Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 8

It felt weird waking up today on January 2nd, 2016. Not only was I now officially in the New Year (the past couple of days just felt like one very long day) — the realization that I had completed one of my goals that I had set out to tackle two years ago was just dawning on me.  I was too exhausted and tired from the summit hike to really think about it. It all felt bittersweet to me as I reminisced fondly of the days that we had spent on Kilimanjaro.  I loved waking up seeing the snow-capped summit and today would be my last day on this beautiful mountain.

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It felt weird waking up today on January 2nd, 2016. Not only was I now officially in the New Year (the past couple of days just felt like one very long day) — the realization that I had completed one of my goals that I had set out to tackle two years ago was just dawning on me.  I was too exhausted and tired from the summit hike to really think about it. It all felt bittersweet to me as I reminisced fondly of the days that we had spent on Kilimanjaro.  I loved waking up seeing the snow-capped summit and today would be my last day on this beautiful mountain.

Waking up to our final view of the summit at Millennium Camp. It was nice to see green again too. Waking up to our final view of the summit at Millennium Camp. It was nice to see green again too. After breakfast and sorting out the details concerning tips -- we were privileged to a participate in a thank you ceremony with the porters and guides. After breakfast and sorting out the details concerning tips — we were privileged to a participate in a thank you ceremony with the porters and guides.

The descent back to an elevation where there were trees made for a great setting to enjoy our final breakfast of this trek.  They were also a reminder that we were breathing much easier than before.  We could move around without feeling shortness of breath — one might even notice that there was a hop and skip in between when everyone walked around now.

Breakfast was excellent as I had the opportunity to enjoy more chapati pancakes (I still have a craving for them).  All of us hikers got to sorting out our tipping for the porters and guides and once that was settled with the chief mountain guide and everything was calculated out — we stepped out of the mess tent to meet with all of our porters and guides.  Here, for full transparency — the dollar value of all the tips were announced based on the role that each person had on the team.  I was happy to see that as the tips were being declared — all of the porters and guides were all smiles.  I had read that much of the livelihood of the porters and their families are heavily dependent on tipping.  It is unfortunate that this is the case and I hope that in the future — some sort of living wage or salary is simply built into the cost of a trek.

The tipping ceremony eventually lead to the overall farewell ceremony.  Mweka camp would be the last time we would see all of the porters.  They would descend the mountain faster than us and then take a separate van home.

The ceremony started with a number of the porters and guides singing local traditional songs and eventually lead to the famous Kilimanjaro Song.  It wasn’t just our group so we’d hear voice and song across the camp.  It was pretty amazing.  Even after hearing the Kilimanjaro Song over and over again, I didn’t get sick of it.  Search for it on Google and you’ll find plenty of YouTube videos.

Jambo! Jambo bwana!
Habari gani? Mzuri sana!
Wageni, mwakaribishwa!
Kilimanjaro? Hakuna matata!

Tembea pole pole. Hakuna matata!
Utafika salama. Hakuna matata!
Kunywa maji mengi. Hakuna matata!

Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro,
Kilimanjaro, mlima mrefu sana.

Na Mawenzi, na Mawenzi,
Na Mawenzi, mlima mrefu sana.

Ewe nyoka, ewe nyoka!
Ewe nyoka, mbona waninzunguka.

Wanizunguka, wanizunguka
Wanizunguka wataka kunila nyama

After we said our farewells to each and every porter, we parted ways and set off on the last stretch of this journey.

As we make our way down Kilimanjaro, we begin to see and enjoy views of the tree canopy of the rain forest. As we make our way down Kilimanjaro, we begin to see and enjoy views of the tree canopy of the rain forest. Another look off to the side of the trail. Another look off to the side of the trail. The trail is quite steep along the way down is covered with loose rocks and gravel. The trail is quite steep along the way down is covered with loose rocks and gravel.

The descent was long and steep.  Some parts of the trail were full of loose gravel and it made it very slippery at times.  I would highly recommend that everyone make use of trekking poles on the descent.  It saves your knees from all the impact, reduces the energy your legs consume to slow yourself down, and helps stabilize yourself on the way down — which is very important because after a very long descent, your ability to maintain stability and balance diminishes.

The important thing is not to feel rushed.  I think members of my group felt like they had to keep up with the rest of the group but it is crucial to pace yourself.  Descents often stress people out and many find it more challenging than climbing up (myself included) so moving faster doesn’t actually help.  Besides, I really enjoyed the earlier areas of the descent when we were just reaching the alpine forest area.  The trees and the greens seem to always have so much character.

Descending from the higher elevation alpine forest. Descending from the higher elevation alpine forest. Taking a break after hiking down countless steps. Taking a break after hiking down countless steps.

The trekking poles really come in handy later into the descent.  When we eventually make our way into the rain forest — the trail is actually quite nice, but unfortunately it is made up of countless number of steps.  It is literally like walking down a never-ending staircase.  At some point, I tried counting the number of steps but lost count because I eventually got bored.  I also think at this point, most people just wanted to get back to the lodge and have a shower — something we haven’t had for the past 7 days!

After we make it to the end of the stairs — we arrive at the furthest point of the trail where supply trucks or ambulances can drive up to in the rain forest before everything has to be carried up or down by porters.  Alas, we still had a ways to go.

We finally make it to the furthest point where an ambulance or truck can drive up into the rain forest area. We finally make it to the furthest point where an ambulance or truck can drive up into the rain forest area. Spotting a glimpse of civilization ahead. Spotting a glimpse of civilization ahead. Finally arriving at the site of the Mweka Gate.  This is it, we're practically finished! Finally arriving at the site of the Mweka Gate.  This is it, we’re practically finished!

I think by the time we were just walking on a dirt road towards Mweka Gate — no one was really talking anymore.  Everyone was tired.  I guess it didn’t help that with the descent, we also were returning to a warmer and more humid climate which zapped a lot of energy out of many of us.  Once we spotted the vans and buses carrying trekkers away though, it was as if everyone had a final burst of energy!  We powered our way to the end.

Of course there needs to be some token photograph of signage at the end.  This time, I definitely didn’t care enough to take a photograph with the sign so I simply just snapped a picture of it with everyone around.  It was a busy place with everyone happily (but wearily) having their photograph taken.

Where our trail finally ends.  Way too many people are trying to take photos so I just end up photographing them. Where our trail finally ends.  Way too many people are trying to take photos so I just end up photographing them. Some groups preparing to leave while others just arriving to sign into the last ranger's office.  We sat down afterwards for a last lunch. Some groups preparing to leave while others just arriving to sign into the last ranger’s office.  We sat down afterwards for a last lunch.

