February 10, 2016

On The Trail: KILI DAY 1


The plan was to leave the hotel at 11am. I found some time to interview the support staff to get their take on the group’s attitude and the challenges they would face on the trail. This also gave me a great chance to know what storylines I could follow through with during the hike. After hanging out with the Cloud Walkers for three days, I started to understand them as individuals and as a group. They had obvious physical demands to look after but in no means had to be looked after. They are as capable as anyone, their attitudes were positive and the outlook was great. The weather was sunny and comfortable but I could feel a bit of anxiousness in the air. This group had been training for the last year. They had brought their friends and family along on this journey. Today was finally the day to step on the trail and see if their homework paid off.


Let’s load ’em up!

We all loaded into the buses and readied for a three hour drive. Our guides were littered throughout the bus. Little did we know in just eight days how close we would come to these men.

Guide "Larry" in the middle of The Cloud Walkers. We soon found out his name was Lariki.

Guide “Larry” in the middle of The Cloud Walkers. We soon found out his name was Lariki.

We made one pit stop for gas and well, a pit stop. We were in the city of Moshi and in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. It’s like the gas station was there to give us one last gasp at the height of the mountain.

One final look at the mountain from civilization.

One final look at the mountain from civilization.

We forged on, finally arriving at the Londorossi gate.  The gate was basically a campground area with a park ranger’s office full of other buses, guides, porters and hiking groups.

Londorossi Gate waiting area

Londorossi Gate waiting area.

The first thing I noticed was the scale with porters lined up with bags. Every bag was weighed to make sure it wasn’t more than the porters should handle. You could see items being shifted from bag to bag to make for allowances.

Porters with the official weigh in

Porters with the official weigh in

Although we felt like we would simply sign in and then start our hike up the mountain, that just didn’t happen. Our buses did arrive after a bunch of groups, so we stood in a long line to sign into the park (this is one time you need your passport number).  After signing into the park, we took photos next to the sign and were served a lunch. Our lunch felt a little random and as we looked at other groups, we felt they had better lunches (we were hoping this wasn’t a sign for the rest of the hike).




Scott sketches a scene as the guides look on.


Scott getting ink down.

One of the hikers, artist Scott Wilson, took the time to sketch a scene. The rest of us wandered around the area, watched the rest of the groups leave, porters weighing in and finally loading our bus for departure.

Camera crew team pic. Me, Carrington and Phillip.

Camera crew team pic. Me, Carrington and Phillip.


Mona journals as she waits.

Mona journals as she waits.

We left the gate around 3pm and the Lemosho Gate (2100m) was about a thirty minute drive. On the drive, we saw farmland and vegetables in bags by the side of the road. The area we pulled into was lush. We unloaded our day packs and began our trek towards the trailhead.

The weather was comfortable. We all wore light clothing as well as a light coating of Deet. This would be our time when we would encounter the most mosquitos.

Cloud Walkers at Lemosho Gate

I took a group photo next to the trail sign and finally we were off on the journey up this mountain. About ten steps on the trail, our medic staff had to tend to a hiker’s minor leg situation. Now, finally we began our journey up this mountain.

The first day of any trip is always intimidating. There are all of these unanswered questions (what is going to happen? how will everything work out?) and anxious feelings. I was included on this trip only a month ago and was about to hike up and down a mountain for eight days with 14 people I only met four days before. I was happy to have this time with these “strangers”.  The trail was flat and even, making it more like a casual stroll than a strenuous hike.  The terrain was pretty, lush and green.  Our pace was slow yet consistent. A few miles in, we saw some monkeys playing in branches off in the distance.


We took breaks when we needed (to snack, adjust prosthetics, reapply Deet) and continued to hydrate (I had my 32ounce water bottle as well as a camelback in my daypack).


There were some elevation changes as we kept climbing, the sun began to slowly set. One of the hikers, Patrick, had to be tended to with some difficulties breathing. Today was when we realized Climb Kili’s estimated time on the trail did not apply to this group’s pace.

Working it.

Working it.

The itinerary called for 3-4 hours on this trek, we spent nearly 6 hours on the trail. With the delay of leaving the Londorossi Gate and our pace, it was pitch dark while we were on the trail.

It got dark fast..where are the street lamps?

It got dark fast..where are the street lamps?

And where was my headlamp? It was in the bag that was advanced to camp. So I was left relying on other’s headlamps. I was disappointed in my inability to troubleshoot and foresee this. My headlamp would live in my daypack for the rest of my trip.

At 8:30pm, we signed into the Ranger Station at Mti Mkubwa which in Swahili means Big Tree. Our tents were already built and bags left in the middle of camp. As we approached camp, porters would locate our bags and bring them to the tent. I began to set up camp, charge batteries and have dinner. We ate in a large tent and a community table. There was a rule, when eating with headlamps on, they were to be switched over to the red LED. This kept us from blinding each other. I hardly remember dinner. But I’ll never forget our first lesson in toilet tent etiquette (If you want more info on this, contact me in the comments section).




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  • What a great adventure!

    I’m anxious to hear about the toilet etiquette! Save this story for me on the Ride!

  • Amazing – between the words and pictures you have truly captured the essence of the experience so far. I can’t wait to read how it goes getting to the top!

  • Great stuff, looking forward to reading about the rest of the trip. Who doesnt know about toilet tent etiquette?!


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