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The climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro  
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Day One - On To The Mountain

   

Arusha, Tanzania

2/19/10 7:30PM EAT: As we had our pre-climb briefing the previous night, our party was to be ready at our respective hotel by a certain time. Our hotel, the Impala, was 7:30 AM pickup time. Staying at the Impala was Barry and Sachin, Angie, and myself. After breakfast and some quick emails, we assembled in the lobby awaiting for Team Kilimanjaro's Range Rover to pull in. The on-time arrival by Venance, our driver along with Asst. Guide Felix and Solomon, whom we didn' tknow at the time was not only an Assistant Guide but also our chef extraordinaire. According to Joshua, he is the best chef with the company. We would find out later, we were privileged to have him.

loading range rover

As they loaded down our Rover, I made a friend selling papers. It's easy to make friends in Tanzania cause of our potential to spend money, but people like this man selling the papers are polite, happy, and seemingly content. I didn't take a paper but I did give him a small bill's worth of shillings. The cartoon money is easy to give away, especially when you don't know how much your giving away. It doesn't matter, I'm on vacation and this is Africa. So maybe spreadin' the money around is wasteful, maybe it makes me feel good, maybe it makes them feel good, who knows. Why am I even analyzing it?

During our pre-climb briefing the night before with our head guide Joshua, he explained that today was going to be a long one. Most of it would be driving, some standing around, and then an up-mountain jog that would break us in quickly. We should reach camp by nightfall, dinner, turn into our tents and be ready to do it all over again.
As promised, Team Kilimanjaro was right on time. Our Range Rover was piloted by local resident and TK driver Venance. Since I was under the weather, Barry suggested I ride in the front, while he, along with Angie and Sachin would take the back. Venance took us away from town, past some banana, tobacco and coffee plantations to a little store with a hot food stand next door. It was great, on Venance’s recommendation I had the Tanzanian brewed Coffee and two Samosas, small, triangular pastries filled with spicy meat or vegetables and deep fried. It was a great appetizer for the mountain, and I most pleased to have another cup of coffee. Who knows when my next cup might be? I did have one dream prior to arriving in Africa, that was to drink some local Tanzanian, Kilimanjaro especially, coffee.

the ride to kili
the ride to the mountain

After our brief pit stop, we took a turn off of the main road, and headed down a side road, flanking Kilimanjaro. During our brief stop, Venance pointed out the peak of Kilimanjaro trying to peak through a hole in the clouds. I briefly saw it, clicked of a few pictures of it but am unable to tell the difference between a snow capped mountain and white clouds now as I review my pictures, I know the mountain is up there somewhere but officially, at that point, I had not seen the mountain yet.
As we headed down the side road, we passed all sorts of interesting things to see. It was common to see local Sheppard piloting his herd down the road.
These guys had a big herd.

The African countryside looked, well African, like in the movies or something. As I was still in a state of “Whoa,” I found myself burning up my camera battery early. I was not afraid of running out of disc memory, in that I had 18 gigs worth of memory with me. I only had three batteries however so that was a concern. At this point however, I was clicking off shots of anything that even looked remotely interesting. Then I sit in my home weeks later trying to interpret what I saw at the time. A shot like this was basically, “Ahhhh, look at the country side." I was ready to see a leopard jump out, or an elephant walking with its babies, or maybe a Giraffe. Is asking to see a Giraffe too much? Nope, just plain ole African country side. Very nice!

the ride to kili
the ride

We were heading towards Mount Kilimanjaro. I kept seeing hints of it, though I could tell we were still quite a distance away. There it was in the distance, the top covered in clouds. I still haven’t officially seen this mountain. “How could something this big be so elusive?” I thought.
We had been on the road for well over an hour at this point, and it just did not seem we were ever going to reach this mountain. Joshua said we would be driving awhile. I guess he was right.

the ride
the ride
Pictured here from left to right is Venance's shoulder, he was driving, Sachin, Angie, Barry and myself. In the back is Felix and Soloman. On the roof was all of our gear, in our hearts was desire to reach the mountain, and in my gut was a hint of nervousness. Why not? Even though I had read everything I could about this climb, been advised, and briefed by anyone who knew anyone who's ever climbed this mountain, and talked with Joshua and our fellow climbers the night before, I still didn't know what exactly to expect. So I admit I was curious at best what was to come. I still had not officially seen this mountain in person so...
ridin'
the gate

First stop was this small brick building on the side of the dirt road we had previously turned onto. This was where Joshua would pay the park rangers all of our park fees. We all kind of stood around waiting, breathing, enjoying the beautiful African day. Our weather today was simply awesome!

