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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read part 2 – Trekking to Shira Plateau
Mount Kilimanjaro Adventure Series
- Machame Gate to Machame Hut
- Trekking to Shira Plateau
- The Lava Tower and the Great Barranco Valley
- The Great Barranco Wall to Barafu Camp
- Conquering the Summit