Moshi, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

So we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel, and then finished packing up our bags.  Andy, Jon and I are all walking very funny because our muscles hurt so badly.  The bus to Nairobi was a charter bus arranged by Dragoman – our main tour operators – and it picked us up at 10:30 directly at the hotel.  We said good-bye to everyone we knew at the hotel, and we were off.

Before we left Moshi, the bus stopped at a few other hotels to pick up other people.  Eric, the guy from Chicago we met at Kibo Hut, got on.  We were psyched to hear about his own experience getting to the summit.  He also made it down the mountain in one day and was walking just as funny as we were.  The bus ride was a 7 hour ride, and was relatively uneventful.  We chatted, laughed, read, and listened to music.  Towards the end of the trip, we pulled out the cards and Eric taught us Spades.  Then we taught him Cho Dai Day, which he liked a lot.

Nairobbery

We arrived in Nairobi at about 6:00 and Andy, Jon and I checked into the 680 Hotel.  This is the hotel we should have stayed at in Nairobi if we had returned with the Kiboko group.  But since we didn’t use up our night before Kili, we decided to use it now.  They didn’t seem to have a problem at the desk, and we were glad because the hotel is much too expensive for our budget traveler tastes – $70/night!

Andy and Jon went to get money from an ATM and I met them at a pub at the Hilton around the corner.  Then we went to an Italian Ristorante that Andy ate at the week before.  We had a lovely dinner and actually had some red wine too – such a treat!  Andy is great company to have around.  He is full of hysterical stories and is very easy to talk to.  I think we’ll miss him when he leaves for his safari tomorrow AM.

We were a bit leery of walking around Nairobi at night.  It’s not a safe city and plenty of sketchy people hanging out on street corners.  Not to mention the working girls!  So we walked briskly from the restaurant to an Internet Cafe nearby our hotel.  Then we went to a bar next-door for a few beers.  By now, it was 10:00 and was quite cold so the outdoor bar we’d chosen wasn’t suitable anymore.  So we crossed the street and went to the hotel to sleep.

Tanzania: Moshi

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Ouch!

I can’t remember the last time I slept so soundly.  I fell asleep at 9:30 and woke up at 7:30 – barely moving the entire night.  We were in for a surprise when we woke up, though.  Getting out of bed was a major ordeal!  Every single muscle in our bodies hurt from our run down the mountain.  Walking has never been so painful.  Jon had gotten up to go to the bathroom at some point in the morning, and he says he was going to warn me about the muscle situation but decided I could figure it out for myself.  No kidding.

From Jon:  Since I’ve chosen to consider the run down the mountain as this year’s marathon, true to form, the requisite muscle stiffness and soreness is there too.  Time for Advil!

At 8:30, we went to breakfast and sat with Vanessa and her dad again, and we all moaned and groaned and ached together.  Every five minutes, we looked out the window to see if the Zara bus had arrived to take us back to the Springlands because we were anxious to leave the Green Hostel.  At 10:00, the bus arrived and we climbed in – excited for a day of luxury.

BIo-Chemical Waste

After checking in, Jon and I sat by the pool to read while they finished cleaning our room.  It was overcast, but we didn’t care.  Then we went to the room and did the Grand Backpack Switch.  We’d taken my backpack up the mountain and left Jon’s full of stuff here at the Springlands.  His was incredibly heavy and mine was incredibly full of dirty clothes.  We knew we were going to send our Kili stuff home after we’d finished the trek, and before the climb we figured we would just throw the dirty clothes into a box and ship it.  But after opening my backpack, we realized that what we had on our hands was a hazardous waste site.  So we really need to wash these clothes before we send them home or my parents die from radiation or something when they open the box.

Cho Dai Day

We sat at the hotel garden bar waiting for lunch to be served, and met a kid from London named Joe.  Joe is about to study at the London School of Economics, and had also come down the mountain early from a different trail.  He had contracted HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema  – which is fluid in the lungs.  Very, very bad!  His guide sent him with a porter down a trail that would “only take 5 hours”.  11 hours later he reached the bottom.  He says that he continuously asked the porter “How much longer?”  and the porter kept changing his answer.  At one point, Joe said that the porter said “Six more minutes!”  so Joe started running.  75 minutes later, he made it to the gate.  Can you imagine being that sick and being demoralized by these kinds of “Africa Time Estimates”?  How terrible!  Joe made it to the hotel at 2:00 in the morning.

