Chuck & Edie's 2004
October 21 - November 9
by Chuck Hasenauer
For 2004 we decided to do a special trip, something that we couldn't do just any year. We decided on an African Safari. Shortly into the planning, which began more than a year before the actual trip, we decided to make it an extra special trip and added climbing Kilimanjaro to the itinerary.
What follows is a brief recap of the planning of the trip and then a transcript of the daily journal we kept during the trip. I’ve broken the trip report into two parts. The first part covers the trip planning and climb. The second part covers the safaris and trip home. I hope you will find it informative and/or entertaining.
I don't remember exactly when we started planning the trip but I do know it was over a year in advance. My sister had volunteered to let us use her accumulated frequent flier miles on Continental/KLM. Since they have regular service to East Africa it worked out well. The only thing was that we could not book the flights until something like 300 days before the travel dates.
While waiting for the flight 'booking window' to arrive we scoured the internet for ideas. We decided to limit our adventure to Tanzania and Kenya (Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania near the Kenyan border). I then sent out essentially what was an RFP to several travel agencies that specialized in Africa and had been spoken of highly on travel discussion boards like Fodors. I requested a Kilimanjaro climb via the Machame Route (billed as more scenic and less trashy than the 'easier' Muragame Route) and 10 days or so of animal watching in Tanzania and/or Kenya.
A few companies responded to my information request but Borton Overseas (http://www.bortonoverseas.com) out of Minneapolis provided the most detailed and thought-out response. We decided to book through them. The first itinerary had us summiting Kilimanjaro on October 25 at my request. I thought it would be a nice touch to summit on our wedding anniversary. But later it was suggested we spend a few days on the Maasai Mara to see the wildebeest migration. Between that change and trouble getting a flight on our preferred departure day we ended up with a final itinerary that had us summiting a day later.
Continental/KLM was very helpful in booking our flights and even arranged for Business Class on the two longest legs of the return journey. We figured it would be very welcomed at the end of this long trip (we were correct). After the airfare and ground plans were finalized we proceeded on to vaccinations.
We each got yellow fever, Hepatitis A & B, and polio booster shots. We also got Malaria and typhoid pills and a prescription for Diamox to help ward off altitude sickness during the Kilimanjaro climb. Unfortunately insurance covered none of this costing us about $350 each.
About 60 days prior to departure we FedEx'ed our passports to both the Tanzania and Kenyan embassies for visa stamps. In addition to shipping fees they cost $50/visa but it went smoothly. This way we did not have to worry about any hassles with the visas upon arrival/departure in those countries.
We bought a few items for the trip on-line but mostly shopped at REI. We probably spent close to $2,000 on stuff for the trip including headlamps, flashlights, boots, socks, gloves, trekking poles, sleeping bag liners, convertible pants, and a host of other stuff. For a lot of the less specialized stuff like shirts we could probably have saved some money by also looking at LL Bean or places like that but we did not have a lot of time to shop around. The only items we knew we would have to arrange for once we got to Africa were sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and heavy coats for the coldest part of the Kilimanjaro climb.
To document the trip we bought the "African Safari Journal" by Mark W. Nolting. It was a very useful journal. I used it for our daily journal and to write down names and contact information for people we met along the way. We also brought another notebook in case there wasn't enough room for a three week diary in the journal, which there wasn't. For camera gear we had a Nikon Coolpix 3500 for snapshots, a Nikon D70 Digital SLR for more serious shots, and a Panasonic DV camcorder. For the D70 we had the standard Nikor kit lens and a Nikon 80 - 400mm zoom lens with vibration reduction. We brought several SD cards for the Coolpix and several CF cards for the D70 (two 512MB CF cards, a 2 GB CF cards, and a 4GB micro drive just in case). I also brought a 40GB iPod with Belkin Media Reader to download all the images from the SD and CF cards each night. I was sure to test the arrangement thoroughly before leaving. We ran into a group of people during the trip that had brought a media-card-to-CD Burner but had not tested it and couldn't get it to work. We also brought battery chargers for the iPod and D70 battery, extra batteries, and a plug adapter. We did not bring a voltage converter because all the chargers could handle the different voltages we were likely to find.