After taking care of that photograph, we made our way to the ranger’s station to leave our final signature.  It was a long line up and my knees were aching from the descent.  It was past noon and we had a long drive back to the lodge — but before we would depart, we’d have a last lunch with our guides.  It was good to have a hot lunch in the sun.  Some folks in the group ordered beer while others like myself just settled for a warm soda.  It felt like it had been decades since I last had a soda.

A local joint we stopped at to taste test some mbege (banana beer). A local joint we stopped at to taste test some mbege (banana beer).

On the way back to the lodge, our guides who had spoken with us about the local Chaga people and the local drink mbege, took us to a local bar or restaurant to celebrate our accomplishment with a drink.  Mbege is referred to as banana beer because it is made from a type of banana and is often consumed in groups.  Apparently, everyone would share a container full of mbege (imagine a large yogurt-sized container) and each person would drink from it and pass it on to the next.  It was amusing to watch everyone’s faces as they drank it.  Some people said that it was very sweet — I thought it tasted just like beer with a hint of banana to it.  I definitely couldn’t consume much of it but I think even the hardiest of people in the group mentioned that it had gotten pretty quickly to their head a little.

It was a long drive back to the lodge and everyone carried smiles or a peaceful look on their face.  I thought it was pretty awesome that we had all made it to the summit and even more fascinating to me — how we all came together from different parts of the world to tackle Kilimanjaro, for completely different reasons. I was happy to have accomplished what I had set out to do two years ago when I started hiking the Bruce Trail — and to have had the opportunity to do this with people who were complete strangers to me in the beginning, and all of whom I consider a friend at the end.  Was it harder than I thought it’d be?  Yes.  Much of it was psychological.  I’ll discuss this in another time.

Most importantly, this whole journey would not have been possible without the mountain guides and porters.  I am forever grateful to them for their support.  Simply put, their spirit inspires me.

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 6 and 7

I’m confident that most people — if asked their favourite moment on Kilimanjaro — will indicate the time of summiting the mountain.  I would say mine is the moment we finished our early dinner and stepped out of the tent to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve encountered.  One that I’m sure I will rarely ever have the opportunity to see; and that is to see it above the clouds from my tent.  At this point, we’re told to prepare all our layers and wear them before set off for the summit tonight.  I have about 5 top layers and 3 bottom layers.

It felt somewhat surreal to be waking up on Mt. Kilimanjaro on New Year’s Eve (December 31st, 2015).  A part of me wished I was back home, and another part of me wished that my friends and family were here with me.  It was pretty cold this morning as I stepped out of my tent and greeted my fellow trekkers who were up as early as I was.  I had wanted to make the most of the morning daylight and charge up my solar powered battery pack — and I was just not feeling sleepy.

After so many days on Kilimanjaro, it was odd to become to familiar with stepping out of my tent every day to see the summit — getting closer and closer.  Today we would be hiking a short distance of about 4km to Barafu camp — also known as summit base camp for the mountain.  Apparently, there is no water up at Barafu camp so the porters help carry water for us all.  I’m feeling extremely grateful for all their help at this point — let alone what they had already done for us over the past 5 days.

This would also be a very long day for us because we’d be going to sleep after a much earlier dinner and then waking up near 11pm to begin our summit hike.

Waking up to the cold fact that we were getting much closer to the summit. Waking up to the cold fact that we were getting much closer to the summit.

A porter sets off towards the summit base camp (Barafu) early in the morning. A porter sets off towards the summit base camp (Barafu) early in the morning.

While eating breakfast and pre-arranging my backpack for tonight — many porters had set off earlier towards Barafu camp.  It was pretty amazing to see the long stream of hikers against the backdrop of the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Being out here truly reshapes your perspective of the world.

Despite the fact that it was only a 4km hike to Barafu, it would end up feeling like a very long haul uphill.

I couldn’t really visualize how many people would be on Kilimanjaro for New Years Day until this part of the trail.  All the different routes and the people hiking on them would not only converge at Barranco camp — but also be hiking on this very route towards Barafu camp.  I had thoughtBarranco camp was bad in terms of traffic and temporary population — well, Barafu camp would be quite the surprise but I’ll touch on that later.

Packing up and getting ready for a very long day and night. Packing up and getting ready for a very long day and night. The long train of hikers and porters ahead of us. The long train of hikers and porters ahead of us.

The long trail ahead of us. The long trail ahead of us.

Despite the traffic on the trail, everyone was moving pretty smoothly.  It was a long slog up from Karanga camp where we had stayed last night but the trail with the exception of a couple of points were pretty straight forward and had no tricky footwork requirements.  To see the arid and stark alpine desert was quite the experience — we were so far up in altitude that there was practically nothing on this part of the mountain.  There is pretty much no flora here, just some lichen on some rocks and even that is pretty rare to see. It was nonetheless a beautiful sight to trek through.

By the time we crossed this alpine desert valley and hauled ourselves up to Barafu camp — we were all really feeling the altitude.  I hadn’t been feeling the altitude much other than some lightheadedness now and then but even at this point — I was now feeling weakened and breathing heavily.  I had hoped we’d be better acclimatized.

From a distance, it looks like a pilgrimage of tiny people slowly making their way down and up the valley towards Barafu camp, which is just over the visible area at the top of the valley. From a distance, it looks like a pilgrimage of tiny people slowly making their way down and up the valley towards Barafu camp, which is just over the visible area at the top of the valley. Silent and tired. Waiting in line for registration in a very busy area. Silent and tired. Waiting in line for registration in a very busy area. A porter reading a book on his own amidst the clouds. A porter reading a book on his own amidst the clouds. A beautiful sight but also a very inconvenient location for answering nature's call. A beautiful sight but also a very inconvenient location for answering nature’s call.

The arrival at Barafu camp was both crazy and amazing.  Never have I encountered so many people on a mountain before — and camping too.  As we lined up for registration at the ranger’s office, I spotted people looking dispirited, tired, and worn out.  I hoped that they were just returning feeling tired rather than folks just like us who had just arrived into camp.  Most of us seemed okay but were pretty tired from the climb up to Barafu and so many of us spoke very little.  Our guides were amazing as usual and acquired us a bench for all of us to sit down on.  We were relieved to have a place to rest — even for a moment and everyone smiled … even those who were really feeling the altitude.

Now as much as being in Barafu summit base camp is exciting — it is actually more of a pain.  It is practically like trekking through a metropolis with different districts of tent sites.  We groaned as we had to continue hiking from the ranger’s office back the path we came from and back down to a less central area where our porters set up camp for us.  The important thing to understand about Barafu camp is that there are very few flat areas available for camping and rocks are everywhere.  It becomes a matter of fitting tents wherever possible — the porters are practically geniuses in my eyes because they have to work this out while keeping everyone together in the vicinity.

