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.