We packed two rather large (REI) duffle bags (but not the colossal ones you sometimes see on the baggage carousels) which we planned to check all the way through from Philadelphia to Kilimanjaro. I packed a LowePro Rover Plus AW backpack with the camera gear and other stuff needed for the flights. Edie carried a medium sized duffle bag as her carry-on with everything we needed for our one day and one night in Amsterdam.
Departure and a Day in Amsterdam
Monday, October 18, 2004 - On the way to the Philadelphia airport we hit a traffic jam on I95 due to an accident but fortunately we had left in plenty of time so we didn't stress out too much over it. Once at the airport we check the two large duffle bags straight through to Kilimanjaro and proceeded to wait for our flight to Detroit. Our plane was about 45 minutes late departing because it had been late arriving due to the always reassuring 'mechanical problem'. We had seats 7A and 7B in coach which meant we were the last on board and there was no overhead space left. Fortunately it was a short flight so having our carry-on bags shoved under the seats in front of us for a short time wasn't too bad.
Detroit our connecting flight was just steps away and we had time to go to the restroom and get a soda. For the flight to Amsterdam we were in the 2nd to the last row on an A330 Airbus. In the seatbacks were cards describing the seats in business class. We studied them so we'd be prepared to fully enjoy them on the flights home. The chicken dinner was good, I took a couple Ambien and watched about half of The Manchurian Candidate. We both slept a little less than 2 hours and watched the rest of the movie before landing in Amsterdam.
We found a shuttle bus to the Marriott with little problem. Being it was early in the morning our room was not ready but we checked our bags and converted about $100 USD to Euros. We had breakfast at the Marriott. The buffets were expensive at about 20 Euro each so we ordered ala carte instead and got plenty of food for about 23 Euro total. We then hopped on a canal tour boat from which we took a few photos. The weather forecast called for rain but we got lucky with it not raining. After the canal tour we checked into our room. Next we went to the Rijksmuseum. Unfortunately it was undergoing extensive renovations and much of it was closed, but we did see The Night Watch. After walking around town for awhile we went to the Van Gogh museum and then walked around some more. The Marriott was nicely located across a canal from where I stayed last time I was there, the American Hotel. It has since turned into a Crowne Plaza.
We showered at the hotel and walked around a bit more before dinner. We stopped for two small Heinekens at a small, smoky (normal smoke) local bar. Edie was the only female in the crowded bar but I think that was just a coincidence. We tried stopping for another beer at a sidewalk café but the sun had gone in and the service was very slow so we left. We had diner at Puri Mas which according to the hotel concierge was more authentic Indonesian than Radan Mas where I had enjoyed eating at before. At Puri Mas we both ordered the 3rd Rice Dinner which seemed to be the most complete meal without seafood. Edie had two small Coke Lights and I had a Grolsch and a Heineken. Food was spicy, plentiful, and good. Cost for dinner was 80 Euro.
We walked back to the hotel and turned in at about 20:00. It seemed like a very long night. We had the windows wide open and could here some traffic noise. We got up at 6:45, checked out, and were at the curb for the 7:45 shuttle to the airport. We met our first Tanzanian, the shuttle bus driver. He was very friendly and gave us an impromptu Swahili lesson. We ate breakfast at Schipol and bought some bottled water for the flight.
While waiting for the flight to Kilimanjaro we overheard several other people talking about climbing Kili. The KLM flight was about 45 minutes late departing. During the flight we had two meals and various snacks, drinks, and hot towels. We napped briefly early in the flight but that was it for sleeping. The first movie was Spiderman II but we pretty much couldn’t see it because the people in front of us did not close their window blind. The 2nd movie was a Harry Potter movie. We mostly listened to music.
Kilimanjaro – Before the Climb
We arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport just a little behind schedule. We deplaned onto the tarmac with a short walk to the terminal. We were first in line at an immigration station and were quickly processed. We saw a manned Visa desk but since we were in and out so quick we didn't notice how efficient the process was for those that had not gotten their visas ahead of time. We waited for our bags for a while and were relieved when they appeared. We easily found our driver who was holding up a card with our name along with another name indicating it was us and a party of four others. I went to exchange some USD's for Tanzanian Schillings at the exchange window but the other four people we were waiting for showed up before my turn in line came. I should have made them wait; having only USD was a little inconvenient.
