Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wed 15th Sept - Day 2 1st Cave (2600m) - Kikelawa cave (3600m)

We left camp about 8am, its such a beautiful day - lots of sunscreen and tshirt only required. Straight away the going got quite steep and rocky, so Vincent had us going 'pole pole' - slowly slowly - the idea is that we are always going at a pace that doesn't put any strain on our breathing.
I'm keeping up much better today - yesterday I was more than happy to be at the back of the group, but today my competitive edge is back and I'm back up front with Ian and Louise
Ian and Louise

Lucas aka Mike

Sarah and Juma (August)
We've left the forest behind and are now walking up through bushy moorland - I have to keep reminding myself I'm in Africa - it looks so like Booze in Yorkshire - I keep expecting to scare up grouse or pheasants at any time! Its so quiet which is lovely, we haven't seen any of the other groups that were at the camp last night, I think we got out ahead of them so we have the place to ourselves which is wonderful.
Another thing I totally didn't expect in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Africa is mobile phone reception! yep - the guides are constantly on their mobile phones - who'd have thought?

Juma - on the phone...again!

After about 3 1/2 hours of solid uphill we get to Kikelawa caves and a big organised area (is this really Africa?? could be any campsite in Australia it so well set up!) with proper toilet huts (very impressed..) where we have lunch - today we get a hot lunch and the wonderful Nesto has cooked me fried fish and a big plate of hot chips! the others get noodle soup...I think I've got the best end of the deal here!

Lunch Kikelawa caves
By the time we arrived at lunch, my heels were a bit sore - this is the 1st real test of my boots so I'm going to have to be on to any slight rubbing or blisters. I have a look at my heels and there is some redness - no blisters yet thank goodness. I've been wearing 2 layers of socks - a thin liner pair and thick pair, so I'll take off the thick pair and see how I go this afternoon with just the thinner pair.

After lunch the trail starts of flatten out - it looks like we've done most of the uphill in the morning, now we're sort of going sideways round the flanks of Kili, which is a bit of a relief as its much easier on my heels. I think I'm going to get away without any blisters.
As the afternoon wears on the weather gradually starts to close in - the cloud rises from the plains below and by about 2 its blocked out the sun and we're walking in drifiting mist - its quite eerie and again so like Yorkshire, I didn't expect that at all.
By about 3:30, I'm really starting to get tired and am feeling a bit over the whole walking thing - so I'm very glad when the camp comes into sight
Camp 2

It looks like our porters have got here 1st and bagged the best spots - yay! I head straight to my tent - time for a quick nap before tea and popcorn! :-)

Wed 15th Sept - Day 2 1st Cave (2600m) - brekky

Oh what a beautiful morning! oh what a beautiful day....

check out the sunrise!

Mt Kilimanjaro and Mwenzi Peak
Kili Sunrise
I was up and about nice and early this morning - 6am! feeling much better after a good nights sleep.  Am loving my new silk sleeping bag liner, it adds a whole new level of warmth to my sleeping bag. Totally didn't expect that and woke up all hot and sweaty at one point and had to stick my feet out of the bottom of the sleeping bag to cool down - this bodes well for when we get higher, I always seemed to be cold in Bhutan - now I know why! 
Another good result was the extra sleeping mat....I have 2 :-) we all got given a mat and I brought my own as well - am thinking I might just be onto a good thing!
It was lovely being the 1st one up (apart from all the cook crews that is) - had the campsite to myself - it was so peaceful and quiet and i could just sit and enjoy the sunrise and watch the camp come to life.
At 6:30 Lucas the assistant cook came round with hot tea - for some reason on trek I always seem to drink black tea with 2 sugars - at home I never have sugar in tea - its quite odd. Must be an altitude thing and my body just needs the energy. Anyway I'm not going to analyse it too much - so black tea with sugar it is!
With tea we start the daily routine of packing up the tent - silk liner into its own baby stuff sack, sleeping bag into bigger stuff sack, roll and squish the air out of self inflating sleep mat, roll and shove into its stuff sack, yesterdays clothes into dirty clothes bin liner, long sleeved trek shirt + thin thermal  + thin fleece into day sack, water bottles outside tent for filling, boots and gaiters on, kit bag outside tent for the porter to collect, then brekky at 7.
A word about clothes here - because we're so limited with what we can bring certain things have to be restricted - so this might sounds gross to you but 1 pair of undies lasts 2 days - just turn them inside out the 2nd day! I can't quite bring myself to wear those disposable paper knickers...eeuuwgh scratchy! 
Heather is trying them though...
I've only brought one sports bra so thats going to have to last me all week, and I've only brought 1 short sleeved t shirt, so thats getting another wear today, only have 1 pair of fleece leggings which will last me all week - didn't like the safari pants I had yesterday, so they are now parked in the kit bag. 
The good thing about going so slowly is that I didn't get sweaty at any point yesterday - usually on trek I set off at my usual pace and get all hot and sweaty within about 10mins then as soon as we stop I have to pile layers on to stop getting cold cos my clothes are wet. I'm thinking that there could be something to this slow thing....
The only luxury I've really allowed myself is new socks for every day and all my fleece jumpers for the cold.

