Sunday, 19 October 2008

Day 19

Brown breasted barbet

We were woken early by bird calls close by. It sounded like geese or hornbills, so out we went
in our jammies to see if we could spot whatever, flying over. To start with we couldn’t, but then something flew into a big tree not far away. I shout- whispered ‘Peacocks!’ – totally the wrong continent for them, though. When we got the binos on them, we found that it was the Hadada ibis making all the noise, and they climbed up and down the branches of the tree. We could hear a noise in a tree very near to the bungalow. On close inspection we spotted a beautiful bird hiding in the upper branches – and it was a Hartlaub’s turaco. It has very precise markings on its head that look as if they are painted on. It was fabulous to see it so close – but we hardly dared move or it would just fly away, so no photographs, just a wonderful memory! A fascinating start to the day. We showered and went for breakfast. While over at the lodge, they ask us again about leaving, and end up phoning the office and get Alan to speak to them. They still say they will come at 17.30, which reception still thinks is a bit late. But that’s all we can do. We had to get our bags sorted so we walk back to the bungalow. According to the plan we have the room on an extended check, so we leave the bags more or less ready and head out for another walk. This time we turn left and walk round the other way. It takes us past some coffee bushes and more of the plants we saw yesterday. We soon come into the car park by the lodge entrance, where we watch sunbirds flittering about the bushes. At the other side if the road is another track, so we follow that round and find that we have joined up with the track from yesterday. Half way up the hill we spot some amazing birds – red and white, which we discover, are brown breasted barbet and try to photograph them – a rather blurred attempt! We come round full circle and turn down the path back to the bungalow. We decide that a late lunch would be good, and walk over to the lodge. We can order from their snack menu – burgers/ fish and chips, which sounds good. While we are there the driver-guide that brought Alan’s sticks drops by to say someone will collect us later and by the way here is Honest’s business card, which he would like us to have! Then he’s away again. We finish lunch, go back to the bungalow and by 4pm we are ready to get ourselves and the bags to reception to check out. There are plenty of people arriving and some others leaving, so the time must be right. Shortly, a driver arrives to take us to the airport and we bid farewell to the relaxing Moivara Lodge. Kilimanjaro puts in a farewell appearance and we arrive at the airport in plenty of time for our flight, and our check in has indeed happened, so we have our seats. Others have not been so lucky and couples have seats at opposite ends of the plane. Don’t suppose it really matters if you plan to sleep your way to Europe! It has been an amazing experience and we feel very proud of what we have achieved with the help of our guides and our tour company, Go2Tanzania.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Day 18

A late breakfast saw us enjoying a misty view of the garden almost alone in the dining area of the veranda. Most folk were up and off on their way long before we surfaced. After breakfast we collected our cameras and began an exploration of the Lodge’s grounds. We took the path leading away from our bungalow, following the way to the perimeter of the area. The flowering plants are a riot of intense colour and we spot sunbirds fluttering among the blooms. We decide that as we are to the left of the main building, we should take the right path when we reach a t-junction, in the hope it will lead us around the edge of the gardens. We follow this path out of the planted area into a wild garden and as it rises, we can see the roofs of the bungalows below us. There are sounds of villagers drifting near us, but we can’t see anyone. The path peaks where there are some spreading trees and we see movement. When we finally see what is there, we discover a band of little squirrels playing above our heads. Nearby there are lots of little brownish birds with light coloured beaks fluttering about. These are rufous backed mannikins and remind us of the munias in Brunei. A stream of ants crosses the footpath, which we have to step over.
Its very pleasant walking through the trees, but we aren’t sure where the path leads, so we eventually take another right turn, which brings us gradually back to the ‘cultivated’ area near the bungalows at the other side of the main building. We come round near to the little swimming pool where there are some stunning flowers. Honest has phoned to say that someone will be coming by after three, so we wander over to the Lodge and have a cup of tea and wait for whoever is coming. After a while, someone from reception announces we have a visitor and one of the driver guides walks over to see us. Thankfully he has Alan’s sticks in his hand. We offer him some tea, but he says he is OK. He chats for a while, then realizes no tip is forthcoming and decides its time to leave. He isn’t sure what time or who will come and collect us tomorrow, but is certain someone will. So the day passes. We change for dinner and sit in the bar with a bottle of wine before wandering through for our meal.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Day 17

