Day 1: Dwarf style. Machame Gate 1640m to 3800m Machame Camp 2850 – 6h/11km
Finally, after 2 days I manage to have breakfast at the hotel. Being to lazy to wake up before 9 I missed the previous two ones. The guide is supposed to come to pick us up at 9 in the morning to start our cli,b to Machame Camp. I still have some extra stuff to put in my baggages so I wake up at 7. Short shower cause in the next 5 days, this word will be a forgotten one.
I am nervous and have butterflies in my stomach. I know this very well; actually my stomach knows better than I do. Hurts a bit every time I suppose to do something important. I know I have time, so I take my breakfast in a slow nod. I sit next to some Dutch girls and a Swedish girl. The Dutch girl will be an important piece of this trip. I would find out later. At the other tables, there are some Canadiens, 2 Mexican girls, one American. In total 10 volunteers from Arusha. Coincidence: they are doing the same program throw the same NGO as me. They will be my suffering companions in the next 5 days.
The bus is already full when I arrive from my room. Africa time seems to be broken this time. The bus and the guides have arrived sooner! 11 whites in a crowded bus. Besides our backpacks, the tents, the food, the water are stored in the same place. 30min delay cause one guy has to rent the equipment to.
11am. After 45 min drive from Moshi we are arriving at the Machame Gate. We are already at 1500m. The weather is cloudy and a bit colder. We all decide to wear the water proof jackets. The first things to be done is to get rid of my big backpack. I will see it again every evening and will carry it again at the end. Till then, my porter will carry it for me. Luckily I managed to make it very light. Only 7kg. The backpack is first weight cause every porter its allowed to carry only 15-20kg. Its own staff included.
Next, you stay in the queue to sign into a register. I will have to do that every time we arrive at the campsites. A security measure in order not to skip the park fees. Later I found one that some Romanians tried not to pay the fee and entered the park through a non-official gate. No comment!
Next another queue to pay the park fees (which includes the campsite fees); $ 630 is paid at the entrance to the national park and we are one step closer to the peak. I was afraid that my credit card won’t work, but I had no problem with my VISA. Seems the MasterCard is working too. Credit Cards have no limit!
I knew it would be a long day and we are informed from the beginning that we shall spend between 4 to 7 h on route climbing. The first day will be one of the longest. 6h up seems very much, but after the first steps I see why it will take so long. Even if the route is an easy one today and the paths transports us through the rainforest, we go up in dwarf steps. So slowly that many times you risk tripping over your own feet.
The weather is cloudy, foggy and plenty of moisture, but the landscape is damn impressive, worthy of Jurassic Park. I confess that I cannot shake the feeling we’re being followed by a dinosaur, which expects a single misstep from my side.
The first indications of our guides are on water consumption, at least 3 l per day. I will see later how important is this advice! Even in hot summer days in Bucharest I ever drank so much water; it will be a challenge for me to drink 3l a day! On a such expedition, drinking water is extremely important, the climate, the effort, altitude dehydration can occur very quickly, and we can be life threatening. 3
3h had already passed and I am starting to feel hungry. But porters (local residents who are caring the backpacks, water, food and tents) are already way ahead of us – these people have an enviable physical condition. And they are paid only 5 $ a day – our tips will raise that amount to a decent but not normal amount.
A group which seems to be formed by American athletes and a bit arrogance overtakes us with greater speed. On the final day, we are the ones who passed them and not all of the will reach the top! On mountain arrogance won’t lead you nowhere. Every day is important. How to know to climb, to keep your energy for all the day and to walk pole, pole.
Lunch is taken in a mini-glade – a surprise prepared tourist place: in the middle of the rainforest. The main dish is a kind of pasta, tea and a delicious dessert consisting of slices of fresh pineapple, give us the energy we need for the second part of the climbing… which obviously is a slow approach. At 5PM we arrive at our first base: Machame Camp at 2850m.
My tent is already installed when we arrived at Machame Camp. A quick change of the wet clothes and a short relaxing nap even if it’s not allowed before dinner. He knew what he knows, Max the guide… if you rest, you might lose your appetite a little. And perhaps I would be able to eat anything if God would have been typical one (I’m sure that the mountain goers know what I mean – bread and some canned meat I usually take with me). Of all the days spent on Kilimanjaro, meals are every time very rich and extremely tasty. This is Africa – cheap and tasty food!
I really need to mention him: Charlie-Charlie, porter, very friendly and attentive, helps with the cooking, it the waiter too and perhaps, does not like empty plates. He refills every time he sees one empty. I am going to get fat while climbing the Kilimanjaro. What a disaster!
Many smiling faces at the dinner, but it’s only day one. Less and less smiles will be on the next day. Except on the top….
After oxygen levels and pressure is taken, but now showed to us, it’s time to rest and to sleep. I usually do not go to bed that early; it was only 9PM but in less than 10 minutes I was already dreaming. First time in the past 4 months. Don’t know why, but I never dreamt till now in Africa…