We initially eat lunch and then spend the remainder of our time in camp resting, preparing our layers for the overnight hike and drinking water before enjoying a very early dinner.  I notice some porters reading in the distance and wonder what they are reading.  I’ve seen some reading the bible while others are reading English primers.  While watching them, I take the opportunity to rest my legs and feet while charging my headlamp with the solar powered battery pack.

I’m confident that most people — if asked their favourite moment on Kilimanjaro — will indicate the time of summiting the mountain.  I would say mine is the moment we finished our early dinner and stepped out of the tent to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve encountered.  One that I’m sure I will rarely ever have the opportunity to see; and that is to see it above the clouds from my tent.  At this point, we’re told to prepare all our layers and wear them before set off for the summit tonight.  I have about 5 top layers and 3 bottom layers.

This is it.  One of my favourite moments.  Sunset on Kilimanjaro while camping above the clouds. This is it.  One of my favourite moments.  Sunset on Kilimanjaro while camping above the clouds.

One doesn’t really begin to appreciate the logistics of a metropolis of a mountain until you need to answer nature’s call (use the bathroom) or need to navigate your way around to the mess tent.  This is on the top of the fact that the toilet latrines are on the other side of this rock face.  Here is where I’d recommend (for convenience sake) to have chemical toilets at your camp site.  I’ll explain why:

There is no straight vector line towards your destination.  You must find the right path that leads you safely to where you need to go.  Now, imagine eliminating daylight — you are now left with a headlamp and unfamiliar rugged and steep terrain that you need to step up or down (from or to).  This is where it got tricky.  Fortunately the areas were so packed with tents that I navigated my way by knowing which tents to pass by.  There were times when I wasn’t sure if my headlamp was beaming into pitch black darkness because it was a cliff side so I just carefully followed the ground and tried to identify foot paths that had been created ahead of me.

Because I am feeling lazy at this point, I don’t even bother opening up my sleeping bag.  I just put on all the layers in preparation for tonight’s hike and lay down on my sleeping mat.  I think I got a little bit of sleep but it was hard to get to sleep so early (an I was already on a early schedule!).

By 10:30pm, we were back in the mess tent gearing up, and having a snack with tea.

By 11:00pm we were out heading up the trail to the summit.  It was funny hiking in the dark — besides seeing the feet of the person in front of me — I just saw a long stream of glowing headlamps moving slowly all the way up to the summit.  The porters joke that this makes Kilimanjaro look like a Christmas tree.  I had never thought about it that way but I loved the thought!

January 1st, 2016 – Happy New Year!

As we are moving slowly up the switchbacks that take us gradually up the rim, midnight arrives and the entire mountain erupts in cheer and song.  Above and below us on the trail as well as at the various camp sites, the guides, porters, and probably hikers who weren’t summitting were singing and shouting.  Though I was extremely tired and under the effects of altitude — it was amazing to experience this in person and something I can never forget.  I felt rejuvenated and energized despite the fact that I had hours of trekking ahead of me for the night.

It is hard to recall all the details of the night (not that there are many).  I found myself questioning whether it was safe for me to continue the summit hike.  For every step I took, I forced myself to inhale and exhale faster — I could feel that my body wanted more oxygen.  I also felt really lightheaded at times and I was concerned about my sense of balance.  When I brought this up with the mountain guides, they nodded and simply said, “don’t worry, that’s normal.”  So I kept going.

We’d stop for breaks and I felt like taking a nap at every one of them.  I felt so tired that I couldn’t even open my water bottle but fortunately the guides helped me out.  I looked at everyone else and saw that I wasn’t alone — we were all struggling with the altitude — some more than others.  I didn’t know if I could make it and I wondered if I would make it but eventually I got so tired that I was purely dedicating my energy to following the person in front of me and not slipping anywhere.

Every so often our guides would start singing a local song and I loved those moments.  It drew my attention away from everything.  I knew at that point that the comment our guides made earlier was true.  Physically — we could do it, but at this altitude it isn’t about the physical aspect anymore but the psychological driver inside us.  I set aside my thoughts around failure and focused purely on moving one step at a time.  I don’t know how long it took us but eventually we made it to Stella Point.  We had overcome the rim and the crazy number of switchbacks that took us all night to climb.

After a very long struggle, we make it to Stella Point. End of the tiresome switchbacks.  We cheered and hugged for it was a momentous occasion from each of us individually. After a very long struggle, we make it to Stella Point. End of the tiresome switchbacks.  We cheered and hugged for it was a momentous occasion from each of us individually. The sun is just beginning to light up the horizon.  It is an amazing moment, until we realize we need to keep hiking further. The sun is just beginning to light up the horizon.  It is an amazing moment, until we realize we need to keep hiking further.

I was so happy to have arrived at Stella Point, I just wanted to take some photographs with the sign but my camera didn’t seem to be cooperating — the wasn’t enough light, even with the flash on.  My guide tried to take some photographs of me with the sign but it just didn’t work.  I was too tired to curse but I did get some early photos of the light in the horizon.

Just as I thought we had made it, our guide tells us we have to keep moving forward.  I prayed that there wouldn’t be more switchbacks and was thankful that there weren’t.  At that point, I felt a surge of energy (probably from adrenaline) and found myself trekking faster towards Uhuru Peak, the summit point of Kilimanjaro.  We wouldn’t reach the peak in time to watch the sunrise but we enjoyed the sunrise nonetheless hiking on the summit itself.  I think at this point, it was approximately 6:30am.

This is it.  We've reached the top of Kilimanjaro.  Our adrenaline is pumping and we're wide awake despite an all-night hike. The view is spectacular. This is it.  We’ve reached the top of Kilimanjaro.  Our adrenaline is pumping and we’re wide awake despite an all-night hike. The view is spectacular.

The summit was absolutely stunning but also annoying.  I actually wasn’t going to take a photograph with the sign — particularly when I saw so many people crowding around the signage trying to get the perfect snapshot — so I was content standing around photographing our surroundings on the summit.  Our mountain guides knew what they were doing because they told us immediately to drop our packs and head to the signage — and they figured out a way to take our photos for us.  I’m really grateful to them for doing so.  I guess they knew we were all too tired to make a fuss over anything but that this would be something important to us in hindsight.

