Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Running Out of Ground - Trekking to the Roof of Africa on Mt. Kilimanjaro - Part 1 - The Set-Up

Many of you know that I have been in Africa this August traveling with my wife Helen. We have been on safari to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, as well as partaking in a trek with friends to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We have just returned home and are beginning to process the myriad emotions, information, photographs, and memories. A blog posting seems too simple a venue to express all that we have experienced in these 19 days. In a word, the trek was hard but doable, especially with the positive outlook our group maintained throughout the trip. The conditions were cold near the top and very dirty throughout. The word dirty may not convey the fineness of the volcanic dust that resides on that mountain, getting into pores and fabrics. There was precious little oxygen at this extreme elevation. Many will ask, "Why undertake a trip with such daunting obstacles?" It is a fair question. Perhaps this series of blog postings will help me to illuminate the reasons we took this trip.

The sign on top of Uhuru Peak welcomes those who have successfully made the trek. But first, a trip such as this must be conceived and imagined. It was Chris Hansen-Nelson's idea. I seemed powerless to resist his desire to celebrate our significant birthday this year with some extraordinary trip. This trek certainly fit that billing.

The trip starts with a bus ride from our lodge in Arusha, Tanzania to the trailhead. Freshly showered and hoping to remain clean as long as possible, we were certainly naive to the way of the mountain.

Through corn fields, potato pastures, the rural landscape of humanity creeps right up to the national park boundary.

The roads turns to dirt and the adventure begins. Our porters who were traveling on another bus experienced a vehicle breakdown on this road and the start of our trip was delayed three hours.

Here our group signs in at the Park entrance station.

The porters are selected by the head guide at the gate. They will each carry upwards to 25 kilos (almost 60 pounds) on their heads and backs. Our group of nine required 35 porters, almost four per trekker. We also has three assistant guides, one head guide and a cook. Our entourage was 40 people.

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