(Editor's Note: Due to connectivity issues, some of Tony's blogs are being routed through his home office for posting.)
The day finally arrived when we would begin our adventure. After breakfast, we boarded the bus… a very crowded bus and began the three hour drive to the Kilimanjaro National Park. At the entrance we signed in and saw all the porters who would be accompanying us and taking all the gear. In our trekking party we had over 90 porters join us, so our group in total is almost 120. Wow, what a lot of people.
We then left the entrance to the park and went to another entrance where the hike would begin. Before the hike, we had incredibly rousing singing from the porters who were joined by the Omani group… it was quite spectacular. On the way, we passed a herd of zebras, displaced by the fires on the west side of Mt. Meru. This fire had caused a lot of haze since we had arrived and even reduced the visibility of the mountain in Arusha. The mountain, a dormant volcano, lies 40 miles west of Kilimanjaro and is known as Kilimanjaro’s brother.
We began our hike at Lemosho Gate (2100 m) and from the beginning we rose in elevation and went ‘pole, pole’ (Swahli for ‘slowly, slowly’). And so we did, go slowly slowly. The trail was like many you would see in Colorado or elsewhere, but the environment is a rain forest, the first of five biomes we will pass through as we get to the summit. Incredibly lush with lots of vegetation, the rain forest is also home to the Colubus (black and white in Swahili) monkeys, and we saw many of them during the afternoon.
We finally reached the campsite, Mti Mkubwa or Big Tree, (2650 m) to discover all the tents set up by the porters. When we arrived after the 7 km hike, the porters celebrated our entry by another round of songs, and again we all joined in. After settling into our tents we had a wonderful meal prepared by the cooks and then a briefing for the day to come. All in all a great day and looking forward to those coming!