Off to brekky - I love trek brekky, its so eclectic! Everyone has porridge, but with my coeliac diet I've been given something else - I believe in Victorian times it would be called gruel - no idea what it is, but with 3 teaspoons of honey and 2 teaspoons of strawberry jam in it, its hot and passably edible! I also got fried plantain - very bland so I pour more honey over that - then this is the good bit fried eggs and fried frankfurters! The cook, Nesto is looking after me really well - I got my own bowl of soup last night as well.

So fat and happy its time to set off - today is going to be 6-7 hours walking with a vertical climb of about 1000m which is quite a lot. that will take us to about 3600m where its probable that altitide symptoms will start appearing. When doing the Inca trail in Peru, the 1st few days in Cusco which is at 3000m I definitely had mild altitude symptoms - nausea, headache general weakness and shortness of breath, so I'm sort of expecting that to kick in today. I am taking diamox so we'll see how that goes.

Tue 14th Sept - Day 1: Rongai Gate to Camp 1 (1st Cave 2600m)

Yay! we finally got some walking in! We only did a leisurely 3 hours today and at a pace that can only be described as crawling - I'm sure we'll be grateful for that at the end and I can't believe that I even struggled a bit - I'm soo weak, I was happy to tag along at the back of the group. I really must shake this chest thing before we do any long days or get to altitude - I'm actually a bit worried whether I'm going to make it. 

So we arrived at the Rongai gate about 11:30 and met our other guides (we have 3), our cook and our porters - lots of porters! 3 each!
and lunch was waiting for us - gotta love that :-)

Rongai Gate - so clean...

So we set of after lunch and get to the start of the trail where was a sign displaying the list of rules - rules 2 and 4 state that you shouldn't go above 3000m if you have a cold, flu or lung problems...oops! broken those already....

The Rules

As we hike up through forestry plantations we're soon covered in dust because this side of the mountain its bone dry, hard to believe that only a few hours earlier we were in a lush tropical setting.
On the route there are still some small farms, and its corn harvest time - we nearly got run down by some guys on motorbikes loaded up with their corn on the way to market!

Gradually the plantations gave way to natural cloud forest - we saw some baboons and colobus monkeys - one monkey even sat and posed for us!
Colobus monkey

Although we were going really slowly - 'pole pole' is the mantra - it wasn't too long before we got to camp. We've got a good setup at the top of the campsite and it appears there's only another 2 or 3 groups at the site - theres even proper toilet!
I'm sharing a tent with Heather - she's cool, I'm going to enjoy her company, she's so easy going.
Its a beautiful evening, warm and sunny, even Kilimanjaro has cleared so we can finally see it - it looks very big!
we get afternoon tea with popcorn which is very civilized and then dinner is at 6 so just time for a quick nap.

Heather by our tent


Tue 14th Sept - Helloooo...coooee....Peregrine?