Two men from the Capricorn hotel drove us and our four fellow travelers in a LandCruiser to the hotel. The ride took about 2 hours. The other four were a couple, their son, and his friend. These were some of the same people we overheard talking about climbing Kili at the Schipol airport. We talked with them about many things including the Red Sox since Kevin and Tony (son and friend) were from Boston and this was when the Red Sox were playing the Yankees in the World Series.
When we arrived at the Capricorn Hotel we were assigned room 130 which had a double bed. A group of locals carried our luggage up a long, steep, slippery path to the building where the rooms were as we followed behind. We deposited our bags in the room and returned down the hill to the main lobby and dining room for a late, late dinner. We had our first 'Kili' beers and pan fried chicken. The chicken wasn't very fried but was good. We were only charged for drinks even though I don't think a late dinner on arrival was included with our package. Everyone was very nice. We told the staff we'd be down for breakfast at 9:00 AM and ended up getting to bed about 1:00 AM.
We got up at about 8:30 and pulled on the same clothes we had worn the night before. We were the first ones to the dining room, followed by Larry and Chris (the couple), and then by Tony and Kevin who had failed to account for the hour time difference between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro. After breakfast we chatted with a hotel representative about the plans for our climb. Edie and I were taking a different route than Larry, Chris, Kevin, and Tony. Our plans seemed to be in order but there seemed to be some confusion about the other group's plans. We were told the climb guides would arrive later in the day to discuss the details with us.
After breakfast we met guides Walter and Vincent who would be taking us on a local 'Acclimatization Tour'. Our first stop was the Marangu Gate entrance to the Kilimanjaro National Park which was just a mile or so up the road from the hotel. The elevation at the gate was marked as being 6400 feet. I took the opportunity to calibrate my altimeter. On the way back to the hotel we took a winding trail through the countryside and a Chaga village. We stopped to meet a Chaga family still living in a traditional Chaga hut. They gave us a tour of the hut which had been built in 1963. The people were very friendly.
Back at the Capricorn we ate lunch at about 2:00 PM. We had breaded fried fish which was fine. After a brief stop back at our room it was time for the 2nd half of our local tour. We walked through two Chaga villages (Bye and Michira) on our way to Kinukamuri Falls. The falls were 70 ft high and we took a lot of photos. The next stop was a local market where the locals mostly sold produce and secondhand clothes. The guides then arranged for a ride in a pickup truck back to the hotel. As we rode up the 3 mile long steep rode we were all very grateful we weren't walking it! At the hotel we tipped Walter and Vincent $10 each (which probably wasn't enough).
The guide taking the other group on their climb had arrived. While he was meeting with them I bought a round of Kili's for everyone. Since Edie and I didn't have anything better to do we listened in on the other group's climb briefing. They had signed up for a 9 day climb which allowed them plenty of time to acclimatize and, since they would camp close to the summit, they would not have to do any climbing in the dark. Their guide balked at the idea but they made some arrangement to decide what to do along the way.
We were told our guide would not be meeting with us until the morning. This was disappointing because our itinerary called for a 'supervised packing' which we thought would be helpful in letting us know what to pack and what to leave behind. We had drinks before a 7:00 PM dinner of prawns. After dinner we said goodnight to all and planned on a 7:00 AM breakfast. Back at the room we packed for the climbs (backpacks for us and a large duffle bag for the porters to carry) and packed up everything else to be left at the hotel. We turned in around 11:00 PM.
Friday, Oct 22, Climb Day 1
We got up at 6:15 AM and said our farewells to soap and water, packed the last of the odds 'n ends, and went to breakfast. When we got there we noticed everyone else had brought their luggage so we went back and got ours with the help of some locals. We ate breakfast with the other climbing party. I finished first and went to check on the gear we were looking to rent. The sleeping bags and mats seemed OK but there was only one large heavy coat (we wanted to rent two parkas for the summit). They said they'd get us another coat and told me the total rental fee was $80 USD. I remembered it being quoted for less. The representative did not seem to be in the mood to argue so he accepted $60 USD. After a little more communication confusion we met our guides James and Goodluck and hit the road at about 8:30 AM after saying our final goodbye to our friends (the other climbing party) since we would be on safari by the time they came off the mountain.