We have breakfast at 8.45 – it is buffet style and there is cereal, chafing dishes of hot stuff, loads of bakeries to choose from. We are quite modest having cereal, juice and bakeries with local jam and honey. There is also tea and coffee. Its great and we don’t need to rush anywhere, so we take our time. The view of the gardens is lovely, even though there is low cloud and consequently no sun. They are growing lots of familiar tropical flowering plants. Sunbirds flutter in and out of the bushes and we can hear hornbills calling. Just to the right of the veranda is a little gift shop, and we wander in to see what they have. There are lots of typical things such as soapstone carvings and all sorts of wood and textiles. They also have bags of Tanzania tea and coffee and Zanzibar spices. We buy some little gifts before returning to the bungalow. Back at the bungalow, we enjoy sitting on our little veranda, reading. There are lots of birds fluttering about, but we can’t quite see what they are. Alan tries ringing Honest about the sticks. He doesn’t seem to know anything about it, but will look into it. He may be coming by tomorrow, although we have said we won’t take up his offer of a safari into Arusha Park.
It’s well gone lunch time, but we only fancy some coffee, so make our way over to the Lodge and order some. The lounge is quite busy, so we take the only free sofa, which is near some folk who appear to be having a briefing from their tour guide. They are off to climb Kili and the guide has brought some equipment with him for them to hire. This is warm gear, sticks etc. There are also some gaiters, which the guide explains they use to stop the scree getting into your boots on the way down. Now we know why we should have had gaiters – we never did get any! (Remember Alan had so much grit under the inner soles of his boots!) At last they seem sorted, but just before the guide leaves, the man asks will the porters be bringing the beer and wine for the week? There is a stunned silence before the guide explains that at higher altitudes, alcohol increases ones chances of mountain sickness – so no alcohol there, then!
Postcards are written and handed over to the desk for posting and we check the internet finding a reply from D. Then we stroll through the garden to the bungalow, which has been cleaned in our absence. A decides to soak in a bath – luxury! I sit on the veranda and gradually the sun appears. There are birds flying around the trees in the distance. We think there is a green parrot, but eventually realize that it is an emerald pigeon. There are also hornbills and maybe a turaco flying around, and the bulbuls sing sweetly in the trees. Towards evening, when we had our laundry back, A spotted a blue monkey in the tree close by. Some crane/goose type birds flew over, evening lengthened and we walked down for a beer and dinner.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Day 16

10 hours after we retire, we awake, feeling much refreshed. Hashim has asked us to be ready to walk from 7am – with bags packed and tent cleared. Apparently there is a queue at the gate to check out if you arrive late. As we are slow walkers, he wants to give us plenty of time as well as avoiding this. We are having breakfast by 6.30 and although I’m quite peckish, I still don’t fancy the sausages! Hashim lets us start out on our own at 6.50 – early, and only a couple of porters had started out before us. For the first hour, only a dozen porters have passed us, but then a couple of climbers come by and we are no longer first in the queue! By an hour and a half there is a steady stream of porters, some running down the hill at breakneck speed with towering loads. Another couple walk by and another, but they are stopping to take photos like us and we pass them a little further on.
The trees and plants are wonderful and we pass out of the moorland into the montane forest where the tall trees are draped with bearded lichen. We see the gladioli again as well as the special Kilimanjaro impatiens (impatiens Kilimanjari) the tiny red and yellow flower as well as a lilac version, impatiens pseudoviola. We even spot blue monkeys in the canopy, but only hear the elusive colobus monkeys in the distance. There are lots of ferns under the tall trees, some even resemble tree ferns we have seen in the southern hemisphere, but we didn’t think there were any this far north. There is also a dearth of birds – probably scared away by the dashing porters.