Despite his lungs, Joe was in great spirits and hung out and chatted with us for a while.  He saw our deck of cards and offered to teach us a “Chinese card game that we would play forever”.  Of course, we jumped at the chance!  So Joe taught us Cho Dai Day, which is a cross between Spades and Poker.  It was a great game, although I was annoyed because I consistently lost.  And much like poker, Jon consistently won.  Whenever we play poker, I invariably end up taking money from Jon’s pot because I lose all mine early in the game!

Andy Fairweather: Mountaineer Extraordinaire

During lunch, one of the arriving buses carried Andy – our long lost mountain hiking buddy.  We waved and cheered for him, and he waved and kept walking.  We don’t blame him – we remember how we felt when we got back yesterday.  So we’ll wait until he’s showered and rested to hear about his experience.  Omari came with him, so we chatted with him for a bit and bid him farewell.  The sun was peaking through the clouds, and Jon and I went to the pool to lay out and read.

Over dinner, we got to hear about Andy’s trip to the summit.  He says he was completely out of it by the time he got to Uhuru Peak, and swears that he fell asleep every couple of steps.  He said he would just close his eyes for a brief second, then his swaying would wake him up.  By the end, he was just going wherever Nicholas – the assistant guide – told him to go.  But he was ecstatic and we are very proud of him!  He has a slick certificate to hang on his wall back at school.

Andy, Jon, and Me – enjoying some well-deserved beers

After dinner, we played more rounds of Cho Dai Day with Jon, Andy, Joe, and Joe’s friend Dom.  I finally won a game, but had to leave because the mosquitoes were eating me alive.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 4 of Kili Climb: from Kibo Huts (4703 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5985 meters)

What we did: Kibo Huts (4703 meters) to 4900 meters to Marangu Gate (1800 meters)

We woke up at 11:30PM for tea and biscuits in preparation for the difficult 5 hour climb to the peak.  We also suited up in multiple layers of clothes because the peak is -20°C.  I wore: 3 pair of leggings, fleece pants, rain pants, gaiters, two t-shirts, one sweater, one long-sleeved shirt, one fleece, a rain jacket, a bandana, balaclava, hat, and a head torch.  Jon wore: 2 leggings, fleece pants, jeans, gaiters, two t-shirts, two long-sleeved shirts, a fleece, a rain jacket, and a balaclava.

The Ascent

Jon woke up with a terrible headache.  I felt better than I had a few hours before, although I wasn’t 100%.  But we were determined to try, so off we went at 1:00AM.  Omari in the lead, Andy second, me third, then Jon, and Nicholas (our assistant guide) last.  Jon was grunting the entire way because his head was spinning so badly.  He had to stop every 50 meters to rest, which was not a good sign.  So Andy and Nicholas went on ahead, and Omari, Jon and I stayed together to go more slowly up the slope.  After an hour and a half, at 4900 meters, Jon decided it was time to go back to the hut.

From Jon:  The headache that I woke up with wasn’t so bad, by itself.  As we continued slowly up the switchbacks on the scree slope, nausea set in.  Next I realized that everywhere I looked it seemed as though I were looking through large, black, soapy bubbles.  As we continued the bubbles became smaller and increased in number and seemed to change colour to a brilliant violet.  I seemed to have my eyes closed for 2 out of every four slow footsteps, and began to see myself hiking up the scree slope through some sort of out-of-body experience.  Next came the pink elephants.  Hallucinations, apparently, since everyone knows there is no such thing as little pink elephants and certainly not with little wings fluttering around this forsaken wasteland.  The pink elephants convinced me that it was time to throw in the towel!

It is very unusual for my marathon-running husband to throw in the towel.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give up on a physical challenge.  So I knew he was terribly ill and was quite worried about him.  Omari tried to talk me into continuing the ascent, but all I wanted was to make sure Jon was OK.  I wasn’t feeling fabulous either, and although I wasn’t as bad as Jon I didn’t relish the thought of 4 more grueling hours without him.  In my mind, this was an “us” adventure, and if he couldn’t make it then I really didn’t care to.  So I helped him  back down the mountain and into bed.  It was 2:30 AM, and Jon was completely delirious.  Omari told me to check on him in an hour, and if he was still bad then we would pack up and head down to Horombo Huts at 3700 meters.

