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Kilimanjaro Rongai Route
In 2009 I met a man who had just come back from trekking up Kilimanjaro. Whilst I was speaking to him I couldn't help notice that he was floating just off the ground. He was still high from his trip!.
The more we spoke the more I thought, that sounds fantastic, and a seed was born.
I then thought, what a fantastic thing to do with my son Nick and daughter Mandie, I asked them and they said yes. Then someone else I know said they would like to join. My daughter lives in Holland and a colleague said he would like to come, then another, then another. Now we are a group of 7, Allan, Nick, Mandie, Arie, Jason, Edwin and Jurgen.
We fly off next Friday 17th September 2010 - the adventure is about to begin........
Update 15/9/10. Two days to go. Finished packing and decided what goes in my main bag and what goes in my haversack. Will travel in my boots and some of my climbing gear as recommended, just in case items get lost in transit. Now at the worry stage, have I packed enough nibbles, will 2 T shirts be enough, 1 pair of thermals ok?. Have I taken too much?. I have managed to get my main bag down to 12 kilos and my haversack about 8 kilos - should be ok.
I guess the next update will be when I get back.
I'm back!.17/9/10 We left from Heathrow T3 at 9pm and flew overnight about 8 hours to Addis Ababa for a short stop over. 18/9/10 Then a short flight into Kilimajaro Airport. get in the queue with your $50 for a VISA (Tip get your card and get in the queue as soon as you can, the queue builds up). Bus waiting outside, porters threw the bags on top and we all got in. About 85K, 2 hours, to Hotel Capricorn set in middle of jungle? Countryside. Dinner, met our chief guide Justice, and then off to bed.
19/9/10 up at 7.00, breakfast at 8.00 and drive to the gate to start the Rongai route given 6 bottles of water. About 4 hours of gradual ascent and we reach a flat area with dozens of tents set up. We had to "sign in" the register and then go to our tents. On the way up we saw our first monkeys. Dinner started with hot popcorn, then hot soup, boiled potatoes fish and vegatables. Went to bed circa 8.30pm.
20/9/10 Up at 6.00am and into the breakfast tent for thin sweet porridge (nice) sausage egg tomato cucumeber, toast tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Fresh avacado and oranges. Off for a long days walking (tip, don't put too much in your haversack, only carry necessities)took 3 litres of water. Stopped for lunch of pasta. Very hot, keep applying sun cream. I took factor 30. Off we go again. Saw a small Chameleon on a tree branch close enough to touch. Walked past Kili (are we going the right way?) ready for an easier? day tomorrow. Over a hill and saw 100's? of tents - home for the night. Don't try and keep too clean, it's impossible. The dust gets everywhere (tip - perhaps a filter or scarf over your nose and mouth would help) The wooden loos are an experience!. Just a hole in the ground. To be continued.................
21/9/10 Up at 6.00am, bowl of hot water outside as usual to have a wash. Understand we have about 2.5 porters per person to decamp, carry our stuff and set up cam at the next stop. Basically they decamp after we have left, go strolling past us with all the kit on their heads and backs, and have set up by the time we have got to the next stop!.
Each evening our main guide Justice asks us 3 questions. 1. How challenging was the day, 2. How much did we enjoy it and 3. How are you feeling now. 1-10-1 is the ideal score. 1 = easy, 10 = total enjoyment and 1 = feel fine. Although some times it was 4 8 4!. Justice then wanted to know why, have you got a headache, where, how severe, what have you taken, have you drank your 3 litres etc etc.
Today was a much easier day, arrived at the camp circa 12.00 with maybe 4 hours walking. You now take for granted the fact that we are constantly above the clouds. Had lunch today of spaghetti & veg, fresh pianapple. As we came into the camp we could see the porters getting water out of a small lake ready to be boiled for our bottles and tea etc. Yummy. This afternoon we are going straight up for 2.5 hours, then back down for about an hour. This again is for aclimitisation and also to get used to going up on the scree (up one step, slide back half a step) as this is what we will experience on the mountain.
Dinner at 6.30pm, Hot soup, mashed potatoes and veg and banana fritters. It's nearly 8.00pm so its off to bed for me.
