Friday 25 October 2019

1. Kilimanjaro Challenge - Lemosho Route: Jambo Tanzania and Meeting Kilimanjaro...

Jambo Jambo!

That's hello in Swahili! Welcome to the first blog documenting my attempt to climb the highest free standing mountain in the world and also the highest dormant volcano in Africa. Now as you know if you'd be following my training over the last 6 months for this challenge, you know I have trained to be as ready as I'll ever be and fully aware that this was going to be the most relentless, gruelling physical and mental challenge of my life. So lets start right from the beginning, returning to Africa after 12 years to experience the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro.....and what challenges would lay ahead on our journey to reach to the top of the Roof of Africa.

Behold the magical kingdom of Africa!

Flying London to Doha and then Doha to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, I was able to get a great deal on flights from Skyscanner 6 months before departure and was privileged to be able to look down from the plane and realise that somewhere down there was where Kilimanjaro stood, that somewhere down there I was going to spend 12 days of my life in Tanzania hoping to realise an ambition and follow through the arduous challenge of climbing the mountain to raise awareness and funds for Action For M.E who are a lifeline to those coping with living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had a lot of support from donors and I vowed to try to my best as far as my body will physically carry me. I had never been at such high altitude before so was unsure whether I would, or the extent I could suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but whatever lay ahead I was determined to give it my best shot, not just for myself but for all the M.E sufferers I would be helping including my sister.   

If I was going to put myself through the challenge, be it for the benefit of others too.

Nearly there! Flying over Kenya and the land of The Lion King seeing all the brown veins of rivers and settlements was incredible over the plains - Zebras (my favourite) would be down there too!

After nearly 13 hours of flying, exhausted but also pumped, I finally touched down at the small Kilimanjaro International Airport on the border of Kenya and Tanzania (and over 30 degrees heat). In June 2019 Tanzania issued a ban on single use plastic bags to try and tackle the plastic pollution which plagues the continent - I thought it was a great idea for the country and was told to we had to surrender any plastic bags we were carrying on port arrival. 

Except.....this was a very grey area. 'Zip Loc' bags were permitted I knew but there was no 'bag surrender desk' or any strict policing of plastic in our luggage. It seemed very lenient or just not aggressively enforced and after being ushered inside off the runway by the ground staff waving their hands, you have to fill in an arrival form stating the usual details plus duration of stay and what you were doing in Tanzania (safe to say most people there were either 'doing Kili' or heading out on a Safari - you could tell just by the luggage). Checking in involved the usual the paperwork, visa stamp and entry form logged but also face photo and electronic finger prints taken in sequence by the chance of getting a really friendly customs officer or a really stoic one.

Either way, I was granted access successfully to Tanzania and allowed on my way, weaving out of the suitcases and mountain duffels which were just casually dumped on the floor on the other side of the customs desks leaving it up to you to find your own bag. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully locating my bag it dawned on me and threatened my trip with potential disaster - my luggage had not arrived, it was lost. My 92 litre duffel of thermals, clothes, jackets, gloves, walking poles and my damn mosquito repellent was in that bag! I couldn't believe my bad luck and had to do the 'missing luggage' paperwork with the Tanzanian customs staff - trying to remember what was inside and the value of it (which is a frankly tedious task). I felt there was no point in getting upset over something I had no control over. The transfer time in Doha was too short due to the plane leaving London an hour later so my luggage never made my flight. The friendly airport staff assured me it would be on the flight from Doha the next day and I should get it the next evening - part of me wasn't that convinced but I had to hope and ruminated on the reality that I may not being able to do the climb with my own gear. I had been allowed 7kg in my carry-on backpack which I filled with basic hiking stuff and essentials but I just had to hope it would turn up in time and praised myself in making the decision to arrive in Tanzania a day earlier in case this happened.

I'd advise you to do the same. It would save you even more of a headache and that's even before you set foot on Kilimanjaro. 

