I am an American technology worker who just moved to Taiwan.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kilimanjaro Day One: and then there were four

December 27, 2012, after day 1 hike

Stuck truck at Machame gate
 Day 1 didn't quite go as planned. The end result was achieved although Africa doesn't seem to be very "solution driven". The lost luggage was still lost at 11AM when we finally agreed to a plan: the four of us with luggage would go to the Machame gate and start the climb with the assistant guide. Elias would go to the airport with John and Cindy to get the one piece of luggage that might have made it there. The whereabouts of the other two bags is still unknown. Depending on which bag it was, they would attempt to secure some facsimile of the missing contents at an outfitter in Moshi. Then...?

It's now 8PM, we are in Machame Camp, just under 10k ft and they have yet to show up. Our 9AM start was severely delayed. We thought getting out of the hotel would be the toughest part, then we were met at the gate by a long line of traffic. One truck on the inside of the gate couldn't be started and they wedged a rock under the rear wheels to prevent it from rolling backwards. It was in the way and blocking an entire line of traffic running down the access road that leads to Machame gate. Had they been solution driven, they could have simply removed the rock, kept a foot on the brake, and allowed gravity to take charge, easily guiding the truck out of the way of inbound trucks and everybody could have been happy. Instead they played with the engine for an hour to finally get it to start and get out of the way for others to come in.
Waiting out the rain at the gate

In the mean time our crew set up lunch in the pavilion at the entrance while we waiting for some paperwork to get done. Meanwhile it was pouring rain, no surprise. As the rain burst from skies at the gate, locals selling backpack covers came out of nowhere. The cover was just a sheet of plastic with an elastic band around the outside so you have throw it over your pack to keep it dry. I didn't have a cover for my daypack but thought it would fit under my rain jacket. Still, I thought it might be nice to have but was shocked that the going price was $20. That's USD! I thought the asking price would be five bucks and you could haggle down to one or two. I decided to roll the dice with the rain jacket idea.

Nice day in the rain forest
We were at this pavilion seemingly for hours before we finally set foot onto the trail, still without Elias, John and Cindy. The climb was pretty tough because it was mostly stairs through the rainforest and could be treacherous to hike after dark. There is a climb up to Cixing in Taipei that it almost all stairs, steep stairs. This was not as bad and it was cool to meet some other travellers on the trail. This is high season so there is a constant crowd heading up the trail. There seemed to be an awful lot of students. What happened to the notion of "poor starving college student"? Africa is not cheap.

End of Day 1
We made it to the end of today's hike right around dark. Steven and Chris came upon a Russian guy at the top who, upon reaching today's apex, flopped onto his back in the grass like a snow angel. They dubbed him "heavy machinery" because he was quite large, maybe 230 pounds, maybe more. The mass of people climbing Kilimanjaro was probably the most fit demographic in a group that size that I have ever been part of. Perhaps, even more fit than casual triathletes. We were already speculating on how far "heavy machinery" would hike before he gave up.

Arrival of the dark lord
Warm and dry
We walked into camp and were looking for people from our crew. We were totally unsure of how many porters it would take to manage this climb and it turned out there were an army of them. Since we got off to a late start our camp was not ready when we arrived but very shortly after, tents were set up and coffee and popcorn were ready. We were wondering if John and Cindy would ever show up. It would suck to have to bail out on the entire trip due to some missing balaclavas. The whole luggage debacle turned out to be a blessing in disguise as there was heavy rain up until our delayed departure and then it eased up a bit. Shirley had rented this pancho and she looked like some evil villain from a sci-fi fantasy movie coming up the trail with hooded cloak and staff in hand. We got a bit wet but once inside the tent we were able to ditch our wet clothes and change into something comfortable. Comfortable and dry are synonymous at this point. Now waiting on dinner...

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