Home / 1999.05 East Africa

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DAY ZERO: In the afternoon we departed from Newark International Airport, USA to Amsterdam.
In the morning we landed in Amsterdam. We had to spend a few hours waiting for connecting flight. In the evening we arrived to Nairobi. I had my Kenyan visa issued in advance by consulate in New York while Kasia asked an official in the airport to issue transit visa for her. There was not a problem at all to get visa in the airport and it was cheaper than getting one in the consulate.
After we passed passport and customs controls we went to taxi stand to get to in Sixeighty Hotel in the downtown. We knew what would be estimated taxi fare (~14US$), but we had to negotiate with the driver. Since we were tired, it was easy money for the driver - we did not try to argue too much. After 20-30 minutes we were in hotel lobby ready to check in.
After we unpacked our things and took shower we went to a restaurant downstairs to have first dinner in Africa. We were not impressed by the quality of food at the hotel restaurant, at least we tried a few African beers. We noticed a funny thing: on every hotel floor there was a guard watching halls to prevent thieves breaking into guest's rooms.
After breakfast we were supposed to be collected at the Sixeighty Hotel to be transferred to Moshi. There was some slight miscommunication and nobody arrived to pick us up. After a phone call to Moshi we learnt that Davanu Van Company was not aware that we should be on passenger list. We missed morning van that was scheduled to go to Moshi. Next van went only to Arusha where Zara Expeditions would wait for us. In an hour or so we were taken to Davanu bus station a kilometer away from the hotel. About ten passengers entered van. All luggage was loaded on van's roof. We left Nairobi and, after a few hours, we stopped at a gift shop before border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania. We had first opportunity to take a glimpse of African art in several gift shops. We did not want to buy anything at the beginning of our trip, because we would have to carry it all for next two weeks. At the border there were a lot of cars and buses. Many local people attempted to sell us things. They wanted to exchange money as well. We were warned before not to deal with people because prices offered would not be optimal and that there would be a possibility we would be cheated. Signs on official border checkpoints read not to take any pictures -everything was very colorful and we missed that photo opportunity. After another few hours we arrived to Arusha where we were picked up by the people from Zara Expeditions. After over an hour of driving we arrived to Moshi, but we did not stop in the downtown. We started to be worried: what was going to happen? It appeared that Springlands Hotel was located on the outskirts of Moshi in a compound hidden behind tall brick wall. The hotel is very nice, very clean and well maintained. People are nice and friendly and food is good. This hotel is good starting point for somebody wanting to climb Kilimanjaro: one can leave excess luggage there and rent any missing equipment like dawn jackets. During dinner we met a guy from Austria who just returned from Kilimanjaro. He said that the weather was not very pleasant during his ascent - it was raining almost every day.
After good breakfast we were driven to downtown Moshi to Zara Expeditions office. We met there charming lady Seibab who explained us how to behave on the Kilimanjaro route. Then we were introduced to our guide - Ben. It appeared that this day we were the only people who wanted to take Machame route thus trek started for two of us only (Kasia Janota and Tomasz Hilsberg). When we were in the office Ben assembled a group of porters plus cook/second guide. Total head count was low: two of us, Ben, cook, and three porters. The cook took care of all food - baskets of vegetables and meat were waiting for us. The drive from Moshi to the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park gate took about 50 minutes. The journey passed through the village of Machame that is located on the lower slopes of the mountain. Once we reached the park gate, we made our final preparations for the climb. Porters arranged their packs, containing food, water, firewood and other equipment. We made sure that we had our small backpacks with us as the porters were traveling very quickly. We left the park gate and walked through the rain forest on a winding trail to the first uniport hut which is located at an altitude of 3 048m. We continued a short distance until we reached the Machame hut. Porters put up the tents for us and prepared meal. We could enjoy our dinner and overnight. We have now reached an altitude of 3 100m. As soon as we approached camping area I did see interesting view of Kilimanjaro in rays of setting sun. After dinner I realized that something was wrong - one porter disappeared. I asked Ben and he told me that the missing guy returned to Machame to buy more food. We were hoping to see him back in the evening. It did not happen. Next day Ben told us that the porter must have given up. From now on the group consisted of six persons only.
After breakfast we left the glades of the rain forest and entered moorlands. We followed a fin of volcanic rock sticking out from the mountain. Then we crossed the little valley walking along a steep rocky ridge covered with heather until the ridge ended. We knew that we had to drink a lot of water to better adjust to high altitude. We always carried small backpacks with warm clothing, cameras, water, lunch and snacks. The main weight was borne by our porters. At this point altitude sickness begun affecting me slightly: mild headache and short breath, drinking water and taking pills did not help much. I was not worried too much about it - it can happen to everybody. After steep ascent we entered Shira Plateau. It was very nice to sit and see how high we have already climbed. At this point we realized that we were above cloud level we could see Mount Meru some 80 km away. After another hour walk we stopped at Shira Caves where Ben selected place to camp. We had to wait for the porters - it took them longer than us to climb. Once they reached the camp they put our tent up so we could rest before diner. It was not easy to cook at altitude of circa 3 650 m. Cook needed over an hour to prepare meal. After the dinner we did not spend much time outside the tent: it was getting cold, we were tired and there was not much light.
From the Shira Plateau we continued to the east passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo, as we continued our direction changed to South East towards the Lava Tower, we came to the second junction which brought us up to the Arrow Glacier, we have now reached an altitude of 4 600 m we now continued down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 3 900m, here we rested enjoying dinner and overnight. We did not see any other climbers on the way to Kilimanjaro. It seems that it was just before regular trekking season.
After breakfast we left Barranco and continued on a steep ridge passing the Barranco wall passing through the Karanga Valley and the junction that connects with the Mweka trail. We continued to the Barafu Hut which is located at al altitude of 4 600m. Here we made camp, rest and enjoyed dinner. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo were seen from this position.
Early morning we continued our ascent to Stella Point, 5 745m, on our way to the summit, Uhuru Peak at 5898m. This part of the climb takes about 6 hours. We have now reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa. From the summit we made our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site at 3 100m. This part of the descent took 5 hours. Later in the evening we enjoyed our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.
After breakfast we continued the descent down to Mweka Park Gate and then were driven back to Moshi, where we enjoyed a hot shower and rest.
We left Moshi after breakfast and traveled to Arusha where we switched tour operator.
After early morning breakfast I left for the Serengeti plains for full day game drive. This world famous National Park covers some 14 550sq miles and contains the greatest concentration of plains animals left anywhere in the world. I had picnic lunch. Here is a glimpse of Eastern Africa the way it was before the arrival of the Great White Hunters. The treeless plains abound with thousands of hoofed animals, pursued by carnivores such as Lions, Hyenas and Cheetahs. I spent a full day exploring the dazzling views of the Serengeti
I left the Serengeti plains and travel the verdant Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is a 20km wide volcanic crater with steep wails of 600 meters. Despite the steep walls there is a lot of movement of animals between the crater and the Serengeti. The crater has an extraordinary variety of wildlife as it has continuous water and pasture. In the afternoon I arrived to Arusha.
After breakfast I left Arusha with the morning transfer to Nairobi. I arrived Nairobi, checked in Sixeighty Hotel and started tour of Nairobi by foot.
Depart Nairobi.