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Trip to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, September 2003 with Explore Worldwide
Sandy Beatty (Leader), Kenny Hall, Peter Moss, Barry Jones, Gareth Jones, Huw Jones, Paul, Katie Payne, Warren Glover, Shaun Glover, Gary Crosby, Richard Arnold, David Taylor and Me. Meckson Lyimo (Head guide) and Mecklaud Kowero.
Friday 5th September - Brian picks me and David up at 2.30pm and gives us a lift down to Heathrow, there for about four pm. Have a nice pizza and a couple of Stellas. Fly at 8pm on Kenya airways to Nairobi, eight hour flight. Watch the worst ever film, 'The Core' on the way.
Saturday 6th - Arrive at 6am in Nairobi. Get a boarding pass for the onward flight to Kilimanjaro International. Told to go to gate five, they send us to gate eight, they insist that the plane is at gate five and send us back. Get great views of Kilimanjaro from the plane, it is an absolutely huge mountain. Get a bus to the Mountain Inn, Moshi. Drink a few beers around the pool. Get to know the group, two of them, Kenny and Peter attempted it last year. Have a meal followed by the mountain briefing. It is going to be a lot colder that expected. Sandy tells us that 5 people have died on the mountain this season. We are all in bed by 10pm.
Sunday 7th - Up at 7am, fruit and eggs for breakfast. Everyone is rather apprehensive after last night's briefing. Land drover to the Machame gate (1800m, 5900ft). It seems like the whole native population are going to church wearing their Sunday best. Wait for an hour to be checked in. Start walking at noon up though the rain forest. The temperature is like a pleasant English summer day, not the sweaty slog that I expected. Walk over loads of tree roots, quite muddy in places. Just before we stop for our lunch we see two blokes sitting at a table with a tablecloth and a full spread. They are two British airways pilots who have 23 porters just for them. The porters are carrying a shower and portable toilet for them. Sandy tells us that they are with Abercrombie and Kent. We have about 20 porters for thirteen of us. Have discussions about which American vice president had problems with the spelling of potato. Takes five hours to reach the Machame camp (3000m, 9800ft). Popcorn and tea when we arrive. Sandy tells us that the longest that this walk has taken is ten hours due to muddy conditions. Drops cold very quickly. Beef and roast potatoes for tea, Kenny keeps us amused with jokes, etc. Fantastic views of Kibo just before bed at 9pm. My left knee is rather painful after sitting down to lunch. Take 800mg of Ibuprofen by mistake and it seems to go away.
Monday 8th - Porridge with Milo followed by bacon and eggs for breakfast. Katie heaves outside the mess tent and I very nearly follow suit. Very busy on the trail all morning, lots of time waiting for porters to go past. Sunny all day. Huge white crested crows join us for lunch. Nice walk after lunch up to Shira plateau camp (3850m, 12,600ft), arrive at 2.30pm. Snooze in the afternoon, followed by tea and popcorn. Chicken and rice with soup and pancakes. Some smells are caused by the low pressure, to some amusement and a little disgust, the doctors say that there is no cure. In bed for 7pm when it gets very cold. England win the 5th test, Sandy is gutted. I struggle to sleep at all, just lie there for 12 hours.
Tuesday 9th - Very tired and cold in the morning. Struggle down a little breakfast. Spend all day looking forward to getting back into bed. Very slow pace led by Meckson Lyimo, the head guide. Head up to the junction for lunch. Wear my salopettes for the first time. I am very quiet all day, Sandy is a little concerned, so am I. Head up to the Lava tower at (4700m, 15,400ft), new high point, headache, tired, breathless. See some people go up to the Western breach route. Long descent to Barranco camp (3950m, 12,900ft), arrive at 2.30pm, very beautiful. Fantastic views of the summit. Sandy outlines plans for the next 36 hours, we are all rather apprehensive. I sleep for about three hours, David does not sleep at all. There is a shed for the toilet, it is truly disgusting, a nose peg would have been very useful.