We are down at the gate by just after nine thirty, so half an hour ahead of Hashim’s estimation. We can sign out immediately and we have to fill in names, age, passport nos, etc. etc. as well as whether we reached Uhuru or stopped at Stella point and what time we got there. Hashim said it was 6am when we got to Uhuru – I hadn’t remembered. The parks official was impressed that we ‘oldies’ had done it – but Hashim said that of the four groups over sixties he had guided up, we were the youngest. (All had made it, too.) Now we had to wait for the van and Honest who would take us to Moivara Lodge.
It isn’t until 11am that we spot the van arriving. Many people getting down way after us are already leaving, but Honest had business to take care of before collecting us. Our porters are not amused as they also wanted to get off home. A small presentation ceremony takes place as Hashim hands us our certificates and Honest drapes us with tinsel garlands! So we pile into the van, make our farewells to our No 1 Kilimanjaro team, and with a full van, driver, Honest, Hashim, Lucas and Joseph, we make our way down through the villages to Moshi, a bustling town at 845m. Honest insists we are to have lunch here, which is not in our plan, but no matter. Lucas and Joseph go off with the driver to take the camping kit back to the store. Honest and Hashim come into the restaurant with us, Alberto’s Bar, which is a night club later in the day! We can order beef burgers and chips and cokes. Honest disappears as soon as he orders – as usual he is continually on the phone and can’t ever finish a sentence before it rings and he has to answer. We eat our meal, chatting with Hashim, who is looking forward to getting home to his wife and baby.
When Honest gets back from wherever, he talks across us to Hashim in Swahili. Then, he tells us that Hashim will come with us to Moivara when the driver gets back from the store. This is what happens, and when we get there we discover that Alan’s sticks have been taken out of the van with the camping gear. Hashim and the driver are very concerned and promise to look into it when they get back. We are all welcomed to the lodge with refreshing fruit juice, and we say goodbye to Hashim who has been a wonderful guide. We wouldn’t have made it without him.
Some of the hotel staff take us to our bungalow in the grounds. They must be used to people arriving in a very dishevelled state, as no-one bats an eyelid at these two dusty, smelly travellers arrive at their lovely lodge! We then set about using a thoughtfully provided brush to get rid of some of the dust from ourselves and equipment. Alan empties a mountain of grit from his trainers – I only have tevas as I have given away my other shoes – indescribably smelly! When the dust is gone, we then head for the shower and it is tempting to spend a long time washing away the dirt and the aches of the previous week. We find clean clothes to wear and bundle up our dirties for the hotel laundry. We stroll across to the main building and take in the lovely veranda where the tables are set for dinner and there is a lounge area. Here we decide to have a cup of tea – but there are no biscuits; and we wait to use their internet. Got to let the world know what we have done. We hear American and Dutch accents going by and it’s lovely to relax in the comfy seats.
Back in the bungalow its time to write up the journal, listen to the birds singing all around us and the cicadas heralding the approaching dusk. Bats are circling round the trees, so we watch them for a while. Dinner is at 19.30.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Day 15