So we went to sleep, and at 3:30 I woke Jon up to find out how he was feeling.  He said his head still hurt, but that he felt better than before.  He said he didn’t want to go back down just yet, so we went back to sleep for a few more hours.  At 6:00, I got up because I couldn’t sleep and wanted to begin packing so we could get down from the altitude.  Jon woke up – still with a headache – and threw up (from Jon:  FINALLY!).  At that timely moment, Omari appeared at the hut wanting to know if we wanted breakfast.  He and I agreed that we should begin to hike down, and he said he would have tea and toast brought in.  So Jon and I ate a few pieces of toast, Jon had hot water, and I finished packing up our gear.  Then we hit the road at 7:30AM.

The Descent

We went fairly slowly at first, but with every 500 meters Jon was regaining his strength.  It was amazing how fast the descent was compared to our slow ascent just the day before.  We arrived at Horombo Hut at 9:45AM – a hike that took us 6 hours yesterday took just over two hours this morning.  Jon’s dizziness was gone, although a bit of his headache remained.  We were both a bit nauseous.  Jon didn’t want to stay the night at Horombo Hut, and Omari said we would go down to Mandara and stay there.  But Mandara is only 2 hours away from the main Marangu Gate, and Jon and I were both thinking of a much-needed shower (we hadn’t showered in 4 days).  So we told Omari that if we were going to go to Mandara, then we might as well go all the way.  He agreed, and somehow called the Zara offices to pick us up at Marangu gate.

We had a brunch at Horombo, and left the Huts at 11:00AM.  By this time, all we wanted was a shower and a bed, so we were practically running down the mountain.  We reached Mandara at 1:45, where we stopped for snacks and water.  Now – if you think about it – we’ve descended from 4900 meters to 2700 meters in just over 6 hours.  Omari was amazed at our pace, and we were kind of surprised too.  But we didn’t realize how bad it hurt until we got to Mandara.  While we stopped for snacks, our muscles tightened up and everything suddenly hurt: quads, hips, back, feet, calves.  You name it.  We knew we were still going to continue, but the next two hours through the rain forest were going to be tough.   We hit the trail at 2:00.

The rainforest was muddy and slick, but at least it wasn’t hot.  Despite slow-going over over slippery rocks, we were still making great time.  Omari estimated that it would take 2 hours from Mandara, but we hit the half-way point at 2:45!  We made it to Marangu Gate at 3:45.  Unfortunately, our Zara ride wasn’t going to show up until 5:00 so we laid around on the grass until the bus showed up.

At Marangu Gate: tired and dirty, but in good spirits

Just to summarize our descent: ignoring 2 hours for brunch and water breaks, we descended from 4700 meters to 1800 meters in just over 6 hours.  This was a 20 mile run down a mountain, which means that we were cruising at about 3.5 miles per hour.  Ouch.  Our muscles ached so badly when we got down.

From Jon:  Since I unfortunately won’t be running either the NY or Marine Corps Marathons this year, I have decided to view this 20 run down the mountain as this year’s marathon effort!

The Dream of the Shower

Ironically, the Springlands Hotel was booked for the night and couldn’t fit us in ahead of schedule.  So Zara booked us at a place called the Green Hostel.  It was ridiculous.  The floors were dirty, there was a single bulb hanging from the ceiling, and a spider the size of the palm of my hand was hanging out in the bathroom.  The nightly rate was $10, but I’m not sure it was even worth that.  After rescuing me from the evil spider, Jon took a shower (we’d been wearing the same clothes for 4 days) and washed himself twice.  I was in the bedroom trying not to sit on the sheets because I was so dirty.  There was a sign on the door that listed some of the rules of the hostel.  Apparently, there are to be “no unchristian acts” done in the room.  We really don’t know what that means, but you can probably interpret it according to how orthodox you are.

After 20 minutes, Jon got out of the shower and I got in.  The shower was disappointing because it was a tub with a hose extension on it, but no place to put the extension and no shower curtain.  So you had to wet yourself, lather, and then rinse – trying not to flood the bathroom.  I really just wanted to stand mindlessly under a stream of water while I washed.  It’s funny how we used to take those little things for granted.  The shower was also disappointing because my husband – in his desire for cleanliness – used up all the hot water!  Is that grounds for divorce, I wonder?

