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Embedded Photos: 1.The Rainforest, Mt. Kilimanjaro 2.Open Moorland, Mt. Kilimanjaro 3.Peek at the Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro 3.Alpine Desert, Mt. Kilmanjaro
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Climbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Machame Camp, Tanzania, August 2004

Tanzania Flag TANZANIA

August 23.  MT. KILIMANJARO - Day One  Mohammad came by from the safari company to give me a sleeping bag around 8:00.  He brought two and I chose the thickest which was a big, green, fat military sleeping bag that he claimed went to negative fifteen.  It took up the better part of my backpack but I didn't plan on getting cold on that mountain.  A van picked me up around 9:00 to take me to the Machame Gate.  It was packed with porters so they squished me in the front between the driver and a guy from the safari office.  When we asked about the other two people going on the trek he said they were waiting at the park gate.  Before heading out of Moshi the van rolled back by the office and the guy next to me got out and a guide jumped in.  His name was David and he introduced himself as my guide.  When I asked him about the other two people he pointed to the porters in the back.  I reiterated the question more clearly but he looked puzzled and said there was a coordinator at the gate who would know.  TClimbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzaniahat was my first clue that things might not go quite as I had been led to expect.

When we pulled up at the gate all of the porters piled out and I saw hoards more lined up outside the fence.  Other people were selling overpriced Kili maps, wooden walking sticks, and safari hats with Mt. Kilimanjaro embroidered on them.  The van pulled beyond the gate and up to the scales at the top of the parking lot, where the trail started.  When we got out I asked again about the other two people since I wanted to meet them.  Mohammad had said they were British.  David asked me to wait.  There was much sorting out of stuff going on near the scales as they determined the load for each porter.  I prodded again about the other members of my group.  David moved me down to a "tourist resting area"  and I started to get more annoyed.  There was a constant stream of people filing up the trail, most in groups of five or more.  I could hear quite a few Americans.  I noticed a French couple that had been in the room next to us at the YMCA and nodded.  They just looked the other way.  While I was standing there a team of security men brought over three men at gun point and made them lay on the ground.  They did their wrists up behind their backs with twine and kept the guns pointed at them.  Fantastic, I thought.

Finally David returned with a short flimsy little man with a lisp.  This was the "coordinator".  The man proceeded to tell me that the other two people didn't want a third person and had already started their climb.  He had a lot of  attitude and said "What can I do?".  I was really getting ticked off.  They had blatantly lied to me when I signed up and then again in the morning when they said the people were waiting for me.  It was probably why they sent the office agent with the van so he could maintain the lie until they got me to the gate.  I wasn't going to let them off that easy and started to lay into the "coordinator" about the lying and that I wasn't comfortable going on the climb alone.  I had made it clear that IClimbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzania wanted to go with a group and was only going on the Machame route instead of the Marangu because they told me there was a group!  I told him that Mohammad better start running because when my husband found out he wouldn't be very happy either.  I was genuinely upset and wanted them to be worried.  Then, I pointed to the apprehended men with their faces in the dirt, as a case in point on the safety factor, and asked them what they planned to do.  He squirmed and tried to assure me the men were only being held for entering the park without proper ID.  Right.  In the end, the only solution he had for me was to lump me in with the seventeen person Spanish group.  It wasn't a very attractive option.  I demanded to talk with Mohammad before I made up my mind.  I was already pretty certain that I would go but I wanted to have a go at Mohammad for my own personal satisfaction.  The coordinator rang and handed me the phone.  They did offer to take me back to Moshi but I didn't want to postpone our departure from Tanzania any more.  We had been there long enough.  It was time to just get this mountain over with, group or no group.  I rubbed in the guilt about lying to me and made some drama over the three men being held at gunpoint but ultimately I agreed to go.   My guide, David, seemed like a pretty good guy and none of this was his fault.  It would be very boring to make the climb alone but it was just six days. 

