Day 1 - Londorossi Gate


The first major step on our first day in Africa was simply getting to the Kilimanjaro National Park. We just arrived in the country the evening before, and after a refreshing stay at Klub Afriko's facilities in Arusha, we packed our bags on the Range Rover and headed out to Londorossi Gate with our guide, Urassa. It took a few hours to get there on mostly paved, but occasionally bumpy, dusty roads.

The region around Londorossi Gate was a lush pine tree forest. Much of the environment, at roughly 2200 m (7200 ft), reminded me of Sequoia national park back home in California: the smell of pine, the firm, moist soil with a modest humidity in the air, the browned needles below the thick woodland of tall trees. The altitude, similar to Lake Tahoe and much of the Sierra Nevada mountains, furnished a further reminder of the mountains back home.

We arrived at the Gate and signed in. We had lunch and met the local villagers, curious about the new arrivals. Naturally, we couldn't hide the fact that we were foreigners, but it appeared that they didn't get visitors here too often.

From this point, we were not allowed to use motorized vehicles, so the original plan was to hike from this point to the Simba cave campsite, our first campsite on the Shira route. However, our guide Urassa was informed, by returning porters, that the river normally supplying water to the campsite he had in mind was dry. The five of us didn't think about the issue at that moment, but we later learned firsthand how important water is to hikers on this mountain. Since there wasn't enough daylight left to move on to the next campsite with adequate water, Urassa decided that we should camp at Londorossi Gate, the park entrance, that night.

We had a few hours to kill, and we agreed it was worthwhile to stretch our legs after riding in the Range Rover that morning (and an aircraft for much longer the day before) and to encourage our bodies to acclimate to the altitude, so Urassa had one of the porters take on us a short hike in the vicinity of the park entrance. Among our first sights were the Colobus monkeys and the natural beauty of green trees, small rippling hills of reddish volcanically-fabricated soil, and flowing creeks embraced by a pervading, low-lying fog. But it was also the people in the area that were equally fascinating. We hiked on the edge of the village and their plantations. The local villagers, emerging from their small huts, were probably just as fascinated about us and the funny clothing we wore. When the rare visitor would come through this park entrance, they'd typically just unload and go, but the five of us were sticking around for the night, which made us unusual. Meeting the local people like this gave us a lot of opportunities to practice saying "Jambo!"

We returned from our hike, had dinner, and stayed for the night. While most of it was quiet, we were interrupted by the occasional livestock wandering into our campsite.

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