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Kilimanjaro - January & February 2001

"Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called by the Masai 'Ngaje Ngai', the House of God. Close to the western summit there is a dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude." - The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway.

27 January 2001 - Arrive in Moshi.

 

Somewhere over Ethiopia, the landscape below is of every shade of brown and red possible. I catch a brief glimpse of a cloud covered Kilimanjaro as we land at the airport. Uniformed security guards smile as we pass, the immigration man doesn't smile but seems to take great pleasure in furiously stamping my passport. By minibus we're driven to our hotel, I see Africa through a windshield, houses with gardens of maize, sunflowers and bananas.

28 January 2001 - Moshi.

 

I awake at 05.30am to the sound of people, traffic and animals. Hearing the voices of a nearby choir, I settleback and enjoy their singing - only later do I learn it accompanied a funeral. We go a brief safari to the Arusha National Park. We eat lunch at the lip of the Ngurdoto crater amongst the brilliantly coloured butterflys. Settle back to a few Tusker Beer's and Safari Lagers.

29 January 2001 - Bus to Machame Gate; trek to Machame Camp.

 

No appetite this morning. A single uniformed guard shouting, "I'm king of the mountain" and waving a very big stick controls the seething crowds at the gate, and to all those who misbehave, "I will administer justice." Great theatre! We trek through the sodden rainforest, sinking into the sticky red mud; we reach the camp as the sun sets. First experience of the african-long-drop-toilet!

30 January 2001 - Walk to Shira Camp.

 

Still not much of an appetite. As we leave the forest I become aware of the massive lump of snow covered rock that is Kilimanjaro. We see the first of the giant lobelia plants unique to the mountains slopes. The ground flattens out as stepo onto the Shira Plateau. It's been a great days walking, the first headaches are appearing in the group. Altitude!

31 January 2001 - Walk to Barranco Camp.

 

Last night we watched a storm in the distance, the clouds below us being lit up by lightning. We continue our trek through a jurassic landscape, as the camp comes into view a thundering headache grows in my head. A paracetamol and a warm drink is the perfect cure. We eat pancakes for tea, my appetite is back.

1 February 2001 - Walk to Barafu Camp.

 

I get up and feel great, my stomach's ok,I enjoy peanutbutter and jelly on toast for breakfast with an extra helping of porridge. We scramble up the 'Great Barranco', cold as its still in shade. Much of the walk is continued in near silence - sickness, tiredness and altitude. I feel great at Barafu camp and am a little guilty at doing so as many of the group are sick. Paul my tent-mate is throwing up. Chicken soup for tea, yummy!

2 February 2001 - Walk to Summit; descend to Mweka.

 

I sleep fitfully, storms outside and I dream repeatedly of drowning. I feel good though and eat more chicken soup before departing to the summit. People start to drop away one after another and return to camp. Paul, sat on a rock wants to go back too but I encourage him onwards. Knackered I reach the summit, Paul gets there and immediatly throws up - fantastic effort. We pose for photo's and make our way quickly down.

3 February 2001. - Walk to Mweka village; drive to Moshi.

 

It's been our last night under canvas and the mood over breakfast is rather subdued, there is a definate feeling of closure and the end of an adventure. Our final bowl of prridge is eaten together. We walk through the moorland and back into the rainforests of the mountains lower slopes. I eat the last of my chocolate cache with my lunch. At Mweka village the porters sing us a goodbye.

4 February 2001 - Depart Moshi.

 

Beers were drunk, barbecued food eaten and hot showers taken. We recieved certificates for a succesful summit, mine is numbered 15369/01. It is signed by our guide Mekson Lymio, the Chief Warden and the Director of National Parks. As we fly out of Tanzania the pilot took us alonside Kilimanjaro; green rainforest stretches across the horizon, its corregated grey flanks below a red rock necklace that finaly gave way to its icy summit.