Taking in the view of the glaciers from the summit.  I believe this is the Rebmann Glacier but I could be wrong. Taking in the view of the glaciers from the summit.  I believe this is the Rebmann Glacier but I could be wrong. Another view of the glacier.  I was too tired to do so but if I could, I'd have walked over to touch it. Another view of the glacier.  I was too tired to do so but if I could, I’d have walked over to touch it.

After I had my photos taken with the signage, I had to just stand there and take in everything around me.  It was all so majestic.  The morning light, the glaciers, the rim of the crater and the shadows that were cast across the summit.  I wish I had the energy to touch one of those glaciers but I was much too tired for that.

Instead, one of the porters who also served as a guide on summit night helped take some photographs of me with the glaciers.  What a way to spend the morning of New Years 2016.

Returning back the way we came. Returning back the way we came. None of this would have been possible without our amazing guides and porters who supported us all the way.  Thank you Fred! None of this would have been possible without our amazing guides and porters who supported us all the way.  Thank you Fred!

After spending about 20 to 30 minutes on the summit, our guides led us down from the summit and back towards our camp in Barafu.  I guess they knew that staying up here too long would have implications — which it did.  As we made our way back, I was feeling really nauseous and unwell — the only solution to this was to descend faster and so I did.

I didn’t take any photographs (nor did I feel like it by that point) but the descent was quite an experience in itself.  Descents normally concern me because of my sense of balance and knees but this was actually okay.  I initially thought that we’d be going back the same way we came via the switchbacks but the route was actually very different.  The entire way down is like stepping on rock scree (loose gravel and sand).  It takes a little getting used to — but once familiar, it is like skiing down all the way down with trekking poles.  I thought it was a lot of fun — despite wiping out a couple of times.

The rock scree doesn’t last forever and eventually we make our way on to a sandy path that takes us through another part of Kilimanjaro.  We get to see other parts of Barafu camp and it is seriously like a metropolis with some wild terrain to hike through.  Along the way, we are met by our porters who greet us with cheer and smiles — congratulating us and treating us to some refreshing juice.  A few of them offer to even take our packs for us to relieve us of our loads.  As we trek through Barafu camp (it is a long way), I chat with some of the guides and porters, I had the opportunity to learn about their favourite routes and other areas that are interesting to hike.  We soon find that our camp has moved further down the mountain and my tent is funnily enough, lodged between a number of rocks.  I guess that is some good security from the wind!  We all retire into our tents, clean up and take a nap while waiting for others in the group to return.

As much as our guides wanted everyone to stay together — some people were more affected by the altitude than others so it took them longer.  I am pleased that everyone managed to summit despite all the obstacles and hurdles we were confronted with.  A couple in my group even got engaged on the mountain — how exciting!

Once everyone returned and we had brunch — we recuperated for a bit before setting off for Millennium Camp.  Everyone was in good spirits (albeit, tired) and prepared to descend the mountain from Barafu.  Normally, many groups descend to Mweka camp but given time, distance, and the tired state of the group — the guides agreed that it wasn’t a good idea and that it’d be a better option to stay at a closer camp despite the fact that we’d have a longer hike on our last day.  True to the weather on Kilimanjaro, the clouds set in and it rained on us as we made our way to our next campsite.  What was really surprising was that it poured!

At that point, I didn’t care anymore.  Hey, at least we had accomplished what we set out to do.

Check out the final day 8!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 5

As soon as we began the climb up the wall, I noticed that it was slippery.  So did others.  Apparently, it got cold enough that certain parts of the wall becomes icy.  Unfortunately the sun does not shine on the Barranco Wall until a lot later so we had to take our steps carefully and slowly as we trekked along.  In some areas, we had to use both hands to clamor up or steady ourselves.  It also got pretty cramped at times with porters trying to pass us.  Our guides did their best to keep everyone together but there were times when the group ended up getting separated.

It was another cold morning of December 30, 2015 on Kilimanjaro as we got ready to make our way to the Barranco Wall.  There was a mix of excitement and anxiousness in the air as everyone ate their breakfast and sipped their tea or coffee in the mess tent.  Not knowing what to expect other than that it would be a climb where we’d actually pack away our hiking poles because one would actually require both hands — I was a little nervous myself in terms of whether or not I would be able to tackle this climb.  The day was supposed to be relatively short with us only hiking for approximately 5km to Karanga camp.

Lots of hustling early in the morning as groups prepare to pack up and head up the Barranco Wall.  You can see people in the distance going up the Barranco Wall. Lots of hustling early in the morning as groups prepare to pack up and head up the Barranco Wall.  You can see people in the distance going up the Barranco Wall. Watching people climb the Barranco Wall slowly... Watching people climb the Barranco Wall slowly… Waking up to another clear sky and great view, but a little close to other tents. Waking up to another clear sky and great view, but a little close to other tents. Successfully made it past the kissing or hugging rock.  Happy times! Successfully made it past the kissing or hugging rock.  Happy times!

As soon as we began the climb up the wall, I noticed that it was slippery.  So did others.  Apparently, it got cold enough that certain parts of the wall becomes icy.  Unfortunately the sun does not shine on the Barranco Wall until a lot later so we had to take our steps carefully and slowly as we trekked along.  In some areas, we had to use both hands to clamor up or steady ourselves.  It also got pretty cramped at times with porters trying to pass us.  Our guides did their best to keep everyone together but there were times when the group ended up getting separated.

It was inevitable because there were just so many people hiking up the Barranco Wall.  In particular was this bulge along the trail that the guides referred to as the “Kissing or Hugging rock”.  In order to continue along the trail, you had to literally wrap yourself around the rock and step around it.

What was really impressive was seeing the porters hike around the kissing / hugging rock or even finding a direct route up without dealing with it.  The guides were amazing as well.  There were so many points when we’d end up with a traffic jam so the guides from many different groups were all communicating with one another trying to smooth out the traffic on the wall.

The view from the Barranco wall is stunning as we look down towards the rain forest canopy. The view from the Barranco wall is stunning as we look down towards the rain forest canopy. After a strenuous climb, we all take a break and try to drink more water. After a strenuous climb, we all take a break and try to drink more water.

Just before we reached an area where the trail widened enough for my group to take a short break, we came across an elderly couple who were hiking Kilimanjaro.  It was so inspirational to see them.  Yes, they needed additional help and attention, and they were slowing everyone down but I thought it was a brilliant sight to see the two of them striving to tackle Kilimanjaro for New Years Day 2016, just like the rest of us.

Ideally, that is one of my aspirations in life.  I’d like to still be able to hike mountains when I am in my 80s.  Assuming I make it to that age of course, and I base that off of the average lifespan of a Canadian male.

