Out of the many places I’ve been, Africa is the one continent I have yet to set foot on. I was in a deep sleep when I heard a gentle ping in the aeroplane. “We will be landing shortly at Nairobi,” said the air stewardess. I looked out from the window and let out a surreptitious smile. Finally, I am in Africa, and Mount Kilimanjaro is inching closer to us. It was to be a whopping 18-hour transit in Nairobi, Kenya with two options in hand – spend the night in the airport, or find a hotel outside for a good night’s rest. Well, needless to say we didn’t have to dwell too much on it.
From Nairobi To Kilimanjaro
Of course, the choice was an easy one, but finding an affordable and decent hotel in Nairobi wasn’t. We found that out the hard way, after searching for almost two hours for a comfortable hotel. We had done the usual pre-bookings, but the location turned out to be unsafe for tourists, and none of the decent hotels close to the airport were affordable. At this point, we had no choice but to drive into Nairobi city, and lucky us, our driver Benja Mulandi, brought us to the right place for a short stay.
If ever there was a decent and affordable accommodation in Nairobi, it had to be the Sunrise Hotel. After that fiasco, the basic yet comfortable room was more than what we could ask for. At MYR300 for three guests, there was no room for complaints as we had our much needed rest. The next morning we had a hearty continental breakfast before heading to the airport. It was mid-day and the excitement was palpable, Kilimanjaro was a mere short flight away.
We Have Arrived!
I stood in line for almost two hours at the immigration. And to top it off, my bag did not arrive on the same flight! It was 5.30 pm and we had finally arrived at Kilimanjaro with another calamity. But despite it all, I must say I was amazed by the “Hakuna Matata” spirit of Tanzanites. “Relax, I’m sure your bag will be on the next incoming flight. Just be patient and wait,” said the airport staff. And true enough, it did show up on the carousel! Phew, what a relief!
Outside, the cool breeze brushed against my face as dusk began to set in. It was the very first time I was introduced to the crew of Impatiens Tours; Enock, Sadam and Hudson. They had summited Kilimanjaro innumerable times, and yet their enthusiasm and humility were exemplary. We had a quick dinner close to the airport, and soon made our way to Moshi, our final stop before Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the way, I began to see things that I’ve only seen on television; a Maasai man with his livestock in a vast open plain, and women dressed in brilliant African wax print fabrics. It is Africa in its unabridged form and how lucky I was to see it with my own eyes.
Sleepless In Moshi
A one-hour drive brought us to Panama Hotel, our final pit-stop before the hike. Needless to say, this hotel was everything we could ask for. It had the comfort and cleanliness that was crucial for a good night’s rest. There, we were united with our remaining group members, Thaya, Kavitha and Kobi. We barely knew each other, but somehow there was already a sense of camaraderie. Strange, isn’t it? After settling into our rooms, it was time for the most awaited briefing.
“There is a reason why you travelled all the way from Malaysia to climb Kilimanjaro. Even the locals wouldn’t dare climb it. Having the physical strength is one thing, but when you have the right heart and mind, you will make it. Pole, pole (slowly, slowly) and move together as a team,” said Hudson and Sadam, our guides. ‘One dream, one team, all the way to the top‘ became our motto and I would soon understand what it meant to climb from the heart. I closed my eyes that night, sleepless and excited.
Machame Gate, Mount Kilimanjaro
I had always wondered about the ‘Whiskey’ route, also known as Machame. Many claimed that it is one of the toughest trek because of its steep and rugged inclination. Others will argue that the slightly longer days up in the mountain help in acclimatisation. Either way, this was the chosen route and we were a mere 35 kilometres away from the trail head. After a good breakfast, we left the hotel with a rush of blood to the head. An hour’s drive finally brought us to start of the trail head, The Machame Gate.
It was all abuzz with people from all walks of life. As part of formality, we had to register ourselves with the park before commencing the hike. We could already see the porters and guides from different teams scrambling to weigh the bags and prepare food for the journey. We waited for our pre-hike meals, which consisted of tuna sandwiches, bananas and fruit salad, before kicking-off the hike. Our team was made up of guides, porters, and a cook, all with innumerable years of experience up in the mountain. Except for our guides, Hudson, Sadam and José, we were yet to be introduced to the rest of the team from Impatiens Tours. At 2 pm, with a slight delay, I took my first steps into what would be an unforgettable journey.
The Rain Forest Zone Of Kilimanjaro
I looked around at a sight that was rather familiar. It began with gradual incline through a lush and green forest with an even pathway. There were trees of all sorts, some with towering heights, blanketing the forest floor. It was a scene that I was used to back at home; tree barks covered with vibrant green moss and sinuous tree branches weaving through the rain forest. Every now and then, the baby blue skies and white clouds would appear through the cracks in the foliage, shedding some light onto the path.
Throughout the hike, we spotted never-seen-before wildlife such as the Blue Monkey and the White-Necked Raven. They are both endemic to Kilimanjaro and can be found in abundance in the rain forest zone. Higher up, at about 2,000 metres, José pointed at a flower on the ground that looked like an elephant. “It’s name is Impatiens, just like the name of our tour company,” said José. It had a dazzling tinge of yellow and red, and it looked extremely delicate.
As the sun began to set, we quickened our pace up the much steeper rocky incline. Finally after five hours, we had entered the Moorland zone, at 2,835 metres.
Nightfall At Machame Camp
At 6.30 pm, we had checked in at the registration hut before heading to our designated camps. From afar, we could spot three orange tents alongside a larger blue tent, already set up by the crew. The smaller tents were for sleeping, whilst the larger one was for dining. Our task every night was to prepare our sleeping bags and arrange our equipment for the following day.
Come nightfall, the temperature easily dropped to 15ºC, so we had to layer up to stay warm. I had to hand it to team for preparing such delicious meals, setting up our camps and taking care of all our needs, every single day. We shared a light banter that will eventually become a routine every night before heading to bed. I walked out of the blue tent after dinner and finally, I caught my very first glimpse of Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped summit. We are getting there…
Special credits to Impatiens Tours & Safaris and NEX Adventure for organising this amazing hike. For more information and early bird discounts visit their official website and Facebook page. Follow Impatiens Tours and Nex Adventure on Facebook for special promotions and discounts.