|AFRICA DAY 9 - MT. KILIMANJARO|
Sunday, July 3
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Our tents for the night were set up on some very cushy grass - making for a pretty soft tent floor and sleeping location. Additionally, at the lower elevation of Mandara Camp (8500 ft) it wasn't nearly as cold as base camp. Given that, I slept pretty well. However, being in the rainforest meant everything was wet. Our tents did a good job of keeping the moisture out, but outside it was wet everywhere.
I woke up naturally to the light from the rising sun filtering through the fabric of the tent not long before my alarm was scheduled to go off at 6:45am. Despite all of the clouds from the previous day, the skies were mostly clear when we got up. After getting ready for the day we ate our normal breakfast and then were serenaded in song by the staff, led by Anwari. On the last morning of the trip it is a tradition for all of the guides/porters/cooks/etc to sing a "Kilimanjaro" song for the trekkers. Azizi said a few words, then Mike did as well while handing out the tip envelopes to everyone that we had previously put together (and he had since carried on his person the entire trek). We shook hands with everyone on the staff and then gathered our stuff to get on the trail.
The large South African group was at the camp behind us looking to get an early start, so we tried to leave a bit early to get ahead of them. After you reach the end of the trail you need to sign out with the park management, a process that can take a long time if you're behind a big group.
The hike for the day was a pretty easy one - no more than 5-6 miles in three hours of hiking downhill around 3000 or so vertical feet through the rainforest. After taking a quick group picture we took off just after 8:00am. As this is the lowest portion of the most commonly used route the trails are fairly well kept. Due to the dark conditions in the forest I carried my camera and tripod on my shoulder as shooting handheld and getting a good shot would be pretty difficult to do. While damp, the trail was indeed in good shape, not very slick, and made for pretty nice conditions to hike in.
I started to fall behind fairly early in the hike as I would stop and take some pictures of something interesting. I find the jungle/rainforest fascinating - all of the unique lines and shapes and shades of green mixing together in a semi-symphonic cacophony. For a while Nikki and I were equally slow, but then I would fall behind a bit again before eventually catching back up to her.
Falling behind did give me one distinct advantage though - I was able to see some blue monkeys up close that no one else saw. I heard some rustling in the trees above me, but unable to locate the source I moved on. Only a few stops later, I came across another similar rustling, this time a monkey was maybe 10 feet away on a lower tree branch next to the trail. We danced on opposite sides of a tree for a bit (he would move opposite of me to keep the tree between us), but there were also two others nearby that didn't seem to mind my presence quite as much. They abided me for a few moments before scurrying off.
I later caught up with Randy and Msafiri down the trail. We continued together the rest of the way, locating a colobus monkey high in the trees. As we moved further down the trail the mist became heavier and heavier and it even started to rain slightly. The mist added/created an ethereal quality to the forest, and we walked through this until exiting at the Marangu gate right around 11:00am.
Soon after signing out with the park office (a quick process as we were the only ones there) I used the restroom and jumped on the bus waiting to take us back to the hotel in Moshi. We waited about 45 minutes for the guides to finalize everything and get the bus loaded with our bags, all the while we were being accosted by street vendors in the parking lot trying to sell things. We left just before noon.
Since we had come out in a different location (further down the same road we travelled on going into the park a week previous) the drive back was much shorter; it took only an hour to get back to the lodge. We checked into our rooms and got our luggage looking forward to the first shower in a week to get clean, only to discover that once again we were without electricity and hot water. At first when we got to our room the key didn't work. In our last room, it often took 5-6 tries before the key would work, but this time it just didn't. The bellhop made a couple of quick trips back to the main reception area and was eventually able to get it all taken care of. During this time we also met Gail - half of a couple (along with her husband Jeff) who would be joining us for the safari portion of the trip. Once we finally got into the room, Randy and I dropped our stuff off, and unwilling to brave a freezing cold shower just yet we headed up to the cafĂ© area.
We ordered a couple of celebratory "Kilimanjaro" brand beers, and were soon joined by Nikki who had also decided to skip the cold shower. We ordered some food for lunch and sitting down to eat were joined by most of the rest of the group. They had decided to brave the cold water to get a shower in.
After lunch we headed down to the local market to get some water and junk food (for those craving the cookies/chips/etc they lacked during the hike). Testing the water after returning and finding it acceptable, Randy took a quick lukewarm shower. I then did the same and afterwards spent some time copying pictures from memory cards onto the netbook. We also put some stuff together in preparation for heading out on the safari portion of the trip tomorrow.
We were scheduled to meet Azizi and the other guides around 5:30 that evening so close to that time we walked back to the cafe. They didn't arrive until 6:15 or so, until which we sat around and talked, and most of the others enjoyed a beer or two (I just drank water). When he arrived, Azizi had everyone who summited Kili write down their names and ages so he could fill out the official certificates for climbing the mountain. Assisting by Msafiri, they handed them out to the members of the group.
Earlier in the day Nikki had told the staff we wanted to do the buffet for dinner. They request a head's up ahead of time to make sure there are enough people eating to justify it. We had requested a 7:00 dinner, but by 7:15 there was still no sign of any food; we were told there wasn't going to be a buffet. We weren't really sure where the error was, but I can't honestly say I was very surprised - in fact it's almost expected that things simply won't work as they should around here.
We all ordered dinner individually off the menu and waited for our food. I was one of the first to get mine and was able to eat and pay before half the table had any food at all. Some waited over an hour for a simple pasta dish. Unfortunately, this is pretty standard. Everything is on "Africa time" - which is basically whenever someone gets to it. Punctuality and prompt service don't really seem to exist or be priorities if they do. The wait staff here was perfectly nice and polite, and fairly quick with drink orders, but food took forever.
During dinner the power had come back on so Alex tried to get online using his phone and the lodge's wireless connection. It didn't work for the longest time, but eventually started functioning. After collecting Facebook contact info we said goodbye to the guides and headed back to our rooms.
With the power back on I started charging up the camera batteries used during the trek. At the same time I booted up the netbook and was able to get a single email out to Crystal with a quick update before the internet connection dropped and wouldn't reconnect. Having already done most of my packing earlier in the day I wrote a bit in the journal and then went to bed around 10:00pm.
Hike Start: Mandara Camp at 2709m (8900 ft)
Hike End: Marangu Gate at 1847m (6000 ft)
Hike Coverage: 10 km (6 miles) distance, 862m (2900 ft) vertical drop
Group Photo (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Back Row: Andy, Azizi, Anwari, Mike, Alex, Ryan, Kim, Msafiri, Hilary
Front Row: Kibacha, Randy, Yoko, Nikki, Alan
Trail through the Rainforest (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Moss and Vines
(Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Tiny Flowers (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Small Waterfall and Pond (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Vine (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Trail through the Rainforest
(Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Marangu Gate (Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Jeff and Gail (Moshi)
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