It continues to amaze me as I watch other hikers and the porters in particular walk up the Barranco wall without any poles while carrying so much. It continues to amaze me as I watch other hikers and the porters in particular walk up the Barranco wall without any poles while carrying so much. One of those ascents up the wall that are literally straight up. One of those ascents up the wall that are literally straight up. More grand views along the ascent. More grand views along the ascent.

Some more clamoring and scrambling with all four limbs were required as we continued up the Barranco Wall.  A few people in my group struggled with the Barranco Wall.  Though I initially had my doubts on whether I might’ve had trouble — I found that my training prior to my trip actually prepared me quite well but it was one of the more physically intense parts of the trek regardless of altitude.

At this point, altitude was not affecting many of us.  Today funny enough, was considered a “rest” day or extra acclimatization day — with the shorter distance that we would cover today.  Nonetheless, we were pretty tired from the climb up the wall and were pretty happy to finally get over that part and take a break at the top.

We finally made it up the wall and happily take a break.  Good time for snacks! We finally made it up the wall and happily take a break.  Good time for snacks!

Peering down from the top of the wall, porters continue to trek upwards. Peering down from the top of the wall, porters continue to trek upwards.

While everyone was sitting down resting, I spent some time peering down the wall where we came from while enjoying some shared snacks.  It was quite inspiring to see everyone continuing to hike up (trekkers and porters).  I wonder what the largest number of people ever on the wall has ever been?

As we moved on after our break, the trail began taking a descent and just as expected — the clouds began moving in.  Back on went the rain gear!

The trail leads through an interesting area with a peculiar pattern but as we got closer, it was simply erosion taking place. The trail leads through an interesting area with a peculiar pattern but as we got closer, it was simply erosion taking place.

As we're getting closer to Karanga camp where we will stay for the night, we must descend into the valley.  Some really interesting-looking flora and lichen. As we’re getting closer to Karanga camp where we will stay for the night, we must descend into the valley.  Some really interesting-looking flora and lichen.

The descent became really steep at certain points as we made our way into the valley.  Trekking poles are very helpful at this point.  Although there was a lot of green and flora as we made our way down, I didn’t see many senecio trees but rather a very different environment.  Even the yellows and greens were different.  Oddly enough, the greens reminded me of different parts of California and the various climates I had encountered on a family road trip many years ago.

I often find descents to be unnerving so I’d much prefer going up than down — others are concerned about their knees or perhaps have ailments that they may need to pay attention to.  I’ve found that although I have improved with my sense of balance and ability to descend mountains — it is still unnerving to trek down a steep trail.

The final climb up to Karanga camp.  This was a long slog up. The final climb up to Karanga camp.  This was a long slog up.

Fortunately for me (but not so fortunate for others), eventually we had to start our long hike back up out of the valley.  It was a beautiful sight with the clouds passing over us.

We very very slowly made our way up and out of the valley to the ranger’s hut for registration into Karanga camp.  Of course, by that point we began to experience some rain.  At this point, we were pretty accustomed to this weather behaviour on Kilimanjaro.  Everyone was just happy to get some time to rest.  Tomorrow would be a big day leading up to the summit night.

Check out Trek Day 6 and 7 on Kilimanjaro!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 4

Soon finding ourselves in the clouds, the trail actually got busier and very narrow because we were hiking on a ridge.  Some points only allowing for everyone to be hiking single-file.  This meant porters coming from all directions, mountain guides, and trekkers were all bottle-necked in this part of the trail leading towards Lava Tower.

Waking up at Shira 2 camp on December 29th, 2015 was damn chilly and cold experience.  Some puddles of water from yesterday’s rain had turned into small patches of muddy ice.  I was waking up way earlier than the rest of the group.  Between responding to nature’s call (in the cold!) and the changes in timezone, I found myself operating on less sleep than I had anticipated — but it didn’t seem to bother me like it would have if I walked into the office sleep-deprived.  I felt energized every day we continued trekking on the mountain.

Today’s hike — we were informed ahead of time — would be a tough one.  We’d be pushing up to a much higher altitude by hiking up to Lava Tower and then descending to Barranco Camp for the night which was at a lower altitude to acclimatize.  We didn’t really know what we would be up against but at least the day started out with beautiful weather!

Morning at Shira 2 Camp.  It was pretty cold! Morning at Shira 2 Camp.  It was pretty cold!

It didn't seem that far, until we looked back at the hike up from Shira 2 Camp. It didn’t seem that far, until we looked back at the hike up from Shira 2 Camp.

The trek up from Shira 2 Camp was like a slow slog up a loose gravel incline.  The pace wasn’t bad and it allowed for us to enjoy the surroundings.  Some groups passed us, just as we passed others.  We kept trekking up for so long that eventually the clouds began to catch-up with us.

Soon finding ourselves in the clouds, the trail actually got busier and very narrow because we were hiking on a ridge.  Some points only allowing for everyone to be hiking single-file.  This meant porters coming from all directions, mountain guides, and trekkers were all bottle-necked in this part of the trail leading towards Lava Tower.

Trudging up to a very busy area.  We end up trekking along the rim where the trail is very narrow. Trudging up to a very busy area.  We end up trekking along the rim where the trail is very narrow.

On the way, the landscape got very stark but beautiful.  It is simply astonishing how this part of the mountain looks in-person.  I won’t say it looks like Mars, but it doesn’t look like any place that most human beings would consider living.

There was a really neat point of the trail where we had to literally squeeze down through a gap.  You can take a look closer at the photograph above.  Not only was it a gap, but it was a steep descent as well making for a challenging but interesting footwork.  Trekking poles make things a lot easier.

We’d take breaks on the side of the trail and find rocks to “leave a message” behind for Mother Nature.  Getting closer to Lava Tower, many of us were beginning to feel the effects of the altitude.  I was getting a bit lightheaded but the landscape fortunately continued to inspire me to take photographs and trek on.

Taking a break after the trail widens up a little. Taking a break after the trail widens up a little. A look at how vast the valley is before the climb up to Lava Tower A look at how vast the valley is before the climb up to Lava Tower

By the time we got to Lava Tower, we were fully under cloud cover and there was a bit of rain drizzle as well.  I did not realize this but apparently there were many groups that also camped at Lava Tower.  I can only imagine what it might look like in the morning when it was sunny.  That said, I didn’t really enjoy the fact that there were so many groups funneling into the Lava Tower area.  Many of us were really feeling the altitude at this point or were pretty tired from the long slog up from the valley — to make things even more challenging, we had to find a spot to it down for lunch and I think we took an unnecessarily difficult route.

Nonetheless, I was happy to sit down and enjoy lunch while treating a water refill (which is I admit, a bit of a hassle at times).  Unlike many others who were struggling with the altitude, I was still hungry — which was surprising.  I think I ate almost everything in my lunch box.

