Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – Machame Gate to Machame Hut

This is part 1 of my trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Groves of banana trees flashed by as I watched out of the window of the bus. As we drove through a tiny village, some kids waved at me from the side of the road with big smiles on their faces. Slowly, the bus made it’s way up hill through the lush green countryside, and clouds wrapped themselves around us as we gained elevation.

I was currently on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Northern Tanzania, and I was travelling from the town of Moshi to Machame Gate where I would begin my trek to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa. Accompanying me in the bus were my ten fellow trekkers, along with our guides and cooks who together made up the G Adventures group that I would climb with.

Machame Gate on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Machame Gate

At first, the trail followed a dirt road from the gate through the lush rain forest. The incline was easy but our guide made sure that we kept to a slow pace. The fog gave the forest an eerie and mystical feel, with moss and lichens clinging to the trees, and the thick undergrowth hiding the forest floor. Some baboons played in the trees and on the ground as we passed by, and I could hear birds chirping off in the distance.

Walking through the rain forest on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Walking through the rain forest

Before long the road ended and we were now hiking on an actual walking track. It was now that the trail began to get steeper and our pace became even slower. “Pole pole” said Frederick, one of our assistant guides. Slowly slowly.

At this altitude I could breathe fine, but the slow pace is important for acclimatization. This made it almost unbearable at times as we plodded along, sometimes so slow that I had to stop before taking another step. As hard as it was to walk so slow, I knew in my mind that I would be thankful for it in the coming days.

All around me the thick rain forest and fog blocked out the sunlight, although the drizzle had gone and I was now trekking in shorts and a t-shirt. We stopped for lunch at the half way point before continuing our slow crawl through the jungle.

Hiking in the rain forest on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Hiking up the slope through the rain forest

The trail continued like this for most of the afternoon, but eventually the fog seemed to clear and the forest began to thin. We had actually climbed above the clouds and were approaching the tree line. The air and ground seemed drier and the mud on my boots became dust. Then, as we climbed a ridge and turned a corner, Kibo Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro came into view. I could now see my goal, looking so close, yet so far away.

View of Kibo Peak from the forest on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

My first view of the snow capped Kibo Peak – the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

As we walked on, the lush rain forest gave way to stunted trees and bushes. We had entered into the moorland, the next vegetation zone on the mountain and the location of Machame Hut – our first camp site.

Walking through the moorland at Machame Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Hiking through the moorland near Machame Hut

At 3000m I was feeling great after the days hike, making sure to finish off my third litre of water for the day. At the hut, we had to sign in and then wait for our tents to be set up. Our porters had rushed ahead of us and were basically finished by the time we got there, so after freshening up with the provided warm washing water, we enjoyed a well earned cup of tea and popcorn while we waited for dinner.

Machame Hut sign on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The sign at Machame Hut

Camping at Machame Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Our dining tent at Machame Hut

From Machame Hut I watched as the clouds cleared away from the summit above me, and as the sun set over Shira Peak in the West, it finally sunk in that I was really on Mount Kilimanjaro, and there was no place that I would rather be at that moment. I was truly looking forward to the next few days of trekking, and conquering Africa’s highest mountain.

View of Kibo Peak from Machame Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kibo Peak from Machame Hut

Shira Peak from Machame Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Shira Peak view from our campsite

Kibo Peak at sunset from Machame Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kibo Peak at sunset


Read part 2 – Trekking to Shira Plateau

Mount Kilimanjaro Adventure Series

  1. Machame Gate to Machame Hut 
  2. Trekking to Shira Plateau
  3. The Lava Tower and the Great Barranco Valley
  4. The Great Barranco Wall to Barafu Camp
  5. Conquering the Summit

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26 comments… add one
  • Jo Jul 24, 2012

    Pleased to see your raincovers off, sun and blue sky now!

    • Dean Wickham Jul 25, 2012

      Hi Jo. It was great to see the sun when we came out of the forest. The weather remained beautiful from that point on :)

  • Wayne Crannell Jul 25, 2012

    I’m really interested in this. Cost on the ground? How hard was it, really? Comparison to a Nepal trek?

    I’m working for the Annapurna Circuit in fall 2013 – many years of inactivity are slowing coming off – but Kilimanjaro is sitting there in the back of my mind, taunting me!

    • Dean Wickham Jul 25, 2012

      Hi Wayne. Firstly, congrats on working towards your Annapurna trek. Nepal is a beautiful country and I loved trekking there. Kilimanjaro is possibly the hardest trek I have done, simply because of the summit day. The altitude, lack of sleep and continuous steepness made it tough going. I also took one of the harder but more scenic routes up the mountain. You can view the climb I took here which will tell you all about the costs etc.

      Compared to the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal, I found Kilimanjaro much harder, once again because of the summit day. But I highly recommend doing it, and as long as you’re prepared, you will enjoy it. Cheers and thanks for reading. There’s much more to come :)

  • Lisa Jul 25, 2012

    Very interesting. I wish I can go trekking. Might need to prepare my mind more than my body. The very thought scares me.

    • Dean Wickham Jul 26, 2012

      Hi Lisa. Trekking is definitely challenging for the mind as much as the body, but overcoming those challenges will make you stronger. I always feel so great when I complete a hike, and the most beautiful places in the world that I have seen have been while trekking. You should definitely get out and do it :)

  • Amazing sky views!

    • Dean Wickham Jul 26, 2012

      Hey Brock, the skies got even better the further up we went. In the coming days there was always this blanket of cloud below us and the skies were the most beautiful blue colour. It was quite amazing.

  • Open Road Jul 26, 2012

    Hey Dean
    Fred & Lucy here from our Kili hike together. Great account on the first day of the climb. We look forward to the subsequent blogs of the trip. Helps us relive the grueling but amazing experience.

    • Dean Wickham Jul 26, 2012

      Hey guys, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. There’s plenty more to come, as I’m sure you know 😉 Cheers

  • Joe Jul 26, 2012

    Hi. Any suggestions for a starter trail? Where was your first? Thanks.

    • Dean Wickham Jul 28, 2012

      Hi Joe. I have been hiking for a long time and do so regularly, but for big climbs like this I usually find some mountains near to where I live to train on. Look for nature trails in your local area, and then find some tougher climbs and longer hikes.

  • Escaping Abroad Jul 26, 2012

    Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is on my bucket list, very jealous right now! I think walking slowly in such a beautiful place would be easy as long as I had a camera in my hand. Those packs look big, how heavy are they?

    • Dean Wickham Jul 28, 2012

      You’re right, it really wasn’t that hard with the beautiful scenery around. I found that my camera got a lot of use the further along the trail that I went. It’s just beautiful :)
      Our packs weren’t heavy as we only had to carry a day pack with water/snacks etc. Probably only about 5kgs or so. Our main packs were carried by porters.

  • Martha Jul 27, 2012

    Hey Dean! Keep it coming. Great account of our journey to the peak. :-)

    • Dean Wickham Jul 28, 2012

      Hey Martha, thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed the post :) Cheers

  • Angela Jul 29, 2012

    Fantastic adventure, I would love to spend a couple of days in the wild. The views are stunning.

    • Dean Wickham Jul 30, 2012

      Hi Angela. I try to get out into the wild as often as I can. It’s great to disconnect for a few days, and you get to see some really beautiful places like this. Cheers

  • This is something I have always wanted to do… looking forward to your other posts about it

    • Dean Wickham Jul 31, 2012

      Hey Jade, thanks for reading. I really recommend the trek. It was amazing.

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