START: Planet Lodge (~1400m or 4600')
VIA: Londrossi Gate (2360m or 7740')
END: Mti Mkubwa Camp (2900m or 9500')
TIME TO MEET THE MOUNTAIN ALREADY! We start the day with a early breakfast (7am and the same food as yesterday) and as we are finishing, our bus shows up to Planet Lodge and it's time to load up. There is a Good Earth representative who gives us our hired sleeping bags and trekking poles for Chris. We meet a few of our crew: Mchami (waiter/porter) and Peter (cook) and also there are a few other guys who don't introduce themselves. We load everything on an awesome bus and hit the road.
|The bus, a little later in our journey.
|Inside the Rainbow Super Deluxe.
After a few hours we pull over at a major intersection (at Boma La Ngombe/Sanya) and stop at what can best be described as a Tanzanian gas/convenience store. There, a whole bunch of guys get on the bus and one of them introduces himself as Godlisten - our guide. We chat a tiny bit but it's clear his main focus is getting his crew on board and accounted for. We are traveling with quite an entourage - a guide, an assistant guide, a cook, 6 porters, a driver, and assistant driver (trust me...very necessary!). Everyone piles in with their gears and we set off, northbound. Lots of Swahili is being spoken, and Chris and I are looking out the window in awe. WE ARE IN AFRICA! In the very far distance, we can see the outline of Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak, and it's surreal. There's lots of haze at lower elevations but the peak is faintly clear so it appears to be floating in the distance. It's a scene our dinky point-and-shoot cameras can't capture but as we get closer, I manage a similar picture.
|One of our first glimpses of Kili.
|Me, on the inside of Londrossi Gate.
|Chris and me at the sign of advice. Read #6 closely.
|Gears weigh-in. That's Godlisten in the tan shirt and shorts. The guy in the navy striped polo is weighing and recording.
I go into detail about why we chose Good Earth here, and those reasons were exemplified at the gate. All of the luggage has to be weighed, divided, and recorded to make sure that no one person is carrying too much. This process takes about an hour and then we load it all back in the bus and keep driving. Even though we're in the park, the first part of the Lemosho Route is driveable, and therefore we drive it. The road condition is the same doubletrack as before, and again I am amazed at the driving skill. Finally, the bus simply cannot go any more - the ruts have become more than wheel deep and we'll scrape out the undercarriage if we keep going. So the crew unceremoniously unloads our stuff on the side of the trail, and organizes it into loads as Chris and I eat a box lunch (butter sandwich, hard-boiled egg, baked chicken leg, potato chips, crepe, cookies, chocolate bar, and mango juice box).
|This is the start.
|Mareme and me a few km down the road. I look concerned about my heart rate.
|I'm hiking up Kilimanjaro!
|Me and Godlisten in a burned-out tree trunk. Probably used to be a beehive in there.
|Mti Mkubwa Camp seen from our tent. This is the only pic I have of it.
When our bags arrive, I change into camp clothes (basically, a cotton tee for sleeping only and fleece pants) and Mchami brings some hot water over to our tent for washing - a custom we will go through before every meal in camp. After washing up, he brings over a snack - it's popcorn, shortbread cookies, and hot drink.
|A view of snack & hot drink from later on in the trip (Barranco Camp).
Allow me a minute to explain hot drink. It was one of my favorite things about the whole trip. At every meal in camp (breakfast, snack, dinner, and some lunches), we were provided with hot drink. It consists of a thermos of hot water, 2 mugs, and about 8 different powder mix options: Milo chocolate drink, Cadbury Drinking Chocolate, Cadbury Cocoa, Africafe instant coffee, Nido powdered milk, Kilimanjaro tea, sugar, and masala tea spice. In the mornings I would make a mixture of Africafe, Nido, and one of the chocolates. In the afternoons I would just make chocolate and Nido. Chris liked the Africafe and tea. The red thermos held about 3.5 mugs' worth of hot water, and I often drank at least 1.5 mugs and would then ask Chris if I could use his share of the water for a 3rd mug. It's safe to say I was obsessed with hot drink. I miss that thermos. Towards the end of the trip we ran out of every powder except the Cadbury Cocoa and tea, but even those were still tasty.
|The sign for Lemosho Route from earlier that day.
|Some porters from earlier that day. They are not from our team but carried similar loads.
During dinner, we talk about the upcoming trek and Godlisten's plans for us. We show him the schedule Good Earth sent us (and I blogged about here) and he gets frustrated. He says that schedule puts an extra easy day early in the trip and then stacks hard days as we get closer to the summit, therefore hurting our chances of a successful summit bid. He proposes a new itinerary: instead of the planned medium hike to Shira I tomorrow and easy hike to Shira II on Friday, we will hike long to Shira II tomorrow, medium to Barranco on Friday, and then have 2 short days before the summit. Chris and I are easily convinced to spend our longer days at the lower altitudes and we agree to the changes. After all, Godlisten has been summiting this mountain for 12+ years and I've never been above 10,000 feet.
|An African blood lily from today's hike.
It's dark by the time we finish dinner but it has been nice to hear more about our route from the people who will be actually traveling it with us. We tell everyone lala salama (Swahili for "safe sleeping") and pass out about 9.30p.