Our mountain guides seemed eager to stick to schedule so we soon set off back on to the trail after a quick break to answer nature’s call.  It would be a very steep descent down.  The altitude mainly affected me in a way that gave me a sense of lightheadedness — so I wasn’t feeling as surefooted as I normally would be.  The way down was full of unevenly set stones, jagged rocks, and loose gravel.  Fortunately, our mountain guides were keeping an eye on us and reassuring us as we went — and our trekking poles were an excellent help once again.

The descent from Lava Tower is very steep. The descent from Lava Tower is very steep. A closer look at the descent. A closer look at the descent.

Once past the steep descent from Lava Tower, it was as if we arrived in another world.  A world filled with senecio trees!  Despite the fog and the rain, it was a very welcome sight after the very stark Lava Tower area.  We also had to take care to avoid slipping on certain sections of the trail.  The descent was definitely helping address the altitude sickness that some members of my group were feeling but the way down was also rough on their knees.

The steep descent takes us into an area full of senecio trees.  It was a beautiful sight with all the mist and fog. The steep descent takes us into an area full of senecio trees.  It was a beautiful sight with all the mist and fog. A very rugged trail on the way down made it quite challenging.  It was amazing watching the porters make their way down. A very rugged trail on the way down made it quite challenging.  It was amazing watching the porters make their way down.

There was a point along the trail when I had to answer nature’s call again (thanks to all the water that I’m being forced to drink) and unfortunately there was no place to go along the trail, so I actually had to climb up some of the rugged areas.  The funny thing is that I thought we were on a break.  I must have either drank way too much or misunderstood because as soon as I found my way back to the trail, I lost track of where the group was and the mountain guide that had my trekking poles.  Oops.

I just kept trekking forwards until I saw someone in my group and inquired.  As soon as they saw it was me, my poles were passed from person to person down to me.  Good thing they have keen enough eyes to spot me through the fog because I definitely was having a hard time!

Once we arrived at Barranco camp, it was a relief to see our porters.  They greeted us with smiles and cheer — helping to relieve us of our packs — which I thought was ridiculous because they were carrying so so much more than we were.

Barranco Camp was unfortunately almost like tent city.  I could not believe how many people and how many tents were set up here.  It was insane.  It also meant that our group tents were closer together.  I kid you not that they were in some cases, inches apart.  In some sense, everyone was growing more intimate than ever before!

The clouds clear up for a brief moment for a view of the Barranco Wall that we will climb tomorrow. The clouds clear up for a brief moment for a view of the Barranco Wall that we will climb tomorrow.

Alas, the public latrine situation here was not nearly as good as it was on Shira 2 camp.  I think due to the number of people including porters — people don’t pay attention to whether some latrines are designated for tourists or porters — they just use whatever is available.  Well, if you’re not fortunate enough to have hired chemical toilets, you just have to make do.  Unfortunately with tent city, it also meant we had to trek half way across numerous tent sites in order to reach the latrines.  Not so great when it is cold and in the middle of the night.

On a lighter note, I think my group was getting tired of millet porridge because when our guides offered the possibility of oatmeal — they all practically cheered themselves hoarse.  Funny how these little things affect mood on the mountain.  Personally, I didn’t mind the millet.  At the end of the night, due to the number of people at the camp, there was a discussion on when to tackle the Barranco Wall — we didn’t want to wait too long (9am) or get stuck with a lot of traffic (8am).  We ended up deciding to tackle it at 8:30am.  I had no idea why it’d make such a difference but I wasn’t a mountain guide.  Once dinner and tomorrow’s briefing wrapped up — we stepped out to enjoy the stars once again.

Check out Day 5!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 3

As we trekked through this part of Kilimanjaro — I found myself yearning to stay in this area a day or two longer.  I loved how the flatness of the plateau contrasted against the sheer size of Kilimanjaro’s summit (and the remaining trek ahead of us). It just seemed like this would be a perfect place to stay on the mountain a while and just really take in the vastness of the plateau.  The trail was relatively straight forward and easy to walk along with the exception of a couple of instances where we had to cross a few streams.

Getting to sleep last night wasn’t too difficult on the Shira Plateau — it was remaining in a state of sleep that was the challenge.  Drinking more than 3 to 4 litres of water wasn’t helping with this situation.  I had found myself reluctantly and clumsily stumbling out of my tent in the middle of night to answer nature’s calling.  Fortunately, I was still feeling pretty energetic despite the interruptions and was eager to pack up and get an early start in this morning of December 28th, 2015.  To be honest, ever since I arrived in Tanzania, I’ve found myself waking up earlier — not sure if it was the time difference or the fact that the lack of electricity just forces you to go to sleep earlier.  Maybe both.

It was a little unreal stepping out of the tent to finally get a glimpse of Kilimanjaro’s summit — while on … Kilimanjaro.  Only a few days until the New Year.  This was happening.

A quiet and tranquil morning view from my tent. A quiet and tranquil morning view from my tent. With the clear sky, we can finally see Kilimanjaro from our campsite and its respective size. With the clear sky, we can finally see Kilimanjaro from our campsite and its respective size.

As a result of the beautiful morning, we decided to move our breakfast outdoors out of the mess tent and enjoy the view.  This would probably be the only time we’d eat breakfast outside the mess tent but it would be glorious.  People brought out their solar panels to charge up any battery packs that required while we ate.  Breakfast was often an interesting mix of fruit, chapate, toast, sausage or bacon, and some form of porridge (initially millet — if I remember correctly).

I think I was building a form of addiction to toast with jam.  Something I never paid any attention to before.

Once breakfast was finished, everyone packed up and we set off further into the Shira Plateau — making our way towards Shira 2 camp.  The plan today was a pretty light hike of 5km and then take the opportunity to do some short acclimatization hikes.

Making our way through the Shira plateau towards the summit. Making our way through the Shira plateau towards the summit. A look back at the vastness of the mountain plateau. A look back at the vastness of the mountain plateau.

As we trekked through this part of Kilimanjaro — I found myself yearning to stay in this area a day or two longer.  I loved how the flatness of the plateau contrasted against the sheer size of Kilimanjaro’s summit (and the remaining trek ahead of us). It just seemed like this would be a perfect place to stay on the mountain a while and just really take in the vastness of the plateau.  The trail was relatively straight forward and easy to walk along with the exception of a couple of instances where we had to cross a few streams.

This is where trekking poles are invaluable — particularly if you are surefooted or find yourself challenged with it comes to balance.  It’s also helpful to avoid getting your boots wet — even if your boots may be considered waterproof.

