Day 1 – Londorossi Gate (2100M) to Mt Mkubwa, Big Tree Camp (2650M)
I’ve left Moivaro Coffee Plantation. Our hotel was set in beautiful grounds with thatched cottage roofs and sweeping views of Mt Meru. Everything I need is now packed within a kitbag, strapped above us on the support vehicle. We complete all the necessary formalities for registering for our climb before proceeding to Londorossi Gate, the start of the Lemosho Route.
I am worried. I don’t know how I well I will acclimatise or even if I’m fit enough to do this. I go through a spur of negative thoughts and I begin to wonder if my gear is even adequate enough for the hike (let along myself). £50.00 trekking boots that have done 100’s of miles, old trousers with torn pockets from sliding down rocks and a dented aluminum water bottle that I have dropped on way too many occasions.All I know is that I will give everything I can whilst on the trek. We are handed lunchboxes and Jonas (our smiley and approachable assistant guide) begins the trek up a set of wooden stairs on a forested track.
It’s a slow pace and a gentle introductory walk through the rainforest. There are Columbus monkeys and Jonas points out elephant tracks. We stroll through the rainforest under a canopy of trees and bristles of wispy moss. The trail is well established with deep green undergrowth and brightly coloured, exotic flowers.
The walk is only a few hours with a gentle ascent. We reach Big Tree Camp in the afternoon which we lovingly rename ‘tent city’ due to the large number of trekkers at the campsite.
Day 1 was a gentle start to Kilimanjaro and an excellent introduction to camping for the next week. We were taught how to use the flushable toilet tent, assigned our tents and served a wonderful dinner that really exemplified the miracle work of Melton, ‘the stomach engineer’!
Day 2 – Big Tree Camp (2650M) to Shira One (3550M)
Day 2 is the start of our morning Kili routine. Tea at 6:30am, 7:15am for breakfast and trekking from 8:30am. We’re served a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, porridge and fruit before beginning our walk up to Shira One. There is a visible difference in the trekking scenery as we pass from one climatic zone to another today (rainforest to Health land).
Excitement mounts as we catch our first glance of Kilimanjaro from a distance. We gain nearly 1000m in height today as we set up camp at our next stop – Shira 1.
I didn’t sleep very well the last night before and this was the case for everyone in my trekking group. I started to get pounding headaches whilst I walked. Ian quips that “it looks like a emergency room in here” as we sit together in the mess tent, all of us supporting dark, shadowy eyes, a bit of breathlessness and grimaces from headaches. The vegetation is no longer lush and green and our new campsite for the night is situated on a rocky plateau.
Day 3 – Shira One (3550M) to Shira Hut (3810M)
It’a starting to feel like a homely routine now. Tea in the morning brought to our tent, a feast for breakfast then a slow and gentle pace to start our day’s hike. Hans, a strong and sturdy assistant guide, is leading our trek today as we make our way to Shira Hut via Shira Cathedral (3,880M). The trek feels harder today. My head pounds as I walk and I start to count in my mind to keep in pace. We pass a grave of a Canadian hiker (he passed away from altitude sickness) and it’s a short but steep scramble onto the windy ridge of Shira Cathedral.
It’s another long and taxing day and we arrive into one of the most scenic campsites on Kilimanjaro, Shira 1. The silhouetted and grizzled edges of Mt Meru were in full view from my tent. We spent the evening gazing at the mountains with a sense of awe. The air was thin and crisp and the sun-set brought fire-like streaks across the sky.
I spent the night tossing and turning. My nose was blocked with volcanic ash and dried blood. The nights felt increasingly colder as I had my quick ’10 wet wipe’ shower to clean off the worse of the ash and dirt that seem to cling to me. It felt like trekking up the side of a dragon’s back. I knew Kilimanjaro got more and more dangerous the higher we went up. The altitude profile of the mountain means that we gain height quickly, all we could do was walk ‘pole pole’, drinks lots, eat lots and keep warm. I felt a strong sense of trust and mutual understanding towards my group as we trek. We’re in this together.
- Day 4, 5, 6, Summit Day and the descent off Kilimanjaro will be written up soon, watch this space!