By the time I got out, it was 8:15PM and Jon had gone ahead to the “restaurant” (room with two tables) to order us dinner before the 8:30 cutoff.  When I went in to find him, I saw that he was sitting with two people we knew from the Springlands!  Vanessa and her father had come with a group from South Africa, where Vanessa had just married Jamie.  For their honeymoon, Vanessa and Jamie came to climb Kili with their friends and family.  Quite an ambitious honeymoon!  They followed a different trail than us, so we hadn’t seen them since they’d left the hotel 5 days before.  Vanessa and her dad had come down a day early because they were both so ill, and had the same problem getting into the Springlands.  So the four of us sat around and compared nightmare stories about the mountain and bemoaned our fate with the hotel situation.  It’s so funny how – when you share an experience like this – all sorts of etiquette goes out the window.  We had no problems discussing bodily functions with each other, and we actually wanted to compare notes to see how sick we really were!

We all retired early.  Jon and I went to bed and tried to read, but I was asleep by 9:30.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 3 of Kili Climb: from Horombo Huts (3720 meters) to Kibo Huts (4703 meters)

Today is the last daylight trek we have.  We’ll arrive at Kibo Hut this evening – our last destination – where we will rest for a while and begin the summit ascent at midnight tonight.  We are very anxious!

I didn’t sleep well last night.  They say it’s a factor of the altitude: your body can’t get enough oxygen, so it’s especially difficult to sleep at these high altitudes.  But the weather was clear – we looked down on the clouds and it was all sunshine ahead, and the air had warmed considerably since we’d had breakfast.  So I felt happy and was ready to hit the road.  Before we left, we took a picture of our fun Horombo Hut-mates:

Me ‘n The Boys: Andy, Jon, Me, Jonathan, and John.

Bruno was MIA for the picture.

Today’s trek is through the Alpine desert, which is basically a vast wasteland of dust and shrubs.  The summit of Kili was in our sights every step of the way – very poetic!  We often passed people who were coming down from their ascent who wished us luck.  We were a very cheery bunch, and it was fun that we got to know many people last night.  We are now one big happy Kilimanjaro Family.

View of Kilimanjaro via the Alpine Desert

Altitude Sickness

I started to get sick at the “last water point” about 2 hours into today’s 6 hour trek.  It started as a little headache, but I knew what it would turn into and was completely bummed that, despite my slow pace, the altitude was going to win.  The dizziness set in about an hour later and I was very unhappy.  Omari kept saying, “Don’t panic, DahDah.  You’ll make it.”  I wasn’t panicked, it was just that this was something I couldn’t control and couldn’t beat.

By lunchtime, I had a raging headache, dizziness, and nausea.  Jonathan felt sorry for me and gave me some Panadol (pain killers), Diamox (altitude sickness medicine), and some Quaker Chewies.  He said that that Diamox would take about 8 hours to kick in, but that was helpful seeing as our final ascent begins at midnight.  I told him he was my knight in shining armor.  Lunch was difficult, but Jon made me eat.  All I could do to hold it down because I didn’t want to waste the medicine I had taken.  I was so exhausted and sick that I couldn’t stop crying.  I wasn’t sobbing, I just couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

So after lunch, I walked very slowly and tried not to stop very often.  I also tried to drink as much water as possible but it was difficult because I didn’t want to throw up either.  It was very windy, and the air was getting colder and colder.  Jon was doing just fine, and Andy was practically skipping up the mountain.  I didn’t have much to say.  I just wanted to get to Kibo Hut where I knew I could sleep for a while.

Kibo Hut

We arrived at around 3:30.  Kibo Hut is the final stop before the big ascent.  It’s literally at the base of the mountain at 4700 meters.  You’re only here for a few hours, so the hut is laid out into 5 rooms: 4 of them have 6 bunk beds, and one room is for dining.  Andy, Jon and I set up our sleeping bags in room #4 with Jonathan, 3 funny Brits, Eric from Chicago, a guy from Japan, a guy from Jonathan’s group, and Karen from England.  After getting settled, I went out to use the toilets (holes in the ground) and promptly got sick.  I thought – at the time – that I felt much better.  Little did I know that it was far from over.