In the van were our guides and the porters jammed in the back. We stopped for fuel once and by the police three times (not sure why). After an hour we arrived in Moshitown to pick up supplies and for the guides to get the park entry fee from the bank. We were delayed because the bank did not open on time. Meanwhile we met up with Larry, Chris, Tony, and Kevin who were there for the same reason. We said our final goodbye once more and left for the mountain at about 10:30 AM.
The last 8 km of the 'road' to the Machame gate was very steep and rough. The van broke down twice but fortunately a little rest was all it needed each time. Check in at the gate went smoothly; we geared up with our day packs, gaiters, and got our lunches. Besides bottled water, rain gear, and my lunch I had all the camera/video gear in my back pack (the Rover AW). Edie carried water, rain gear, lunch and snacks. We hit the trail ahead of the porters at 11:55. Just a few minutes into the hike I took an altitude reading of 6,332 feet.
The trail was moderately steep and in great shape with crushed stone foundation and drainage. The guides pointed out the old trail that hadn't been used for a year or two. The weather was warm and we considered converting our pants to shorts but the gators would have made it a bit of a chore so we decided to wait for the lunch break. After a while all the porters had past us (our porters and all the other porters from other groups). We were taking it slow (pole pole). We stopped for lunch at 2:15 PM (a little above 8,000 feet) just as is started to rain. We put on our raincoats and ate quickly. I pulled the waterproof cover over my back pack. At about 9,100 feet there was an impressive waterfall to our right but the rain was making the hike pretty miserable so we hardly noticed it. We regretted not putting on our rain pants too, a mistake we wouldn't make again!
Between 9,100 and 10,000 feet there were some very steep stretches that tried to sap our wills BUT FAILED! We reached the Machame camp at 5:00 at an altitude of 10,145 feet--a 3,813 foot climb in 5 long, wet hours. We had to wait a little while for our tent to be pitched. The snow patched peak of Kili appeared for about 20 minutes in the sky above the clouds. It seemed very far away.
Once we got in our tent and the stuff the porters were carry for us were delivered we realized some if it had gotten wet (the parkas and sleeping bags). Fortunately the sleeping bags weren't too wet. We later mentioned this to James and it did not happen again. We were given hot water and a variety of drink mixes. While walking around the camp site we met a Brit who was climbing solo (plus guide and porters). He was doing the 7 day plan which included an acclimatization day that our plan did not. He had taken a safari before his climb and thought we'd have a great time when we told him about our safari plans.
We had originally asked James if we could have dinner in our tent but as we were walking around and saw the 'dinner tent' they had setup we changed our minds. What they did was set up a tent with pretty much nothing in it except a tablecloth on the floor and place settings. We sat and they delivered the courses. After we were done they cleaned the tent up and James and Goodluck slept there. Tonight for dinner we had soup, pasta with a beef/vegetable sauce, potatoes and bread. After dinner, on the way back to our tent, we spoke with James who told us the morning plan: wake up call at 7:00, breakfast at 7:30, and then pack and be on our way by 8:00 AM. Even though the rain had stopped about the time we made camp today, James said he expected more rain tomorrow. We hoped not. After a trip to the outhouse (hole in the floor, no tp) we went to our tent, readied for sleep, made our journal entry, and lights were out at 8:42.
Saturday, Oct 23 – Climb Day 2
LIES! According to the itinerary today was supposed to be ‘an easy 4-5 hour hike’. But let me start at the beginning…
The valiums we took last night before bed kicked in quick but did not last. We both spent a good part of the night awake and cold. We’ll have to wear more clothes tomorrow night. Edie did sleep through the wild animal sniffing around our tent in the middle of the night. At one point whatever it was sniffing my head through the tent, a little unnerving. I asked in the morning and was told it was probably a wild dog. We got out of our sleeping bags between 6:30 and 7:00. It was very cold. We got dressed and packed up.
