Hiking Kilimanjaro – The Start
Sept 11-12, 2016 – Trekking Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a big ass volcano. There, I said it.
It dwarfs nearby Mt. Meru by more than 4000 ft of elevation, and significantly more land area. Basically a mile higher in elevation than most peaks in Colorado. In the below topo image, Meru is on the Left, Kili near center. The dashed line is the Tanzania-Kenya border.
There’s some debate about the origin and meaning of the name “Kilimanjaro”. Per my guide, Dismas, the name is a word-mash and mispronunciation by German missionaries in the 1860’s. He say’s the locals say it means “Difficult Journey”. I concurr!
Sept 11 – Day 1 of the trek
We started with a reasonably early 8:30 am pickup at Lake Duluti Lodge as I finished breakfast (bacon & eggs with pineapple juice). Like I mentioned before… I got ZERO sleep. Probably part nervous, but I mostly blame the Malaria meds.
I was met by Dismas, 2 porters and a driver in a van. Adam & Zubeda were in another van, coming to see me off. Around 10 am we picked up 4 more porters in Boma Ng’ombe, a little town between Arusha and Moshi… and a “last stop” for trekkers to shop for candy/juice/toiletries.
Dismas pointed out all the “European Refugees” or Mzungo. (way more than shown in the below photo).
There were no “US Style” outfitters like REI, Dick’s, Cabela’s or BassPro, so you don’t get the selection of Cliff Bars, LaraBars, Honey Stingers, Sport Beans, etc… Basically, they have dried fruit and candy. The guys all had a quick breakfast at a nearby shop. I bought Cadbury chocolates and a hard toffee candy with coffee in it for the trek, and a Coke for the remaining drive.
Everyone piled back into the van, and off we went.
You quickly turn off the tarmac onto gravel & dirt roads.
So much dust, lots of SUV/Van/Bus traffic for trekkers, and being the “dry season”; the roadside plants are just covered in dust.
Being anxious to start trekking, and after want seems like forever, you get to the registration point… where you wait in a long line of guides and Mzungu (white people) to fill out all the paperwork, weigh the porter’s packs, and pay the park fees.
Then we turned around and went back out the gate… as we were starting from a different trailhead! On the way, we saw a Black and White Colobus Monkey (no thumbs) just siting on a tree stump…
…and later, what looks like a Crowned Eagle flying thru the trees (I assume looking for a smaller monkey to eat).
Not bad for a crop of a small point & shoot camera (Sony rx100m4) that’s not meant for quick focus action.
Finally, we say goodbye to our driver (in the grey shirt) and the trek begins around 2 pm. As you can see, most of the gate/camp signs give you a good idea how far you’ve come and how much farther you have to go…
The trail basically looked like this for most of the day.
Now for some Swahili Lessons:
The key phrase on the mountain is “pole, pole” (poy-yeah, poy-yeah – means slowly, slowly).
The main greeting is “Jambo” = an informal Hello used mostly for Tourists (who also respond “Jambo”)
“Mambo” = How Are You?
“Poa” = Cool.
“Hakuna Matata” = No Worries.
“Asante” = Thank You (asante sana = thank you very much)
…and a 2 and a half hours later we arrive at the Mkubwa Forest camp! They guys were there ahead of me and had a snack of Hot Cocoa and Popcorn ready while they prepared camp and gt ready for dinner.
I needed a little help setting up the tent…
They were building a new shelter right behind us, but works stopped just before sunset, so plenty of quiet. The Proud Africa team was really good about finding nice campsites away from most traffic. Go ahead and pan around this 360 image:
Dinner was Leek Soup, Fried Tilapia, Boiled Potatoes, Bread and Peanut Butter. Followed by a fresh Orange for desert.
Side note: everyone is VERY friendly on the mountain. Even doing a private trek, there was no shortage of people to meet & talk to. I’ve met a number of other trekkers from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Sweeden, Dubai, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, as well as Texas, Michigan, California, New York, and Utah.
Sept 12 – Day 2 of the trek
I got zero sleep that night. I still blame the Malaria meds.
After coffee in the tent at 6:30, then breakfast (hard boiled eggs and porridge), we started back on the path around 7:45 am., and quickly climbed out of the forest
By 1:45, we arrived at Shria 1 Camp in a huge caldera. Dismas said 20 years ago (when he started guiding) there were lions and elephants here all the time, but as the route became more popular with humans, the animals left.
Lunch was Cucumber Soup, some Chicken, Pasta, and Veggies with another Orange for desert.
My blue boots turned tan with all the dust from the trail. Noticing this, I completely ignored it and took a nap.
Another 360 of camp:
Dinner at 6-ish was Potato soup, Beef with Rice and sauteed veggies in tomato sauce, Some hot cocoa, and another orange.
Just after dinner (around sunset) you can see a great view of the mountain from the Shira caldera.
On a side note, many of the porters (from our team, and all the other tour groups) started calling me “Simba”, or “Big Simba” because I have crazy hair and light skin like a lion, and I look strong. I just assumed that this was what they call everyone, but from all the other trekkers I talked to, none of them were being called “Simba”.
Most of the other trekker’s know me as “Ohio” (everyone basically uses where you’re from as your name).