Upon arriving in Moshi after a long, 10 hour bus ride with our big packs between our legs the whole way, we were so thankful just to stand, stretch, and move around. During those 10 hours, we did however make a new friend who, at 2 years old or so, was both insanely adorable and easy to entertain. It did not take long before we grabbed a taxi (for about 4,000 Tanzanian Shillings…or about $1.50) to our hostel, Twiga Home, and that is when it happened. We caught our first glance of Kilimanjaro! It gave us goosebumps to think that in just a few days time we would be standing on top of that menacing, yet magnificent mountain. It just seems to come out of nowhere! After hiding in the clouds all day, the timing was perfect; even if that meant a stuffy, uncomfortable 10 hour bus ride.
Our taxi driver was also employed by a Kili guide service and he worked us hard to try and get our business once we made the mistake of mentioning to him that we had not yet booked our trek. Unfortunately for him, we were too tired to take in much of what he was saying and we vacated his car when we reached Twiga without him making the sale. Twiga was a nice place…for $18, especially when you consider that we had a private room and bathroom. We have definitely stayed in much worse, but the fact that they do things like turn the water off at night (meaning you cannot shower or flush the toilet without asking them first) is a new experience for both of us. (It took us a little bit to figure out why nothing was working our first night.) Overall though, the people are very nice and accomodating.
Our first official day in Moshi (also Ron’s birthday) was spent trying to get our Kili trek and safari together. Since all of this takes place in Tanzania’s national parks, they require guides by law. A bit of research sparked our interest in a handful of Moshi guide companies that we intended to stop in and talk to. Shopping around, you know?! Our shuttle dropped us off in the middle of town where we made our lunch on the curb. From what we have gathered, this is somewhat unheard of here seeing as almost everybody eats a proper hot lunch. But hey, we already stand out like sore thumbs so we figured this could not really harm our already low “street cred.” Anyways, while we were munching on lunch we noticed a small sign for Gladys Adventure and Safari. It wasn’t on our list, but we decided to pop in for comparison’s sake. Boy are we glad we did!
We sat down with Gladys herself, a smiley and round Tanzanian woman, who seemed to answer all of our questions before we even asked them. Her price was right. She was very honest, even telling us that one of the camps we would stay at on her safari tour was not the cream of the crop by any means. She was open to helping us find other’s to join our safari to bring down the cost. She was friendly, helpful, and did not push us to go with her. If you can’t already tell, we liked Gladys right off the bat.
We left Gladys’ shop to check out a few others anyways though. As it turns out, Moshi streets are not so well marked nor are Ron and I very adept at reading Moshi’s city map. We basically walked ourselves straight out of town without finding any of the companies we were originally looking for. Finally, we stumbled onto another guiding service company. Turns out we found ourselves at the cheapest of the cheap. You have to try pretty hard to make your potential customers leave with more uneasy questions than they came in with, but somehow this place succeeded in doing so. One quick glance at each other and we knew we were going back to Gladys’ to book our trip! Later that night we celebrated with a little microwave birthday cake I smuggled through customs (not really) and reveled in the fact that on Monday we were actually going to step foot onto Africa’s highest mountain. Happy birthday Ron!
A big trek like Kili takes a bit of preparation so the next morning Nelvin, Gladys’ right hand man, can by our hostel to check out our gear. He laughed a lot. Apparenty we had underestimated some aspects of this climb we discovered as he made a list of gear we needed to borrow from their shop. In our defense though, I think he is also underestimating our past experiences and abilities with this exact same gear. I guess we will find out who was ultimately right in a couple days. For now, however, we are suited up with everything from thick winter snowpants, heavy duty boots, and more layers than may be humanly possible to wear at once. Rather safe than sorry I suppose.
Following a stop at the ATM to withdraw literally millions and millions of shillings due to the crazy exchange rate (probably the only time we will ever withdraw a million of anything in our whole lives) we got to meet with our guide, Prosper. He is very soft spoken and exceptionally smiley. Prosper went over our 6 day Machame Route itinerary, discussed the food, and informed us of the entourage of people we will be accompanied by: Prosper as the head guide, an assistant guide, a chef, and 6 porters. That’s right…SIX! Whoa! These porters basically carry all of our gear, set up camp before we arrive, cook our meals, and tear down in the morning after we leave. Oh, and did I mention they make us feel like total wimps? (Kidding…kind of.) We had better be careful not to get too used to this otherwise backpacking in the future is going to be a slap in the face. Prosper did say that he has never led that they didnt reach the summit- so we have to keep his perfect record going.
Tomorrow morning we start the long hike to the summit, sitting well over 19,000 feet above sea level! Here we come Kili!
Small gallery due to awful upload speed. Hopefully we can find a good connection after we finish the big mountain!