It was sunny and we could see the mountain again but the lighting was not good for pictures. We chatted with our Brit friend (Nick) for a few minutes then had breakfast (porridge, fruit, bread, butter, jam, sausage, and scrambled eggs). We hit the trail at 8:39 (10,122 feet). James warned us the first part of the trail this morning would be steep. We now have a new definition of ‘steep’ (having previously redefined it just the day before). It was unrelenting. It was OK if you just looked two feet ahead but if you looked to see where the people or porters were ahead of you it would rip your heart out! We must have climbed three or four ‘last’ ridges before making camp. Either we didn’t understand James or that was his way of getting us to go on. For a good part of today James carried Edie’s pack. We ate lunch around 11:15 and just like yesterday it started raining just as we stopped for lunch. We both put our rain suits on including pants this time. The rain stopped shortly thereafter but we left our rain gear on. After a while we thought the rain pants were a mistake but then it started raining again and did not stop (it is no 5:30 PM as I write this entry and it’s still raining). Just before camp we reached 12,951 feet before descending for about ½ mile to camp at 1:37 PM at an altitude of 12,764 feet. Our tent was ready and our stuff inside when we arrived. The problem was we were very wet. While Edie figured out how to get the water off her rain suit and pack so as not to get the tent wet I kept my stuff on and visited an out house. We got the tent situated and put warm clothes on. We were brought hot drinks and popcorn then climbed into our sleeping bags at 2:30 PM. BTW, it has not stopped raining. We slept a bit. Dinner was ready around 5:00 PM. Dinner tonight was lentil soup, fried chicken patty, rice, cabbage, and some kind of stew. Mercifully the rain had stopped for our walk to the dining tent (which I mentioned earlier is really the guides’ tent).We remembered to not track mud into it tonight.
After dinner we walked around a bit and took pictures of the sunset over Mt. Muru. We also shot a short video that was probably too dark. We also made a couple of trips to the out house. During my last visit to the outhouse it started to rain again.
I made it back to the tent before it began raining hard. It’s now 7:21 PM. We’re supposed to hit the road at 8:30 for a 6 hour hike. Not much to do now but call it a night and hope the rain ends by morning. It is 53 degrees in the tent.
Sunday, Oct 24 – Climb Day 3
We awoke at 6:30, packed, and headed to breakfast. It had rained most of the night but it was sunny this morning. We hung some wet stuff in the sun for a few minutes of drying time before we started out on today’s hike. Breakfast was the same as yesterday, not bad. There were large white-necked birds around.
We set off for the Karanga Valley Camp via the Lava Tower. Even though our climbing party was just Edie and me, the campsites were populated with a number of other people taking the same route. We generally did not see the other climbers on the trail, just in camp. We heard that two girls that arrived in last night’s camp (Shira camp) about the same time we did were staying behind today because one was vomiting a lot and the other had a pulled muscle. They were on the 7-day plan so they chose to take their rest day today.
Shortly after setting off the clouds moved in and the temperature dropped into the 40’s with a brisk wind. Fortunately the porter carrying our extra stuff passed allowing Edie to get her baklava and neck gaiter. At the same stop I opened a package of ‘Sharkies’ which were a Gummy Bear kind of snack. We had packed quite a few snacks in case we didn’t like the food but it appears that won’t be a problem. I shared the Sharkies and James seemed to like them.
We started seeing snow on the ground and then the trail got slush covered. We arrived at a fork in the trail. To the left was the Lava Tower and to the right a more direct route to the next camp site. After discussing it with James for a minute we asked which was easier. He said the direct path to camp, and that’s the way we went. At about noon we had a good view of the Lava Tower. Also about this time we hit our peak altitude for the day at 14,964 feet. At about 12:12 PM I told Edie to look to her left and up. She said “OK, so?”. I said “Way up”. She said “OMG” and asked James what that was. He said “Kilimanjaro”. It seems impossible that we are going to make it to the top of that thing 42 hours from now!
We continued on for a while then stopped for lunch. Right on queue it began to precipitate, this time sleet. Edie had started the day in her rain suit, I put mine on now. After climbing up and down for a while we approached the Karanga camp. During the long muddy descent into camp we passed a lot of huge Joshua Tree-like trees. We arrived in camp at 2:47 PM at altitude 13,260 feet. Just outside of camp we had run into some VERY unhappy porters heading the other way. James told us the two girls that stayed back at Shira camp had called it quits. That meant the porters with their stuff had to hike all the way back to Shira and maybe back to the camp before that (I’m not sure) in one day.
Our tent was ready when we arrived. Just about the time we got all our stuff in it it began raining pretty heavily. Our hot drinks, popcorn, and nuts arrived. We spent the time snacking and purifying what was left of the hot water since we were just about out of bottled water at this point. After it stopped raining I took some photos of the valley. It was neat to see the African plains below. I talked with Nick and a couple other Brits for a few minutes. Since Nick is on the 7-day plan he heads to some other camp tomorrow as we head to Barafu Camp. Everyone was talking about how they had been vomiting and had constant headaches. Edie and I had neither problem so we guess the Diamox we have been taking regularly really works. I asked, none of the others were taking it.
They called us for dinner at 5:30. This time instead of bread and butter they served pancakes and honey which was a nice change. After dinner James briefed us on tomorrow. Up at 7:00 and on the trail by 8:20. We can see the steep wall we have to climb right out of camp in the morning. According to plan, in addition to Ambian and Diamox, we started taking Malaria pills tonight before bed.
Monday, Oct 25 - Climb Day 4
Up a little before 7:00. Packed. Breakfast (the usual: fruit, porridge, eggs, sausage). Said goodbye to Nick since we were heading straight to the Barufu camp while Nick and all the other people on the 7-day plan were camping somewhere else in the Karanga Valley before heading to Barufu the next day.
We began climbing the wall just outside of camp at about 8:30. It was very difficult. Even though it wasn't like a rock wall climb there were a couple of places where you had to hug the rock wall and shimmy around a corner or fall to your death. I don't know how the porters do it! Later in the day, after the wall, the climb got tougher. I thought I heard someone say they could see the camp. I kept thinking I saw it but no, we kept going. We did finally arrive at the Barafu camp at 3:46 PM (altitude 15,482 feet). During the hike today we saw snow and hiked through slushy patches but just as we got into our tent it started to sleet heavily. Instead of a regular dinner we had hot soup and fries (not bad). We tried to sleep after that. I woke at 9:40 PM freezing cold but tried to sleep some more. Maybe I got a couple minutes more sleep. We got up at 10:30. It was very very cold.
I wore boots, thick socks, chemical toe warmers, silk long johns, thermal long johns, fleece pants, and rain pants. On top silk long-sleeved thermal underwear, regular long johns, fleece jacket, and the heavy coat we rented. We packed our day packs. I put an activated hand warmer in the compartment with the photo/video equipment just in case
Tuesday, Oct 26 – Climb Day 5
We took our first few steps out of camp heading to the summit at 12:24 AM. It was just Edie, myself, James, and Goodluck. No one else (the porters) needed to come since we would be heading back this way in 12 hours or so. We noticed that James and Goodluck weren't wearing backpacks for the first time. We climbed the hill past the outhouse we had used when we first arrived in camp. That quickly I realized my daypack was too heavy. Even though I had climbed with it for five days similarly loaded tonight it felt 10x heavier. As if reading my mind James offered to carry my pack. I quickly accepted his offer. Goodluck took Edie's pack as we realized now why they weren't wearing their packs.
The next 6.5 hours were something of a hellish blur. A couple of hours into it we came across a chap sprawled over a rock heaving his guts up. Up until now Edie and I had had nothing more than a mild headache the night in Baranca camp. The moon was about 3/4 full giving pretty good light. James and Goodluck did not use lights but Edie and I wore our headlamps. The low setting on our lamps gave sufficient light and best battery life (we brought extra batteries but did not need them).
Between 4:00 and 5:00 AM James stated that I was slowing the group down and suggested Goodluck and Edie go ahead. I had no problem with that even though I didn't think I was moving slowly. After a few minutes I saw Edie's headlamp almost disappear up the slope, I guess I was moving slowly after all. The next 5 hours were the hardest 5 hours of my life. About every 10 steps my body would refuse to move and I'd have to take a short rest and a drink. James tried everything to coax me on. My mind kept bouncing back from "quit now and end this torture" and "I've come all this way, I'll never be back, finish the climb!". Finally James hit upon a working strategy. He would climb 10-15 steps and stop. I would get to him at whatever pace I could manage and then we'd repeat. During this time I remember looking down at the lights of Moshitown and then finding myself sprawled on a rock. That was my first and only fall even though I came close numerous other times usually when taking a standing rest with my eyes closed (I don't recommend doing that).
