Even after our very busy day, we still needed to get back to the lodge to make our final packing preparations. I was so worried about getting all the right gear in the right bags. We would be leaving safari gear at the DikDik, so we needed to pack all our trek gear into one duffle and a daypack. We scrambled to pack, then had one more dinner at the beautiful DikDik dining room.
I did not sleep well. I was so nervous about what the trip on the mountain would be like. We didn’t need an alarm to tell us it was time to go get breakfast and prepare for the drive to the trailhead. We gathered in front of the hotel, and the manager Welly saw how anxious I was. I asked her if she had ever climbed and she said she had tried but had to turn back due to altitude sickness: exactly my fear. But Welly hugged me and told me she knew I could do it. She said she would pray for me that I would make it to the top and back down safely and she said she’d be waiting for me upon my return. Her kind words and warm embrace made me feel more confident and gave me extra motivation.
We waited for quite a while because one of our two trucks went to the airport thinking we were there.
Finally the second truck arrived and we hit the road. We took some pictures of the landscape and people along the way. We also stopped at a small shop, which gave Kapanya the opportunity to tell Cindy, “I left my wallet here.” Cindy was so surprised that Kapanya’s wallet might still be there at the shop, until she learned that Kapanya was using what would become our favorite euphemism of the trip. From here on out, whenever anyone needed a bathroom break they would say, “I need to look for my wallet.”
Back on the road, we saw farms, shops, and lots of Maasai walking their long distances between villages. This would become a familiar site.
Soon we arrived at Londorosi Gate, and it started to feel like we were really going to hike this mountain. We saw lots of other trekkers with their tour guides. Our 7 hikers signed in to the ledger, and we were also asked to sign liability waivers stating that we understood that the route we had chosen, the Western Breach, was the most dangerous route and that it required climbing helmets.
This is also where Kapanya and the head guides arranged to have all of the gear weighed. Each porter is limited to 40 lbs of gear. We watched as the porters put each of our duffles on the scale and added additional items to bring each package up to the 40 lb limit. While our personal bundles were well under weight, the authorities required Kapanya to hire 12 extra porters for all of the extra camp equipment. But many of the porters refused to join our group once they heard we would be hiking the Western Breach route and sleeping in Crater Camp. Kapanya explained that after several deaths on the Western Breach trail many porters are afraid to do the route. Lacking the required porters, Kapanya had to scramble for a solution, and ended up ordering more porters from a nearby town who would meet us with gear at the second camp on the trail. Although I was itching to get on the trail, it was interesting to see how this process worked.
From the Gate, we took a fun 4×4 ride to the trailhead. On a Kilimanjaro climb we knew we would experience 5 climate zones, and this is when we went from the Lower Slopes with their potato farms and coffee plantations to the Rain Forest with its tropical plants and promise of monkeys. We took the road as far as we could go, then watched the porters unload our gear and start up the mountain.
While the porters started walking, we were treated to our first meal prepared by master chef Manase Obedi. I can’t say enough about this man’s talent. Not only did he make every meal amazing, he also specially learned how to cook for a member of our group who is gluten intolerant. Each lunch started with Fruit & Veg. You can imagine how happy this made me.
Finally we started walking. I was very interested to know how our GPS information would compare to the notes we had gathered on the trek, and also how we would do with the estimated times. The information we had gathered about what our first hike should be told us:
Day 1 of Hike Londorosi Gate to Forest Camp
Start 7382 Finish 9340
Gain of 1958
According to John’s GPS, we did this:
Start 7655 Finish 9139
It was a beautiful and easy walk through rainforest, and we were very lucky to avoid rain. There were some steep and slick sections, and lots of tree roots. It was so much fun! It reminded me of climbing Mt. Humphrey’s back home.
Cindy, Paul and I were also very lucky to see an entire family of Colobus Monkeys. Thanks to Cindy’s quick work helping me change to my long lens, I was able to capture this picture, which might be my absolute favorite from the trip. I snapped the photo just as a male monkey started climbing up the tree, and a female with a baby screeched at me to go away. We stood watching the family for a very long time. What a treat!
We got to Forest Camp just before dark, and unpacked for the first time into our tents. I liked that we had front and back doors on these tents, and I learned that it makes a happy home to use the separate entrances. We had 7 nights of camping on this mountain. John and I soon got into a great routine of packing and unpacking that allowed us to manage the limited space.
In the mess tent that night, we had our fruit & veg, soup, tea, delicious chicken and rice. Kapanya promised we would lose 10-12 pounds each on this trek, but I didn’t see how that would be possible with all the food that kept coming. And our Camp Leader Stanley Obedi, (older brother to our Camp Cook Manase Obedi) was well trained at saying “eat, eat, eat” and “drink, drink drink.”
By design, Kapanya wants to keep his clients well fed and hydrated because he knows it is the best indicator for a successful summit and avoiding altitude sickness. We would soon become very accustomed to the urging to consume as much as we could. When I asked Kapanya to eat more he said to me, “Trish, I have been eating since before you were born.” We all laughed and found another reason to trust our beloved guide.