“Mama! Bopa!”
It was Manas calling us to get up. Eleven o’clock had come round very quickly, but surprisingly we had slept and now roused ourselves and struggled into our top layers and our boots. Ugali was served in the mess tent along with hot tea; the platys were filled and stowed in our day sacks; then Hashim was waiting with Lucas to take us to the top.
We begin very slowly and can see a couple of sets of lights bobbing someway ahead of us. It is full moonlight, but nevertheless we have our head torches on to light the way as the path is quite rocky. We plod on at Hashim’s steady pace, but it is a steady climb from the outset. Looking back we can see a few tiny lights in the camp below us and further down in the valley, the lights of Moshi twinkle (some 5000m below us!).
Pole pole we go, gradually catching up with the lights ahead as people stop to rest; then we stop to rest and another couple behind catch us up. So it goes on, as we take turns in leapfrogging past. We are soon into the softer scree, which is tiring to climb. This is why we are climbing overnight, as the scree is frozen and not so slippy. For the whole trip, Hashim’s stops have been fairly regular at an hour to an hour and a half, but now I feel as if I need them more frequently; but I must keep going or we will never get there. Everyone is stopping more often as we feel the effects of the thinner air. Sips of water prove how cold it is when we discover there is ice forming in the bottles. Hashim is worried that mine will freeze solid as they have to sit in the outside pockets – the inner bit above the camera compartment is just too small to take a platy. Eventually he puts them in with the emergency stuff he is carrying. The giraffe legs help so much and almost everyone has two, so I am glad we were able to hire one at the gate. Hashim has adjusted them, so they are much longer than their usual height - and more comfortable on the arms.
I have no idea how long we have been walking, but now I look to see if there is a special rock I can walk to before resting. It keeps me going having that to aim for. Then I rest for a little and do it again. It’s very slow, but I take heart in the fact that the people around us are the same folk we were leapfrogging with earlier. Then I have to count a hundred steps to keep going before I rest. This goes on for ages, almost by remote control as I feel very tired, but suddenly Hashim leads me to a rock wall and a rock to sit on and Lucas is leaping about saying something. Alan tells me that we have reached Stella Point (5730m), which is the first part of the summit. Time for more water and a celebratory date. But no time to rest on our laurels as our aim is Uhuru Peak another 165m up. Alan sets off with Lucas, striding ahead and disappearing into mist! We are in clouds, which seems a surprise as it has been clear all the time. We are walking along a wide ridge, it appears, but it is dark and misty and I can’t see what is to either side. What are there are the crater to our right and the glaciers to the left, but even as the sky begins to lighten, the clouds persist, obscuring the view. It takes about an hour to reach our goal. This bit is not so taxing as the climb, I just need to keep Alan in my sights. Then, people are leaping about and shouting and I can see the sign for the peak ahead. Early summiteers are leaving already, having had their photos taken with celebratory cheers and grins. I try my camera, but it announces that I need to change the batteries – it is too cold, poor thing! Alan’s is OK, and someone takes it and we all line up for photos and I notice that Alan’s blue jacket is covered in white – is it frost? Well, no; it is snow! I hadn’t noticed that it was snowing!

We made it with our trusty guides

I was fine, they just decided I needed support!

Hashim decides its time to go down, quickly. He gives Lucas the emergency bag and takes my rucksack, putting one of my sticks down the side. He takes my arm and we start to retrace our steps, this time at speed, but we do stop to glimpse the glaciers through a break in the cloud. Then we rush on to Stella Point for another quick rest, before plunging over the side of the mountain. We are semi-running down the scree, which is softer in the morning sun. We are out of the cloud and as we rush down, more people are climbing up to make the summit, but most have made Stella Point before the sun has melted the surface. We take a few rests and at one point a kind man offers me some water. We forgot that all the water was now with Alan and Lucas, who were some way behind.
By 8.15am Hashim and I are back at camp. I sit on a rock and Manas brings water and squash. It is great to drink something and it feels wonderful to have achieved what we set out to do, although I don’t really feel that I was aware of it all when we were at the summit! After a quarter of an hour, Alan and Lucas make it back too. We climb into the tent, strip off some of our layers of clothing, then relax, lying flat out on our thermorests with sleeping bags thrown over us.

We wore our jammies as an extra layer!

