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G's Africa Travel Journal Graham's Journey to Africa. Starting with climbing Kilimanjaro, a photo safari in Kenya, followed by a 71 day overland trip from Nairobi to Cape Town via the Gorillas in Rwanda & Hot Air Balloon safari over the Serengeti.

Machame Gate & First Day of the Climb

KENYA | Tuesday, 27 August 2013 | Views [385]

27th August Machame Gate & First Day of the Climb

Altitude: Start at Springlands @ 800m, ie 694mmHg or 91% of O2 available at Sea Level, My SP02: 97%

            Machame Gate @ 1800m, ie 641mmHg or 84% of O2 available at Sea Level, My SPO2: 97%

            Machame Camp @ 2980m, ie 538mmHg of O2, 71% of O2 available at Sea Level, My SPO2: 94%

Distance walked: 10.77km

Total time: 5hrs 28mins with stops

We were all up early and excited to start the climb. Once we had had breakfast, organised our gear, packed the minibus, checked out the hotel - we were off.  We meet our third guide that morning - Nuru who was going to be with us alongside Big Issa & Little Issa.  

The minibus was taking us to our start point, Machame Gate where we would sign in on the mountain and begin our climb.  On the way we stopped in Moshi at a   convenience store for some last minute shopping. I needed some toothpaste, but also bought a miniture of "The Famous Grouse" to drink at the top. I also bought a packed of cashews for a snak later. US$15!! Bloody hell - ripped off or what!  Marc & Dennis also bought a 6 pack of Kilimanjaro Beer so we could each have one at the top.  On walking store, one of the ever present hawkers looking for business from "Mazungus" shouted to me:

Hawker: Where are you from?

G: Zimbabwe

Hawker: Aaah! You are my african brother from another mother!

G: Laughs

Hawker: Mr Mugabe is a great man! I like Mr Mugabe!  Do you want to buy this shirt? I give you a good price my brother.

G: No! (There ended our fraternal relationship as we dont share the same political allegiance!)

We drove on to Macahme gate, climbing 1000m from Moshi up to the gate.  My ears popped a couple of times on the way up.  You could also see the change in the vegetation & scenery with the altitude.  Moshi, dry & dusty. Machame, green, tropical and rain forest. Outside the gate there were hundreds of potential porters all queuing for the opportunity for work.  We climbed out the minibus and waited as the Issa's organised the porters, our permits and generally everything that needed to be transported up the mountain. While we were waiting we took various photos, had last toilet stops, loaded up our pre-packed lunches measured our O2 saturation.

Having done a degree in Sports Medicine and having worked in Intensive Care as a physio I was very keen to see what happened to my oxygen levels (O2 saturation) as I went to altitude.  As you go to altitude the percentage of oxygen within the air remains the same at 21%, but the number of availble oxygen molecules decreases.  That is, less oxygen for you to breath.  A normal, non-smoking, healthy individual at sea level saturates the haemoglobin molecules within thier red blood cells to 97%.  To measure this I took a portable O2 saturation monitor with me on the trip.  With 3 other medical types on the trip everyone was keen to see what there saturations were - so we had a mass measuring of saturations.  All were normal! If you are interested in reading more then click here.

We started our walk at 11:29am once all the admin side was done. I had heard how slow we would walk but was surprised at just how slow it was.  I had done all my training at high speed to try and fit the distance and climbing in so it was nicec and easy to be going so slowly. The aim of going slowly is not to give yourselve Altitude sickness and we constantly heard "Pole Pole", which in Kswahili is "Slowly Slowly". As we walked we were chatting and gradually got go know each other and our guides. Mo, from the States was and Anaesthiologist who was climbing in his surgical scrubs! A strange look!  As we slowly walked up we were passing through the rainforest on the lower slopes of Kili.  We were all on the look out for monkeys but failed to see any.  We did see some of the unique flowers of Kili including the "Passion of Kili" which grows nowhere else in the world. 

As we walked on we were constanly overtsaken by a string of porters.  All of them carrying huge loads. Often 20 - 30 kgs on their backs and then the same on their heads.  They all walked quicker than us and were trying to get to the campsite to set it up for us before we arrived.  A hard job!  As porters approached from behind us there would be a shout of "porter on the right" and we would move to the left or vice versa.  Often we didn't know left from right and it resulted in some interesting collisions/ dances as porters went around the slow tourists.  A typical interaction with an overtaking porter woiuld be something like this.

Tourist: "Porter on the right".

We would move to the left.

Porter: "Jambo" (or "Hi" in Kswahili)

Tourists: "Jambo"

Porter: "Mambo" (or "How are you doing")

Tourists: "Poa" (I am well) or "Mizuri" (good) or "Poa kachisi kama ndisi" (cool like a banana)

Our Kswahili was going to improve on this trip. We also frequently heard "Twende" or "lets go" after every rest stop or if we were distracted and had stopped to chat. 

There were frequent stops to pee.  We were all on Diamox®, a diuretic originally designed to treat Glaucoma but had been found to assist with acclimatisation to altitude. It does not allow you to climb higher, just that you acclimatise to the altitude you are at faster.  But, oh my god do you pee on it!  Most of us were peeing 4-5 times per day and the same again at night.  You had to drink a lot of water just to keep hydrated. We were all peeing so much that we soon knew each others pee/ bladder habits intimitly.  In fact, we soon all knew each others bodily functions well. You could almost predict who needed a pee next. If you want to read more about altitude sickness then click here.

We had lunch in the rainforest. It was nice to stop and chat. Lunch was made up of sandwhiches, fruit, fruit juice, peanuts and a boiled egg. While we were eating anothert group of climbers stopped next to us.  Little did we know we were going to have some interaction with them in a couple of days time.  

We sauntered on through the afternoon arriving at our campsite, Machame Camp, late in the afternoon.  The camp was already set up and we were 2 to a tent. I was sharing with the Wavy Dong.  There was a mess tent or dinning tent set up too.  This was for all our meals. Dinner was excellent.  Good soup as a started followed by fish with some of the best roast potatoes I had ever eaten. Incredible that they were cooked in a camp kitchen - or were they carried up and reheated.  We all went to bed early about 9.  Before I went to bed I managed to take a few photos when the cloud cleared in the night sky.  The Milky Way was absolutely magnificent and I could see the Southern Cross in the sky! It was good to be in Africa again.

Travel Tips

  1. You can leave your valuables in a safety deposit box at the hotel in Moshi. This is safer than taking your passport and money up Kili.  There are some larger ones that can hold an iPad/ small laptop.
  2. You can leave all your possessions that you are not taking up the mountain in a storage unit at the Springlands hotel. It is safe and secure.
  3. Learn some basic Kswahili before you climb Kili.  




Tags: kili, machame, moshi, tanzania

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