It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. Edmund Hillary
- Day number: 1
- Starting Point: Marangu Gate
- Target Point: Mandara Hut
- Altitude: 2700m
- ETA: 3 hours
- Veg Zone: Rainforest
We arrived in Tanzania (Read more) after a long flight from London via Ethiopia. Our Guide – Eligius and his brother Ibrahim were on hand at the Kilimanjaro Airport to welcome us in with a pleasant smile. We checked into our hotel in the town of Arusha – almost 2 hours drive from Kili. On the way, we stopped at Arusha to pick up some basics and exchange some currency. The most pleasant surprise for me was walking into a currency exchange shop in one of Africa’s remote village and people addressing me – “Kem cho!!” i.e. “How are you” in Indian Language – Gujrathi! And I walk out of the exchange dumb folded and right across I see “Bank of Baroda” — wow we lot have really reached the corners of the world in the true sense.
We had a briefing with our Guide Eligius and his brother Ibrahim – the assistant guide, regarding the start of the hike next day to ensure everything is in place. Please read my post on what to pack for Kili Hike – (Click here).
Well, the first night was all the jitters, questions, and doubts floating around in our minds. We had done a lot of preparation both physically and mentally for this day and finally it was to begin. Next morning, we woke up early and after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we were on our way to Marangu gate passing through the Tanzanian countryside. It reminded me of my place back home in India – at least 15 years back as a kid. So it all looked like a India – 15 years rewind!
There are various routes up Kilimanjaro, some more daunting, some more scenic, and some taking more days. The latter being the key factor, we stuck with the Marangu route which can be done in 5 days and also the provision of staying in shared huts along the journey. People are usually advised to acclimatise for an additional day or two during the hike and complete in 6-7 days instead, but time was really a key factor for us.
We drove from our hotel in Arusha to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate and our journey passed through the village of Marangu, which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain, before arriving at the Marangu gate. This was just the start of the trekking season and hence there were less hikers. Here, for the first time we met our extended team i.e. 5 porters and a chef. I must say that without these people we would have never made it to Kili – hats off to these people. These are usually the locals from nearby villages and come from a very poor background. This is the reason I chose a small local company/guide for our hike instead of a big tourism company – this way at least the money can help the locals. If you need more info on the company/guide, please leave me a comment with your email id and I’ll get back to you at the earliest.
Prepare well about what you need to take and wear while hiking Kilimanjaro – Read more.
At the park gate, we were requested to sign in at the park office and make our final preparations for the climb. The porters were arranging and loading their packs containing food, water, cooking gas as well as most of our equipment. We had to make sure that we had all our daypack items with us, as the porters ascend a lot quicker than us. Please read my post on what to pack and get for Kili Hike – (Click here).
Finally, the trek started with Ibrahim accompanying us at the starting stages which is a trail through the Rainforests. We had done a lot of preparation for the hike but nothing can prepare you for what’s to come up. It started with a very gradual incline winding our way through lush green forests, rapidly flowing streams and Colobus Monkeys. I was pretty much excited at this point of time and leading the hike – walking quite briskly and the guide had to remind me to walk pole pole (slowly, slowly) as the altitude changes rapidly. Amoli had the first scare as she seemed to have pulled a muscle — but luckily it was just a niggle and we marched on. Midway, we stopped for lunch. We were provided a packed lunch – with fried chicken, sandwich, muffins, banana and juice. A really nutritious lunch.
We then marched on post lunch slowly winding up our way through the dense rainforest slowly before reaching our first pitstop – Mandara hut at 2715m. It took us nearly 3-4 hours for the 5 mile hike. Mandara has A-framed huts with bunk beds, solar lighting and toilets.
There was just another Hiker apart from us at this stage and hence the accommodation were quite vacant. We were provided sleeping above the dining room – which consisted of around 10-15 bunk beds – but it was just the 2 of us. After getting off our day packs – our guides asked us to take a short hike to the Maundi Crater – this is done for the purpose of acclimatisation i.e. hike high and sleep low. This way your body tends to get used to the high altitude much quicker. Maundi crater offered amazing views over the horizon.
Back from the crater, we had a tasty dinner at the hut. Both of our guides joined us for the dinner and walked us through the plan for the next day. The dinner was amazing – the chef had cooked for us delicious soup, chicken pasta, salads, fruits etc. We tucked into our sleeping bags early as we had a long day the next morning. This is when the altitude starts playing its tricks. It’s really hard to get a good night’s sleep as your mind is running through the thoughts and we really found it hard to sleep. To add to this, it was freezing cold!
View our Kilimanjaro Hike Video here –
Read our Day 2 excursion to Horombo hut here – Click here
Also, read our successful Kilimanjaro Hike journey here – Click here.