J.D. Baldwin's Kilimanjaro Diary - Day 1

Day 1 (Monday, 28 February 2011), 1620 local time

Met the three additional group members at breakfast: an American named Gloria from New York City, her Norwegian (though naturalized US citizen) friend Anne (who lives in Norway) and a Dutchman named Ruud. (Say the word "root" really fast with a little roll of the "r" and you've about got the pronunciation of that.)
After a bit of chasing down the right staff, I managed to get the trekking poles and gaiters I'd rented. I got my money, passport and house key into the safe deposit box, my stay-at-the-hotel luggage into the storage room and my take-to-the-mountain gear into the big SUV that would take us to the gate. Around 9:15, we were all on our way (the two Lemosho route groups mixed up in two separate vehicles) to the Londorossi Gate, on the far side of the mountain.
We stopped for last-minute purchases at a cluster of shops on the side of the road just outside Moshi. I had what I figured would be my last Coca-Cola for a week, and made my last slightly-civilized restroom visit. My pathetically-limited command of Kiswahili made me the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind in this group, and I managed to help a few of my fellow hikers with their purchases, correct change (one cashier seemed to think she could swindle Gloria out of a few thousand shillings) and such. I bought a Tanzanian-flag bandana to wrap around my neck for the hikes.
Once we got off the A23 highway, the roads were rutted and dusty. The last 45 minutes of the drive were a little unpleasant, but at last we were at the Londorossi gate.

JD standing at the gate
Standing at the gate.

Sign demanding that hikers be "physically fit"
Whoa, whoa, hold on here.  No one told me I had to be "physically fit" for this!

We were at the gate area for around an hour, while the guides got their porters and gear in order. We were issued box lunches that were pretty good. Also, we all had to sign in (with our passport numbers, so we'd been cautioned to make sure we kept a copy of the number with us) at the ranger station.
Eventually, we loaded back up into the vehicles and were driven to the starting point of the Lemosho trail itself -- about 40 minutes' ride through some extremely rutted dirt roads, including some that looked impassable to me. The driver was very competent, and had clearly made the trip many times before.
We stopped to take a quick group photo at the parking area where we were dropped.
Picture of the group at the start of the Lemosho trail
From left to right:  Anne, Ruud, Gloria, me, Claire, Nigel, Gareth.  Photo from Nigel's camera, taken by Simon.  Note that Ruud and I are successfully containing our excitement.

At last, around noon, the hike itself began.
The terrain all day today was tropical mountain rainforest. The trail was steep in many places, both up and down. It took me about five minutes to conclude that renting a set of trekking poles was a very good idea. Annoyingly, the wrist strap on one pole popped off about halfway up the trail. It's not broken, exactly -- it looks as if there's a way to thread it back through and snap it into place, but I can't figure it out. The poles are quite usable without the straps, anyway.
The entire group seems very energetic and enthusiastic, and there are no whiners among us. (I wouldn't expect to get a whiner on a trip like this, but one never knows.)
About 2/3 of the way up the trail, we saw a black-and-white colobus monkey in the trees. It looked like a 75-pound tree-climbing skunk. None of us got a great picture of it, but we got some that give an idea of the size of the thing:
Black-and-white Colobus monkey
Black-and-white Colobus monkey.  Or at least his butt.

Cool flower in the rainforest
Cool flowers in the rainforest.

After just under three hours of what I'd call "moderately difficult" hiking, we arrived at Mti Mkubwa ("big tree") camp. The spot itself is lovely, if a bit crowded between all the campers and porters. Just to support our one group of seven hikers, we have 22 porters (one of whom serves as a "waiter" for our meals as well), a cook and three guides. That's 34 people in one group, and the other group of seven hikers has the same support.
The guides of course stay with us, but the porters are behind us today because they had to come in a very large truck with all the gear, which I am sure goes very slowly along the road on which we travelled to get to the trailhead.


Dinner was basic food, but lots of it and quite good. After dark, the stars were spectacular. (One reason I timed this trip when I did was so there would be no moon at night to interfere with stargazing.) Unfortunately, we're in the woods, so the view of the night sky is restricted to a fairly narrow overhead arc. That will change beginning tomorrow, of course.
Someone shined a flashlight into the bushes and was greeted with two yellow eyes staring back. Ruud and I investigated and found a ring-tailed mongoose cowering under a bush. We tried to get pictures, but had no luck -- he scampered away before we could snap any. Still, it was cool seeing that kind of wildlife out here. Another good reason to take the Lemosho trail -- none of the other trails go through areas with wildlife.
It's pleasantly chilly here -- I'd estimate around 40 deg. F. A nice change after cooking in Dar for so long. By the end of this trip, I'll probably be pining for the heat, though.

Stats for Day 1:

Starting elevation (Trailhead)
7,742' (2,360 m)
Ending elevation (Mti Mkubwa) 9,498' (2,895 m)
Resting heart rate (evening)

Day 2

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