The seven of us departed Oliver Tambo airport on the 30th September 2011 at 21:00, bound for Dar es Salaam. Actually the time of departure was about a half-hour later. David and Pierre were summoned several times over the intercom whilst at the pub. They were well on their way to not even getting out of the country, (let alone to the roof of Africa). Eventually boarding, we were welcomed by a plane-full of angry faces and by now it was clear that these 2 jesters were intent on drinking all the way to the top!
On arrival in Dar, we caught a connection to Kilimanjaro International, in the town of Moshi. The energy was tantalising en route and I will never forget the sight of her, rising above the clouds in the distance. "What altitude are we flying at?" I remember whispering to Paul, eyes still affixed in the distance. "Captain said 24 000 feet" he replied. "And how high is Kili in feet?" I inquired again, still gawking in wonderment.. "Around just over 19 000". "Good to know we will basically be outside the plane's window in a few days time, huh?!".. now looking down at the specks of trees 8km away!
MOSHI. Town of Tanzanite crystal, motor-bikes, foreigners, hawkers, hairstyles, malaria and Kilimanjaro. I was truly in Africa's wild country. Our transfer taxi driver greeted us with a booming laugh and a broad smile,(bearing a superb set of teeth). Wearing a long green toga with gold embroidery and a taqiyah to match, led us to his luxury 16 seater. The mini-bus must have been very opulent in its time. Exhibiting deep red velvet seats, well worn after many loyal years of service, automated lace curtains operated on a push button system on the passengers side. Playing some of the best eighties music I haven't heard since.. the 80's! Now with Bananarama's 'Cruel cruel summer' blasting and a musty smell which choked the already artificial 'steamy' atmosphere in Obafemi's love machine we were on good time for Hotel Springlands.
Springlands. Like a tropical paradise in the harsh rural settlement around Moshi. A base for all hikers before and after the hike. It was lavish in contrast to the surrounding rural settlement. With people drawing from as far as Australia to Europe, Scandinavia, North America and Canada. Checking into a comfortable 4 bed dormitory, I was a little shocked by the mosquito nets, but malaria IS prevailant this far up Africa! (I remember getting bitten by a regular mosquito at one point- though I was only certain of it much later!). After a delicious buffet and non alcoholic bevvies we retired early for last minute packing for the hike (besides a certain two who retired to the pub).
The next morning. I will never forget seeing the dirty, stubble filled face, sunburned and weather-worn Englishman getting out of the taxi from the returning expedition. "Did you guys just get back ?" we inquired, "How was it?". "Tough" came the reply. "Its hard. Especially summit day". "Did anyone get sick?" I asked, now looking at the rest of the would-be sturdy mountaineers clambering out, all looking like hardened mountaineers with many years of experience. "Everyone" and a long pause "Everyone. Got. Sick. " came the reply, "Its not a great feeling. One of us had diarrhea on top of it, hes still suffering". I looked over to see the bent-over-double chap trying in ernest to lift his duffel bag. "But its well worth it. Good luck" and he swung the duffel over his shoulder and stumbled away mumbling something about a toilet and a hot shower.
Right. Two hours before departure. I found myself in a near frenzied state rummaging through rental summit wear- I still needed a jacket and a sleeping bag! I was assured by my rich pals who brought ALL their own equipment, that the stuff could be hired from the on-site shop. Bad idea- wont do this again.. Its important to find a warm sleeping bag since temperatures can plummet to -20 C. I never felt more unprepared in my life. While the rest of my crew were in the curio shop buying 'I made it to the top' T-shirts I was down here in the 'dungeon' of the hotel scrambling for a last minute sleeping bag. That was besides the two who were still recovering from a heavy night.
Arrival at Kilimanjaro International. From right to left: Paul, Rulene,Wynhand,Pierre,David and myself. (incl Reinet not in the photo)
Buying Tanzanite crystals from a local dealer in Moshi