I passed through immigration at Nairobi easily, being a Singaporean and not requiring a visa. This also meant that I was left alone to manage the luggage as it came off the belt.
At the border town of Namanga, the minibus is surrounded by numerous tribal women hoping to sell us curios: pendants, beaded necklaces.
Crossing the border
Our entry into Tanzania was greeted by a rainbow stretching across the wide African plains. Almost on cue, we saw a group of Maasai dressed in spectacular red robes crossing the road. Spirits were high and Tasha suggested we start singing. Old Macdonald had a Farm
At ???? metres above sea level, the air in Arusha is cool. On the way in, we see a derilict building looking like a Community Centre that's well past it, advertised in decaying letters at the Arusha International Conference Centre.
Idrisa introduces himself as a registered guide.
Dragged by our hostess to the restaurant at the Mashelle Guesthouse. There is showing a strange Cantonese movie dubbed into English, involving an FBI agent (white and female) and two Hong Kong policemen in a highly improbable plot. The topper is a ridiculous sex scene between the FBI agent and the chinese cop. We couldn't contain our laughter.
We discovered that they only had four sets of crockery and cutlery for the nine of us. The food finally arrives about two hours later, most of us starving and half asleep. Ugali is pounded maize boiled in water, achieving the consistency of mashed potato but devoid of any taste whatsoever. The chicken curry was equaly dire: the meat like boiled hawser served in a thin yellow gravy tasting like it was wrung from a sock.
Completely disillusioned now by our first encounter with Tanzanian cuisine, we fling ourselves at McMoody's, a McDonald's take in the centre of Arusha listed in Simon's written guide.
We finally negotiate US$805 per person to climb Kilimanjaro and to go on Safari.
Key no longer opens the lock.
Meet Helen and Justine. Helen's had her purse snatched by a ten year old boy and month's salary is gone: TSh 36,000. We buy them dinner.
Chief Sarwatt Secondary School in Mbulu. THe bridge is in danger of being washed away. The town council will not do anything about it, because they know that if the bridge does wash away, the residents of the town will be forced to repair it themselves because they need to use it. No electricity, only kerosene.
Kilimanjaro's highest point is 5895m (19,340') above sea level. It has three peaks, Kibo (the highest), Mawenzi (5149m, 16,896') and Shira (3962m, 13000').
We arrive in Moshi at around noon. Trinity Groceries: twenty chocolate bars, three litres of water. We go chasing around Moshi searching for acetazolamide (altitude sickness pills). Buy thirty at Ben's Pharmaceuticals for TSh300 each.
We sign the rangers' book at 2 p.m. and begin the ascent. Rising first in steamy equatorial rainforest to alpine desert.
Muddy. We achieve Mandara hut (2727m) at 5:15 p.m. Tasha sings "Ogey Bogey Custard & Green Phelgm Pie" to us.
The day's climbing begins at 8:50 a.m. At 9:15 a.m. we leave the forest behind and enter open moorland. The clouds are below us.
Arriving at Horombo Huts, the fluid strains of Aqua's "Barbie Girl" at 3780m.
Paul declared that he doesn't like fish. Tash explained to him that that could be a porblem in more ways than one. Paul looks back at her blankly. Tash says, "Don't worry Paul, when you do you'll understand." Hysterical laughter. Paul smiling uncertainly, because he doesn't want to look like he doesn't know what's going on.
Iddi take Shoomon and I higher. I find a large rock and climb it. The clouds part again giving us a spectacular view of the peak. Also in view is the lower peak of Mawezi, which looks much more difficult to climb.
There are four-striped field mice around.
The day's climb begins at 8:20 a.m. Mana River (3940m) at 9:20 a.m.
10:50 a.m. we meet Tracy making her descent.
At 12:15 p.m. moorland gives way to Alpine Desert.
Dave does some arithmetic in my journal.
2:20p.m. Jiwe Laukoyo. 3:35 p.m. Kibo Huts (4700m). My head hurts. 6 p.m. Final stew then to bed.
We began the final ascent at midnight, our paths illuminated by the light of the decrescent moon, strong enough to cast long shadows on the ground.
Our progress was slowed by altitude sickness and by the soft dark ash into which our feet would sink at each step. The altitude was affecting some of us worse than others.
For the first time, we were able to look out over Kenya.
We arrived at the crater rim at around 7 o'clock, in time to watch the rising red African sun paint the sky with gold and blood. Soft and silent, the snow lay around us in drifts like sifted icing sugar. As we made our way around the crater rim towards Uhuru Peak ('Freedom' Peak, the highest point), the clouds descended and we became enveloped in howling winds and snow. The ground blended with the sky and my spectacles frosted over. I could no longer see the path I was trying to walk on, although I knew that it was in places only a foot wide and three hundred feet down.
A beautiful sunrise over Mawenzi
My boots slip on the ice.8:40 a.m. We are all back at Gillman's Point, looking like abhominable snowmen. 11:00 a.m. Down. 1:20 p.m. Hailing outside that turns to drizzle. 3:25 p.m. Horombo Huts again. Two smaller huts this time.
21 March3:30 p.m. Marangu Gate. Papaya Trees. Women selling fruit. ndizi TSh200/bunch.