At 11am, Manas calls us with some hot water for a wash; and for a late breakfast. I am not feeling great - a sort of sickly headache, but I wash and make myself respectable (with hair sticking up all over the place!) and stagger up to the mess tent. Then I have to dash out again as I feel I am going to be sick. This is not productive as we haven’t eaten since eleven last night, but Manas comes over and assures me that now I will be stronger. He could be right. Alan and I sit in the mess tent and breakfast of potato goulash is served. Luckily there is some toast and tea, which I manage, even though Alan assures me that the goulash is very tasty. I probably need the saltiness, but I decide that rehydration salts will probably be the next best thing and I do feel a lot better after that. Manas thinks we can probably have a couple more hours rest before we have to descend to the last camp, Mweka (3080m).
We are just pouring another mug of tea, and contemplating a slice of pineapple, when Manas rushes back to the mess tent with the news that they are expecting bad weather on the mountain. Consequently, Hashim has decided that we should get down as soon as possible to avoid a cold soaking. We have to pack up immediately and start down; so that is what we do. We are on our way by 12.15pm, not rushing as Alan’s knees won’t take that! We walk down out of the alpine desert with its sparse vegetation into the heath and moorland. Here we see again the tree groundsel and gradually the heathers cloth the hillsides, getting taller and taller as we descend. We also saw the sugarbush protea and kniphofia among the short grasses and Philippia bushes. By 15.30 we have signed in and are at our last camp on Kilimanjaro. We encountered the edge of a rain shower, but the worst of the weather was above us, so a good idea to move when we did. There is a large encampment of Tusker tour tents some 50m away from us. They are having a celebration as the porters etc, are singing and dancing for the tourists, congratulating them on getting to the summit. It all sounds very jolly. There must be 20-30 people in the group – sounds a lot. We manage an early dinner and bed, before we fall asleep on our feet!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Day 14

At ten to six I needed to go to the loo. Dawn was just breaking and I winkled Alan out of the sleeping bag to come and see. It was beautiful and we watched both peaks turn pink, taking photos, too. Moshi, the town we saw lit up last night is under the cloud, but later we see that it is in the clear and the plains beyond, where they grow sugar cane and maize. After breakfast, Hashim lets us walk along the track at our own pace - there is nowhere else to go. We plod away - Alan leaping on as usual when left to his own devices. It’s up hill all the way, relentless and at 9.30 we have breasted the ridge with Hashim in the lead and Alan tucked in behind again. Now we descend the other side and can see the trail across the plain to a second high ridge. I'm thinking how glad I am that we had the extra day staying at Karanga, as to do Barranco to Barafu and then straight on to the summit that night would be madness for us!

Gradually we approach the second ridge, which we slowly climb and as we do we see Barafu camp strung out ahead of us, balanced precariously on the ridge. This is about 4500m and so we still have quite an uphill climb to our camp which is about three quarters of the way up. We pass tents of today’s summiteers, some occupied by sleeping bodies, others awaiting occupation. Our team are still putting up the tents as its still only 10.45, so we perch on some convenient rocks supping water and nibbling dried cranberries. Amazingly our friends the alpine chats and the 4 striped mice can be seen scurrying about. Hashim tells us that the camp is actually about 4640m. The wind is incredibly strong and relentless and our frail mess tent threatens to blow away, but it is weighted down with plenty of stones. The central pole rattles against the table and we can only fill the mugs half full or they splash over. It’s like being on a ship in a heavy sea! Any water for the camp has to be brought up from the streams at the bottom of the ridge where we crossed mountain streams of crystal clear water. They go leaping down the path with empty containers and plod back up again with full ones.

We rest in our tent, preparing the extra layers for tonight’s marathon, and we hear people passing by the tent as they come down the mountain, weary from the effort. 11.45 and Manas calls us to lunch. Its mie in chicken broth and for the first time we can just about finish the pot. It’s cooked just right and very tasty! Manas then chases to our tent to sleep. It is hot and stuffy, but a gale blows outside; we snooze, and comment on feeling a little headachy, paracetamol to the rescue and plenty of tea, of course. Dinner is served around 5.30 and it is stodgy spag again. We have some, but it feels very heavy in our stomachs. The soup was great and so was the fruit, then we return to the tent, put on our layers, apart from the very top and our shoes; and we try to sleep.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Day 13

This is a short walk, today, and just as well as we have to climb the Great Barranco Wall. This is a scramble up to 4,200m - tough, steep and in some places on the precipitous edge. Not nice for A who manages those bits very well. We could see some people had already started when we were having breakfast as they were going straight to Barafu, but we have an extra day for acclimatisation at Karanga. They were strung out in zigzag lines up the wall of rock 250m high. We scrambled for an hour, then had a water stop from where we could see a wonderful view of Mt Meru, Tanzania's other mountain - only 4566m. About 1/2hr later we reached the top of the ridge, only to have our photos taken by some guys - was this another ageist thing, that we were somehow different to them? Don't know, but all a bit strange. 

