Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 0-2: Singapore & Arusha

The idea of trekking in Kilimanjaro (5895m Elevation) was conceived 5 years ago after we completed the Kota Kinabalu trek (4095m Elevation). After my failed attempt to reach Kala Patthar (5600+m) along the Everest Base Camp Trek due to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), I told myself that I would not trek at this kind of elevation again. 

But the allure of trekking with great friends, summit-ting the highest peak in Africa (and also the highest free-standing mountain in the world), and challenging myself to do such a trek (>5000m) again, is too great. 

Our group of 14 consists of 6 nationalities flying in from America, Europe & Asia and meeting in Africa. And thanks to modern technology, we planned the trip by co-ordinating via email/whatsapp/facebook, wiring money across continents and updating spreadsheet on google drive.

7 of us flying from Singapore.

Prior to this trip, we had been training hard. We went for 2 climbs (Mt Ophir in Johor Malaysia & Mt Sinabung in Medan Indonesia), and every Saturday we would trek for 4 hours with 7kg of load in our little Bt Timah Hill. Everybody has invested considerable amount of money, time & energy for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. 

Emirates Flight (Singapore to Dubai)

I have Wifi connection in the sky (uploading photos to facebook/Whatsapp-ing/checking emails) - modern technology is amazing!

Kenya Airline Network.

I am fortunate to have set foot on 6 continents (last one will be the Antarctica), and the continent that I have the least knowledge is Africa. 

On the flight, I realized there were many Christian missionaries (Australian & Korean). An Aussie dude sat besides me and shared with me his missionary experiences in East Africa. My impression was that the governments in those countries are dysfunctional. 

Nairobi (Capital of Kenya) Airport

My first reaction was:
"Wow! I am really in Africa."

Interior of Nairobi Airport (the biggest airport in East Africa).
It is old and basic, as though it was frozen in time.

Flight from Nairobi (Kenya) to Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

Kilimanjaro Region

Street View

Colobus Mt. Lodge (provided by the tour operator)
A basic lodge which is far away from the Arusha town & no wifi connection!
I would prefer to stay in the town.

Taking a local transport from the lodge to the town.
It was quite an interesting experience.

Meeting PY (who flew in from Amsterdam) in Arusha town, Tanzania

I like the feeling of meeting good friends in a foreign land. =)
Previously, we also met up in Shanghai in China in 2007, Lombok in Indonesia in 2009 and Cusco in Peru in 2011. 

We took 1+ hour to buy and activate a sim card.
It was inefficient and a waste of time.
My first few impressions of Tanzania.

First night dinner in the lodge. 
And it was quite cold at night (not our usual impression of Africa)

Lunch in a restaurant with Wifi connection.

Day 2 - We booked a transport to Arusha City (arrived at 1pm instead of 12noon). It was a bit frustrating, but I learn to accept that it is part of the experience and that's how things work in Tanzania. At least, they are consistent (being inefficient).

When we found a restaurant with Wifi connection, there was no communication among us instantly. Everybody was stuck to their mobile phones - Whatsapp-ing, facebook-ing, emailing etc...


Everybody was busy checking their rental gears, trying out & requesting for more gears.  At the back of our minds, we were concerned about the freezing weather in the mountain. That weekend, the temperature at the summit was around -25 degrees Celsius. 

Chaos again.

Clarifying & negotiating with the operator on the total expenses (deposit paid/additional night in the lodge/additional transports/rental gears etc...). Collecting money & counting worth US$18,000 cash.

The lady boss walked away with a smile on her face.

Day 3-5: Trekking Day 1-3 (Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa to Shira One Camp)

Day 1: LONDOROSSI GATE to MTI MKUBWA (8,692 ft.)

Hike time: 3hrs
Elevation Change +650 M
Estimation distance: 10 km
Final Elevation 2650 M

"A three-hour drive from your hotel to Machame Londorossi Park Gate located on the western side of Kilimanjaro. At the gate, we pick up our game ranger who will accompany us, as we might encounter elephants and buffaloes during our trek. We drive to the trailhead at Lemosho Glades and start our trek through the rain forest. In places, the vegetation is so untouched that it grows right across the narrow track. The flora and fauna are richer here than on the other morepopular routesthrough therain forest. Our trek today will be along a little used track known as Chamber’s Route. In about 3-4hours, we reach our camp in the rain forest at Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree)."


Dusty road and village.
The living condition is not ideal. 

Group photo before the trek

Porters weighing their load (max 20kg/porter)

8 days worth of supplies.

48 crews supporting 14 trekkers!!!

Trekking through the tropical rain-forest zone.

Day 1 campsite

JE & C looking happy in the tent.

DD playing Ukulele in the dark

Popcorn & hot chocolate served in the dining tent!

This is my favourite.
Private portable toilet!!

This is a luxurious trek. 
There are porters to carry the load, porters to setup the tent, a dining tent with waiters & private toilets.

Day 2: MTI MKUBWA to SHIRA ONE CAMP (11,841 ft.)
Hike time: 5 – 6 hrs,
Elevation change +950 M
Estimation distance: 12 km
Final Elevation 3,610 M

"After breakfast, we start the climb cross the remaining rain forest towardsthe giant moorland zone. Today is a full day trek with an altitude gain of 2,000 ft. A great lunch stop is One, a beautiful valley just outside the Shira Crater at around 10,000 ft. After lunch, we cross into the Shira Caldera, a high altitude desert plateau that is rarely visited. Shira is the third of Kilimanjaro volcanic cones, and is filled with lava flow from Kibo Peak. The crater rim has been decimated by weather and volcanic action. Today you will get your first close views of Kibo - the dramatic summit of Kilimanjaro."

In the morning, we brushed teeth together in the open.

Breakfast in the dining tent with table properly set up.

Still trekking through the forest vegetation zone.

Kung-Fu Panda Sequel 

Kungfu Panda Part 1:

View along the way

Little Flower

Another kind of flower I have never seen before.

DD & SM enjoying the view & blue sky

View along the way

View along the way

Packed lunch

Freddie (Our Capable Chief Guide)

View along the way

View along the way

First sight of Kilimanjaro Summit

Group photo with Kilimanjaro

2nd Camp Site at the high altitude desert plateau

Amazing Night Sky 
(Taken by Chandy)

Day 3: SHIRA ONE CAMP to SHIRA TWO CAMP (12,628 ft.)
Hike time: 5 to 6 hrs Elevation change: +240 M
Elevation distance: 5 km Final elevation: 3,850

"After breakfast continue hike east across the Shira Plateau past the Shira Cathedral towards Shira T camp. We only gain 700 feet in elevation – this allows us to acclimatize slowly to the altitude. The views of the plateau are nothing less than spectacular."

Frost on the ground in the morning.

The night and morning was freezing. Going to the toilet is a big chore, especially when it was really cold. Simple thing like brushing teeth is challenging, I had to wear gloves as the water temperature is close to freezing point.

Taking time to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

I enjoyed this solitude moment along the trek.
I did not need to talk to anybody.
I was enjoying the view.
Listening to my favourite music.
Feeling grateful. 

High altitude desert plateau

High altitude desert plateau

Kilimanjaro in the center

Sea of clouds in the right

3rd Campsite - Shira Two Camp

Another wonder moment again.
Reading a good book with a great view.
What more can I ask I for. =)

Life is a collection of great moments.

Sea of Clouds

Sea of Clouds