A 210-240 degree panorama of Kibo Crater, the top of Kilimanjaro, from Stella Point.
Roof of Africa
Saturday, July 11, 2015 - Monday, July 20, 2015
by Dennis Foster
Part I - Getting to the Trail - 7/11 to 7/12
The Arizona Daily Sun
this article I wrote about this trek to Kilimanjaro.
It was just before Christmas 2014 and I was about to head up to
Denver for my dad's 90th birthday (born on Christmas Day!). I was
watching "The Hobbit" and there is a line about how your adventure can't
start until you walk out your front door. At least, that's the way
I remember it. Since I had been kicking around the idea of hiking
up to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro for at least two years, that galvanized
me to jump on the computer and make it happen. I can't say that my
research was quite thorough nor very organized, but I felt like I had a
good sense of what was going on. The biggest problem everyone must
face for this trek is the altitude. At 19,340 feet, the summit is
not something you just decide you want to do on the spur of the moment.
The so-called "effective" oxygen content of the air at this altitude is
only half what it is at sea level (10% vs. 21%).
So, you need to acclimatize yourself for this. Living at 7,000 feet in Flagstaff, AZ and hiking regularly up to the 9,200 foot summit of Mt. Elden and periodically up to the 12,680 foot summit of Mt. Humphreys gives me an advantage in this regard. Still, I wanted a long hike to best take advantage of fully acclimatizing. In reviewing companies I was attracted to Thomson Safaris. They are on the high end of the price spectrum, although having gone to Antarctica ten years ago I still tend to think that a trip like this one is relatively inexpensive!! They promised a high success rate, seemed to be very well-focused on catering to the client/tourist and they made a big deal of how well they treat the porters that they hire. That last point was important to me and it's great that this market can cater to a wide variety of tastes and preferences on the part of the customer (i.e., me).
I thought I would do more to get into shape in the six-plus months I had before my trip started (I flew out of Phoenix on July 9, 2015). During the spring I did do an eight day backpacking trek in the Grand Canyon, as usual, so that was a help. But, after a couple of day hikes down the Grandview trail in April my right knee started to act up and I did nothing for a month. I saw a doctor who said that everything was fine, structurally. Whatever it was went away and in late May I once again started climbing up nearby Mt. Elden. Then the first summer session started at school, where I was teaching two classes. That exercise burned up my time like crazy, but in June I was still able to do three day hikes up Mt. Elden and one up Mt. Humphreys. In early July I also hiked twelve miles round trip to Doyle Saddle, which is along the rim, as it were, of the San Francisco Peaks and stands at 10,700 feet. I felt good. I felt healthy. I felt ready to go.
To get to Kilimanjaro it is highly
recommended that you avoid changing flights anywhere in Africa due to
additional vaccination requirements. As it was, there aren't any
requirements for Tanzania, although I got the Hepatitis A & B shots, a
tetanus booster and I took pills for typhoid. I opted not to take
malaria meds (and that turned out fine - I don't remember seeing any
mosquitoes) nor get the yellow fever vaccine. I did bring along
some Diamox, just in case I was suffering from any high altitude sickness and some Ciprofloxacin, an
anti-biotic in case I picked up a local bug. I was also carrying
Meloxicam for my knee in case it flared up during the trek.
Checked duffel and carry-on.
Room at the KIA lodge.
Penda reviews rental gear.
Ready to leave KIA lodge.
The open air dining hut at Ndarakwai Ranch, an 11,000 acre preserve located west of Kilimanjaro. After dinner a local bush baby came by and was quite entertaining.
Hut tent at Ndarakwai Ranch.
Mohdy drove us around in this Rover.
Sleeping area of hut tent.
We settled into our huts, ate lunch and then had a couple of hours
before a nature walk. Guiding the walk was Abu who was ready to
regale us with many stories about the wildlife here. We were also
accompanied by an armed
ranger, just in case we ran into some dangerous and provocative animals.
We didn't. But, we did see quite an array of animals. We had
seen some small monkeys and some bushbuck (a small antelope but it looks
more like a deer) in the camp area. Once outside we saw a group of
baboons rollicking around in the grass
and some impala grazing
nearby. While they seem to be paying little attention to us, all
kept their distance from us. Then we saw giraffes: first just a couple, then a few more, then
adults and younger ones. It was quite
amazing to be walking around
with them so close. We saw some zebra, but they were a bit further away.
Only one got close enough for me to get a good photo. We saw a
couple of stray wildebeest; it seemed that they may have been injured
and left behind by the herd. A bit further away from us we saw a
family of mongoose scurrying about and we also saw a secretary bird (I
recognized it right away since I usually see them in zoos). It was
about dusk when we ended up at a dry water hole where an animal blind
had been built for us to use. They weren't serving up any
wildlife, save a couple of wart hogs, but they were serving up local brewskis.
We got a tantalizing glimpse of Kilimanjaro from the blind, so that was neat. We headed back from here and ate dinner in the open air dining hut. We all steered clear of the salad on the recommendation of our driver, Mohdy. We were warned not to drink, or even brush our teeth, with the local tap water for fear of falling ill. Mohdy added that while all the food we would have at Ndarakwai would be top notch, the salad would be washed with tap water and so may also be suspect. After dinner we were treated to a little show by a bush baby. The locals have gotten it used to being fed by hand, and some in our group got into the act.
A small group of Impala.
Giraffes were numerous here.
A stray zebra.
Two young giraffes.
Secretary bird walks by.
At 3 a.m. I got up to use the bathroom and noticed I had started to get
a sore throat. It got worse and kept me from getting much
after that. My throat was scratchy, it was hard to swallow and it
was hard to talk.
Later I got a few cough drops from Mark that helped a bit, but I was
otherwise totally unprepared for this turn. And, nobody else was
really carrying meds for a cold or flu. Todd had some allergy meds
and I took one of those. Later I got some Benadryl from Dewey and
some Mucinex from Tracy. Not a very auspicious way to start this
We had our duffels weighed to make sure we were under the 33 pound limit - all were. Then we loaded up in the two Land Rovers for the drive to the Ranger Station where we would check in - Londorosi. Along the way we passed fields of potatoes and carrots, all harvested by hand and packed into large bags. I got the distinct impression that this was a very capital-poor sector of the economy. Besides trucks to carry the produce away it seemed extremely labor intensive. We also passed a tree farm. In some of the trees Mohdy called our attention to some colobus monkeys sitting on various branches. I kept thinking, "You're not in Kansas anymore!"
Kilimanjaro from animal blind.
Tour guide Abu sees us off.
Colobus monkeys from the road.
Close up of colobus monkey.
We signed in at Londorosi Gate.
|We met up with Penda at the Londorosi Gate and all had to sign in with the park rangers. I told him how I felt and he asked me a couple of questions and then said that he was sure I'd be fine. OK, good enough for me. He made a big point of not hiding this kind of information from him on the hike and I took him at his word on this and did keep him apprised of my situation. We were soon back into the Land Rovers and off for the trailhead we would use - the Lemosho Gate.
Best of the rest - Other photos
from this part of the trip by the other members of the group.