The clouds were catching up with us by the afternoon ... as usual. The clouds were catching up with us by the afternoon … as usual.

Similar to our experience from the previous two days, the clouds began to roll in by noon.  Before the rain, we would sit down and enjoy lunch.  Lunch was also an peculiar mishmash of items — everything from a banana, apple, a butter sandwich or a piece of chocolate, all the way to a tin-foiled wrapped piece of fried chicken.  We all amused ourselves pondering how fried chicken came to be.  Quietly, I mused to myself whether KFC or Popeye’s would ever sponsor the porters in carrying buckets of fried chicken up a mountain.

We continued to make our way through the Shira Plateau staying ahead of the clouds to some extent.  Along the way, we even took a break although it wasn’t much of a break physically because our mountain guides led us off the trail to show us a cave that had some traces of use by the local people in the past.

The trek eventually brought us to interesting signs that were set up because the trail would begin to fork.  Apparently, porters have in the past mistaken the direction of Shira 2 camp and would end up at a different campsite.  This actually happened to one of our porters who was carrying one of our mess tent tables.  The poor guy was new to the Lemosho route and ended up at a different campsite.  Fortunately, a couple of our othere porters who knew the route went to fetch him.

Passing by signage.  Apparently even with these signs people can easily get lost. Passing by signage.  Apparently even with these signs people can easily get lost. Stopping for a break with a few senecio trees.  These are rare in this part of the mountain. Stopping for a break with a few senecio trees.  These are rare in this part of the mountain.

As the cloud cover rolled in with the mist, we all began to don our jackets.  The trail was also becoming more rugged and no longer were we in the Shira Plateau — we were gradually making our way out of it.  That said we weren’t completely out yet but it was really awesome to encounter these odd looking senecio trees.  It’d be the first time I had ever seen one — never even knew about them before.

Of course just as we were getting close to Shira 2 camp, the rain began and we found ourselves walking into the campsite for registration in the rain once again.  It wasn’t bad and I was grateful that it didn’t rain for most of our hike — unfortunately the rain and the cloud cover made it difficult to tackle some extra acclimatization hikes so we ended up just sitting in the mess tent.

Unfortunately, the mess tent had some leaks and parts of the rain cover were pooling water — this I could see making the situation rather uncomfortable for some folks given that it was the main and only source of shelter for just hanging out and eating.  It didn’t bother me much but I could see that it was bothering some of the others.  We made the most of it and amused ourselves trying to move around or sit away from the leakages.

Arriving at Shira 2 camp in the rain, but after resting in the mess tent for an hour or so -- the skies began to clear. Arriving at Shira 2 camp in the rain, but after resting in the mess tent for an hour or so — the skies began to clear.

The cloud formations are pretty epic to observe as the sky begins to clear up. The cloud formations are pretty epic to observe as the sky begins to clear up.

Some of the others who were willing to hike in the pouring rain went off to check out the Shira Caves but I figured I didn’t want to test the waterproofing of my rain jacket if it wasn’t necessary so I stayed back.  Surprisingly altitude wasn’t bothering me much and I had managed to avoid taking diamox pills so far.

Once the rain stopped and the clouds began to roll away, we were gifted with some pretty spectacular views.  I love cloud formations and it was just breathtaking to see how everything looked as the sky began to clear up — and that also allowed us to take some acclimatization hikes before dinner.

The evening at Shira 2 camp was quite a bit chillier than the past two nights.  On a positive note, Shira 2 camp lived up to its name based on what I had read.  It had the best toilets and latrines on Kilimanjaro.  Not only was there a designated large building with solar power for tourist latrines — there was ceramic tiling, and there were both western and local-type latrines.  I think that cheered up the group a bit.

The night brought clear skies full of stars that we all admired but were too cold to bother trying to photograph.  Instead, everyone quickly just brushed their teeth and tried to go straight to sleep.  Some people were already feeling the effects of altitude but it wasn’t major.  Tomorrow would be the day when we’d be pushing the threshold.

Check out Day 4 of the Kilimanjaro trek!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 2

As we made our way past all the muddiness, we eventually made our way down into the Shira Plateau.  I had read and heard from others that every so often, wildlife might be spotted in this area but alas, no such luck for us(unless you count a pigeon)!  It was still a magnificent experience to arrive with such impeccable timing — the clouds moved past us and unveiled the beautiful plateau landscape.

Waking up on Kilimanjaro on December 27, 2015 felt weird — I mean, aside from the fact that I was consistently waking up earlier than everyone else because of the time differences from home.  I felt somewhat out of place perhaps because I felt my friends should have been here with me or I should have been with family during this time of year.  Instead, I was on my own in another country trekking up the largest mountain in Africa.  I guess if you’ve been planning this trip for over a year and preparing for it, things might become a bit surreal for you too once it is actually happening.

Regardless, we all found the morning to be pretty chilly but that was quickly cured with some hot tea and porridge!  The mountain guides were always keen to make sure we ate a lot for energy, and pushed us to drink 3 to 4 litres of water to help with the altitude which we would eventually begin to feel the effects of as we progressed up the mountain.  The porters and the guides are pretty efficient — once we finished breakfast, they packed everything up and proceeded up the trail.  We, hikers on the other hand, were little sluggish to continue into the rain forest but it didn’t make any difference because we would be going at a slow pace through out the day.

Stopping briefly in the rain forest on a sunny day.  I love the many shades of green. Stopping briefly in the rain forest on a sunny day.  I love the many shades of green. Many groups were taking breaks in the same place so it got a little crowded.  Looking up, you can see the huge amounts of lichen hanging from the trees. Many groups were taking breaks in the same place so it got a little crowded.  Looking up, you can see the huge amounts of lichen hanging from the trees.

Today I broke out my trekking poles as I anticipated a pretty long day of hiking.  We spent a fair amount of time trekking up the rain forest and would take breaks every so often.  The temperature had also warmed up as we made our way out of the forest tree canopy.  Eventually, we were able to get some good views beyond the rain forest into the lowlands.

This was also the first time where I had to make use of the water treatment droplets.  In the past, I’ve been accustomed to using filters or boiled water but this time since we were running a bit behind, a number of us just asked the porters for untreated water and then applied treatments ourselves.  A lot of folks had tablets but since I had read that tablets have problems dissolving properly in cold water, I figured it’d be better to get the droplets instead.  The only tricky thing for me is that I had to wait half an hour before I could start drinking the water from my backpack’s water bladder.

We may have made our way above the canopy, but there was still a long way to go. We may have made our way above the canopy, but there was still a long way to go. The trail up ahead involves some steep ascents. The trail up ahead involves some steep ascents.