So I was being picked up by Kandoo Adventures who were my trip operators and would hopefully sort it all out as my driver had to to join me back into the airport whilst I stayed muted out by what I hoped was positive Swahili amongst eachother. What a start to this trip. So with no mosquito repellent (urgghh I was in a malaria zone!) I headed off into the sweltering African afternoon with my driver in the Kandoo bus to be taken an hour away to the town of Moshi, meaning 'smoke' in Swahili, most likely because it lies at the base of Kilimanjaro, a  dormant volcano and the unofficial capital town of the indigenous Chagga people who inhabit the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. 

During the journey pass the small townships and plains of green swaying grass, the driver pointed out the window and I gasped in awe at the monstrosity rising out of the clouds - my first glimpse of the snowbrowed peak of Kilimanjaro herself and boy did it look high!     

Holy god - was I about to climb that?

I was going to be staying at Bristol Cottages (guess it might be a from colonial British times - the name I mean) on Rindi Lane in the heart of Moshi - conveniently near to the bank, convenience shop and the medical centre next door (which I hope I wasn't going to be seeing the inside of). Of course the first thing I thought about doing was grabbing some mosquito repellent at the most convenient place, a shop across the street manned by a subdued lady who I had a long confusing exchange with about the value of my US dollars to what she was asking me in Tanzanian Shillings

I've always been interested in foreign currencies and how they depict the individual identities and histories of countries and cultures. I do love the currency here though and East African regions pride their identity with their wildlife. 

The Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh) can't be exchanged out of country so you have to arrive with US dollars which I've experienced to be the universal currency in the developing world. The colourful notes nowadays come in the thousands and it took a while to grasp the currency value with all the zero's and all, working out whether you were being overpriced and going to the atm was a challenge making sure you didn't put too many zero's in! 

But the general rate is $1USD be 2,200 Tsch

2,000   (Lion) about 80 cents 
5,000   (Rhino) about $2.30
10,000 (Elephant) about $4.50    


Enjoying some locally grown Kilimanjaro Tea with a morning Swahili newspaper - pretending I know what it reads, you got to learn somehow right? The newspaper touts try to sell them to you very expensive - one was asking for 22,000 TZS! that's about $10!  

The Lemosho Route was going to be a 8 day round camping trip - 6 days ascending and 2 days descending and the next day I met with my team of 12 including myself, who would be my fellow climbers on this route - all hailing from the USA except for Brian who was originally Irish but lives in the USA and was responsible for suggesting our 'Team Name'.....'Seo Cac'. 

Team 'Seo Cac'

We would have two Tanzanian lead guides, Robert and Evans, and four assistant guides, Edwad, Abel, Koteleib and Dennis along with over 36 porters, cooks, toilet boy (yes we would have a toilet) waiters, tent guys and anyone else joining us to help on our Kilimanjaro journey - what a team!

So we were in good hands! Kandoo Adventures are affiliated with The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) who improve the working conditions of Porters on Kilimanjaro and make sure they have a good wage and their welfare is taken care of and responsible treatment is practiced. They would be carrying all our luggage, tents, food, chairs, toilet and everything else we would need up and down the mountain over 8 days and we would not be able to attempt it without their strength, dedication and hard work - to me they were supermen! 

So with the team in place the night before, stocked with malaria pills, diamox for Altitude sickness we were ready to set off on Day One on the hardest journey of our lives...I still clung on to the hope that my duffel would arrive, otherwise I would have no choice but to rent all the gear I was missing....

The Challenge that lays ahead into the sky...eeek she looks pretty high hey?

Kilimanjaro has many a theory behind its name and what it translates to by the Chagga people of the region. Some say the Swahili world 'Kilima' meaning 'mountain' and the KiChagga word 'Njaro' loosely known as 'whiteness'. Other terms are 'god's mountain' or 'the mountain to be climbed'.....think I prefer the last one.

So I vowed to give it my best shot and see what happens on 'the mountain to be climbed' over the next 8 days which were to be the toughest of my life.

Please see my Just Giving page with a donation for my Kilimanjaro attempt to help Action For M.E so we can help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! 

Asante Sana and Peace,


1 comment:

  1. A missing bag! Thats the worst! Will stay tuned to see what happens...


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