In the jungle

I finally got around to writing up the one and only diary entry I did while in Tanzania. It’ll probably become clear why there was only one when I continue with the story from memory over the next few posts when I get around to doing them as well. And you’re welcome for the earworm in the title – ah-wimma-weh, ah-wimma-weh… Enjoy!


 

Sunday 5th October

Africa has been somewhat of an adventure and I’ve not even been here 24 hours yet! We arrived in Nairobi around 6.30 this morning. I was already exhausted having sat behind Mr ADHD who couldn’t keep still in his seat and was bouncing around more than a child on its way to Disney World – and I’ve had my fair share of that experience over the years. I was trying to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel (meh) and Monuments Men (meh again) but it wasn’t east with the screen going up and down every two minutes thanks to Mr A. I did manage to read a couple of the letters that were written to me that I was meant to read on the plane – one from Mam, one from Dad and one from Lindsey. I cried. They were so lovely and encouraging. I hope I can do you all proud.

So, after 8 hours with little sleep (excitement, nervousness, irritation), we finally arrived in Nairobi. Our bags were automatically transferred so we just had to get ourselves on the connecting flight to Kilimanjaro Airport. All good so far.

Airport
Kilimanjaro International Airport

The flight was on time even if it was powered by a couple of AAA batteries and some luck. Actually, it was a small propeller plane but that’s what it felt like. It was only a 45 minute flight so, after the second breakfast of the day both before 9am, we landed in Tanzania. Oh, we did get a glimpse of Kilimanjaro on the way in over the clouds but – sod’s law – I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane to see it properly.

Anyway, we landed in Kili. It was a bit colder than I expected – no searing heat with hot animals taking shelter from the sun under withered-looking trees. No, it actually started to rain… and cue Toto. Once in the airport we had to fill in some forms to say we didn’t have Ebola and we hadn’t been anywhere to catch Ebola. It was all very high tech – everyone asking each other what they’d put for question 3 as the toner had run out when photocopying the forms and each one was missing bits of different text in different places.

The plane that was powered by AAA batteries.
The plane that was powered by AAA batteries.

Everyone who works in Kilimanjaro International Airport LOVES their job too. From the miserable man in the unnecessary white doctor’s coat and rubber gloves handing out Ebola forms to the woman on the passport desk giving all the tourists scathing looks as they hand her their documents which she then scowls at, hands back and waves you through to the baggage claim. Welcome to Tanzania!

And, speaking of baggage claim – what a wonderful welcome we got when half the group realised their kit bags hasn’t joined them from Nairobi. Marvellous. This meant that seven of us had to queue at this tiny window along with other passengers who were also bagless to report our missing luggage. We were told it would hopefully be on either the 7pm or midnight flight instead. As this was 9.30am then 7pm or later seemed like days away. But, there was nothing we could do so we met up with our organiser from Exodus Travel – Godson – and then got on a minibus for a 2hr drive to the hotel.

We’d only been driving for about half an hour (and I’d just dropped off to sleep!) when we came to a grinding halt behind a long meandering queue of vehicles due to an accident up ahead. All the other cars’ occupants had just abandoned their vehicles and were walking towards the accident to see what had happened. I suppose this is the equivalent of getting your smartphone out to take photos as you drive past an accident on the M25 but without the smartphone, movement or M25.

Some people got off the minibus to stretch their legs, have a look around or even run up the nearby hill to find a bush to pee behind. I stayed on the bus mainly because it was cooler (still not as hot as I’d expected though) but mainly because I was just too tired to move. Some of us joked about bad things happening in threes and, after the bags not turning up and the accident, we wondered what was next!

After about an hour, we finally got moving – luckily no-one was hurt in the accident. It turned out to be two or three lorries that had somehow veered off the road on either side and gone into the ditches. It happened yesterday but they chose that exact time (when we were coming!) to clear them out of the road. So we were moving again. I was desperately trying to stay awake and take in the sights of Tanzania but, after about 14 hours of travel and not much sleep in over 24 hours, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

The view from our hotel room.
The view from our hotel room.

