix points out Uhuru Peak around the craterís rim to our left - the very top of Kilimanjaro.


"Shit, we arenít even close!" is our first thought. The summit is still 1Ĺ hours away ... move out.

"Pole, pole."

We reach Stella Point at sunrise. Itís a beautiful, beautiful morning. Mawenzi Peak, which towered over us for much of the last three days is now below us. Is this for real?!

"Pole, pole."

Decken Glacier and Southern Icefield are on our left; the crater on our right.

Step by step. "Pole, pole."

Rest. The summit is in sight. Gotta go.

"Pole, pole."


Weíve arrived. Felix turns and faces Terry and Michael. The summit sign is touched.

We made it ... the summit of Kilimanjaro ... 5895 metres, 19,340 feet. "Can you believe this!" Hugs and "thank you"s all around.


Michael, Terry, Felix, Jacabo ... and Ted (Terry had been carrying him in the day bag on his back) pose for pictures.

The only other people at the summit during the 30 minutes we spend there, are a young school teacher from Vernon, British Columbia and his guide.

The sun is incredibly bright and the air is starting to warm. At 8:00 we start back down. About 300m from the peak, we met a young man on his hands and knees being rather ill ... his eyes fixed on the summit sign.

Adrenalin has subsided. Weíre still layered up and are overcome with heat exhaustion ... the worse weíve felt the entire climb. When we reach Gilmanís Point Terry and Michael are totally spent. Felix and Jacabo help to strip us down and the shedding of layers has an immediate positive effect.


Looking down from Gilmanís Point to Kibo Hut, helped us appreciate what we had accomplished earlier in the dark. One of the reasons the summit is attempted at night, besides being at Uhuru for sunrise, is that the mountain is just to intimidating during the day.

Descending through the loose scree takes its toll on Michaelís knees and they are noticeable swollen when we reach Kibo Hut.

Short rest. Light brunch offered. Repack backpacks.

Itís pretty much all downhill from here.

Reach Horombo Huts nearing 18:00 ... roughly 18 hours after setting out from Kibo Hut for the summit.

Havenít slept or eaten for almost 2 days and we look ... and feel ... like we havenít slept or eaten for 2 days. (Note: Michael lost 14 pounds in the first 5 days on the mountain.)


No energy to celebrate or reflect upon our accomplishment ... weíll do that back at the hotel over a Kilimanjaro beer (or two).


June 7

Day 6 on the mountain.

Another bright sunny day - weíre up and away by 08:30.


Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi slowly recede from view as we descend from the moorland down into the forest above Mandara Hut.

"The physically hardest thing I have done in my life ... bar none." - Michael.

"Without question." - Terry.

Exit the park at Marangu Gate in early afternoon. Our van is waiting to return us to Springlands Hotel and Sherrie.




In Moshi, Sherrie was excited with the anticipation of seeing Terry and Michael. They were not expected back until after 14:30 but starting at 09:00, every vehicle which came through Springlandís gates was inspected by Sherrie peering over the balcony ... much to the entertainment of staff.

It was after 16:00 when two very tired men pulled themselves out of the van and Sherrie raced down the stairs to greet them ... searching their faces for any sign of the question she so wanted to ask. The answer wasnít there and she didnít want to push.

It wasnít until we were all sitting down with a Kilimanjaro beer. "Congratulations," Felix said presenting them both with certificates. Sherrie strained to see the certificatesí front which would show to which height they had been able to climb. Terry had turned so she couldnít see and began to read. When he reached the part that said "Uhuru Peak", Sherrie jumped up and hugged Felix first! "Thank you for getting them there ... and back safely."


We made another toast in congratulations and yet another to the check mark that will go on Terryís Lifeís ToDo List ... Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

As exhausted as they were Terry and Michael were faced with the arduous task of sorting and packing for morning departures. They still hadnít eaten and when Sherrie brought them bowls of fruit and cereal to eat at their leisure in the room, they didnít touch them.

Recommendations to others doing the climb:

  • Ask for Felix Olotu to be your guide, we thought he was great.

  • Consider scheduling one full rest day after your climb before moving on.

If you enjoyed this account of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with Terry & Michael, you may also enjoy their journal hiking the  WEST COAST TRAIL,  BC, Canada.

June 8

Just before 04:00 Terry and Sherrie knocked on Michaelís door and said "goodbye" then headed to Kilimanjaro International Airport. Michael would be heading out at 10:00 to begin his long journey back home ... first by bus across the border to Nairobi; then a flight from Nairobi to Heathrow and finally after a few hours layover, a flight home to Vancouver.

Meanwhile Terry and Sherrie would make their way to Pretoria, South Africa to continue their nine week African adventure.

Our flight took off from KIA, a half hour drive from Moshi, at 06:00. Above the clouds we saw the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro ... a different perspective than Michael and Terry saw at sunrise just two mornings ago (and a much faster easier climb!).


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