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
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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