Today’s hike was supposed to be 5h long to the Marangu route’s basecamp at Kibo hut. Somewhere along the 11 kilometres we hiked we left the marshland and entered what could be best described as rocky desert, a lunar landscape that has been plonked down on top of an African mountain.
This is also where some in the group started to feel the altitude problems. First as just shortness of breath but then headaches and mild nausea. Just before getting to Kibo I started to get a headache but an Ibuprofen washed down with some iso-omeprazole did the trick. It was about 1.5 days into my start on the Diamox (Acetazolamide) treatment to minimise the effects of altitude sickness. By the time we reached Kibo I think all but one of us were on them tablets.
The accommodation at Kibo became even cosier. Whereas before we were split into girls and boys groups and each of the groups in their own hut … this time it was all of us in one big room, sharing it with another two hikers. A business woman from (I think) Malaysia and her personal trainer. This was her second attempt at Kili and the first attempt failed as she did not listen to the instructions of her guides and went up the mountain way to fast. She is a keen hiker in Asia and often runs up mountains and she thought that Kili will not pose a big challenge. Just below Uhuru she had severe nausea and started to vomit. Blood. This time she was determined to make it and did everything her guides advised, including the always repeated “pole-pole”.
We had a long briefing and before it we had a toilet break. However the one of the effects of Diamox, especially at altitude is, that it makes you a bit dehydrated by increasing the blood perfusion through the kidneys and increased diuresis. It makes you pee. A lot. And drink a lot. I was fin at the start of the briefing but mid way I was gagging for a pee. Not kidding. And to make things worse it happened all over again towards the end.
From what little I remember of the briefing between my urgent dashes to the smelly gravity loos we were going to have a rest till about half 11pm, then have a quick snack, then get all our layers on and get ready. The porters insulated our camel bags with hiking shirts so they wouldn’t freeze.
The big push to the top was to be soon. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep.
Elevation: 2,700 m (Horombo Hut) / 4310 m (Mawenzi Hut), moorland / alpine terrain
A slightly different day today. Planned to be an acclimatisation day but difficult to acclimatise at 2,700 metres. Didn’t really seem high enough. None of us had any sorts of problems even at the upper end of the hike just above Zebra rocks. The interesting bit was the snow storm we hiked through. And this is when we had a lovely sunny morning. As many of hikers know the weather up mountains can be very unpredictable. Yes, no shit.
The hike description by Intrepid originally mentioned Mawenzi huts but we didn’t end up there. I think it must have been about 3,200 metres.
The afternoon and evening weather was rubbish in Horombo as well so we rekindled an old card game that I haven’t played in donkeys called “Uno“. We also took the time to meet the cooks and the guides where they stayed in another hut.
We were in these quite cosy and very drafty A-frame huts that had 4 basic beds. And we were very cosy, the room you would have difficulty swinging a cat round if you should so desire (and as an avid cat lover I hope you wouldn’t).
Spirits very high we started our mountain hut routine. Woken up by one of the porter for coffee and tea and then the “wishy washy” was brought which was basically a small bucket of warm water each and some soap. This was the same in the evenings and allowed us a little bit of hygiene. This bit of “luxury” was omitted at the highest – Kibo hut. After wishy washy time we had breakfast and then about 30 minutes later we hit the trail again.
We started to see some other parts of the mountain like Mt Mawenzi. A sharp escarpement to the east of Uhuru peak that is much more technical compared to the “standard” hike up Kilimanjaro.
About half way up the 11 km hike we saw the last of the trees which were replaced by low shrubbery. It takes about 5 hours hiking to reach the very important Horombo hut.
We had a quick meeting at reception and we were given water, we also gave the 9kg luggage to the porters by putting them in special numbered green bags. I had one numbered no. 10 and it was “mine” for the rest of the trip. I would always have the same porter, his name was Jaffa and I think he also carried another hiker’s green bag.
The porters packed the luggage on a small bus and we also checked in any excess luggage and valuables at the hotel’s reception. The entrance at Kinapa was about 15 minutes drive away and there the porters had all their (our) luggage weighed and they have a very strict restriction to 20kg which includes 9kg for each of our green bags. Not sure what happened with the other 2kg. We took some photos and none of us really anticipated what awaits us up the mountain. Then we set off and it was a very slow walk. The “pole pole” principle was a constant. We would take one step every 1 to 2 seconds and it seemes it was taking us ages to have any progress. However it was quite clear later on the hike how useful this principle is. At higher altitudes it helps you acclimatise better as you aren’t going up so quickly. You also prevent over exertion of your muscles which if you disobey, you get punished the following day with all the lactic acid your muscles need to process.
8 km after leaving Kinapa we arrived at our first overnight stop at Mandara. The huts there were quite big, we had running water and looking back they were by far the most comfortable huts we staid in. The level of comfort decreased the higher the huts were.
After a bit of rest we set of on a lovely short hike to a nearby crater/caldera.
Leaving Mto Wan Mbu and hitting the road, dropped off a group at Arusha airport and some us at a hotel in Arusha. The rest heading towards Nairobi.
Had a weird interaction with the driver who when we asked him for a toilet stop dismissed the option flat out. We were taken aback a little but he soon realised that this might not be the right course of action and stopped at a petrol station.
Today was basically a driving day. At the Kilimanjaro hotel in Marangu we had a briefing with two guides that will be with us on the hike. They went through the packing and security information, how to hike on a mountain this high and so on. There is a 9kg limit on the amount the porters are allowed to carry on their backs and this is surprisingly easy to surpass. Just think how you pack for you Ryanair trip where the limit is 15kg. And we are going up a mountain… For days!