We were back on the road. I was still trying to get used to sitting in the passenger seat, ON THE LEFT SIDE! We were cruising pretty good, the closer we got to the mountain, the narrower the road was becoming, and less paved!

ride
weighin

We arrived at the the ranger’s station a partial way up the mountain, to have all of our bags weighed and to sign in. There were limits that the porters were allowed to carry and the rangers made sure none of the porters were overburdened. Various ranger stations throughout the mountain mostly included scales at each site to protect the porters.

This guy is a park ranger. Yes, they carry AK-47 rifles incase of an encounter with a wild animal. Their protection is only needed when climbers are in the rain forest portion. The only thing we saw on day one was a bunch of monkeys following along in the trees as if to taunt us. I don't think they were a threat so I didn't hear any gun fire while in the rain forest. Actually from everything I have read, it is extremely rare to see any threatening wild life during the rain forest ascent. But we were hopeful of course! Hopeful to see something, not hopeful to hear gunfire. The wild animals on the hiking routes are pretty smart and know well enough to stay away so there was not really any worry we would encounter anything. And there have not been any recent reports of problems.

ak 47

Angie signs in
One of the other main things that needed to be accomplished besides the weighing in, was the signing of the park register alerting officials that we would be on the mountain. Angie is seen here signing the book.

riz signs book

I signed the book next!

This sign did not help my confidence. Item No. 2 said, “If you have a sore throat, cold, or breathing problems, do not go beyond.” I had a temperature that was in its peak at this point. I was weak, I was nervous and I felt my day-sack was way too heavy. I was not feeling well, but I kept it pretty much to myself. I wanted to go on this expedition, and I was not going to let some bug I picked up in some airport stop me.

the rules

weighed and loaded

We were weighed in, signed in, reloading and just about ready to roll. Felix is seen here securing all of our gear, and he had to secure it well. The road ahead was not going to be pretty!

out of the gate

Heading out of the gate and back down the mountain road to where we will turn off onto the actual Lemosho route. Venance would drive us as far as he could, until the road became impassable. Then at that point, we would get all of our gear and start hiking to the trail head.

This picture does not do this road justice. We were going up a pretty steep incline. Our driver had to keep downshifting into lower gears and our speed was somewhat slower than before. We had a lot of weight on our roof in all of our gear, plus 7 people inside. The rest of our climbing party rode in a white colored Range Rover and followed behind in convoy fashion.
the ride
ride

Take a ride with us in our Range Rover as we motor up this winding mountain path.

Lemosho gate

The actual Lemosho Route trail head sign.

Looks like the end of the road.

It was time to set out on foot. The hike officially begins, and our feet were actually touching trail, finally! First things first. As we were instructed to always carry our rain gear, we were told to put it on now. It was going to rain. We had our pack covers on, our hiking poles ready, rain pants and coat on, time to go!
Okay, looking fresh and ready. Let's go!!!
We hiked the remainder of the Lemosho Route road to find our porters already setting up our dining tent. This would be our first shared meal prepared on the mountain. At this point, I do not think any of us knew what to expect. We kind of stood around, trying to stay dry, wondering what we were supposed to do. Apparently we were just supposed to wait, wait until the dining tent was set up and prepared for us.
I really enjoy this photo. As we stood around and waited for our dining accommodations to be prepared, I caught 4 of the men of our climbing party. Pictured from left to right is Barry from the U.K., David from Kalamazoo, MI, Bruno from Quebec and Marek, from Vancouver. Marek never wasted a moment without taking a photo, or video as seen here.
the boys
Dining accommodations are ready, everyone have a seat for lunch. Seen here from left to right is: Sachin, David, Marek with camera rolling and Nathalie. This would be our dining tent for the next 9 days, full with hot tea, maasai patterned tablecloths, hot sauce, among other things.

The actual mountain climbing begins. I had to take a photo, it was nearly straight up! Start climbing people, it will only seem like a 1,000 miles.

We went down to go up!!!!

Then we went back up. It as wet, slippery, and muddy. The hiking boots, gator's and hiking poles really did their job.

Finally, Day One completed!!!! More to follow, check back!