22/9/10. Beginning to lose track of day and date.. Up at 6.00 to a “good morning” and a bowl of hot water and soap outside the tent. What’s this white stuff on the tent? It’s just frost. Our pond is now covered in ice.
Breakfast is our usual porridge, omelettes sausage and fruit. Off we go on a leisurely trek, mainly down hill and level today towards the base of Kilimanjaro. Listened to the ipod, sun beating down, life doesn’t get much better than this. Got to the base camp, had to register and then off to our tents. Tonight/tomorrow is going to be “the day”. Started to get everything ready for tomorrow, my nice new clean socks, padded trousers, thermals, down jackets. A few people have had headaches and nausea but fortunately I have had nothing. Is this the benefit of being more mature?.
We are going to be woken at 10pm, eat and leave at 11.00pm before the crowds start to rush up the mountain.
Time to get my head down for a rest, we are told it is very difficult to go sleep at altitude, just rest……………….. It’s 10pm, need to put on 5 layers, thermals, shirt, thin fleece, thick fleece, down jacket and my waterproof/windproof jacket in my backpack.. Padded trousers, under socks and over socks, boots, strap on my headlight and off to the breakfast tent for something before we set off.
Right, switch on headlamp and off we go, poly poly up the mountain. Across rocks, and up the scree. I notice that some porters offer to carry peoples back packs, what if they ask me? shall I be macho and say no, or shall I say “yes please”. What if they don’t ask me?.
Eventually my slow pace and laboured breathing work and a porter asks if he can carry my back pack. I hesitate for a millisecond and then say… yes please.
I am told its 80% in the mind but I reckon it was 80% in my lungs!.
Walk a bit, rest fight for breathe, walk a bit more and rest, all poly poly.
Just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Its up a bit stop, up a bit stop. Its hard, very hard, and then suddenly I am at Gilmans Point, 5681 metres. Brief photo shoot and then the porter says ok lets continue! Where? Why? Can’t I just rest here for a while?. Off we go again, onwards and upwards. Are we going to get a good spot to see the sun rise?. I think where I am now is a good spot but no, we continue. After what seems another 2 hours but was more like 30 to 40 minutes we approach the top top. Uhuru Peak 5895 metres above sea level. Here I am standing in front of the sign, alone with my thoughts and dozens of others all wanting to have their photo taken at the sign. Do I queue or just go for it like everyone else – go for it!. Couple of quick photos and step back. Job done.. I believe the time is about 6.45am.
Time to take a bit of video – videocam out, open screen which says “too cold” and promptly closes down. Computer says no!.
Back to the trusty finepix compact and some shots of the glaciers, sun rise, and not forgetting my hero porter and its time to go back down. Back the same way but now I’m passing people going poly poly on the way up. Once we have gone by Gilmans point its time to start “running”. Climb over the rocks but run down the scree. My knees start to hurt, my toes hurt and base camp looks miles away. Its lighter and getting warmer so start taking layers of and passing them to my porter (he is due for a well earned tip!)
Eventually I am back and its only around 11.00 am. I am given a cold orangeade and it’s excellent, would you like another?. You bet!.
Dropped into the tent for a couple of hours sleep (who said you can’t sleep at altitude?). Later today we are due to boot up and set off again downwards for another 4 to 5 hours. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
4pm ish, time to get up and set off on a different route down.
It now gets a different set of muscles as we are not just walking down, but also stepping down over rocks and just gradually going down and down. Gets warmer so time to strip off to T shirt. Shorts would have been good. Dust gets everywhere. Don’t expect to keep a clean handkerchief, everytime you blow it’s… well you know what I mean.
Eventually came to our last camp. Wooden buildings, almost like a small village. Tents already set up. Saw a stock of 1 wheeled bicycle type contraptions for bringing people down in. Saw a man being taken down in one with 4 porters pushing and steering.
Had our last camp dinner and off to bed. I bet they will let us lie in until 10.00 in the morning after our long day.
Up at 6.00am as usual, our last days walking
Walking down and down, now through bushes and trees.
Saw more monkeys in the trees, you just catch their movements.
Came to a large rest area where you can buy a bottle of coke, or even a can of Kilimanjaro beer, what shall I go for?... Off again on the last leg, lots of people walking up poley poley, poor things they don’t know what they are in for.
