Our Mt. Kilimanjaro climb would began the day after we arrived in Tanzania. The hotel arranged for a company called Evans Tours to be the company handling our climb. This was an outstanding choice. Evans was so thorough and professional. Some of their guides stopped by the hotel the night before our climb to brief us on what to expect on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
pre-climb briefing at our hotel
We had dinner after the pre-climb briefing during which time we had the opportunity to meet our fellow climbers. There were 16 of us in total with women making up the majority. Most of the group was from the U.S.. There were two women from Nigeria and one from Qatar. Everyone in the group was a distance runner except me. They all planned to take part in the marathon after the climb. Some were even doing the bike race the day after they came off the mountain. It was a well-traveled group. These were the type of individuals who do more than just set goals in life. They actually put in the work to achieve them. I enjoyed meeting them.
meeting our fellow climbers
Our shuttle left our hotel at 9 AM. We made a stop at a small equipment rental shop in Moshi so that people could get the equipment they needed for the climb. You could actually rent all the equipment you needed for the climb in this shop. Traci and I only needed to rent walking poles which came to a total of $30 for both of us for the week. After another stop in downtown Moshi for people to get SIM cards, we were finally on our way to Kilimanjaro National Park. The drive from Moshi took about an hour. I was fast asleep for most of it.
Now that we were at the park, there were still more formalities we needed to endure. Each person had to sign-in. Our guides had to pay park fees and obtain permits to begin the climb. In the meantime, our group was fed lunch of soup and sandwiches under a pavilion in the park.
our group of 16
2 fish out of water waiting to climb the world's 4th tallest mountain
Traci ready to take her first step of our journey
ready to take my first step of our journey
At 2:45 PM, we were finally on our way! The first day consisted of a trek through the rainforest. Our change in altitude would be from approximately 6,400 feet to 8,858 feet. I did not find the hike particularly strenuous. Traci and I are slow walkers. We do not have any physical limitations contributing to our slowness. It is just our normal pace. We were at the back of the pack. This was not a problem. There were two guides who were always behind us no matter how slow we walked or if we stopped for pictures. Walking slowly on Mt. Kilimanjaro is actually encouraged. Doing so helps your body acclimatize (get adjusted to high altitude).
There was one restroom facility along the trail. The rest of the time, we had to go behind a tree or bush. This was not a big deal for the men of the group; however, the women were a little more apprehensive about it. Traci was the first woman to go off the trail to answer nature's call. She was soon joined by other women who found a place to do the same. The group had quickly gotten over their hesitation about using the 'natural lavatory'.
The only hazard we faced during our first day was ants. The jungle floor was crawling with these biting insects. If you happened to step in their path, these little critters would crawl inside your boots or inside your pants legs. You would not know this until you began to feel the pinch of their bites. When we took off our boots that evening, we found ants crawling on our socks.
After a 3.5-hour trek through the rainforest, we finally reached our lodging for the night – Mandara Hut. The Marangu Route that we were taking is known as the tourist route because trekkers can sleep in huts along the way instead of tents. We went through what would become our normal routine when arriving at a campsite; that is, sign-in, get shown to our hut, and then meet in the mess hall for dinner. The porters had already delivered our large duffle bags containing our sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries, and other items. I was amazed at how much the porters were able to carry for hours at a pace much quicker than us tourists.
our lodging at Mandara Hut
monkeys inhabit the surrounding forest
Dinner was better than what I was expecting. There was soup, fried chicken, and potatoes among other things. There was also a selection of hot beverages such as cocoa and tea.
Our group slept in a large hut that contained bunk beds. Each of the beds had a mattress and pillow. We slept in our sleeping bags on top of the mattress. That first night was quite interesting. Of course the people who snore and talk in their sleep fall to sleep first. Then there was the issue of people getting up to use the restroom at all hours of the night – including yours truly. I had begun taking Diamox, an altitude sickness prevention medicine. One of the side effects is frequent urination. To add to this, it is recommended that climbers drink at least 3 liters of water per day while trekking Kilimanjaro. I had consumed my 3 liters during the day. I had to go to the bathroom twice during the night. The other four times I visited the facilities that night was as an escort. The restroom was situated in a building next to our hut. To get there, we needed to put on our headlamps and warm clothes to go out into the dark chilly night. Adding to the creepiness of the experience was the sound of monkeys screeching and grunting in the surrounding forests. Traci and several other women in our hut asked me to escort them to the restroom during the night because they were nervous about going out by themselves. They normally used the men’s restroom because, unlike the women’s restroom, it had a western toilet. While they were in there I would stand outside and marvel at the gazillion stars that filled the night sky. Continue...