Mt. Kilimanjaro Trek
Following a recommendation from Kirk, we set up our trip with Bobby Tours, a local company in Arusha, Tanzania. While there are many groups we could have joined, we chose to set up our own private expedition. First we would climb Kilimanjaro along the Machame route and then we would cap our African experience with a week-long safari through the Serengeti. Cutting out the middle man saved so much money that our private tour was cheaper than most group excursions.
We arrived at the start of the trail by a series of control gates. While we were on one side of the gates, a multitude of street merchants were selling last minute supplies, hiking poles, bandanas, shirts, pants, you name it. They were waving it in our faces trying to get our attention. Much of the equipment wasn’t even new. Often the equipment was stuff given to guides at the end of the trek and then resold to the next group of trekkers. What a racket!
We set an aggressive
pace once we hit the trail. In contrast with all of my
previous treks, the porters actually trailed behind us. Granted
they had a lot more weight than we did, but they were far more
acclimatized to high altitude hiking. This really concerned me.
The porters generally knew what they were doing, did we? My
pulse immediately rose to 176. While I knew that was the upper
limit of a pace I could sustain, I conservatively requested
of Chuck that we slow down. There was no need for mountain
The crowded trail was surprisingly well groomed, framed with timbers and run-off chutes for excessive rainwater. While not overcrowded like the Inca Trail, groups of slow trekkers tended to clump together making passing difficult. When the trail climbed uphill, they would slow to a painful crawl.
The campgrounds were a site to see, an endless littering of tents. I greatly underestimated just how many people were on the trail and hoped it would thin out as we climbed. Making the best of a crowded situation, we set up our tent far away from everyone else and then focused on dinner.
Our guide Simon is a very tall and powerful man with a gentle and calm disposition.
The following day Chuck and I agreed to walk slower as the jungle faded away and the trail became more rugged. We went up, straight up. Unlike the previous day where all the porters seems to dawdle, the porters and ourselves got an early start. This left the hordes of slower trekkers behind us. It was great, with the exception of a few late-starting porters passing us, the trail was comfortably empty.
We were thinking there wasn’t much of a climb left until the trail ended at a pretty intense rock scramble. Getting over it made me feel like a kid. Once on the other side we crossed a valley and found the Shira campsite at 3,840m / 12,670’.
The story continues...