We eventually reached the hotel at 1pm and were greeted by lovely smiley faces and some delicious chilled fruit juice. After filling in registration cards we were then shown to our rooms. I’m sharing with Emma and our room is gorgeous! We’re at the Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort and it almost looks like we’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re on the 3rd floor and from the balcony I can just see trees. Well, trees and some children playing who just love to wave at us excitedly whenever they see us outside. The room is huge and quite stylish with dark wood features and cream décor. Even the bathroom’s bigger than my living room!

We had to be back at reception for 2pm for a briefing with Godson and, with no bags to unpack or being able to freshen up, we went back down to the bar to use the wi-fi – gotta love technology! I caught up with goings on (Jules Bianchi’s crash at the Japanese grand prix!) and then went to the briefing.

I got my sleeping bag and walking poles that I hired through Exodus and Godson went through the week’s itinerary. It was difficult to take everything in due to sleep deprivation but it was important to listen so I tried my best. He explained what we could expect each day, what clothing we’d need, about tipping the staff, etc. Tomorrow we have a 1.5 hour drive to Nalemuru Gate from the hotel in Marangu where we’ll be walking for 3-4 hours before we get to the Rongai Simba Camp. Fairly easy day where we’ll get a feel for the walking and ease ourselves into it.

Day 1 Park Gate – Rongai 3-4 hours +750m
Day 2 Rongai – Kikelelwa 7-8 hours +900m
Day 3 Kikelelwa – Mawenzi Tarn 3-4 hours +750m
Day 4 Mawenzi Tarn – Kibo Hut 5-6 hours +370m
Day 5 Kibo Hut – Horombo 13-15 hours +1,000; -2180m
Day 6 Horombo – Marangu Gate 5-6 hours -1,920

After the briefing, and dropping the sleeping bag and poles at the room, I went back to the bar to get some food. It began raining again and as the bar was open air then we could really feel how heavy it was. Some people were watching the football (Chelsea vs Arsenal) when the rain caused the signal to drop and was lost for a while. It was like being in Wales when the Sky drops out when it rains!

The hotel pool.
The hotel pool.

I had lunch of a chicken burger and chips. I was so hungry that it was the most delicious chicken burger I think I’ve ever eaten. We were all still really worried about the bags not turning up and what we’d do. I was having a panic as, because of my size, I can’t just borrow stuff off other people. I was trying not to worry but I couldn’t help it. It was still only about 4pm and we had to wait until at least 7pm to see if our luggage was on the next flight.

By this time, I was exhausted and the rain made it cold so I went back to the room and got into bed. I slept on and off for a couple of hours, waking every so often to see how much closer to 7pm it was. Finally, when it came, I went down to the reception to see if there was any news. There wasn’t. The lady told me to go back at 7.30pm. I lingered, went on wi-fi and then went back at 7.45pm but still nothing. I felt like crying. I went back to the room again, got into bed and just went to sleep.

Then the phone rang. I jumped up and answered it. It was the lady from reception – the bags were on their way! I could’ve cried again but with sheer joy and relief. I celebrated by going back to bed again and sleeping until they arrived. I finally got a knock on the door around 9pm saying my bag was downstairs. Hallelujah! I got my bag and have now sorted it out into what I’m wearing tomorrow, what I’m carrying, what I’m leaving in my kit bag and what I’m leaving at the hotel. My next biggest worry is that my kit bag will be over the 15kg allowed by the porters and I’ll have to put more stuff in my backpack which means it’ll be really heavy. There are scales in the reception so I need to make sure I go down early enough to do some shuffling if needs be.

So, I’ve had a [wonderful] shower and don’t smell like an onion any more. My bags are sorted and Emma’s now in the shower. It’s almost 1am – a lot later than I would’ve liked to be going to bed but never mind. I’m laying on the bed and sometimes I can hear some screetchy- squawky animal noises outside (but no drums [Toto]) and it reminds me I’m in Africa! But tomorrow is when the real adventure will begin!

 

More photos can be found on my Flickr account.