The porters set out tea and biscuits for us, but I couldn’t do anything but sip warm water.  Then I threw up again and went to sleep for an hour.  Sleeping was difficult because it was SO COLD.  But my body was exhausted.  Jon woke me up at 5:00 because the porters had dinner ready.  So I went to toilet and got sick for the third time.  My head was killing me, I was dizzy, and I couldn’t stop trembling.  Jon insisted that I eat, though, because I needed some sort of sustenance. So I did, and somehow managed to control my stomach.  I also took another Diamox tablet.  We got into our sleeping bags and tried to sleep.  But we were all a bit anxious about tomorrow’s early morning trip.

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 2 of Kili Climb: from Mandara Huts (2700 meters) to Horombo Huts (3720 meters)

Since we’d gone to bed last night at 7:30, I woke up this morning at about 5:30 and really couldn’t sleep for much longer.  Breakfast was at 7:30 – eggs and sausage and coffee and tea.  Again, the porters catered to us and it was a bit weird since we’re not used to being served like this.

We left Mandara Huts at 8:30 and exited the rain forest.  Basically, this means that – 20 minutes into our hike – we crossed a bridge and crossed into another world: the moorlands.  The moorlands are rolling hills of shrubbery and dirt, sort of boring but we had fun nonetheless.  Andy is very good company and is quite funny.  We stopped at a crater to look in, but we were anxious to get going so we didn’t stay for very long.

Taking a water break in front of Kili

Today, Omari taught me the numbers 6-10 in Swahili, which gave me something to concentrate on for a while:

Swahili English Sayta  Six (6) Saba Seven (7) Ninay Eight (8) Tatu Nine (9) Kumi Ten (10)

So now I can count from 1-10 in Swahili.  That should come in handy (somewhere, I suppose).  The Swahili word for “sister” is “dahdah”, and Omari and the porters all call me that.  “Dahdah”.  It’s gotten to the point that I respond to it as if it’s my name.  I’ve decided that it’s an endearment and I like it!

At around 12:00, we trekked up a HUGE hill that took us about 45 minutes to get up.  We are still walking Pole!  Pole! and take a step about once very 2 seconds.  If we rush, our bodies won’t get used to the altitude and we’ll get sick – which nobody wants.  So the hill took us 45 minutes to get up as it was very steep and we went slowly.  Despite our slow pace, we were completely out of breath when we reached the top.  The altitude is definitely showing its affects on our bodies.  We’re out of breath very quickly, and – the higher we go – the longer it takes to catch our breath.  At the top of the hill was a spot for lunch and we were very happy to sit for a while.  Lunch was veggie sandwiches with butter, hard-boiled eggs, oranges, cheese, and biscuits.  Not very tasty, but we didn’t care.

Horombo Huts

We walked for about 6 hours today, and arrived at the Horombo Huts around 3:00ish.  We were completely filthy, as today’s trek was over dusty trails.  At one point on the trail, Jon laughed that I looked like the Peanut’s character “Pig Pen” because everywhere I walked a cloud of dust followed.

Horombo is at 3720 meters and is just above the cloud line.  It almost looks as if you can walk off the cliff and continue by walking over the clouds.  It’s the sort of view you get when you’re in an airplane and was quite amazing.

Huts at Horombo

We checked in at the registration hut, and were sent to Hut #38.  The hut sleeps 6 people, and Andy, Jon and I are rooming with 3 other guys: Jonathan – a humorous Brit from Dubai, Bruno – a quiet guy from Italy, and John – a cool guy from Telluride, CO.  Me and the boys – the way it should be!

Horombo Huts is Kilimanjaro’s Grand Central.  It houses people going up multiple trails, people staying for a day of acclimation, and people coming down from the peak (or not from the peak).  So the dining hall was completely packed with trekkers who had various stories of success, illness, and injury.  “Kilimanjaro Lullabies” we called them.