Overall the trail on the second day was relatively straight forward although there were a lot of ascents and descents in somewhat muddy or potentially slippery conditions.  It wasn’t raining (yet) but the previous day’s rain had still caused the trail to be relatively damp.  We did begin to notice that the clouds would start creeping on us by early afternoon.

It was pretty amazing to be hiking along and then suddenly find ourselves completely surrounded and immersed within the clouds.  It was sort of neat to think of it as touching the clouds to some extent.  Unfortunately it also meant that there weren’t a whole lot of good photo opportunities once the cloud cover arrived.

The clouds move out of the way just as we arrive in the Shira Plateau. The clouds move out of the way just as we arrive in the Shira Plateau.

As we made our way past all the muddiness, we eventually made our way down into the Shira Plateau.  I had read and heard from others that every so often, wildlife might be spotted in this area but alas, no such luck for us(unless you count a pigeon)!  It was still a magnificent experience to arrive with such impeccable timing — the clouds moved past us and unveiled the beautiful plateau landscape.

The plateau is beautiful as is the cloud cover.  What we cannot see at this time is the rest of Kilimanjaro. The plateau is beautiful as is the cloud cover.  What we cannot see at this time is the rest of Kilimanjaro. Arriving at Shira 1 campsite for registration Arriving at Shira 1 campsite for registration Latrines in the distance. Latrines in the distance.

It was a pretty long day for us despite the relatively short distance (9km).  I was grateful for the slow pace that the mountain guides set for us because it allowed us to really enjoy and take in the natural landscape.  As we arrived at the Shira 1 campsite, the porters cheerfully greeted us and kindly took our packs off our hands while we waited in line to register with the rangers.

We had arrived by about 3pm in the afternoon and the rain had also stopped.  Some of the group chatted in the mess tent while others played hacky sack with the porters.  I decided to take some time to catch up on writing out my journal while waiting for dinner.  The group was also happy that there were many more latrines than the previous night (when there was only one…).  Of course, some were latrines were in better shape than others.  One of our group even decided to spruce up a latrine nearby by spraying it down with eucalyptus-lemon scent oil.  I’m sure that became a popular choice for folks who needed to take care of business.

My failed attempt to take photograph of the stars above us on the mountain. My failed attempt to take photograph of the stars above us on the mountain. Second failed attempt.  This would be the last time I tried to photograph the night on the mountain. Second failed attempt.  This would be the last time I tried to photograph the night on the mountain.

Dinner was well-received as we had the fortune to dine on stew, butternut soup, and chapati.  Most of us felt quite content, although I think everyone was struggling with drinking enough water to meet the 3 to 4 litre daily requirement.  I have no idea how people can drink so much when I felt like I was force feeding myself.  We also began to take our oxygen and heart rate daily tests more seriously now that we would be approaching higher elevation.  The mountain guides would be monitoring us daily.

After being briefed on the next day, we all filed out of the mess tent and were happily surprised by the beautiful and clear dark sky — filled with stars.  While I simply stood there in awe, everyone scrambled to get their cameras.  I think we all spent half an hour trying to capture the night sky and I tried a few times but it didn’t really work out.  Eventually despite my persistence, it got cold enough that I gave up and ducked back into my tent and went to sleep.  The stars reminded me of the night skies that I experienced in northern Chile but it was awe-inspiring to experience this almost every night that we were on Kilimanjaro.  In the middle of the night when I had to make use of the latrine (thanks to all the water we had to drink), the entire plateau was lit up by the moon.  It was a pretty majestic sight — one that I was too tired to photograph — but I’m happy that I got to see it just on day 2 of this journey.

Check out Day 3 of the trek!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 1

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Fortunately, I was surprised by the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

It was a long time coming but my trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro began on December 26th, 2015.  In advance of this, I had been training at home and on the Bruce Trail for over a year.  On a physical level, I was prepared but there were still surprises along the way.  It is required to join a guided trek and being the Canadian I am, opted to go with G Adventures.  This isn’t me endorsing them but I’ve had good experiences with them in the past as well.

The day started off with breakfast at our lodge and then proceeded with a long three or four hour drive out to the Londorosi Gate (after a stop or two at a grocery store for snacks) in order to register with the National Park rangers.  It is quite amazing the change in temperature between the town of Moshi all the way to Londorosi Gate.  We may have started off wearing a shirt and shorts but by the time we got to Londorosi, we all had jackets on.

While waiting for registration to take place, we ate lunch and watched as the rain started pouring.  Fortunately, there was a relatively large covered gazebo area for hikers.  Once we had all registered, we then drove to Lemosho Gate where everything was unloaded from the buses and we began our trek up into the rain forest.

Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek. Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek.

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Despite that, I decided to forego using trekking poles until the next day and I was also pleasantly surprised (and fortunate) with the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

I noticed a small group of Germans who passed us extremely quickly but we eventually caught up with them — I’m not sure if they got tired or if their guide requested that they slow down.  Either way, the best thing about slowing down is the opportunity to look up, down and around our surroundings.  Enjoying the lush green environment of the rain forest was the saving grace given the rain and the somewhat damp humid climate.

Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green! The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green!

We knew that today would be a relatively short hike (6km) but because we paced ourselves up into the rain forest slopes of Kilimanjaro, it took us probably 3 hours at least to reach Mti Mkubwa Camp which is where we would spend our first night on Kilimanjaro.

It was pretty muddy once we got to camp and mosquitoes were biting me like crazy.  Funny enough, I couldn’t see them.  I just felt some of them even bite through my rain jacket which was really bizarre.  Shouldn’t be possible right?  A porter laughed when he noticed my reactions to all the bites I was receiving, and I chuckled with him.  What else could I do!

Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich. I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich.

The first day felt long when in reality it was quite short.  Our arrival to our campsite coincided with the rain subsiding.  After registering with the ranger station, we proceeded to find our tents that were already set up by our amazing porters.  Unfortunately, I discovered that my tent had a giant hole in the insect netting but the good news was that by the time we had finished dinner (which was so good and hit the spot), it was pretty frigid that night.  Dinner was probably the most elaborate this evening with the most fresh food.  We had fried tilapia, chicken stew, potatoes, and avocado salad.  Delicious!

Before hitting the hay, most of us decided to make use of the local latrine only to find that amongst so many tents, there was only one latrine.  That wasn’t very fun.  It explains why many groups hired their own chemical toilets.  Nonetheless, tomorrow would be an exciting day as we made our way out of the forest canopy towards the Shira plateau on the mountain.

Check out Day 2 of the Trek on Kilimanjaro!