Drake University reaches the peak of African trip

A week ago, Drake University embarked on a unique journey to become the first collegiate football program to play a game on the African continent. Now the Bulldogs are about to reach the pinnacle of their trip — literally.

The Drake football team, coaches and other administrators are in the midst of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, a 19,340-foot hike up Africa's most famous mountain.

While the climb marks the last major adventure before the group returns home on May 31, the journey to this day has been both eventful and fulfilling.

Drake University president David Maxwell has been blogging about the trip for the past week, including taking pictures of the various activities in which the university has participated.

The Bulldogs arrived in Tanzania last Thursday and were greeted with flowers by the locals. Since then, the Bulldogs have hosted football clinics for kids -- all to a population largely unfamiliar with football. They defeated a team of Mexico All-Stars 17-7 in the Kili Bowl, though both the starting and backup quarterbacks were lost to injuries.
Here's an excerpt about the game from Maxwell's blog:

Ambassador Al Lenhart sat with me at the game (with a Bulldog pin in his lapel, of course), along with two Tanzanian government ministers and a rising star Member of Parliament. The ambassador and I spent much of our time trying to explain to our hosts what was happening on the field. Not easy.

After the game our players ran up in front of the stands where hundreds of school children who'd been at the two clinics were sitting. Our guys shouted "Tanzania" and the crowd responded with "USA," over and over. Goose bumps. A number of players said to me various versions of, "I cannot believe this is happening, I can't believe this is real."

More goose bumps.

At dinner Ambassador Lenhart expressed strong interest in connecting Drake with Tanzanian universities. We plan to be in touch. Good things just keep happening...

Next on the itinerary was an African safari and on Tuesday, the Bulldogs helped build a classroom as part of an overall orphanage construction project.

A fulfilling trip to say the least.

But today will be the biggest task. A four-mile hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, a place with limited oxygen, that will allow the entire Drake party to look down on the land that they have changed in just a short amount of time.

Wrote Maxwell:

Everyone is anticipating the climb with a healthy mix of eagerness and apprehension. Everyone is fit enough to climb an almost 4-mile high mountain (even me), but altitude tolerance is a complete unknown for everyone. Even if you climbed Kili a month ago and felt fine, you might not make it the next time. There are a lot of variables, and hardly any of them are under your control. I can't wait to see the view from the top.

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