Impressions of Peregrine so far? Amateursville...

Ok there's 6 groups in the hotel leaving today all at 9:30 and they all leave at 9:30...except us.




10:10 - finally the peregrine bus turns up...and these guys are supposed to be getting us up a mountain??? hmm...not confident at all

Mon 13th Sept - Pre Trek Briefing

Well we've just had our pre trek briefing with Vincent who is our head guide - not the chattiest of people - not usre yet if its a language thing or he's shy, but it seems every time one of us asked a question, he just nodded and smiled...bit odd really....
anyway I've now met most of the group - there's me (obviously!), Ian (43) from Melbourne, Fritz (75!!!) from Sydney, Sarah (36) from Sydney and Louise (39) from Manchester and Heather from Canada still hasn't arrived. It turns out we've all done the Inca Trail and Sarah has also been to Everest base camp so all of us have some trek experience which is good.
We can take 20kg in our kitbags, which is a relief because all the doco said 12kg and my entire backpack weighed 17kg - so I wont have to leave anything behind with is good because apparently it'll be about -15C at the top, so I definitely want all my warm layers with me!
We leave tomorrow at 9:30 (luxury!) to drive to the Rongai gate where we meet all our porters and crew, then we have lunch and start walking after lunch!! Luxury - I don't think I've ever started a trek after lunch!

Off for some dinner - am starving as haven't all day, we didn't stop for lunch on the drive!

Mon 13th Sept - Hotel at last!

We finally got to our hotel about 4:30 - what a long drive!
and what a really nice hotel..unfortunately the power was out and the hotel reception didn't seem to be expecting us!
What was really weird was we were greeted by a waiter with a tray of 4 glasses of orange juice - there were supposed to be 4 of us originally - so how did the waiter know we were due but the reception staff had no clue?
So after much explaining and showing the itinerary and documents we eventually got allocated our rooms. lovely rooms very modern, big tv's, comfy bed and apparently on a clear day we could see Kilimanjaro from the balcony - except that it was raining and cloudy! Its hard to believe that I'm in Africa, everything is so tropical and lush.

So again there is no sign of anyone from Peregrine - we're supposed to meet our guide and find out the plan - so Ian leaves a list of phone numbers with reception for them to try and find out what time we will meet our guide.
I go for a wander around the hotel, well there's no power so I can't have a bath (huge bath in the bathroom!! yay!) and in one conference there is another big group getting their pre trek briefing - they are from Exodus in the UK and look to be super organised - everyone seems to have bits of paper and pens in front of them and maps and diagrams - very military operation!

Dinner isn't until 7 so I decide to have a quick nap - but just as i got into bed the phone rang - its reception, we're finally going to meet our guide.

Mon 13th Sept - Tanzania impressions

After immigration, it was back onto the bus for more bone shaking....and sleep! I must be seriously knackered!

Bizarrely enough what woke me up was the lack of bumping and being thrown around...

The countryside has completely changed, we're heading towards Arusha - no idea where that is in relation to anything - but we're driving past Mt Meru which at 15000+ ft high appears to be high enough to have an influence on the climate - it is very hot, and it obviously rains a fair bit as there are banana plantations everywhere, and its very green - totally different from the dry dustiness of Kenya and masai country. There's so much to take in - the countryside, people going about their business, the contrasting buildings - everything from shiny glass hotels to mud huts, people carrying stuff on their heads, market stalls piled high with wonderful looking fruit and vegetables, corn being dried on mats by the road, the dodgiest looking scaffolding on buildings you've ever seen - no health and softy rules here!
the funniest thing I think has to be the furniture shops - Ikea Africa style seems to involve huge oversized overstuffed leather chairs and sofas - trying to imagine people owning them and living in mud huts just seems too bizarre for words!
its probably easiest to include some photos - it will tell the story so much better!
Freedom Furniture!

drying corn

fruit stall

fruit stall


Health and Softy

Health and Softy

Yikes - a hotel!

Macca's - Africa style


Street sellers