Card Game

The porters brought us hot water and we washed up.  My legs are completely filthy from the dusty trail, and I thought I’d never get the dirt off.  A shower would have been nice, but it’s entirely too cold to shower.  So we set up our sleeping bags, joked around with the guys, and went to have tea and biscuits in the dining hall.  Jonathan said he had some cards, so we collected him and sat at a table and played a game called “Cheat” where you bluff your way out of cards.  Needless to say, I lost almost every round – much to the guys’ delight.  The funny thing is that the cards themselves were pathetic.  Jonathan says he bought them in Arusha for $.25.  They were so thin that it was like playing with toilet paper!  Shuffling and dealing took forever because they were so hard to control.  So funny!

Jonathan’s Trek

Jonathan is part of a group of 25 from Dubai who are trekking to the peak for charity.  He says that some of the people are cool, but that there are a lot of “stiffs” who are a bit picky about their camping arrangements.  Believe me, there is no room for high-maintenance people on this mountain!  Anyway, the group is sponsored by Estee Lauder and they have some very cool jackets – so at least they look good!  The interesting thing about their group is that – for a group of 25 – they have 50 porters and 2 guides!  The guide’s name is Emmanuelle and is something of a legend among the guides and porters.  He is 73 and has been to the summit 5000 times!  How about that for a repetitive job?

Jonathan is writing a book.  He is going to climb the “seven summits” – one on every continent.  Kili is his first expedition.  The seven summits are going to take him over the next 3 years, so we’ll have to wait for a while but I think it should be an amazing thing to read.  Even more exciting that we know the author!

Dinner

Dinner was a chaotic nightmare.  Apparently, Horombo is more crowded than usual, and there’s no room to seat absolutely everyone at dinner time.  So the porters mill about looking for a space where they can set up their clients’ dinners, and we (the clients) wait anxiously for dinner so we can go to bed.  Our porters finally snagged us seats next to a large group from the Netherlands who had just descended from the peak.  They said that 15 of their group of 17 made it to the peak and – although they all vomited multiple times – they made it successfully.  So now we have some expectation of what to expect tomorrow night, and we even have some hope that we can do it too!

We were in bed by 8:00 that night, after hanging out in our hut and chatting.  Pretty funny to say “Goodnight Johns” and have half the hut say good night back.  Of course, I had to go to the toilet an hour later because of all the water I’ve been drinking.  It’s so hard to get out of the sleeping bag because it’s SO COLD up here!

Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Day 1 of Kili Climb: from Marangu Gate (1800 meters) to Mandara Huts (2700 meters)

Today we woke up, had breakfast, and boarded a bus at 8:30 to begin the trek up Kilimanjaro.  There are a few different routes up the mountain, and we are taking the “Marangu” trail, which is one of the least technical – but don’t let that fool you.

Pre-Game

On the bus with us are two girls from the Netherlands and a guy from London named Andy.  Andy is on the same “tour” as us, which we all booked through Dragoman Tours.  (However – and here’s the funny thing – almost every tour group subcontracts their Kili treks to a tour company here in Moshi called Zara.  So if you’re ever interested in climbing the mountain, contact Zara directly as it will probably be cheaper and they seem to have a sort of monopoly on Kili treks anyway).  So we stopped by the Zara office to hire some gear: rain jackets, rain pants, walking sticks, and gaiters – which go over one’s boots so the rocks don’t get in during the descent from the summit down the scree slope.  There, we met our guide whose name is Omari.  We also stopped by a grocery store to pick up food, candy bars, and water.

After about 40 km, we reached the Marangu Gate.  Here we picked up a few more porters who Omari hand-picked.  So there is one guide, one assistant guide, and two porters per person – a total of 8 people for our group of 3!

Marangu Gate

At the gate, I hired a head torch (a flashlight for one’s head) for the bargain price of $10 (ouch!).  We also had to register our names, nationality, ages, and etc for Kilimanjaro statistics.  Walking up the stairs to the registration office had all three of us out breath, and we joked that maybe the climb was just to run up and down the stairs a few times.

Here we are at the beginning of Marangu Trail

Then we were off.  We started with our assistant guide – Nicholas – as Omari had to register the porters and would meet us shortly.  The key to trekking up Kili is that you have to go “Pole!  Pole!”, which is Swahili for “Slowly! Slowly!” and is pronounced “poalie, poalie”.  So we Pole! Pole! made our way up the mountain to the Mandara Huts.  The trail was entirely through rain forest, and the trail itself is quite nice.  The park service here maintains it very well.  The trail is wide enough for two people, and has an irrigation system of ditches and rock-barriers for the warm season when Kili melts a great deal.