We had water and raisins to keep us going, then Hashim led us over the other side and down. We descended, ascended and descended a long way, then ascended again, quite steeply before finally reaching our camp, Karanga. On the second descent a chap in front of us really twisted his ankle, not too good, but he thought it would be OK as long as he didn't take his boot off. We got to camp at 12.15 and Manas served us tea and little buns. We set up the tent and about an hour later, Manas announced that lunch was ready - amazingly, zucchini soup, chicken and chips and fruit! What a feast. Then the mist rolled in and the wind got up. We spent the afternoon resting and reading, and as evening came on, the mist cleared again. We dined and then retired. There will be little sleep for a couple of days after this.

The usual condiments

It is quite a mess
This is the state of the mess tent

Keeping the tent down with stones

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Day 12

The sound of tent zips awakes us at 6am. Time to get going as today is a long slog. Breakfast is at 7.30, and we are soon on our way for the third day of our climb.

Hashim's pace is excellent, but we still find it a tough climb. Our first water stop is after1 1/2hrs. Here a couple of American women pass us, remarking that we must have been up early. Not knowing quite what to make of this, I replied that indeed we had got up before we went to bed - all a bit Monty Pythonish! Then on we go through short arboreal erica and helycrisum.

2hrs later we reach a junction - up over the pass, or, as the porters do, straight to Barranco. The whole point is to get a bit of height acclimatisation, so we choose the Lava Tower route. Unlucky for us, the mist is down and we only see the towers as an ethereal shadow, when we finally reach the top of the pass (4750m).

We join another couple sitting on some rocks and the husband remarks that it’s like a summer’s day on the top of Snowdon! There are lots of cute robin like birds around us, which Hashim informs us are alpine chats. They are very tame, but are not begging for food, just friendly. The landscape has really changed as we enter the alpine region, a sort of prehistoric landscape with the giant groundsel plants dotting the hillside.

It starts to rain and then hails, as we climb down the other side of the pass and walk into Barranco camp at 14.10 (3950m). Unfortunately a puddle forms under our tent and starts to seep through the ground sheet. The lads dig out a trench to drain the water away and we position the thermorests at an angle to avoid the wet patch. The mess tent is completely porous and we sit in a spray of water to have tea and popcorn etc! Not very satisfactory. I try keeping the bowl of sugar dry by putting the tin of coffee on top of it, but each time we go back to the tent, Manas comes in and rearranges it all. I fear it will turn to liquid! We rest after the effort of climbing up to the Tower, then Manas calls us for dinner,which tonight is rice and sauce after a delicious pumpkin soup. The avocado dessert is still going strong, so we decided to eat it with main course. We retire early, then need to go to the loo about10pm. Climbing out of the tent, I see it is a beautiful night with a crispness and clarity to be seen. The view of the mountain in the moonlight is stunning and we both stand for a while admiring it.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Day 11

