Hiking to the roof of Africa: Mt. Kilimanjaro: Part 1
Our 4x4 winds through coffee and banana plantations on the outskirts of Moshi; past little villages swarming with colour and life, open air butchers, people calling to each other and the rhythm of daily life moving to its own chilled-out beat. In the distance Mt. Kilimanjaro rises, its peak encased already in the folds of thick clouds.
Our eyes track it from every angle as though it may suddenly, inexplicably disappear if left unwatched. Today is the day; months of training, planning and patient waiting have brought us here – en route to the roof of Africa, and the world’s largest free-standing mountain, to begin our 7 day trek to the summit.
An hour from Moshi the plantations give way to forest as we roll through the Machame Gate. Hundreds of men crowd on either side of the road vying for selection as porters, cooks, waiters. More groups arrive and the Gate becomes a swell of nervous activity and ordered disorganisation. It’s a gentle chaos that will lightly paint its way through each day of our trek and the rest of our Tanzanian journey.
We wait as check-ins are completed, bags weighed, packs repacked, water bottles filled, red tape cut. There’s excitement, impending adventure, and careful trepidation in the air. It's infectious.
And so, our ascent begins. Our guides from Ahsante Tours, Michael and Respick, the two of us, and a steady stream of sure-footed porters gliding past us to the camp above. We wind our way along the path that cuts a swathe through the forest tunnel straight from the pages of a Grimm fairytale.
Climbing higher, the humidity of the Gate lifts and the cool fog of the dense jungle folds around us. Chatting, we pause to snap photos of dewy ferns and moss covered trees - truly the enchanted forest of your childhood stories. Already, conversation with our guides is punctuated by reminders to "Pole, Pole"... Slowly, slowly. Conserve our energy now so we have reserves to call on when the final days arrive.
We're exploring our way up to Camp 1: Machame Hut Camp at 3000m above sea level. Perhaps to our detriment, the excitement is already palpable.
Want more? Read the next instalment of our hike to the Roof of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro.