(all pictures are low res, for high res click here)
During the summer climbing season, I fly directly from my trip to the Alps, to Nairobi, Kenya. As we arrived in Nairobi, a taxi took us and our gear to the Serena Hotel, which was located right outside the city. As this was my first visit to a 3rd world country, Nairobi was a semi shock to me. We had hired a taxi to give us a driving tour of the city, and we drove past a shantytown outside of Nairobi that was home to 2 million people in very small area (that's bigger than the Seattle, Tacoma and Portland combined!). While waiting for the taxi to pick us up, there was a political protest going on in front of our hotel - video (NOTE: All videos are large, approximately 3 MB. Be patient as it downloads - it will take a long time. If you are unable to play it using Windows Media Player, try opening the file using Apple's Quicktime player.) It was an interesting introduction to Kenya, and thankfully it was NOT indicative of the trip.
The next day we drove from Nairobi, to Arusha, Tanzania in a rather large van . Along the way, we noticed Masai all along the road -- more on the Masai on the Safari Page. Once we got to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border , we were hounded by people (mostly Masai) trying to sell us anything and everything. It was worse than Tijuana. Once thru, we traveled on (notice the Masai huts) to Arusha and our hotel. That day we finally met our guide, and we went thru an extensive gear check. The next day, we packed up and headed to Machame Gate , the entrance point for the "whiskey route" up Kilimanjaro. Our expedition (which consisted of 72 porters! ) started up the route in some "shoe-suckin mud" , whereas Vern and Elaine tried to mimic the porters for a while . Eventually, we took a break and the porters set up lunch for us . After 6 hours of hiking thru calf deep mud for 18 km, we made it to Machame Camp (3000 m) where our tents were already waiting for us and tea and popcorn were ready in the mess tent. Vern was his typical joking self.
The next day we began the 9 km trek to Shira Camp (3840 m), it was at this point I realized how strong our porters really were (he's carrying my boundary bag which weighs roughly 35lbs and a water jug on his head -- this same porter ended up carrying my stuff for the entire trip). As we climbed along, we came across some great vegetation -- most of which is only found on Kilimanjaro. (Impatiens Kilimanjari). While the morning rambled on, so did the ominous fog. . In the moorlands, we stumbled upon more astounding vegetation, notably Senecio Kilimanjari -- but I'll talk more about these plants later. At about 12:30, we stopped for lunch and continued our trek to Shira. Along the way , we found more native plants, these are Lobelia deckenii , which take many, many years to grow. Notice the dead leaves at the bottom of the plants. This plant (along with the Senecio Kilimanjari) have evolved in such a way that these dead leaves provide protection from harsh climate of Kilimanjaro. Each winter, the leaves on top will die and fall to the side of the plant. Hence, the taller the plant, the more leaves that are required, so in this case the taller plants are the older plants. Anyway, we kept moving on thru the moorlands and our view of the mountain cleared up . We were almost to Shira, and the vegetation became shorter as our altitude increased into the high moorland . Finally, we reached the Shira Camp and the wind was howling, thankfully, our porters had our mess tent set up and popcorn and tea were waiting for us . It's tough climbing in style, isn't it? :-) Vern brought along his famous musical accessories, and sang to us at each camp along the trip.
The story continues as the next day we were off to the Barranco Camp.