Wednesday 10th - Make an early start, so that we are first on the Barranco wall at about 7am, an enjoyable scramble. Cross the plateau and then down to the Karanga valley. This is where Kenny and Pete got to last time before heading down due to terrible weather. We have to carry all our own water supply from here for the next 36 hours. Have eggy bread, chips and beans for lunch. Head up to the Barafu, ice camp (4600m, 15,000ft). Surrounded by mist, all the tents are held down by stones. Arrive at about 3pm, lie in the tents till about 5.30pm, have a meal and Sandy gives us the final briefing. He says that the final 20m up to Stella Point can be tough. We all laugh and say if we get that close nothing can stop us. Back to the tents to lie down till 11pm. Katie is not feeling very well at tea and at 8pm she start blacking out. Sandy is woken and immediately decides that she must be taken down. One porter under each arm and they run off down the mountain. He tells us later then she had a cerebral oedema and could have been dead within three hours. We are roused at 11pm, put on thermal vest, three t-shirts, two long sleeve ski tops, two jumpers, a fleece and a cagoule, a pair of thick skiing salopettes, two pairs of gloves, two hats and a scarf.
Thursday 11th - Set off at midnight after a small feed. David and I are both very tired to start with, as are most people. It takes about half an hours walking before we are even clear of the campsite. We are certainly walking very slowly (Pole, Pole in Swahili). The sky is clear and we have a full moon to guide us. We can see a line of head torches heading up the mountain ahead of us. It gets very cold, minus fifteen degs C at about 3am, my fingers all go dead in my gloves. Great views across to Mawenzi (5149m 16,900ft), the third highest mountain in Africa. The clouds clear and we can see the street lights of Moshi, fifteen thousand feet below. Almost go into a trance just walking slowly behind the person in front for hour after hour. Gary turns back after about six hours when he starts imagining that he is pushing a wheel-barrow. We are all willing the sun to come up early but it sticks to the schedule and comes up at 6.15am. The final 20m to Stella point are a scree slope and it seems to take forever to get up. I am beginning to hallucinate and imagine that I can see Victorian Gentlemen and Ladies walking across Stella Point. We have a cup of tea and then slowly walk up to Uhuru peak, arrive there at 8.45am. Run out of water at the top, my new high point is (5896m 19,341ft). Great views of the glaciers and the crater. Slow 900m scree descent with David and Richard, we are all totally exhausted. Back to Barafu for noon. Sandy will not let us rest until we are down to a safe altitude. Head down to Mweka camp (3100m, 10,100ft) with David, Barry and McCloud, lots of stops, arrive at about 6pm. Very tired after eighteen hours on the move.
Friday 12th - Woken at 6am for an early breakfast. Very enjoyable walk down to the Mweka gate (1800m, 5900ft), takes about three hours, see a couple of monkeys on the way. Sign the book and get my certificate at the end. Get the land drover back to the Mountain Inn. David throws some of my chocolate bars out of the windows and nearly causes an accident when a lad runs into the road to retrieve one. At the Mountain Inn, we all have the dilemma of shower or beer first, I go to the bar. Head over to Gladys's bar for a drink with McCloud later. Do some bench presses on the way back with some locals, using a bar with VW brake discs on the end. Meal at the hotel followed by a monster joke telling session from Kenny and Sandy. I struggle to get a word in edgeways and tell the skunk joke.
Saturday 13th - Lie in bed till 10am, my nose is still blocked up with dust from the mountain. Go down to the local souvenir shop and buy a couple of wooden warriors. Go for a meal at the Golden Shower. I order an elephant sized portion of beef, fantastic. I go in the pool with boxer shorts on, I am sure that no one notices. More beer in the bar till late.
Sunday 14th - Leave the Mountain Inn at about 4am for the drive to Kilimanjaro international airport, stopped twice by police road blocks on the way. There is some confusion at the airport as we are all booked on one plane but they only let half of us on. The second group are loaded onto a small single engine plane, with only one pilot. I sit right behind him. About 30 minutes after take-off a large amount of smoke enters the cabin from the engine. Shortly after that the low oil light comes on and we return to base. Another plane is soon found, this time with two engines and two pilots. Hang around at Nairobi for a while and then eight hour flight home. Arrive at Heathrow shortly after 7pm.
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