So, I guess you have to start any adventure at the beginning… Flying from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro airport on Precision Air was an adventure in itself – you know these little (50 seaters) with two propellers’ and a staircase that folds away inside the door. You have to duck your head as you go through the doorway, and walk crabwise down the aisle so that you don’t decapitate your fellow passengers with your handbag… Sitting near the back gave me the chance to people watch (what else do you do on flights?) and I figured two other passengers were also strolling up the hill. They were a couple of rows ahead of me, on the opposite side of the aisle. From Nairobi, it’s a 45 minute flight, basically up Kili on the Kenya side and down on the Tanzania side. All is good as they throw coffee and a packet of mixed nuts at you, until the pilot happily announces that if you look out of the windows NOW, you will see that you are passing between the two peaks of Kili. I almost choked on my honey roasted cashew – suddenly the stroll up a hill looked very big and very scary. One look at the other two confirmed my thoughts – they had gone from Bear Grylls on Tour (we, mighty climbers, so cool and confident in our shiny new zip off short trousers) to Boy Scouts going to camp for the first time…. (Pale, clammy, sweaty and knock kneed) In fairness, they pulled out cameras and took photos, while I slid down the back of my seat and concentrated on my macadamias…
Arrived at Kili International, plane screeched on brakes the doors sprang open, pilot says Kili passengers get out, we are in a hurry for the next stop, you have 5 minutes, GO, GO, GO, a breeze through customs, visa, immigration (Jambo, why are you here? Kili…. Next desk… Jambo, why are you here? Kili…. Next desk… Jambo, why are you here? Kili…. Next desk… Jambo, why are you here? Kili…. Next desk… They must get so bored asking that question) and a couple of hours contemplating that bladdy big hill while I waited for the others to fly in from London.
(I’m writing this on a flight, Nairobi to Malaysia via Dubai. Was just thinking how these puffy little clouds outside look like angels and good ol’ Meatloaf suddenly switches from Bat out of Hell, to telling me that Heaven can Wait and A Band of Angels Wrapped In My Heart Will Take Me Through The Lonely Night – eerie that…) Do you know, you get weird looks on a plane when you dance in your seat, and even weirder looks when you sing along?
I wasn’t sure if I was at an advantage or disadvantage by this point – all the other 18 climbers, plus our intrepid leader, Ben, and the Macmillan rep, Alex, had met up at Heathrow the night before and travelled together, giving them a head start in the “I’m so and so” stakes. But, my advantage – I was acclimatized, non jet lagged, used to the heat, had been in jo’burg and Nairobi which are both fairly high cities, and hadn’t had an overnight flight passing through the delights of Addis airport. So, I think I came out on top. After an amble to the local “restaurant” (I use the term loosely, although their bakes and chai tea out of a flask into my plastic kids beaker, were very good) and killing a few hours, I headed back to arrivals, and hanging out (no, I don’t need a taxi, NO, I really don’t need a taxi, NO, I DO NOT NEED A TAXI, GO AWAY) was joined by a very enthusiastic, bouncy, happy, Africa-loving lady also waiting for a flight – I’m waiting for the Ethiopia flight – Me too. I’m waiting for an English group – Me too. I’m waiting for a Kili climbing group – Me too. I’m waiting for a charity Kili climbing group – uhhhh, me too? Macmillan? Yup. Turns out Kate was our wonderful Dr, who had been off exploring Tanzania on her own and had also drifted in unaccompanied and unaccounted for, just like me… (And no, she didn’t need a taxi either)
OK, fast forward, the group of weary travellers arrived, all a bit brain dead and semi over whelmed (or under whelmed) by Africa, all got counted, recounted, recounted, found lost bags, recounted, onto buses, recounted, moved through Moshi to a hotel close to Machame gate, where our little walk in the park would start. Lunch, assigned room buddies, time to unpack, repack, get over the wide eyed shock, unpack, repack, briefings, dinner, whirlwind of activity. We had been told to pack everything into three bags – our disco gear (according to Ben) which was the stuff staying at the hotel and not going up the hill. A mountain bag with sleeping bags, liners, bed rolls, spare clothes, wash kit, spare snacks etc and a day pack with sunglasses, water bottles, rain coat, snacks, hats, (Fred), don’t forget the whistle, toilet roll, nappy sacks and our friend the antibacterial hand wash, which was joined to us at the hip for the entire week. (I did regret at this point, missing the webinar, not reading the book or the emails, not watching the YouTube video and, I suspected, slacking off on the fitness training – I know I tend to wing it, but really….) Anyway, it turns out they are really strict about the mountain kit bag weighing less than 12kg, since your new best friend, the porters, or Rafiki, will be carrying two kit bags, balanced on their necks / heads, as they jog up the hill, waving at you as you struggle along in their dust. When I had spilt my luggage three ways and dutifully took my kit bag to Ben to be weighed, it weighed… uhhh, 9kg. At which point, I REALLY regretted skipping all the info – what had I not packed???? (Turns out I had more than enough – what do other people fill the last 3kg with?)
You can see more photos from Kili in the Gallery.