Suddenly there it is, the final gate, lots of signs at the side telling you what to wear, how to walk, what the heights are of the various points- who cares! We’re down.
Into the shop and $1 buys you a cold orangeade, another $1 buys you a cold pianapple drink, or coke etc etc. The second best cold drink you will have (the first one was when I first came down from the mountain) Time to “sign out” of the park.
There is a table set up on the grass at the back for us to have one more meal, cooked bananas or plantation I believe its called. Time to pay the tips, we all paid circa $120 each to be shared amongst the porters. Anyone who wants to tip anyone individually can do so now (Most had already done so)
Most of the 40 porters came to see us for a photo shoot and we all mixed together for a number of photos.
Boarded the bus for a 3 hour journey to our last nights lodge. Drove up a long track and reached a very nice complex through the armed gates and on to lodges on stilts all over the area. Number 17 for Alex and myself. Went inside and there it was – a shower, and…… a sit down loo. This place is a palace!. A fight broke out to see who was going to shower first – no not really, Alex was a gentleman and said “you go first Allan”. Woosh and more woosh as I stood there and let the hot water wash of layers of dust and dirt – I’m human again.
Tonight we will eat in the restaurant – you can pick your own food off a menu, that’s a novelty. I think I will have the cus cus to start, followed by the lamb with curry powder and chips followed by a chocolate mousse. And perhaps a beer, or two. And then off to sleep in a proper bed surrounded by a mosquito net – good night.
Up at 7 was it? Dressed and down for a super breakfast, fresh fruit followed by eggs, bacon sausages tomatoes toast butter tea coffee. Excellent. A nice sunny day.
We have time to go to Arusha today for a little shopping before we are picked up at 12.00. 3 taxis have been ordered for 9.00am prompt and we all go together in a convoy. Maybe 20 to 30 minutes away. Taxi cost $10 which covered both ways.
First stop the bank to get some local currency. Jason went to one teller to change a £20 note, I went to another teller to change a £20 note. My teller gave me 40,000 shillings and Jason’s teller gave him 45,900 shillings. Now you don’t expect to get ripped off by a bank do you?. Or perhaps you do. Back to my teller, why has he been given 45900 and you only gave me 40,000?. Quick chat with the other teller and she then gave me another 5,900. Remorse = none, apologies = none. Ah well something to talk about.
Our guide took us to a market where all local crafts were on sale. Objective is to buy them for ½ to 1/3 of what the price starts off at. Some very nice ebony bowls, serving knifes and forks, bracelets, pictures, all very nice and relaxed.
Back to the lodge and at 12.00 into our bus for a 1 and ¼ hour drive to the airport. Driver started off by taking us a short cut? Through some extremely bumpy back tracks. Through tiny villages, nearly running people over who stand in the road, well it is their road. You cannot drive fast because even the “main road” has speed bumps on it every few miles so its constantly slow down.
Arrived at the airport which is fairly small but has some excellent wooden carvings for sale. Just some time for last minute shopping, narrowed it down to 2 carvings and couldn’t decide which one – take them both then.
Off to Addis Ababa again and a sign to say our next flight to Heathrow was a 1 and 1/14 hour delay. And our Dutch contingent had to catch a connecting flight – will they make it (Yes)
My final thoughts – don’t expect to keep clean, dust is everywhere, just do your best. Perhaps a face mask or small scarf to breathe through would be useful. The porters deserve every dollar you give them, You will probably pack to many clothes, 5 layers on the final ascent, one set of thermals is enough, you will probably only wear them on the last night, a camelbak hydration system is excellent, everyone has sterilization tablets and you will probably take quite a few home, wet wipes and the small loo rolls with no cardboard middle are essential, hand sanitzer essential although everybody had some and shared, circa factor 30 suncream needed, don’t take too many snacks, or was it just me who took too many?, packing – keep your regular used item where you know where they are, there’s not too much room in the tent, walking sticks are really useful especially on the way down, take lip salve or block and Vaseline is useful when your lips start to crack up.
Other then that the only other thing is to ENJOY it, as I know you will.
If I can help in any other way my e-mail is email@example.com
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