I woke up at 5 am to the crisp chirping of many birds and crowing roosters. It was still dark, but I can hardly contain myself that I woke up in Africa! I sat in bed reading my book, waiting for the sun to come up. The heavy rain from last night had stopped. The sky was covered with thin clouds.
Finally, just before 7 am, the sun came up. The agenda today is our climb briefing, a walking tour through the banana and coffee plantation, a visit to a local primary school, a market and a waterfall.
The temperature fluctuates very little at the foothill of the mountain. It was about 20 C last night, and about 24 C by mid-morning. Near the equator, the climate is more stable this way.
Our climb briefing was conducted by Seamus, the Marangu Hotel director. Seamus has already climbed Kilimanjaro 20 times, and he organizes climbs for people from all over the world. He is a mild mannered Brit, living in Tanzania with his family. He talked about what to expect on the mountain, and the importance of taking a very slow pace to acclimatize.
On a high altitude climb, some people experience high altitude sickness, or AMS (acute mountain sickness). The symptoms can range from mild headaches to cerebral edema (accumulation of fluids in the brain). Everyone reacts to altitude differently, and the same person can react to it differently at different times. When I climbed Machu Picchu back in May this year, I had headaches around 13,000 ft. Hence, I brought a healthy supply of Advil for this climb.
There are various route choices to climb to the top of Kilimanjaro. The route we were taking is the less popular Rongai Route. We would find out in the next couple of days that only 2 or 3 teams would climb that route in a day, which is significantly quieter than the other more popular routes. The quieter route certainly beats competing with other teams on trail and camping space.
After the briefing, we began our walking tour of the Marangu village, starting with the banana and coffee plantation. As we wound our way through the plantation, the guide explained to us how coffee beans are grown and harvested, and how banana trees only take 6 months to grow to 12 ft in the rainy season. Small mud houses sprinkled throughout the plantation. Little kids would run away shrieking with joy after Cliff has given them candies.
We visited the local primary school. The principal of the school showed us around, and asked for donations to the school. If you ever visit Tanzania, you will find that people will often ask you for donations, tips, or for money to fund their children’s education. Kids will often run up to you and ask for pen or paper. It’s just something to be prepared for.
We also walked through a local market, with women sitting on the ground selling anything from tomatoes to shampoo. The locals (especially women) do not like their pictures taken.
The hotel grounds:
This is what fresh coffee beans look like before they are roasted:
At the briefing, this is the map they showed us of the two peaks. We are aiming to reach Kibo:
We went for a walk in the village and visited a nearby school and market: