The Brillion News

BRILLION – For Brillion’s Debbie Hammer, a photography enthusiast, it’s hard to summarize her personal story about falling in love – falling in love, that is, with a country she feels is so beautiful and full of opportunities, yet is misunderstood by so many.

This country, which she visited Feb. 12 to March 4, is where she met and became friends with people that captured her heart.  It’s where she climbed a mountain that stands high above the clouds.  It’s a place where she looked out at long expanses of green and golden grasses, and traveled around taking thousands of photos of animals.

“Welcome to Tanzania,” she said, giving a warm description of the people that greeted her in this African land thousands of miles from home. “The people are beautiful. Their skin is soft as butter, and their eyes are dark as chocolate.  They are intelligent and hardworking, and they do live in a land of many opportunities. The orphanages are full of little children that will pull at your heart strings.  The schools are filled with kids that want to become something, or someone. Many times it is the lack of money that gets in the way, or the loss of a parent.”

NOTE: Click the video below to hear “Jambo Bwana,” which was one of the popular songs from Africa that Debbie Hammer enjoyed on her trip.

Along with the interesting people living in Tanzania, so, too, were there compelling places and sites at every corner – not to mention, plenty of adventure, too.

“The Maasai villages are amazing, learning about their culture and dancing along with them, will forever be etched in my mind,” Hammer said, “The beautiful beaded work that the women make by hand is something to see, and of course purchase.  Walking with my guide, Casmir, and a Maasai warrior through the fields filled with animals was very exciting.  Dominique, the warrior, had his bow and arrow, along with a club  for our protection.  The arrow was dipped in poison that would kill an elephant in five minutes.  I never felt nervous, always very safe.”

While in Africa, Hammer also booked a mountain trek and safari with Thomson Safaris, and added a few private things to do on her own.

“I stayed at some pretty amazing places, the beautiful Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha, the KIA Lodge also in Arusha, but my favorite places to stay were the nyumbas at the camps. We each had our own individual tents with everything we needed, and the most comfortable mattress,” she said, adding “Who needs a radio when you have the rain beating on your tent, and you can hear leopards and baboons in your background?”

Some animals heard in the distance were thrust in front of her camera lens at other points during her trip.

“The safari I went on was amazing. We drove down into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and different parts of the Serengeti, and saw every animal there was to see in just a couple of days,” she said. “Our guides were phenomenal, nothing got by them.  They spoke English very well, and  had answers for every question.  They both had a lot of patience, and a great sense of humor.  We saw lions mating 10 feet from our land rover, zebras and cheetahs so close you could almost touch them. We drove upon herds of elephants, saw big cats in the trees, thousands of wildebeests starting the migration. We saw rhinos, warthogs, and more giraffes than you can imagine.  We saw everything.”

If those sites weren’t enough, Hammer also got to take in a view from a mountain top 19,340 feet high.

“Not sure why, but I wanted to climb a mountain,” Hammer said. “It took us seven days to hike up and two days to hike down.  What an experience it was. I had no idea what all goes into a successful climb.  First of all you need a great head guide, I had one, his name is God love.  He is 32 and has been to the summit well over 100 times.” …

“I wanted a challenge, so I signed up to climb a mountain. I wanted to take cool photos of animals, so I signed up for a safari. What I didn’t sign up for and had no idea I would end up doing was to fall in love in a place I knew absolutely nothing about. I would do it all again tomorrow,” Hammer said. “I left a part of my heart in Tanzania, and would love for others to get the opportunity to do the same.”

To read the full story … pick up a copy of the April 19, 2012 edition of The Brillion News.