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  • Niki Harry

Conquering Kilimanjaro - Day 1

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Tusker’s Lemosho “12-Days/11-Nights (9 Days climbing)” route Elevation: Start at 3000 ft – end at 9,170 ft at Mt Mkubwa (Big Tree) camp

Finally the day had arrived! The start of our climb. Early morning wakeup call again with the morning prayers. Enjoyed our final showers which we wouldn’t have again for 9 days! Our backpacks which we carry were loaded with 5 liters of water, a ton of protein bars and electrolyte mix for our waters. All necessary medications… just in case and any clothes required during the day.

Duffel bags which the porters carry had to be outside by 8:30AM and our normal luggage locked up in storage until our pending return. Breakfast done and our 2 jeeps arrived at 8:45. Quick group photo with my iPhone so I could do my final post to Facebook for all my friends to see and off we went on our exciting journey!

We drove across the countryside to the west side of Kilimanjaro getting to see some local village life along the way. They live a very primitive life, in tiny wooden shacks, with no electricity in some cases and no running water. Lots of goats and donkeys everywhere.

They use carts or donkeys to carry their goods with. Also bicycles. I was amazed at what can be moved or carried with a bicycle! I even saw a load of furniture strapped to the back seat. And the most widely used method of course is to carry everything on your head.

We even got to see a few Maasai along the way – I love their bright red blankets that they wear – they stand out so brightly amongst the dead dry grasses and fields at this time of year.

Children helping out harvesting corn.

Kilimanjaro kept popping up in our line of sight as we were driving. It was hard to imagine that in a week we would be standing at the top.

Children in a school yard.

We stopped at a small restaurant area to wait for the porters to arrive. There were a total of 44 plus the 3 guides for our group of 10 hikers. While we were waiting, a group of children approached us and became fascinated with Jerry’s hair. They were touching it and laughing, I was taking pictures then showing them on my camera. They were so excited to see themselves on the display.

One little girl stood there the entire time and did not move. She was very serious, just watching all of us. At one point John actually make her crack a smile, it was the cutest thing.

The boys decided to assist some local ladies in peeling some potatoes while we were waiting.

We left with the truck of porters following us.

The majority of the drive was on a dirt, uneven and rough road, and we were bouncing all over the place swallowing a lot of dust. At this point we had no idea just how much dust we would swallow in the next 9 days!

We started getting into the rain forest area and lucked in by seeing a group of baboons.

We arrived at the busy Londorossi gate where we all had to sign in with our personal and passport info. There were 100’s of people; other groups, hikers and porters. Everyone had to sign in and our porters had the bags weighed once more.

​Once all that was completed, off we went in the jeeps for another very rough, bumpy and dusty 40 minute drive to our actual hiking starting point. We drove through an agricultural area and watched women, children & men picking corn, potatoes and carrots all by hand and carrying massive heavy bags full of produce. No machinery to help here!

We also saw our first colubus monkeys along the way.

We got to our starting point at around 1:30pm. Our porters were also dropped off here but other companies make their porters walk to this spot and we passed many. It was awful as they are literally eating the dust and dirt from the vehicles passing by and they are already carrying huge loads on their heads and backs. At this point we had already noticed the difference in how our porters were dressed and ours had hiking boots where some of the others had loafers or running shoes on.

​We were served lunch there, then we packed up and had our first official group photo taken of day 1 of the climb.

The hike started at 2:05 pm and it was an immediate UP … and UP … and UP! But it was beautiful, hiking through a plush rain forest, with massive trees and it was hot, almost too hot. We didn’t encounter any animals except for carpenter ants and you could hear the loud humm of bees in the woods.

The porters eventually zoomed past us with all our stuff. They carry their own backpacks with their essentials, but then on their heads they carry our duffel bag, some carry our tents and sleeping bags, some carry buckets of water, some carry all our food, some carry the toilets. They also bring 10 metal foldup chairs as well as larger tents which are used as the kitchen and one as our dining tent. They bring pots and pans. They bring everything that we might need. It’s insane. And they balance everything on their heads without dropping anything.

Within an hour or so, they already made us stop and eat a protein bar! They made us drink every 10-15 minutes while walking. They wouldn’t allow us to touch anything until we sanitized our hands. They did not want any germs to spread and make any of us sick because as soon as one person gets sick, then the rest will follow. And sickness and altitude does not mix. And for the entire 9 days following, they never let their guard down. They constantly watched us like hawks. It was quite impressive actually.

We arrived at our first camp, Big Tree camp or Mt. Mkubwa at around 5:30 pm. The whole camp was already set up, with the hustle and bustle of porters chatting and preparing. Hot water was waiting for us to wash with. The food was cooking.

AND we had a private toilet! No squatting in the woods. A zipped private tent with a bucket inside and a seat over the bucket. Impressive and amazing on all counts.

Rule #1: as soon as you get to camp, change your damp clothes. Damp clothes on body will create a chill and in 5 minutes you can get hypothermia. All our tents were numbered – ours was #4. Our duffel bags were all #4. Our personal sleeping bags were always in our duffel bags. That means for the whole trip the same tent and same sleeping bags are ours – and even the #4 had a male and female sign so you knew which was for who. This is so germs don’t spread. WOW, impressed once again.

Once changed, out of the tent, sanitized & washed and then into the dining tent to get some hot liquids of choice. Milo soon became everyone’s favorite even though I was not too keen on it.

We had cookies and freshly popped popcorn for snacks. Then just before dinner, we had our full blown medical checks, two by two in a separate tent. My oxygen levels already dropped from 99 yesterday to 93. Heart rate went from 76 yesterday to 86 today. Interesting. Everyone still feeling fine though, no issues, no soreness.

Chef Tosha came into the tent, introduced himself, gave us the menu for the evening. Tusker’s chefs were trained at the Culinary School of America so we got some nice dining on that mountain. This evening’s dinner started with a leek soup made from scratch which was absolutely delicious. Turns out we would get fresh hot soup every day for lunch and for dinner – and the soup would not be the same as it was for lunch. For dinner, we had Moroccan spiced tilapia and a potato and red pepper tuna salad. Desert was crepes with banana and nutella. It was all very good and we couldn’t believe all this was made from scratch. After dinner he came back and asked how it was then gave us the full rundown on tomorrow’s breakfast & lunch. This was the routine for the next 8 days, but most of the dinners were different every day.

Due to being only 3 degrees south of the equator, it gets dark very early – by 6:30 pm. So by the time we ate and chatted for a bit, everyone called it a night by 9pm. Day 1 seemed a breeze – everyone very optimistic and excited and looking forward to the next day!

Continue reading about Day 2 of our Kilimanjaro hike.

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