Just woke up going to the loo only to realise there is a large herd of zebras right besides the tents. I pitched up on the outside edge of the other tents so at one point they were only a metre or so away.
Today we changed vehicles and switched to 4×4 Toyota Land cruisers. We had 4 but one of them had a problem so their passengers had to get into the other three. We descended into what could only be described as a giant crater although it’s actually not a volcanic crater but a mountain that “blew up”.
Getting down to the bottom of the crater is a bit of an adventure. A narrow twisty gravel road. However you have a lovely experience once you get there as there is so much wildlife it’s almost unbelievable. We saw several lions up close, zebras, wilderbeasts …
After exiting the crater we headed to Mto Wa Mbu where we had a bit of a tour seeing what the local farmers do, saw a banana plantation, we had some fresh banana beer and banana wine.
Another interesting night in regards to the local wildlife but this time we knew what to expect. Again hienas trashed our rubbish bins, one of or fellow hikers got kinda chased round the toilet block by a hiena. It might have happened slightly differently but this is how I’m serving it and I suggest you believe it. 😉 Also the lion roars and zebras giving out weird sounds were the repeat repertoire.
The tents we had are not one of you super light modern and sometimes flimsy type. These were iglu design with thick heavy material and heavy steel poles. They weighed a tonne, especially if you had to carry them a slightly longer distance. And then lift them up into the truck.
After packing the tents we had breakfast and then cleaned the place. The road from the Naabi hill gate to the actual border of the park was horrendous. I wander if Herefordshire council gets tips from Tanzania on how to maintain their roads 😂😂
Just as we started to ascend towards the Ngorongoro crater the truck came to a halt. Engine overheating. After topping it up with cold water we continued but about a kilometre up the road the same thing happened.
This time the guys did a bigger job of some kind and managed to get us to Ngorongoro.
Still being under the impression of the stunning sunset over lake Victoria the night before, we started again with an early breakfast and a couple of quick stops in town to get more supplies. We also managed to source some ice that we put in a chiller box with all our beers.
The road took us slightly south towards Seronera. We then made a right into the western entrance to the Serengeti national park. Straight away, and mean literally within the first few minutes we elephants, soon after all wildlife that you would expect like giraffes, wilder beasts (need to check spelling on that), various antelopes and even hippopotami. Awesome.
No cats yet but that would have been to much. We were late getting into camp so we hurried along until we came to the place where we would spend two nights.
Here came the interesting bit. We were camping completely in the open. Basically we were sleeping, in tents, inside a big giant zoo. No barriers, no protection. No people with guns either. In fact just before tea we had a giraffe right outside the campsite and after we were getting ready to get into our tents I quickly shone my torch into the distance only to see several eyes glaring back at me. Don’t know what animal it was, wasn’t going to investigate either.
What a night! Sleeping in the tent and surrounded by sounds of the Serengeti wildlife. At one point I had a zebra come right close to the tent. It must have been just 10 feet or so away. Then the there was a constant vocalising of the hienas who actually had a field day on the bin belonging to the other group that was in the same campsite. The pinnacle of the nigh-time experience was the lion roaring. A little to close for comfort really.
After breakfast we set off on the safari proper and saw loads. I know some get to see more than we did and some can see less but if you stick around long enough you are sure to see at least a few animals. Zebras, giraffes and antilopes are almost a given. We also saw several lions, elephants, hippopotami and even a leopard print resting in a tree. By the way that is the most common way to see them.
We encountered lionesses crossing the road in front of us, we saw a different group of lions stalk a water buffalo. They didn’t end up attacking it though. We saw a baby elephant walking with the rest of its family. 😍
After the morning game run we had lunch and later in the afternoon, at about 15:30 we set off for another. Loads more lions this time and extra elephants and giraffes to boot. We saw two big vultures near the lions as they were munching on their kill.
The two big mammals we didn’t manage to see so far was the rhino and cheetah. Perhaps tomorrow so not all hope is lost.
One of the things worth mentioning is the camp we stayed in while in Serengeti national park. There are probably many like this one round the park and basically consists of a shower/toilet block and a large hall used for cooking and dining. No electricity at all but at least there is water that comes from water tanks. We cook all the food there and clean up everything after. As I said in my post from yesterday that the camp is completely unprotected so any animals can freely wander in and can get right to our tents. In fact tonight a girl from our group had to ward off a hiena after walking out of the shower block. 😲😲
In fact as I write these lines in the dark tent, only illuminated by the glow of my trusty OnePlus mobile phone I can here the rhythmic sounds of raindrops hitting my tent and the slightly disconcerting cries of hienas not that far from me.
Had some technical problems with the truck last night. Just as we were getting to the resort there was a loud bang under the truck and seems it was some sort of suspension issue. They had parts in Nairobi that two guys had to get to us and the only way was by road. They were working on the repairs most of the night.
Got the truck sorted out but we were about 1.5h late to get in the road. Stopped at a soapstone shop and later experienced a border crossing into Tanzania. I swear these guys must have had lessons from Yugoslavian border control as they have the same attitude and bureaucracy. Plus you have to pay $50 for the visa.
Our sleepover place was at lake Victoria which is so huge you cannot see to the other side. It looks more like the sea side with the sound of waves crashing against the sandy beach. Awesome. Unfortunately not advisable to swim in it as apparently there are nasties in the form of parasites that don’t do you any good.
The staff are really excellent and help us feel safe and taken care off even though a few of the tasks are delegated to us like preparing food and washing up the dishes.
Tomorrow we head towards the Serengeti to see some awesome wildlife.