Edie's Journal entry for this time:
After leaving James and Chuck behind, Goodluck and I were able to move much faster (but by no means what I would call fast). I was limited on water since Chuck seemed to need more than me so I left most of it with him. We kept going up and up and I thought it would never end. About an hour before we reached Stella Point we stopped and sat on a rock to watch the sunrise. After taking a rest at Stella Point we proceeded to the top. Goodluck said we were almost there. An hour later we were. When I finally reached Uruhu Peak the sun was shining brightly, there was a huge glacier to the left, the crater rim to the right, and the African plains as far as you could see. We had the summit to ourselves for about 10 minutes. We took pictures including one of me in my Todd Heap Raven's jersey. After a Cliff Bar and a few more minutes we descended to Stella Point and then down the Whiskey Route which was mostly loose dirt and stones. You practically had to ski down the slope (without skis of course). On the way down is when you realized how far you had climbed. At 8:53 AM (18,848 feet) we met up with Chuck and James still hanging in there. They only had about 130 feet to go to reach Stella Point. Goodluck and I continued our descent arriving back at Barafu camp at 11:00 AM.
Back to Chuck's Journal:
When Edie passed on her way down I exchanged coats with her. The one I had been wearing was a very heavy one while hers was more of a lightweight parka. That helped. The last 130 feet to Stella Point seemed like a lifetime. Once there we rested a while and I shot a video segment as James described the scene. We could see the crater and glaciers. James pointed out the area where some people camp. That was what the other people we met at the Capricorn Hotel had signed up to do but their guide had talked them out of. After resting a while James and I somehow made it up to Uruhu Peak for a brief visit and then began the long hike down. The loose dirt and rocks made the trip down surprisingly strenuous. Since it had taken me so long to get to the top there were no people to follow back to Barafu camp. I thought James got lost, but after telling Edie that she thought he was probably just trying to pick the best way back since it was snowing and sleeting and it was getting pretty slippery. I made it back to Barafu around 1:00 PM.
Edie had already eaten and got me some soup and fries. I was thinking that since I was late getting back that maybe we'd spend the night there instead of continuing on to the Meweke camp as planned (we'd been hiking 12 hours on little sleep). It became clear as I was eating that we were moving on as soon as I finished eating. Edie told me it was only 20 minutes to Meweke so I was relieved. At some point, I think when Edie went to put some extra camera gear in the bag for the porters to carry, I asked James how far to Meweke camp. He said 3 hours! Edie wasn't happy to hear this clarification either! We headed out to Meweke at 2:40 PM in the sleet and snow. The path was barren and steadily downhill. Goodluck was leading Edie and me. It wasn't long before it warmed up and dried out (the porters passing us all along). James then caught up. I felt heat stroke coming on since I was still wearing everything except the top coat from the summit climb. We stopped briefly for me to take my fleece jacket off (Edie had already taken her fleece and rain jacket off.) About this time Edie and Goodluck took off ahead leaving James to make sure I made it (again). A little longer on I stopped and took my fleece pants off. I felt better but wished I'd also taken my thermal underwear off.
The trail eventually turned from barren to somewhat tropical and scenic. But it was still steep and relentlessly downhill. It was brutal on the knees and toes. The water I had been drinking was stuff that Edie and I had treated with iodine, some anti-iodine stuff, and flavoring. It tasted awful. I was praying that maybe the Meweke camp was close enough to a park gate they might have bottled water for sale. I made it to camp at 6:12 PM (altitude 10,494 feet). One of the first things I saw was the ranger hut where there was bottled water and soda for sale. Things were looking up! I found Edie in our tent. She had already set up our sleeping bags. I took our passports and went to the ranger hut. After signing us in (which we had to do at each camp) I bought some water and Edie a coke. We decided against dinner. When I told James, he told me to tell Moses (the cook) myself. When I did Moses seemed offended so I agreed to soup. After soup (in our own tent) James stopped by to explain the plan for the next day and the tip process. Since we never really counted how many people in our party we were a little surprised to learn that we had had a guide, an assistant guide, a cook, and six porters making 9 people supporting the two of us. We turned in early and slept a little better than usual since it wasn't freezing cold for a change.