Some kids who were on the mountain saw us and followed us up for about 1/2 hour asking for chocolate and pens, but then they suddenly ran away.  We wondered why they suddenly left so we turned and saw that Omari had shown up, and you really don’t mess with Omari.

At around 1:00, we stopped for some lunch which was basically leftovers from our dinner the night before.  (The Springlands Hotel and Zara are run by the same people).  At this point, Nicholas the assistant guide left to ascend with the porters and Jon, Andy, and I continued up with Omari.

Omari is quite impressed with my limited Swahili.  At one point, the sun came out of the clouds and I said “Leo joto kali!” which means “Today is very sunny!” and Omari practically tripped over.  So he’s begun to teach me a few other words to pass the time.  Here they are:

Swahili English Twenday! Let’s go! Moja One (1) Mbilay Two (2) Tatu Three (3) Nay Four (4) Tanoe Five (5) Qualhairy Goodbye Qualhairy Badai See you later

Jon also requested the Swahili phrase “Mazungu Kitcha”, which means “crazy white person”.  I’m sure he’ll get a lot of mileage out of that one.

Omari – the Guide – and the team

Omari has been a Kili Guide for 3 years and speaks English quite well.  The general career path for a Kili Guide is this: porter for a few years, assistant guide for a few years, then guide.  Omari has been to the summit about 70 times, and generally goes up the mountain about twice a month.  He chooses the porters based on his knowledge of their abilities and their honesty.  (They are carrying our backpacks and gear and ascend at different times).  He says that he doesn’t think that he’ll do this for more than 3 more years.

The porters themselves basically run up the mountain balancing backpacks, groceries, stoves, you-name-it on their heads, shoulders, and backs.  Their bodies are well acclimated to the altitude so there’s no reason for them to go Pole! Pole! as we do.  They arrive at the destinations hours before we do.

Mandara Huts

At around 3:00 we reached the Mandara Huts, which are at 2700 meters.  All our porters were there, and we were thrilled to be able to relax for the evening.  Today is our shortest day, so it’s amazing how exhausted the three of us are.  One of the porters brought us some hot water, and we felt much better after washing our hands and faces.

Jon went to shower and Andy and I went to the small dining hut to have tea, biscuits, and popcorn which the porters put out for us.  Andy is a very bright and well-read 21-year old from London.  (He’s also very cute but don’t tell Jon).  He’s on summer break, and is about to begin his final year at Exeter University where he is studying politics.  So we had an interesting discussion about the Middle East crisis and it was quite enlightening to get his perspective on current events.  I’d forgotten how college life opens your mind to so many different views.  Unfortunately, he has only one good “American” joke which is a bit disappointing for a Brit, but here it is: “What’s the difference between an American and yogurt?…. Yogurt is cultured within a week.  Americans have had two hundred years and they still have no culture”.  Very fitting for the fourth of July.

Jon came back from his shower saying it was very cold but refreshing.  Seeing as how this would be the last shower I would have for days, I went ahead and followed suit.  BIG MISTAKE.  The water was freezing, rivaling the shower at Ngorongoro, and the air had dropped 10 degrees since the sun had begun to set.  By the end of the shower, I was completely shivering and my toes were numb.  So I advised Andy to skip the shower and stay warm instead.  It took me a good two hours to thaw.

Dinner was served by the porters, which is so odd as none of us are accustomed to being served and waited on hand and foot like this.  But it was good – fried chicken and pasta.  Afterwards, Omari came and sat with us to go over our “schedule” for tomorrow.  He’s instructed us to drink 3-4 liters of water per day, which we have definitely been doing today.

We were in bed by 7:30 because we were so exhausted and the air was so cold.  The hut we’re in sleeps four and has mattresses and pillows so the three of us are quite comfortable.  Before we went to sleep, Andy wished us a happy “Fourth of July” and Jon and I considered that we should have celebrated by setting fire to a Brit.  Andy agreed and commented that this WAS the tradition.  We laughed and then fell asleep shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately, we weren’t asleep for long because we woke up again at 8:30 to go to the toilet because we’d drank so much water.  Then we got back into our sleeping bags and went back to sleep.