J.D. Baldwin's Kilimanjaro Diary - Prelude to hike

Day -1 (Saturday, 26 February 2011), 0650 local time

In the Dar es Salaam airport, waiting for my flight to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO). Still quite nervous and excited, but no more than the last few days overall. The weather is unusually clear and pleasant for a morning in Dar, but it will be hot by midday. I am glad I'll be in Moshi.
My planned side trip to Arusha National Park fell through, as the tour operator couldn't find me a guide. I could probably get one in Moshi, but I'm not going to put myself through that stress right before attempting Kili. I can hang out in Moshi and relax. Because I've spent time there before, I don't even really have anything I feel I need to see or do in town.


Flight was on time with no hitches, and my luggage arrived OK. (Waiting for luggage to show up is always a stressful moment in Africa.) Got a nice view of Kili on the way into the airport. The only sour note on the flight was the French brat sitting behind me kicking my seat the Whole. Bloody. Way. Of course, la mère des brats was sitting behind them -- after all, she wouldn't want to have to deal with their misbehavior herself.
Anyway, the Zara girl was waiting for me with a sign (I cleverly realized that "DJ Baldwin" probably referred to me), as promised. The other guy on the sign was a no-show on the flight, so she put me in a car with "Alex," who drove me to the Springlands Hotel in Moshi. This hotel is a bit outside of Moshi, and you have to take a rough dirt road to get to it. Once you're inside the gate, it's a nice enough place, very tourist-y compared to other places I've been. Unlike other places I've stayed (including Moshi), it has no air conditioning and a very tiny hot water tank. It's also definitely below-average in cleanliness, though I have to note that the guest houses in which I have stayed, even in very rural areas with no running water, are almost always spotlessly clean. And I'm paying about three times the price I paid for a much nicer room in the center of town last time I was here. (About $90 vs. $30 per night.) I'm only paying for my one extra night; the two nights on each end of the trek are included in the tour.
The staff are very nice and helpful. The place seems to be kind of a machine for moving mzungu tourists through to safaris and Kilimanjaro treks. They have safe deposit boxes (which seem sturdy and trustworthy), a storage room for luggage to be left behind, a regular shuttle into town and other decent amenities. One unusual feature is that no one accepts cash for anything -- not at meals, not at the bar, not in the gift shop. You sign for absolutely everything, then pay the accumulated bill on checkout.
I decided it would be a good idea to sign up for a massage two days before my climb. I got an hour booked on fairly short notice. It was excellent work considering the $30 / hour price (plus a 5,000 shilling tip, about USD $3.40). The masseuse was kind of tickled that I spoke any Kiswahili at all (she doesn't encounter that much, it seems), so we talked (haltingly) about my time in Dar and what I thought of Moshi and how I liked Africa in general.
There are some pretty sad-looking bicycles available for rent at USD $8 per day, but despite a strong temptation to ride around town a bit, I have decided it's not worth the risk of injury. I'd be devastated if I got banged up in an accident and it kept me from making this climb. I've been preparing and planning for it for over four months, and consumed with it for nearly two. I'm just going to hang at the hotel. They even have a decent swimming pool:
The pool at Springlands hotel
The pool at Springlands hotel

Meals here are all buffet style -- breakfast is included in the room, lunch is USD $7 and dinner USD $9. There's a variety of fish, meat, rice, breads and fruit. Really a pretty good deal all around. Beer, bottled water and a limited selection of soda is also available for fairly cheap. (A half-liter Kilimanjaro beer, brewed about a kilometer from the hotel, is USD $2.)


At dinner, I met a physician from Albuquerque who is working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Congo. He lives a different life from mine, to put it mildly. He's stuck on a compound all the time, not allowed to leave it after 6 pm. He rarely ventures into the field. Still, he seems to be enjoying his assignment, which comes to an end in about a month. He did have a lot of interesting medical stories about the things he sees there. (One "interesting" aspect is the frequency of mass rape by rival militias against the women, and men, of targeted villages. I can't recommend tourism to Congo just now.)
We also talked a lot about New Mexico, where I lived as a child, and worked for a brief time as an adult. He's doing the Marangu Route, derisively called the "Coca-Cola" route because it's (supposedly) easy, and packed with tourists. (The drawback is that you summit after 3.5 days and most people cannot acclimate that quickly to the altitude, so the failure rate is actually higher than with some of the longer routes.)

Day 0 (Sunday, 27 February 2011), 2105

Kibo peak around dusk, taken from hotel
View of Kibo peak (the center and highest peak of Kili) around dusk, taken from the hotel

Never did leave the hotel. Didn't see a need to. I just hung around the hotel, lunched with my new doctor friend, swam in the pool and sorted all my gear for packing. Three piles: pack in the bag for the porter (just under the max permitted 15kg), pack in my own day pack (wound up around 8 kg) and pack a suitcase to store at the hotel while I am gone. I feel, if anything, over-prepared as far as equipment goes.
After dinner, all the Kili groups had a meeting, then broke into our smaller groups for meetings with our actual guides. I met some European guys who live and work in Dubai, who are also doing the Lemosho route, but it turns out they are in the other Lemosho route group. My group consists of myself and three Brits who live and work in Germany -- Nigel, Gareth and Claire -- and three people who haven't shown up yet but are expected to get in late tonight. They're going to have a rough morning.
The head guide is Simon, who has summited Kilimanjaro 86 times -- that doesn't count his ascents to high camps as a porter when he didn't actually summit. His two assistant guides, Robert and James, were there also. They are all Tanzanian, from villages in the Kilimanjaro region. We talked about packing, other logistical matters, where and when to meet in the morning, gear rental (I am signed up to rent gaiters and trekking poles, plus I need a sleeping pad). These guys do inspire confidence, and I feel I'm in good hands, even though Simon seems very young.
I'm packed and ready. The alarm is set. I'm just going to pop a zolpidem and fiddle around on the Internet for a bit until I'm sleepy.

Day 1

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