Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Day One: The journey to Kilimanjaro

I arrived in Nairobi at 6AM local time having had a pleasant flight, except for the fact that I only managed a couple of hours of sleep. Air Kenya was much more civilized than I expected it to be. I was lucky enough to sit beside an interesting Kenyan named Reggie who was a student of genetics at Manchester University. After struggling through an attempted discussion about the nuances of the human genome project (it was more of a lecture really, as I listened attentively), Ui steered the conversation toward Africa. Reggie kindly entertained my interest by telling me a little about the culture, religions, food and language of his motherland - Kenya. I learned about the Bantu tribe, a few basic word like Assante (thank you) and, that to my surprise (and disappointment) that Kenyan and Tanzanian food was not very spicy. If everyone I meet on this trip is as good company as Reggie I'm certain to have a great time.

A strange thing happened in transit through Nairobi airport. A rather sickly looking old man was wheeled into the departure lounge in a wheelchair. Upon hearing the boarding announcement the gentleman appeared to expire... he sighed, his head fell back and he then fell completely limp. The commotion that ensued involved a lot of frantic conversation, but no attempt at resuscitation (admittedly the old man looked too frail to withstand any physicual trauma). Eventually, the lifeless old man was wheeled off into another room... as the passenger sitting next to me said "life in Africa is fragile...".

After the short but tragic stop in Nairobi airport I boarded the short flight (60 mins) to Kilimanjaro- the highlight of which was flying past the Kibo peak of Kilimanjaro itself, protrudin through a blanket of candy floss clouds. If only I could of hopped out there and then I could have saved myself a mighty long walk...

After landing in Kilimanjaro and negotiating customs, visa and passport control as well as a swine flu checkpoint I met my driver who drove me the fifty minute trip to my hotel in a town called Moshi. Once there I met up with Paul and Semjon who had flown in the previous evening. It was great to exchange our latest news and share our excitement about the upcoming adventure over a cold beer (Kilimanjaro brand).

The afternoon was spent on a shopping expedition to Moshi town centre. Considering that Moshi is a town with a population of over 400,000, the amenities were quite basic (even by African standards) so we quickly acquired a few sun hats and made our way back to the hotel (not before Semjon managed to grab himself a fetching pair of trendy designer original 'Gilvan Klain' underpants).

Upon our return we met up with our guide, Bruce, for the first time. He seems like a very nice chap except for the fact that he claimed h had just come from a family party and was consequently clearly quite drunk... on that basis, Paul (dressed in his fourth outfit of the day) immediately took a shine to him.

Our hotel is clearly a clearing house for Kili climbers in transit. It was interesting to hear the experience of several of the climbers who finished their descent today. After our various conversations we were left with the clear impression that completing the climb would not be straightforward. Many climbers talked of experiencing periods of self doubt - not feeling that the summit was achievable - and several did not complete the task (climbers receive a gold certificate for achieving the summit and a green certificate for achieving the main camp before the summit at 4300 metres). We all finished our first day feeling positive that although we would inevitably experience tough moments during the ascent the rewards of staying positive and persevering to the summit would be tremendous.

Our enthusiasm intensified at sunset when after a cloudy day, the sky cleared and we got our first glimpse of the snow capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

We leave tomorrow for the foothills of Kilimanjaro at 8AM...

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