January 31, 2016

The First 24: Arrival and Safari Day


Kilimanjaro Airport

Finally in Africa, we could relax. Our guide company Climb Kili was to meet us at the airport, we climb into some vans and off to the hotel. Finally.

Sounds easy enough but, when you enter Kilimanjaro, you are required to purchase a visitor’s Visa ($100). Considering our whole plane just unloaded, and we had 15 people in our group to go thru the visa/passport process, we were in a holding pattern.  We were happy to find a WiFi network that sometimes worked. Some called their loved ones back home to tell them we arrived safely.


Mona and Johnny keep in touch.

We were ushered through the Visa process, a picture then some finger prints and we were finally on the other side to gather our luggage.  Our guides were at the airport to greet us (it was about 1:30am local time). They gathered our bags onto carts and rolled them to some vans. To allow everyone inside, our bags were gathered into a tarp and tied to the top of our vehicles.

arrival van

Loading up our vans.

We were split into two cars and headed to the city of Arusha (about an hour away from the airport). Soon after we left the airport, our driver pointed out you could see Kilimanjaro. We all craned our necks to see the stars providing a rim light illuminating an outline of the mountain (little did we know, we would see plenty of the mountain over the next 9 days).  The drive was dark but we would pass through pockets of businesses, lit up and busy.

The hotel was behind a gate with a security guard acting as the key master. We arrived at the Summit Safari Lodge in Arusha around 2:45am. As our bags were brought into the lobby, we were provided with fresh juice (although delicious, not really my choice before hitting bed at 3am). I’m accustomed to grabbing my bags and going but the bellmen aren’t. The bellmen are there to provide a service (as I would find out, everyone from the bellmen to the porters are there to provide a convenient experience).

We all retired for a short rest, basic rooms with two twin beds. I began to charge some batteries (we were filming during our travels), I had a hard time finding accurate information on the correct electric adapter. Tanzania uses D/G outlet types. I bought a couple universal chargers just to be covered (plus I could use it on our layover in Amsterdam). On top of having the “room key”slot (this is common in Europe, insert your room key or any other plastic card to allow electronics/AC to be turned on in the room) to enable the lights to come on, each outlet had it’s own power switch. Time for some rest, breakfast at 7am then off to a day of safari at 9am.

DEC 29, 2015


At the end of the trip, we looked back on this day and found it to be important. It would have been very difficult for everyone to travel, then get up the next day and start the climb. The built in day off let us enjoy the journey, acclimate to the time zone. It made the trip a little less stressful. I would suggest to take this day whether it’s a safari or just a day to rest up. It also allows any baggage to catch up to you in case it decided to hang out in Amsterdam without you (all of our bags made it, thankfully).

END OF NOTE, thanks for reading my note.


Our hotel, Safari Summit Lodge. Arusha, Tanzania.


Woke up to roosters. I hit breakfast, provided by our hotel. Breakfast consisted of coffee, tea, juices, pastries, eggs, a starch, hot dogs and an omelette station. The hotel sold 2 liter bottles of water ($2 US). I filled my water bottle up and brought a spare bottle of water with me. I wasn’t concerned so much as to being thirsty during the safari, I was hydrating for our impending hike. We loaded up into two Safari Land Rovers and started out to our first adventure. We drove through the town of Arusha and saw it was much more vibrant than our first impressions only 5 hours earlier.

We stopped briefly at a gift shop, no doubt this is a normal stop for our guides. There were several Safari Land Rovers in the parking lot. As others looked at the African art, I bought myself a kind of cold Coke (needed a little pick me up from the long trip).

As we left town , we saw colorfully dressed people alongside the road.  They were walking toward town or herding cattle. We learned they are from a semi-nomadic group called The Maasai.


The Maasai.


The Maasai continue their age-old customs and live off of the land. We were offered the opportunity to meet a Maasai chief (for a fee) and we could see their lifestyle and traditions. In hindsight, I wish we had the opportunity to experience this. The more Maasai we saw, the more we became intrigued. If I were to go back, that would be tour I would be a part of.


We arrived at Tarangire National Park, 75 miles from Arusha. After our guide signed us into the park, we were off. I was riding shotgun (which is on the right side of the vehicle in Tanzania). The guide popped up a hatch that I could stick my head out of by standing on my seat. He then popped the back roof. The back roof is on hinges and can be lifted and locked providing a canopy for those in the back.


The other Cloud Walkers

Our Safari crew.

Our Safari crew with the hatches open.

