Conquering Kilimanjaro - Arriving in Moshi
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Since many of you cant wait to hear all about our Kilimanjaro journey, I’ve decided to blog about it and provide quite a bit of detail, so those that are interested can read it and see it via photos. The first few days will have more detail in explaining what we experienced with regards to our guides, service and food as for the most part it was the same routine day in and day out, except of course the views and lengths of the hikes.So I hope you enjoy re-living this experience with me. I kept a journal during the entire vacation so that I wouldn’t forget any small detail upon my return. So its long, but if you want to know what we experienced, happy reading!
Moshi town – pre climb – Saturday Sept 15th
We decided to arrive a day early in case of flight delays and so that we can rest and acclimatize to the time change and long travel. It was a long journey, starting Thursday night Sept. 13th, with an 8 hour flight from Toronto to Amsterdam, then a 3 hour layover and then a 9 hour flight direct to Kilimanjaro. We arrived Friday evening at 7:30pm but unfortunately it was already dark, so we did not get to see Kilimanjaro nor much of anything at all. I found it extremely weird landing somewhere in what appeared to be total darkness. Only a few lights were seen from above. Normally I am used to see mega lights over bright cities when we land.
We had all day Saturday to do as we wished. Before we left we decided to book a tour of Moshi town and Haley from the USA office at Tusker Trail did that for us. It was wonderful to have everything run so smoothly and all pre-arranged and pre-paid.
I awoke real early to the sounds of morning prayer and the local rooster. Moshi has a huge Muslim population and Fajr Dawn-Prayer begins at morning twilight when the morning light appears across the full width of the sky. This was usually around 5am and someone said it was 4:45 but I never checked the time.
After breakfast at our Bristol cottage restaurant, we decided to take a peek outside onto the main road as I had no idea what to expect. And there it was – BOOM! Mount Kilimanjaro in all its glory poking through the tree tops! It was HUGE and yet so far away! For the first time, we looked at each other, with a “holy crap! Do we really want to do this!!” exclamation. I honestly had serious doubts in that instant. It was SO big. All I could think of was "how on God's earth will I ever make it up there!?"
We got ready for our 11AM pickup to do the tour of Moshi and that was when we met Alan and Deborah from Australia. They were two of our trekking team mates. We immediately hit if off, with lots of chatter and excitement about our pending climb. They happened to be doing the same tour of Moshi and the four of us went off happily with Calvin our guide. Moshi has a population of about 140,000 and is home to two main cultural groups; the Chagga and Maasai tribes. We had a great day of driving around Moshi, seeing the way the local people live and were lucky to get a tour of the Saturday morning local market activities.
I found it fascinating watching the hustle and bustle and all the activity. The colorful clothing that the women wore really stood out and brightened the normally drabby, dusty streets and homes.But we learned quickly that they get very upset and hate it when tourists take photos of them. So it was a bummer for me as I SO wanted to capture Tanzania's life & the wonderful people there. But I totally understand how rude as tourists we can be, shoving our cameras into their faces without even asking for their permission first. So most of my photos were taken from the bumpy jeep ride trying to sneak the shots from the window instead.
We toured all around, taking so much info in. We visited a local home where we could purchase some canvas art and see what a typical home looks like.
We visited an arborist who is trying to save Tanzania by planting trees. We learned that once Kilimanjaro dries up, there will be no more water in Tanzania.
We visited graveyards from World War I and II and walked around the separate areas where the British, Germans and Africans were buried.
Then it was time for some lunch and a nice choice of beverages.
Calvin then took us to the abandoned railway and explained why it went under and was no longer in service. It was a very enlightening and educational tour.
We ended the day happily back at Bristol, where we met the next two trekkers from our group, Heidi and Barry from Dubai. We immediately connected and sat at our front porch drinking wine and beer and chatting for a couple of hours. Turns out they are both fellow Canadians but moved to Dubai for work. Now we just had to wait for the last 4 all coming from USA. As it turned out, their flight was delayed in Amsterdam and they did not get in until after midnight. Mitch and Monika are Barry’s cousins and were coming from New York, and Jeff and Jerry were brothers coming from Connecticut and Colorado.
Sunday – Sunday Sept 16th
Sunday morning; again early morning Muslim prayer wake up call. But then the interesting part was hearing church bells for the Catholic’s and then the non-stop incredible singing from 8am to noon from the Lutheran church. It was interesting to hear about how these major religions coexist so
harmoniously. It was a very busy and noisy morning in Moshi town. And of course our own excitement when at breakfast we finally met the rest of the trekking group.
Then we all had to be at the 9:00 am orientation meeting where we finally got to meet our Tusker guides for the first time; Eliakim, Liberaty & Shabani, and our coordinator Faheem.
They went through our itinerary and equipment details. They were very thorough and left no stone unturned. What impressed us most about Tusker and what led us to book with them, was their attention to detail and their medical expertise and training. They explained the use of the blood/oxygen meters, the stethoscope and the gamow bag. The gamow bag is an inflatable pressure bag large enough to accommodate a person inside. By inflating the bag with a foot pump, the effective altitude can be decreased by 1000 to as much as 3000 meters (3281 to 9743 feet). It is primarily used for treating severe cases of altitude sickness.
They explained the seriousness of altitude, the cold and hyperthermia, the importance of drinking 4-5 liters of water per day and eating lots… they stressed the importance of our cooperation with them and if we did what they said that they would be certain that we would be successful in summiting. Also, positive attitude and determination would be key. They did our first medical tests and checked our oxygen and heart rate. We tried on our coats and gaiters and any items rented from them.
Then they sent us to our rooms and made us take all our clothes and equipment out and lay it on the bed so that they can come and verify that we had the proper items. We had to pack the big duffel bag which the porters carry but it could not be over 30lbs in weight, and we had to confirm that by the scale hanging outside. Tusker really cares about their porters health and safety.
Once we were sorted, packed and the green light was given, Calvin came back and everyone went on a walking tour of Moshi and visited a different market. We did our souvenir shopping as this would be the last day in Moshi where we had the chance to shop. We came upon this billboard of the Kili summit - here Barry is joking around about how cold it will be up there. If we only knew what was in store for us at this point :)
Then a group lunch where there was lots of excited chatter and getting to know one another a bit more.
Afterwards, a mad dash back to the hotel as a local Tanzanite jeweler was coming to show of his gems. He is the only reputable dealer that Tusker recommends and supposedly the cheapest. None of us had any intention of buying and yet by the end of it all, all of us except for one bought a gem!! Little did I know anything about Tanzanite, but it’s only mined in Tanzania and comes from Kilimanjaro! It’s a 1000 times rarer then diamonds. How could we pass that up??? There went our safari spending money! Later when I checked out prices at the airport and back home in Canada, I was stunned to find out that truly we did get a super deal – it is normally 3 times or more the price we paid.
The whole group was taken back out to town for dinner at a local restaurant. This would be our final night in town and it seemed like we had been here for days already. Everyone had become fast friends and we were all very excited yet nervous about what was in store for us the following morning. It was decided on an early night so that we could be fully rested and ready to roll on the most incredible adventure of our lives!