Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: Kilimanjaro Days 1& 2

Trek up Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest point in Africa.


We left The Springland Hotel in Moshi about 8.30am and drove in an old Land Rover to the Kilimanjaro Park entrance with our guide (whose name is Godlisten!). The night before we got an incredible view of the mountain top, snow covered and majestically towering about every other point in the whole African continent. I spent a frantic night before sorting out all of the IT and communication equipment, camera equipment, and had to run the Land Rover for 2 hrs to charge a depleted auxiliary battery from charging equipment batteries. We met the porters (5 in total) at the Park entrance. They rearranged all of the things they had to carry which included all of our food for 6 days, tents, chairs, a table, as well as our personal items that we did not carry in our day packs. We signed in the book, and off we went on the trail up.

The weather was overcast and cloudy so we could not see the mountain top, but the image was firm in my mind and all I could think was standing on the summit.

Our first day's hiking was through rainforest as you must remember, we are just 3 degrees south of the equator. We were warned of the possibility of rain and after about 3 hrs hiking the heavens opened, gently at first, then torrential rain. Gena had brought out all of our gear for this part of the Edventure which included Gore-Tex parkas sponsored by Moonstone, and an assortment of other apparel suited to this trek. So we hiked on through the rain but with spirits high. Both Gena's and Aaron's boots filled up with water quite quickly but they pushed on. The first days hiking ended after 10 kms and 5 hrs 40 min. When we reached camp, the rain had stopped and the porters we raced past us, had already set up camp and boiled water for hot drinks. Our guide then broke the news to us. The porters had not used the rain covers on the packs they were carrying and all of our cloths and sleeping bags had gotten wet. This was bad news as it was cold and the day was its end. A fire was made (not usually allowed on the mountain) and we spent the remaining evening hours trying to dry our wet cloths to varying degrees of success. The guide and porters were incredibly apologetic so we made the best of the situation and didn't let it dampen our spirits.

We were cooked an incredible dinner: mushroom soup, grilled beef, fried potatoes, cabbage with a fantastic sauce. I was really impressed and felt completely pampered. Our tents were put up for us, half our stuff was carried, our meals are cooked for us, and the dishes are done. We had not been used to this in the past 6 months! But the guides and porters are used to this climb and are in incredible shape. We are NOT! You will not believe how much the porters carry.Each has a backpack then an enormous bag they carry on their head. Unfortunately one of the porters took a hard fall, but fortunately he was OK with just his pride hurt.

So we settled down in our tents and snuggled up in our sleeping bags as it was already getting cold. We had covered 10 km in 6 hours and climbed from 1800 meters to 3100 meters.


We woke up at about 7am and breakfast was being prepared. Overnight the sky had almost cleared and we were treated to view of the mountain top. What inspiration! We all slept quite well, although Aaron said he was a little cold and his wet socks were a little over-dried on the fire last night as his foot went right through the end!

We set off on day two at about 9.30am after filling our water bottles and rearranging our day packs. The climb today was shorter that on day 1, but it was up a steep trail which required some scrambling. Gena was somewhat apprehensive about this as she has no fondness for scrambling over wet rocks. Clouds quickly came up the mountain from below and the blue skies quickly became overcast. Like yesterday, after about 3 hours of hiking it started to rain, although it was just a drizzle. Aaron was hiking at quite a pace and pretty much kept up with the porters whereas I stayed with Gena who was maintaining a slower but steady pace. He were no longer hiking in rainforest, but the terrain had turned into almost moorland with just a few tree-like heather plants. However the mist all around us hide what must be an incredible view.

We arrived at our camp around 2.30pm and had climbed almost 1 km in elevation, from 3100 m to 4000 m and a distance of about 6 km. I was incredibly proud of Gena. The last time I saw her (October '99), she could not have managed even one tenth of this. All of her hard work and training in the meantime had clearly paid off. Aaron pretty much bounces back and forward between the porters and us to film and just check that all is well.

So here I sit, in a tent, writing about our past two days in preparation to send to the web site. The next three days will be very challenging. I'll probably send an entry tomorrow or the next day, and then one from the summit at 20 000 feet on permanent glaciers in temps up to 20 below zero the day after. We are all in good spirits despite the damp wet weather.

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