This is a nice little bit of information. My first lesson: if it is your first day in Africa, close to the Equator, and you aren’t in the shade, don’t be afraid to keep applying that sunscreen. I didn’t feel it that day but my arms got fried. This was a good lesson for the rest of the trip.

Ok, so let’s talk animals. We were only on Safari for about four hours. The first animal we saw was a bird that looked a lot like a vulture. We saw wildebeests, waterbucks, giraffes, baboons, elephants, monkeys and a lion. One fun part of the safari is everyone is on the lookout. When you see something, you let your driver know. I happened to see a couple of giraffes running towards us over the horizon. Giraffes running is amazing to see.





Someone in our car saw the ears of a lion. As soon as it was confirmed that it was actually a lion, our driver got on the radio and let the rest of the groups in the park know about it.  Land Rovers from all over the area came flying in. She just walked past everyone like it was an everyday occurrence (and it probably is).



Cloud Walkers gathering in front of a Baobab Tree at Tarangire Park entrance.

There are also giant trees called baobab trees. One of the baobab trees had a huge hole in the side of it. Our guide explained that elephants will chew the tree to get moisture from it’s bark during dry season.  Just amazing.

During our lunch, we had to close our safari “hatches” so monkeys wouldn’t steal any food from our jeep. Monkeys were rampant during our lunch including running up to one of our hikers and stealing an apple. We finished our lunch session watching baby monkeys play on a branch like it was a diving board. Simply being kids.

It took 45 minutes for us to sign out of the park (the internet was down), by the time we got back on the road, I was out of it. I slept until we pulled back into the gift shop (again). I sat outside and talked to a couple from Italy who were wrapping up a week in the Serengeti. They couldn’t say enough good things about their trip. Better than expected.

As soon as we pulled into the hotel, we saw there was reception set up in the hotel’s front lawn. Before we could enjoy our reception, we had a meeting with our team from Climb Kili. We met our head guide, Emanuel.


Pre-Trek Briefing in the Summit Safari Lodge lobby.

He briefed us on our first day and followed up with answers to the many, many, many questions our group had. Our biggest task for the night was to get our bags to 35lbs or less. This was the maximum our porters were allowed to carry.

We hit up our BBQ/reception to get fueled up for our repacking task.

BathTub BBQ

BBQ at Safari Summit Lodge. Award for best use of a bath tub.

Oddest moment of the reception other than the use of that bath tub? The band was singing a song that sounded very familiar (although the words weren’t English until the hook). Then I heard “Ruby,  don’t take your love to town”, I looked up and realized they were singing the old Kenny Rogers song. Random and put a smile on my face (even though it’s a pretty dark song lyrically). It began to get darker (the night, not th songs) and the climb began to weigh on everyone’s mind.

So here is my task:

Pack 1 bag (less than 35lbs) of personal effects to be transported camp to camp by a porter.

Pack  1 “day” pack that will stay with me throughout the hike.

Pack 1 bag (less than 35lbs) of production gear to be transported during our hike by a porter.

We also grabbed a sleeping bag (in a bag) that was provided for us (it was a mummy bag rated at -15 deg F). I had a sleeping bag but I didn’t want to lug it across the world when there was one provided. It was required that the sleeping bag was either put in our personal bag or a garbage bag. (I brought about 30 black lined garbage bags for many uses).

We would also pack a bag with anything that wasn’t going up on the mountain. Basically I left clothes that I knew I didn’t need on the mountain and some personal items. These items were held in a secure room at the hotel to be retrieved when we return from the summit. I was concerned about leaving personal stuff behind (laptop among other things) but I trusted that this was their livelihood and items would be looked after.

Another requirement was to have our passport number to sign in and out of the park. Some of us brought our passports with us, others took a copy or a picture on their phone for easy reference.

We all retired to our rooms and started packing, trying to determine what we would need and what we would leave behind. Then taking a walk to the front of the hotel with the bags where a large scale sat. This is the kind of scale you would see jockeys getting weighed on before the Kentucky Derby.  This wasn’t their first rodeo.





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  • Great blogs! Brings back fantastic memories of our climb two years ago. Our group, which included six amputees was called the Kilimanjaro Warriors and Emmanual was our guide too. He and his team were fantastic, can’t say enough good things about them!

    • We heard about your group and found some comfort in the fact that Emanuel had experience with an amputee group. Those guys went above and beyond. Hope all is well with you and your group.

  • Now that’s a hot tub!


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