05 September 2010

Killimanjaro, Tanzania Day 1

So, way back in January, my friend Katie from work asked me if i fancied hiking Kilimanjaro. I decided that this was probably an opportunity that I shouldn't turn down (even though it is a pretty expensive trip) so I started saving and training ready for our trek. We decided to use a travel company called Explore. This company seemed to offer a fair price for the trip, and they offered an 8 day trip along the Lemosho route. We wanted to do an 8 day trek as although the cost is slightly higher than the 6 day routes, it allows more time for acclimatisation, thus having a success rate of 97% in comparison to the 70% success rate of the 6 day routes.

As part of out package we traveled using Ethiopian Airlines. I cannot discourage anyone enough from using this airline.Not only was the customer service fairly poor, but we had to fly from London to Addis Ababa (wait for 4 hrs) Addis to Nairobi, then Nairobi to Kilimanjaro. The planes were very old, with 1970's style seat designs. There were TVs on the flight but these were situated in the center of the aisle and played some old sitcoms. On one flight we did see the first 30min of the new Prince of Persia movie, but the film was started just before the plane started to land!
If you do have the misfortune of flying Ethiopian, do not eat the lasagna, it isn't lasagna. It is a prawn omelette covered in chopped tomatoes.

When we flew into Kilimanjaro airport we went past the mountain. The peak of the mountain was level to the height we were flying. Everyone rushed over to left side of the plane to take a look. It was incredibly exciting to think that tomorrow we would be starting our ascent, but a pretty scary prospect as flying next to the mountain showed the real scale of what we had ahead of us!

When we got to Kilimanjaro Airport we had to show our Yellow fever certs and fill in some paperwork for immigration. By the time we were through passport control our luggage was already on the carousel. This was an absolute miracle considering the number of flights and connections we had taken!

Heather, our Tour leader, met us at arrivals. We were traveling as a group of 7 but met 3 of the other people from our trip. We traveled by minibus to the Ameg Hotel in Moshi. We drove through a fairly well populated area where the main crop growing appeared to be corn. We saw many nomadic hearders with their cows and goats. Some were in traditional Masai dress, whilst others wore western clothing and carried AK47's.

When we got to Ameg we were instructed to go to our rooms and unpack all of the clothing and equipment that we were taking up the mountain. We were to organise the items onto our beds. Samaou our lead guide on the mountain came and checked that we had the right clothing and equipment for the trip. Anything we didn't have we could hire from Moshi. I had to hire an inflatable bed role. The hire shop in Moshi was amazing. It was set up by a woman who enterprised the business by exchanging souvenirs for equipment with hikers who had finished climbing. Now the business was booming. The shop hired anything from poles to boots to sleeping bags, platypus water bottles and down jackets. The roll mat I hired was in excellent condition and cost just $15 for 8 days.
Once Samaou was satisfied that we had the correct equipment, we packed our bags and she weighed them. The bags cannot be any more than 15Kg as the porters need to carry the bags, their own stuff for 8 days up the mountain and camp equipment. With our company (Ashanti tours) the guides are not allowed to carry any more than 25Kg.

By the time these preparations were complete it was time for dinner. We had an introduction talk by Heather then went to Glacier's restaurant for dinner.

Exhausted after our flight we went to bed early straight after our dinner.


START: 05:30 HEIGHT: ~1200 meters above sea level (masl)
FINISH: 20:00 HEIGHT: 2900masl

We had breakfast at the hotel and left any stuff we didn't need for the hike with reception. We took two land cruisers to Lemosho gate. Here the Porters had their packs weighed and we were all signed in. As Ashante tours are a KPAP registered company http://www.kiliporters.org/ the porters are checked to ensure they have roll mats, proper shoes and warm enough clothes.

Once the sign-in was complete we took the 4x4s along a fairly hectic forestry road to the start of the trail. On-route we saw lots of the black and white Colubus monkeys hanging out in the forest. Once at the start of the trail, we ate our packed lunches and headed out for 3hrs of walking. Although we were walking very slowly I could already feel the effects of the altitude making my breathing heavier. The temperature in the forest was excellent for walking, and the tress, flowers and ferns were interesting to look at. The walking was not very taxing, and before we knew it we had reached camp.

The first camp on the Lemosho route was in the forest at 2900m. This is slightly too low for altitude sickness, but high enough for the body to start acclimatising to the altitude. This is the benifit of the Lemosho route over the Shira route. The Shira starts at 3500m, which is already high enough to get sick from altitude.

We were taught how to use the toilet tents (an absolute god send) before eating dinner in the mess tent. Over after dinner hot drinks Heather gave a talk about AMS (acute mountain sickness) and how to avoid it

1. Drink lots of water (at least 4 l/pay)
2. Walk slowly
3. Rest when at camp. Do not exert yourself
4. Eat lots, even if you lose you appetite
5. Take diamox. It improves acclimatisation 3-4 times. (I didn't have diamox)

The Symptoms...

Swelling retina (blindness)
Appetite loss
Gasping for breath when asleep
Urinating lots
HEPA high altitude pulmonary edema
HECA high altitude cerebral edema

We went to bed after the talk. I didn't sleep very well as I was now convinced that I had all of the symptoms of AMS following our talk, I needed to wee a lot, and the monkeys were being very noisy.