Geographic Expeditions is a San Francisco-based travel company, and I had been on their trips before, so I checked their schedule. Sure enough, their trip named "The Real Kilimanjaro" was going June 9-24. Vacation time from the office was arranged, injections for all sorts of tropical diseases were done, and finally I was on my way.
After flying from San Francisco to London-Heathrow, I wandered around
London just a bit, since this was my first time there. I visited the longitude
zero line at the old Royal Observatory in Greenwich (East London). My GPS
receiver said it was longitude 00.00.
Then I went to London-Gatwick airport for the flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
Once in Nairobi, a dozen travelers were picked up and hustled to a charter
flight which took us out 137 miles southeast to a very nice safari camp
at the base of the Chyulu Hills. We spent three days riding and walking
and taking photos of the wild animals of the savannah (zebra, giraffe,
Campi ya Kanzi main hut
thorn tree, up close
Then we flew by charter plane back toward the border with Tanzania near
Amboseli National Park. At this dirt air strip, we met our mountain guide,
Victor Kinyonga. We crossed the border at Namanga by bus and went to Arusha,
Tanzania, which is the jumping-off point toward Mount Kilimanjaro. We started
walking on the huge volcanic mountain from the forest in the west, heading
up through the forest/jungle, then across the Shira Plateau, then past
the Lava Tower to the Arrow Glacier camp at 16,000 feet.
Victor Kinyonga, from Tanzania
They called this "forest". I called it "jungle".
View of Kilimanjaro from the Shira Plateau
early morning view of the Lava Tower and Western Breach (fresh snow)
we had a good rock climb up the Lava Tower (with the Western Breach and Uhuru Peak in view)
From there, we climbed the glacier to the Western Breach. That is the gap in the crater rim, about 500 feet below the true summit (Uhuru Peak). I would describe this 2800' glacier ascent as being 70% Class 1, 25% Class 2, and 5% Class 3. The altitude did not bother me at all, but this put me in the minority of the group. I believe that I was about the only one not taking Diamox (the prescription drug for altitude) even though I carried it along.
the group heading up the top of the Arrow Glacier
looking down the Arrow Glacier from the crater rim
the crater rim and crater glacier, with Uhuru Peak overhead
Well, climbing the Arrow Glacier was a little more of a task than some of the people were expecting, so there were some sick people at the crater camp. I gave out a lot of Ibuprofen, Diamox, and Pepto-Bismol from my first aid kit. After the last night camped high, we hit it up to the summit in no time flat and the typical summit photos were plentiful. We descended 9000 feet that very day! After camp at 10,000 feet, we slogged through mud down to the Mweka Gate at 5000 feet and got a bus back to the hotel in Arusha.
the highest peak of Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet
going down 9000 feet in one day
the Mweka Trail was full of mud
Then after a celebration dinner, we left Tanzania, flying back to Nairobi, Kenya. We did some sightseeing and had a celebration dinner there and then caught our flights going back to Gatwick and then back home. What a whirlwind trip!
The scary part was this: On Friday evening, June 23, I was dining on
zebra and crocodile meat in Nairobi, and on Saturday afternoon, June 24,
I was at my home in California reading e-mail. What a cultural jump!