It was disappointing to be starting the climb with so little enthusiasm but off we went.  I trailed behind the snail-paced group of Spaniards, all dressed in nifty clean hiking gear.  It was a mixed group that ranged from people in their twenties to their fifties.   They didn't speak English and hardly acknowledged me.  As we inched up the trail I started to feel like the eighteenth wheel and when they stopped I just told David to keep going.  The trail was very well maintained and the scenery was quite beautiful.  We were in a lush rainforest landscape with mist hanging in the air, ivy winding up the trees, and small flowers peeking out in the bushes.  The slope was gradual and with Rob's watch I monitored our ascent.   Not long after we separated from the Spanish group David stopped and told me he would catch up.  It was a while before I saw him again but he sent a porter named Nixon to walk along with me in the meantime.  He was being sensitive to my feeling uncomfortable which was appreciated but the trail seemed quite secure with plenty of traffic from porters and other hikers.  Moments of total solitude were rare.  I suspect David had run back to get my lunch, not knowing that someone had already handed it to me.  I was feeling pretty confident that, at least, I had a good guide. 

The climb for the day was about 1000 meters and at around 500 meters we stopped for lunch.  A two person group consisting of a Swedish guy and a British woman had just passed me and I sat with them over lunch.  I made the mistake of eating everything in my lunch box whichClimbing Kilmanjaro, Tanzania made the second half of the day slower but we still made good time.  As the mist began to clear I knew we were getting close. The first camp ground was just before the rainforest turned into a more sparsely vegetated moorland.  During the last half hour I started to feel fatigued.  I had calibrated the watch at the Machame Gate but had been about 50 meters off which had given me false hope that we were nearly there.  I was relieved when the trail opened up to a drier but still forested area and tents came into view.

For the number of people making the climb the campsites were kept fairly spread out.  Ours was at the top of the camp ground and the porters were already there getting things set up.  My tent was pitched at the back, behind the city of matching orange tents for the Spanish.  On the opposite end was their mess tent and the kitchen tent.  I sat in the sun for a bit to dry off before crawling into my tent to rest.  There really wasn't much to do.  They said I would easily meet all kinds of people on the trail but it felt odd to just barge into someone's campsite and say "Hi, I am without a group, do you mind if I intrude on yours?".  So, I just sorted out my things inside the tent and attempted to read a book.  I was dehydrated and had a headache and the book I brought just required too much concentration.  After a while I heard shuffling next to me tent and then a porter whispered into my door that tea was ready.  I emerged and found a small yellow tarp laid out with a row of drink mixes, hot water, and a plate of biscuits.  It was good to eat something but I felt rather pathetic sitting there alone.  

The Spaniards arrived about two hours after me.  They probably wondered what I was doing so near their camp site but I was told that their leader agreed to have me along.  It wasn't really my fault but I just thought it was best to keep to myself and not impose on them.  I tried to smile and be pleasant but they were a rather cold group.  They all had enormous matching black duffle bags that said Montanas del Mundo (Mountains of the World), a club it would seem.  However, for being regular mountain climbers they were an environmental nightmare.  Two very basic outhouses stood down hill from our camp.  They weren't in great shape, the door of one swung broken to the side, but they were there.  The Spaniards would have not of it and found nearly every other possible place to piss andClimbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzania defecate that they could.  All of the three trails leading down to the outhouses became littered with pee streams.  I witnessed one woman after another squatting in the shrubbery, leaving the toilet paper for nature.  It was a sad sight.  I even saw one of them taking a photo of the outhouses!  Something to show the friends back home, I guess.  If using an outhouse was that much of a tragedy for them I think they had taken up the wrong hobby.    

Dinner was served the same at my tea.  I sat in front of my yellow tarp on a tiny folding stool while the Spaniards creating deafening noise from their mess tent.  The food was a carbo load like I had never seen before.  One half of my plate was piled with potatoes while the other half spilled over with spaghetti.  A mystery sauce accompanied the starch bomb.  I couldn't begin to eat it all.  I knocked off most of the noodles but in my lifetime I could never have finished those potatoes.  

I went to sleep early, for lack of nothing else to do.  Fortunately my earplugs were enough to drown out most of the Spanish noise.

Day One Stats:

Machame Gate - Machame Camp

Altitude Change: 1800m - 2990m = 1190m

Walking Time: 12:00 - (30 m lunch) - 4:15p  = 3h 45m