Wednesday, Oct 27 – Climb Day 6
I woke at about at about 3 AM with an intense need to urinate. I had failed to notice where the nearest outhouse was and needed to wake Edie to ask for the flashlight. She mentioned there was an empty water bottle in the corner. This emergency called for it. I filled it and set it outside the tent. At 5 AM nature made another call just as urgently as the first time but this time there was no empty bottle. I took the flashlight and found an outhouse just in time. Thinking back I realized that over the last 36 hours I had consumed a large quantity of liquid with no bathroom stops. Maybe that was a clue as to why I was so weak near the summit?
We had breakfast and packed. The summit looked spectacular in the morning sun but by the time I got my camera ready it was clouded over. We did take some group pictures. At 8:38 AM we headed downhill once more toward the Meweke Gate. Another relentless downhill tropical path. But this time we stayed together as a group. We actually passed a fellow climber. Edie remembered having seen him descending from the summit with difficulty. He must have had bad knees. We arrived at the Meweke Gate at 11:54 AM (5,551 ft).
At the gate we met Dennis from the Capricorn Hotel. We signed out of the park and bought two Machame Route t-shirts I bargained the vendor down to $27 from $30! There was a final walk of about a mile to the same Toyota van that almost didn’t get us to the Machame Gate.
Earlier before we set out Edie and I were trying to figure out what to tip. The travel agent materials suggested $100 per climber. But being there were just two of us and nine support staff we thought that was way too little. We told Dennis we needed to stop at an ATM. At the first ATM it refused our cards and the teller told us to try the NBC bank across the street. There the ATM seemed to accept the cards but ultimately refused the transaction requests. The teller suggested the money exchange up the street. We didn’t want to keep holding everyone up so we told Dennis to forget it since we had (barely) enough for the tips. We headed back to the hotel.
At the Capricorn James asked if Edie and I wanted to go to our rooms and wash. I saw no reason to make nine people wait that long. We sat at a long table in the shade. The waitress asked if we wanted drinks. We said ‘no’ but she politely made the suggestion we buy the guides and porters a round. So we did. I got a Kili beer. As the beers arrived we had James fill out the ‘New Friends’ section of our journal for all the men. While this was going on I finally realized everyone was waiting for me to drink first. We all said cheers, clanked glasses, and drank.
After some small talk Edie handed out the tips. James $175, Goodluck $100, Moses $70, and the six porters $25 each. They all very politely pocketed the money without counting. But we did note one porter, who had acted as our waiter, seemed happy and grateful. That made us feel good, all the staff thanked us and shook our hands.
James then presided over a formal presentation of our climb certificates while I video taped. Then they performed, as a parting gift to us, a native Kilimanjaro song. They did a very nice job which I captured on video. We all shook hands and bid final farewells. They headed home and we headed to good old room 130. Shortly after doing a little hand washing of dirty laundry we used our trekking poles to hang the stuff to dry on the patio. We did some packing and headed down for dinner.
We had 45 minutes to wait so we had a beer and coke. We proceeded to tell everyone that would listen that we desperately needed to find some where to get some cash. Edie then decided on a different strategy. We started to mention the reason we needed more cash was that we had given such large tips to the climbing guides and porters. One of the assistant managers tried to call Borton with no luck. The other manager said ‘no worries’ and that we’d get it resolved in the morning.
Dinner time was at 6:30. Everything was pretty much the same as before however now we could not eat nearly as much due to having become used to small meals on the mountain. We were then informed that the guide for our safari which was to begin in the morning was available to speak with us. The assistant manager, Moses, offered us a celebratory glass of wine. We hesitated due to our low cash situation but he offered it with his compliments so we accepted.
We retired to the lounge with our wine to meet with Bahati who would be our guide for the coming week. We were confident that Bahati understood the importance of finding us some cash. We were also optimistic he would succeed being he was a local from Arushu and seemed to know his way around. After going over our itinerary for the coming week we retired to our room. We checked on our laundry and packed. We turned the lights out at 10:45PM.