Sunday, 18 July 2010

Kilimanjaro. Tanzania. June 2010. Day One

This was a really hectic morning, beginning at 06.30, with us sorting out the clothes to be left at the hotel. Then packing the remaining clothes into plastic bags to prevent them getting wet on the climb. Renting a safe deposit box at the hotel, for the passports, money ect. Buying bottles of drinking water at very inflated prices and finally tucking into a large cooked breakfast.
We then met the other members of our small group, there were five of us, myself and my two daughters and a Mother and her Son. ‘The Footloose Group’.
The drive to the National Park Gate in a mini bus took about ¾ of an hour, the scenery was very lush, tropical and green with Bananas and Mealies growing in every available space. When we arrived at the park gates, The Marangu Gate (6,500 ft), we were mobbed by hawkers selling Gaiters, the skilled salesmen insisted they were necessary for the forest, I fell for the sales patter and brought some, I did not need them, Ow well, helping local economies yet again!

I am ready to go and Some warnings at the gate.

Our guide was called Felix, and for every two of us we were provided with two porters and a cook. So our party size had increased. We set off through the misty forest, the assistant guide Peter advised 'pole, pole' ('slowly, slowly') to assist in acclimatization to the altitude.
Slowly, slowly, it was awful. After all the months of training I was fit! The pace was to slow for me, it took me till lunch to slow my self down to the snails pace. We walked through the forest, on a very good path, for 2 to 2 ½ hours, then stopped for the packed lunch we had with us from the hotel.
The rout through the forest was hot, humid and steep. Far steeper than I had imagined, we did not see any wildlife, just a mongoose who joined us for lunch.
After lunch the route got steeper as we headed for Mandara Camp at 2720mt.Mandara camp was a clearing in the forest. It consists of various new A framed huts. There are sleeping huts, eating huts, and toilet huts. The facilities were good.
The hut slept four with a bunk bed at one end and a single bed on each wall, cramped but OK.
As we arrived we were served fresh pop corn and Milo or Tea/Coffee. After this short break we climbed at bit more, up to Maundi Crater. It was here for the first time the cloud lifted long enough for us to see one of the peaks, ‘Mawensa’.
Then at 19.00 dinner was served. There was soup with bread. A main course of meat and veg stew, with potatoes and a hot pudding.
Amazingly after this long and busy day, none of us really slept well, and it was very cold in the early morning, colder still in the night when I had to go out to the toilet. However it was worth it just to look up at the sky. The stars were the clearest and best I have ever seen in my life....just fantastic.

Kilimanjaro. Tanzania. June 2010.Manchester to Kilimanjaro.

It was the middle of the night when I was rudely awakened by the frantic cries of ‘Get Up’. ..’The alarm has been set at the incorrect time, we need to set off NOW!’.
The alarm clock was set for, and had rang at 03.00, this was a mistake, as the KLM desk check in time at Manchester Airport was 04.00 and we live more that a one hour drive from the airport. PANIC!
By 03.30 we were in the car and on the road, due to the early hour there was minimal traffic and we made good time to the airport, only to be scuppered at the turn off for the Airport as the junction was shut, clutterd with road works. The map was consulted and a new rout found and at 04.45 we pulled into Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport.
After all the rush the KLM flight to Amsterdam was delayed by 20 mins due to some air traffic issues at Schipol. At Schipol the KLM flight to Kilimanjaro was also delayed by a further 40 minutes.

The flight was good, the crew very good, fantastic customer service making up for very uncomfortable seats, poor entertainment system and inedible food!
The arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport was uneventful. I all ready had my Visa, though you could get them at the Arrivals Hall, and Yellow Fever Inoculations. The Yello Feaver Certificate was not needed if you were arriving on this KLM flight. The mini bus was waiting to take us along dirt roads to the Springlands hotel.
Entering through large metal gates The Springlands Hotel is a small oasis in the busy town of Moshi.

RB had arrived earlier in the day, travelling Air Kenya from Dubai and Precision Air from Nairobi.
The dining area was closed but the staff provided us with tomato and cheese on toast then escorted us to our rooms, one hot shower later it was time for bed.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Kilimanjaro. Tanzania. June 2010.

What you choose to receive as a birthday present (if you are asked!) varies from person to person. I want travel presents! A holiday just suites me fine and it seems that my preference is also wearing off on my husband. When I enquired what he wanted to celebrated his reaching his half century, I was informed that he wanted to see the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro before it melted. According to Professor Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University, Kilimanjaro’s ice fields could be gone by the year 2020. When I started my research, I realised I did not know this part of Africa as well as I thought I did. For a start, I thought Kilimanjaro was in Kenya, very quickly I discovered that it is in Tanzania. To further my knowledge I ordered the Brand book Northern Tanzania, and it was soon very obvious that climbing the mountain was not an independent undertaking!
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, It is among the tallest freestanding mountains in the world, with Uhuru Peak rising to an altitude of 5,882 m (19,298 ft) from base to summit. I tried to cross reference the recommended tour companies mentioned on page 155 of the Bradt guide on the Trip Advisor Forum, but could not find information on any of them. I really wanted to make sure that this trip was booked with a company who had a good safety record and who were experienced with the mountain.
I finally decided to use an English travel agent called Footloose, based in Ilkley, Yorkshire.
My reasons for this were, that the company specializes in such tours, the proprietors have done the climb themselves, the company is ABTA bonded and many of the local Tanzania tour companies were charging the same rates as Footloose.
As I read more about the climb, it became obvious that although a great many visitors, of all ages climb the mountain, it should not be regarded as a ‘prolonged Sunday Stroll’. To climb you do need to be reasonably fit. I decided it was not for me! And left the adventure to my husband and two daughters.
As usual the logistics of planning a family holiday proved to be like the of aligning moons. But after much discussion if was decided that the first week of June 2010 suited every one.
There was a lot of planning to be done. For a start getting fit! This was undertaken by lots of hill walking, running and training in the gym.
Footloose sent a list of equipment needed, the most important thing being a pair of well worn in Walking Boots. New boots were purchased and broken in, lot of new walking socks as well. Other than needing new boots we had most of the necessary apparel. Lots of layers, consisting of warm clothes starting with the thermal base layer and ending with a ski jacket. We had to buy new sleeping bags, water bottles and ‘day packs’.
The two other expensive purchases were the health needs....Malaria tablets and pre trip vaccinations. The Vaccinations recommended at our local clinic were Swine Flu, Hep A, Typhoid and Tetanus. Yellow Fever was not needed as we were not arriving from a country infected with yellow fever. In choosing Malarone (no psychotic side effects) for the Malaria prophylaxis I had to get private Prescriptions at a cost of £15.00 each, then the Malarone tablets costing £2.50 per tablet!
The visas cost £38.00 each, we sent the passports to the Embassy in London. The cost of this holiday was mounting up before we had even started. I have had holidays for the cost of that lot!
Finally the flight, this was relatively easy as KLM fly directly from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport each day. So we booked Manchester to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro.
flew with Air Kenya from Dubai to Nairobi, then with Precision Air, Nairobi to Kilimanjaro.
And as a last Footnote......the blog about the Mt Kilimanjaro experience is written by the person who did it,Andy. Thank you for that x