17 September 2017 Day two dawns with the bad news that three large kit bags did not arrive in Tanzania. Left behind at the airport in Amsterdam. This is a problem because not only does our guide not have his clothes, sleeping bag and other necessary gear, the group is also without the emergency oxygen supplies as well as the medication to treat symptoms of AMS. Mark manages to borrow clothes and a sleeping bag. That meant that we could start the climb but if the emergency oxygen and medicine do not reach us before camp 4, we would probably not be allowed to push for the summit.
After weighing the porter bags at the hotel (that is the stuff you won’t need during the day and that are carried up the mountain for you – it may not exceed 12 kg / 26.4 lb) we board a bus and set off for the Park entrance. The bus ride (which is scarier than anything you would experience on the mountain) proofs to be a test of my patience. First we made a stop for the local guides to indulge in “pap-en-vleis”, a traditional African dish of porridge and barbecued meat, we then got pulled over by a Bubba Smith lookalike (remember the big black dude of Police Academy…). After paying the customary bribe we were allowed to proceed along a never ending, bouncy gravel road. There’s tangible excitement in the bus when we finally arrive at the entrance of the Kilimanjaro National Park. The excitement is however quickly drowned out by a light shower and an unbearably long weigh-in process. There’s only one scale and everything has to be weighed. The total weight of equipment and gear determines the number of porters that will accompany us up the mountain. Three hours later we head off for Big Tree camp with 56 porters in tow!
The lower slopes of Kili are covered in typical rain forest vegetation. Huge trees, ferns, dense shrubs and a leavy canopy about 20 – 40m high. Every now and again a stream crosses the path and we manage to spot a couple of Black-and-white colobuses (or colobi). So-called Old World monkeys native to Africa and Asia. I’m not one for forests, they’re claustrophobic and the greenery does not appeal to me. I prefer deserts, like the Namib, want to see the horizon. After a 4 hour hike we reach Big Tree camp (2 650 m / 8 694 ft).
The camp is a beehive of activity. It’s overfull and our team manages to squeeze into a clearing at the top-end of the camp. It’s a battle to find a big enough clearing for the dining tent. After what seemed an age the dining tent is erected and we sat down for dinner. Our local guides dish up a bowl of hot cucumber soup accompanied by a few slices of white bread. The cucumber soup is not to my liking but because I thought that was all we were going to get, I force down as much of it as I could mange. Right after my second bowl of soup and 5 slices of white bread another guide enters the tent with a large bowl of spaghetti bolognaise. Shit. I tuck in anyway.
Notes on Day 1 We climbed in September but I reckon the rain forest section is always hot and humid. You don’t need to carry warm clothes but do stick your waterproofs in your back pack. Wear a hat. Because of the heat and humidity you need to carry a bit more fluids than you would higher up on the mountain. a Water and re-hydrate sport mix worked well. Wear long pants and boots. Lots of shrubs and mud.