Our walk today is up to 3845m. We were up at 6.30 after a really cosy night. We needed to be packed ready for breakfast at 7.30, so got the beds cleared into the bags by the time Manas appeared at the tent flap with bowls of hot water for washing. Breakfast is ugali, the local maize porridge, which is pretty good with some brown sugar to jazz it up. Then we were offered omelette and sausage and a load of toast and jam/honey. I declined the sausage, but the omelette on a slice of toast was very tasty. More tea, too. A bag of lunch was given to both and we stowed them in our rucksacks, before setting off at 8. Today Hashim is being the pace setter. We are going 'pole pole' (ie. very slowly), and it is much better than our start, yesterday. Alan follows me, following Hashim. We stop for water after about 3/4 hr, but continue on as before, passing from forest into heathland. Such a change as we walk through 6m high erica arboria with helychrysums growing in large colourful clumps underneath and the occasional splash of colour from red wild gladioli. At 11.15 we stop for lunch. I'm not greatly taken with the chicken, and Alan finds his is not cooked properly. So its just the cheese and tomato butties and a hard boiled egg. Half-time oranges are tasty, too, as is the mango juice and a little bun. As we sit there, the white necked crows advance on us and we rattle a stick at them to make them retreat. There are also very cute 4 striped mice, that dash at breakneck speed between the bushes. We are climbing all the time to cross the ridge. Slog slowly onwards and upwards; we stopped to rescue a beautiful chameleon from the middle of the path, there are plenty of heavy boots on the way that could squash him. As I pick him up gently, he curls his little tail around my little finger and hangs on with his tiny claws spiking my other fingers. I set him down at the edge of the path where he will be safer. Then we spot a lammergeyer. Not a common bird, but known in these parts. Really a classy vulture, it soars like an eagle above us. We also saw the giant lobelia in flower with sunbirds not far away; and what may have been the popcorn cassias. Amazingly we are at Shira camp by 13.10, tired, but not as exhausted as day 1. The same drill as yesterday - set up the tent, a bite of lunch, a relaxing afternoon, before an earlyish dinner of soup, soggy spag bol all of which would have fed a family of eight! This camp has a special doorless latrine. Actually, it has a door, but it has completely come away from the rest of the wooden box around the hole in the ground. I take my hat to indicate the loo is occupied, then sidle in the space where the door is propped up against the front! Hmm! Whatever next? We retire quite early as tomorrow we walk up passed the Lava Tower which is at 4600m approx.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Day 10

Today we began with breakfast, along with a spoonbill that hopped up and down the garden hedge! This was after we had encountered the incredible yellow slug in the shower - ugh.
Our goal high in the sky

Mount Kilimanjaro above the plains

Radjar was waiting for us as we walked back to the cabin/ rondavel and collected the bags and us and off we drove to the Machame Gate. On the way we were very lucky with some wonderful views if the mountain in the early morning sun. A crested eagle was seen sitting on a tree quite near the road.
On arrival we met Honest again - always on his mobile, but he introduced us to Hashim who will be our guide up the mountain. I am glad to see he isn't a hugely tall man, so I will be able to keep up with him. Lots of paperwork and we have to sign in with passport nos. etc. Hashim has our permits and we meet, briefly, his assistant Lucas; the cook, Joseph; our waiter, Manas; and the six porters who will carry the big bags. Their limit is 20Kg which is controlled before they are allowed through the gate. Honest helps us hire a second giraffe leg for me - I only brought one with me. 

Then at last we were off. Hashim told us to go slowly at our own pace. Alan shot off ahead and was always a couple of hundred yards in front. I found it tough going, even at what I thought was a slow pace. There are some wonderful flowers to see as we pass through the mountaigne forest. We even spotted a turaco flying over - black with spectacular red on it. We stopped for lunch, which we had been given in a small cardboard box - an eggburger - cold, of course!

Then Hashim told me to follow him and he set a really slow pace with which I was much more comfortable. We reached our campsite in 5 hrs, which Hashim was quite pleased about. We set about getting up the thermorests and sleeping bags, then washed in warm water and were served tea, biscuits, popcorn and salted peanuts as a snack to keep us going to dinner time. We also visited the latrine, which is entertaining as the door doesn't fit the door frame properly, but at least anyone approaching can see a bit of leg and knows it is occupied! For dinner Joseph rustle up some excellent soup, fish with mixed veg and potatoes and even a dessert - what a surprise, a few slices of fresh avocado. Plenty of hot tea helped it all down.
Dining and sleeping quarters