It had been a fairly stressful start to this adventure; I had opted to take the National Express coach to Heathrow, rather than the train like I had done for EBC. Due to traffic, I barely made the change at Milton Keynes. Luckily once I had arrived at the airport, everything went according to plan. As soon as I walked through the ‘departures’ door, I spotted a bloke with a rucksack.
I went over to him and asked where he is heading, he was on the same trip! His name is Harry, from Sussex. Once through security we had the obligatory airport beers at the bar. I was pleased to have met someone on the trip so quickly. Although I went to India by myself two years earlier, it had been with work. Kili was my first true solo adventure, which I was a little apprehensive about.
It was a long flight (close to 24hours), with a change at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and a short stop at Nairobi, Kenya to pick up more passengers. In Ethiopia, we met up with the other trekkers who would become my travelling companions over the next 8 days. Chatting with them, none had been to high altitude before and were nervous about altitude sickness. It reminded me of my pre-adventure jitters last year.
From Addis Ababa, I had a window seat. The clouds seemed to form animal shapes over the barren and dry ground below. Vast cracks in the earth, stretched across the land where rivers once flowed. The scene from ‘The Lion King’ where Simba is looking to the heavens and seeing Mufasa in the clouds came to mind.
After a bit of some ‘kooky’ flying from the pilot we landed in Arusha, Tanzania. Once the paperwork for immigration was completed, I stepped out into the African Sun (well it was overcast, but none the less, I was finally, for the first time on African soil). I took a deep breath to take in the atmosphere. The dry dusty air caught the back of my throat sending me into a small coughing fit!
The ground is a dry reddish brown, with trees dispersed through tall yellow-brown grassy plains. It lived up to everything I had imagined it to be like.
It was a coach ride into Arusha; I was fixated on the scenery. Large dust columns slithered between the trees, as they gave way to the plains. Unfortunately, Kili was obscured by the clouds and haze. We arrived at ‘The Karama Lodge’ hotel, which is set on a wall to a valley. Each room is a wooden lodge on stilts, looking out over the forested valley below.
I sat on the balcony to my lodge, enjoying the cool breeze as it rustled through the trees above and made an entry in my journal. At 7pm I went to the main hotel building for dinner and to meet our guide, William. The next day would be an early start and it will be spent walking through the rainforest that encircles Kili. I couldn’t wait!
Despite an encounter with a huge spider and the monkeys drumming on the roof of my lodge, I got a surprising amount of sleep. Around 8am we arrived at the ‘Machame Gate’ which marks the entrance to the ‘Kilimanjaro National Park’. There was a light rain, and the air was brisk, perfect for walking.
We passed under the pointed arched gate after signing the register, to begin our adventure. There are warning signs about the journey with a list of “Points to Remember”. This hammered home the dangers of high altitude.
The route was mostly gentle with a few steep sections, but nothing strenuous. The rainforest was peaceful and quiet, the occasional bird or a squawk of a monkey broke the silence. We caught glimpses of their tails as they moved through the canopy above. Every hour or so we would stop for a break and to eat our snacks; it was also then I realised I had left my hand sanitiser back home. An error I would go on to be punished for, further into the adventure.
The clouds remained with us all day, and I had not yet seen Kili at all. We reached Camp 1: Machame Hut (3000m) just before 5pm. My porter ‘Moses’ showed me to my tent, it was nestled between the trees. I had it all to myself, one of the group had paid extra to have their own tent and rooms, which meant I was the odd number; thus, I too had my own tent and rooms.
It is bittersweet, as it was good to have my own space, however it felt a little anti-social, and I would have liked to have had company to share the experiences of the day with. At 7pm we had our dinner. This was in a large tunnel tent, where tables had been placed end to end, all complete with tablecloths. We ate by candlelight and listened to the briefing for the next day.
We retired to our tents where I filled in my journal. I had no headache, I felt strong, feeling in a lot better position than I was after the first day on the Himalayan adventure. I just hoped it would remain this way for the rest of the week.