Bhuvana, Mithilesh, Christina, and myself all share a flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Addis Abba, Ethiopia. We said our goodbyes to Mana, Ming-Hai, Cinthia, and Bianka at the Sheraton and it felt sad. Bouke was travelling with us to the airport, but was heading to Sierra Leone. We get to the airport and what better way to start the travel experience by finding out that Ethiopian Airlines’ computer system was down and that they were checking people in manually using handwritten tickets. So a process that should have taken 1 hour took 3 hours instead. And not to mention the security and other checks which are a separate entry in their own right. But eventually all of us make it through the checkpoints. We said goodbye to Bouke and the four of us got on our flight. Laughter, smiles, and more laughter is the common theme of our flight. At Addis Abba Christina and I said our goodbyes to Bhuvana and Mithilesh. Long hugs goodbye and a couple of tears later, it’s hard to express in a journey just how much the team feels like extended family to me now. But Christina and I have an appointment with a mountain.
We arrive into JRO airport at around 03.00 or 04.00. It’s pitch black outside. Our driver from Zara Tours is waiting for us. He takes us to the van, we put our luggage in, and we’re off to the hotel. We get there in about 45 minutes and during the ride Christina and I talk and bond. After all, we’re going to be on a mountain together, so sharing and being open and honest with each other are essential. It’s a really good conversation about random things. We arrive to the hotel (it is a private hotel owned essentially by Zara for use for people climbing Kilimanjaro) and the check-in is smooth and we have rooms right next to each other. I am happy because there are no bugs, cockroaches, or geckos in my room. There isn’t even any mosquitoes in my room. So refreshing, I catch a few hours of sleep without any mosquito netting needed in my room and sleep a very good 2-3 hours.
Eventually we make it down to breakfast and overall I am happy. Not much to complain about. They have the basics right, the coffee is hot, the tea is plentiful, the fruit is safe, the porridge is tasty. I think we are genuinely happy, but you can see for yourself 🙂
After breakfast we decide to head into town. We need to get Tanzanian money and want to explore the town. On the bus, we meet 2 Aussie guys and hang out for most of the day walking around town, buying souvenirs, lunch, and generally exploring. As it turns out, trekking the same mountain is a great ice-breaker since it’s a common goal and interest. Dino and his friend are really cool (editors note: turns out Christina and I will see them again on the mountain).
Orientation and the Machame
In the afternoon we have an orientation meeting at the hotel with guide, Ashard. He is the chief guide who will lead us up the mountain. The orientation goes well. We have several questions but are mostly a mix of nervous and excited. Ashard is one of their best guides (editors note: known for taking ‘difficult cases’) and he brings a sense of relaxing and calm to what should be a nervous moment. After our orientation, Christina and I agree in the evening that we should watch each other pack in order to make sure we bring only what is truly needed. Turns out that was a good idea. Joint packing meant that we should share some things on the mountain.
Our route up the mountain was the Machame route, which is also known as the ‘Whiskey Route’. The route is normally a 6-day trek, but Christina wisely decided to add an extra day for acclimatisation on the mountain, so our day was a 7-day trek. To give you a sense of the trek, here is a map (I’ll be referring to us through the Kili Diary entries):
You can also get a description of the route taken here.
So after packing, dinner, talking with more people we just met, surfing on the internet, and one last beer (couldn’t resist), I go to sleep and get reach for the next day – Day 1.
I feel ready so bring it on!