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pole pole up Kili

TANZANIA | Wednesday, 1 April 2009 | Views [1119]

10 hours, 11 stops for pineapples, firewood, oranges and mangos, and 2 flat tires later we arrived at Moshi, the gateway for us to Kilimanjaro. We were a little pissed at this having seen the bus we would have taken pass us 3 hours before and watching them take off the first flat tire which was a retread and watching them put another retread on that looked worse then the first. Sure enough 20 minutes later the second tire blew-surprise and we hobbled into Moshi at 8:00pmish. We met Scoba our guide who seemed nice although not very informative, then checked into our room at the Buffalo Hotel. We were staying two nights before beginning the climb so we could get prepared. The hotel was cheap but it was included Mr Quick said and it worked for us.

The next day we walked the town, arranged our money for paying off the Kilimanjaro trek and met with Scoba to talk about particulars. Again, not so informative but we thought we had enough info to climb. We had called Mr. Quick in Dar to complain about the ride up and wanted the owner's number, her name was Hilda she was from Germany. He told us she was out of the country but would get back to us. We sensed a theme...After getting all of our stuff together we had dinner across the street at an Indian-Italian place where we met Sarah, who was climbing as well with another guide and because a lot of the climbs are booked out to brokers she was grouped with us. She did have her own guide named Dickson, who she ahd already met with that evening.

The next day we met Scoba and our crew of porters and cooks for the hour ride to the main park gate. Jessica and I had condensed our stuff into her main pack for the porter to carry and we each had our own daypacks to carry. After paying the park fees on our own and hiring Jess some hiking boots we started off at abou 2:00pm for the first hut. We arrived not too long after 6:00, checked in and got our hut. The huts are nice enough but there is no heat and as you pass into different climate zones that becomes more of an issue even with sleeping bags. After dinner prepared by the cook Moses, we turned in for an early start to the next hut. The next day was breakfast, hike, lunch on the trail, arrive at the hut mid-day, tea, dinner about 7:00pm then bed by 8:00pm this was our routine for a few days hiking up to the base camp where you summit from. Each day we walked about 15 km and ascended 1000m or so. We stayed an extra day at our second hut to acclimatize, which we had heard from different people that the extra day was worth it. By the third day we were in high desert and the temps were falling at night. It was then that we discovered the joys of having the cook boil water right after dinner, pour it into a water bottle and sticking in our sleeping bags at our feet...ahhhhhh! 

On our fourth day we hiked through the high desert and alpine zone were not much grows except rocks. At the final hut called Kibo you get there mid-day, have an early dinner, sleep for a few hours then wake up at 11:00pm to prepare for the summit. I was having stomach problems the last few days so I had not slept much but was living off the adrenaline from the impending summit attempt. Inside the huts it was very cold with no heat and during the day it was warmer to be outside except when the wind blew. After our early dinner at 5:30pm we put on all our summit clothes, packed our day packs and tried to get some sleep. Jessica had been cold for the last three days and went to bed with 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, wool socks, a hat, blanket, parka and two hot water bottles! I think she was still cold!

I was able to get a few hours sleep before Scoba woke us for the summit attempt. Scoba was not always good with information during the last four days but one thing he did drill into us was to walk slowly and control our breathing. Until this night the hike to Kili had not been that taxing other then a few light headaches from the altitude but now we were about to test this lesson. He called it pole pole which means slowly, slowly in Swahili. At about 11:45pm we set for the summit which is about an 80 degree slope on loose rock to Gilmans Point. It was cloudy and even snowing a little but we felt ready. We left with our climbing mate Sarah and her guide Dickson, who turns out was kind of a real "dick" no pun intended. About half way up with moving very slowly step by step and using switch backs with only our headlamps for light, the sky cleared and you could see all the stars that is if you could keep from looking down otherwise you would lose your footing. Sarah became sick half way up so we continued without her hoping she could make it later. At about 6:00am we made it to Gilmans Point feeling hungry but otherwise in good spirits with no affects of altitude. After a little snack we traveresed the ridge to the Uhru Point, the highest peak and the top of Kilimanjaro while stopping to take photos of the sunrise and glacier. We took some photos at the top before descending and happily ran into Sarah who had found the strength to carry on to the summit. We were both surprised that at the summit we felt pretty good and were not that cold, probably had something to do with the many layers of clothes we had on. We had heard lots of bad stories on the way up fromp people coming down who said how cold it was. It was like a really windy day at the top of Sun Valley, Alpine or Aspen not terrible but not the best either. We also ran into another Canadian named David, he was spent with only 100 meters to go and was babbling like a crazy person. He made it as well. The way down was much easier then up plus it was daylight my knee started to hurt so I took it slower. At Kibo hut we rested for an hour or so, had a light lunch and began our way down to the next hut. We wanted to push to the first hut and when we got to the next hut felt pretty good even though it was getting late. We opted to push on because then the final day would be quick to the gate.

We should have stopped an eaten at the second Horombo hut before pushing on because by the time we got to Mandara Hut the first serious of huts from our first night we had been up since 11:00pm, it was 8:00pm, eaten very little and had hiked 34 km in one day. After a quick dinner we crashed and slept hard. The next day we awoke a little sore but nothing to major. Jess had a huge pizza size blister and I had a bum toe on my right foot which made it hard to walk down. After our tipping the boys-Moses, Buya, Amani, Amando and Scoba we walked three hours down to the gate. Sarah had started earlier then us and had been pressured into tipping a guy that was not even on our trip. It seems the tipping issue is a bit of a hassle with the groups and it was no different with us. We took the minibus back into town for some rest, laundry, dinner and internet time. Turns out our room was not paid by the safari company so we had to pay, another surprise. Jessica's pack also stunk very bad from what we call "african funk", the porter sweated much while carrying. So much stink we could not get it out after scrubbing it. After having to pay the room and not being able to get in touch with Mr. Quick we had had enough. Determined to write Hilda the owner a nasty letter voicing our complaints of promises broken and expectations not met.

In the end, what matters for us is making to the summit safely and feeling good in the process. IT was a great accomplishment for us both but not for the faint hearted. If up for a challenge and nothing else to do while in Africa then give it a go, we recommend it. From kids to grandparents, all kinds of people were trying it. Not everyone makes it but many do and in one piece.  See you in Uganda....

Tags: kilimanjaro, trekking

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