While the team continues to prepare for their upcoming departure (March 16th!), Kevin Duffy has been climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! Here are his updates:
Well, after a very hectic day Monday getting everything re-organized and getting to bed at 3am, I had three uneventful flights.
A bit of bad luck as I had clouds almost the entire way but did get some nice shots of the Croatia mountains and coast. Then more clouds but got good shots of the coast of Egypt and some nice shots of the Sahara desert and the Nile on the border of Sudan and Egypt. Once we got to Kilimanjaro airport, I was soooo glad I already had my visa taken care of. There was only one line to get visas and was quite hectic but several lines to check in. Despite being one of the last people off the plane, I was one of the first people back to baggage claim. Got the bags and then went to the exit doors. Going through the doors by myself, I found about 50 various vendors suddenly holding up signs for pick-ups. Talk about being in the spotlight. I found my driver right away, very nice young guy, Joseph, and after waiting about 30 minutes for others, we left. There were seven others besides me being picked up. The hotel is quite nice and is more than I expected. The drive to the hotel was interesting. The roads are not the best but not as bad as I had read about. The people here are incredibly friendly and constantly make sure I’m happy with everything and have taken the time to do two different briefings, one with my day trip guide and another with my mountain guide. When they find out where I’m from, they always smile and say their dream has been to come to the U.S. After hearing my mountain guide say this, I asked what he wanted to see in the U.S. Without hesitation he smiled and said, I dream to see big trees, so I told him about the Redwoods in Cali. They tell me the rains look to be arriving early this year after being late the last four and indeed it did rain much of the afternoon today. Temps were around 80 and humid. Still haven’t been able to see the mountain yet.
I will probably be able to email the next couple of days but after that starts the climbing. Tomorrow is a jungle walk near the hotel. It is quite a different world outside the walled gates of this hotel.
You may see a few typos or weird characters as the keyboards here are a little different. I was hoping to send back a few pictures but that doesn’t look likely given the Internet speed which even just typing this is about a sentence behind me.
You may have noticed no email from me yesterday, this was due to no electricity, so this one might be longer.
Yesterday was the jungle walk day that turned into far more than what I thought it would be. After walking across a dirt field complete with a few graves mixed in here and there, we stopped at a natural springs that get their start on Kilimanjaro; from there we started walking down some local side streets (all dirt) until we came to the rice fields. We walked through the rice fields and watched the locals cutting and planting rice, sugar cane, coffee, and many other ag products. It was also the place I got my first clear view of what is ahead, Kilimanjaro without any clouds. We walked further through the rice fields watching women carry firewood on their head back to where they dry out the rice. It rained the night before so the narrow trail was very muddy and I managed to end up with a boot in the rice patty water. After passing the rice fields, we went into the jungle, fairly quickly we found both the colobus and blue monkey. The blue is very skiddish as it used to be hunted. The colobus is not quite as skiddish until something is pointed at it, like a camera. I did manage to get a few shots of both, however. My guide, Victor, told me the blue monkey is difficult to find, and he hadn’t seen one in over a month. And of course in trying to get just the right shot, I wasn’t watching where I was walking and ended up sliding down a muddy slope back to the main trail. Victor’s ability to spot these things in the trees is quite amazing.
After what should have been the end of the tour, I asked him about the process for how to see Moshi. Without asking for any money he said he’d be glad to take me. We left the rain forest, back through some local dirt roads and then came upon a school with about 100 or so children outside playing soccer and jump rope. He asked if I wanted to walk across the playground and so we did. The kids started watching me and when I pulled out the camera I was mobbed. About two dozen cute faces screaming, peekture peekture. What they wanted to see was their faces in the camera display. I could hardly hang onto the camera they were so anxious to see the screen. You’ll see lots of cute kid pictures. We then went to the Moshi market. Amazing place. Not somewhere I would have ever went by myself. He told me some places aren’t good for visitors to go alone. Everything under the sun was for sale, all under makeshift stands and very muddy and rutted walkways. Got some good pictures and video there too. We then went into the downtown area where he took me to eat a “local lunch” of pasta and chicken. The building we were in was the tallest in Moshi, 9 stories. Victor left the table for a minute and came back with a key. Turns out, he knew the owners who gave him a key to the roof access. Quite a view from up there. A church, temple, and mosque within a few blocks of each other. Call to prayer was going on while we were there. From there he took me to see a friend of his, a tanzanite dealer. You walk in and the guy locks the door behind you. I soon found out why when he laid out about $50,000 worth of the mineral. We made our way back to the bus station and met a hotel shuttle to come back. After getting back and finding no electricity, I was able to sit for about 90 minutes before Victor came back. This time we went to Kilimanjaro Orphanage. Upon arrival, I was greeted by all 43 children. They have a very extravagent welcome ceremony for visitors of song and play which went on for 10+ minutes. I was able to get a couple of minutes of video of this. After the welcome, the teacher came out to greet me and gave me a full tour of the place, boys dorms, girls dorms, office, storage, kithchen, etc… The kids here too were amazed by the camera. And like the other group at the school, you get big smiles when you give them fist bumps. Victor and I were invited to have some of the food the kids get (corn meal dipped in sauce), not too bad really. We also met the orphanage doctor, Dr. Greg, from Haines, Alaska, but living here for the last two years. He was quite interested in the Global Partners so I gave him the website, the smugmug site and your email Jeff. After an hour or so we went back to the hotel. The entire day was about 7 miles of walking so a good warm up. To bad I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my neck. Ouch.
Today was another 7 miles and a lot of up and down. We went to a village on the border of Kenya and Tanzania to see the Chagga tribe and the waterfalls. The Chagga have quite an amazing system of tree farming. The tall trees protect the bananna trees which in turn protect the coffee and so on. Many different layers. This requires lots of water so they have an elaborate canal system. Had a local Chagga dish for lunch, bananna stew, made up of banannas, carrots, beef, and potatoes. Tasted quite good. The falls were quite tall at about 150 feet or more and worth the difficult hike to get to the bottom and back up.
I’m being told it is time for the mountain briefing so I’ll wrap this one up. I don’t expect to be in contact until after we get back in six days. And then it will only be one night that I’ll be here.
See you in a week or so.
Back from the climb. I’m going to have to keep this pretty short.
So day one, an 8 mile hike through the forest with an elevation change of about 4500 feet. Not alot to say here. Most of the time was spent walking through trees, some covered with moss making them look like they had beards. Within one hour of starting, the rain began falling but it only lasted an hour or so. The further along you get the steeper it gets. Early evening we did manage to get to Camp 1, me included, albeit with cramps in my legs.
The next day we quickly left the high forest. This would be the shortest but steepest climbing including some scrambling. Very hard climbing. And more rain, most of the day. Made the rocks slippery. About the time we got to camp in the early afternoon, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the winds picked up helping to dry out the gear. And there I was, made it through day two. Feeling much better as well. Later that night the rains started again and about 2am a strong wind kicked up coming off the mountain. The winds were so stong, they tore apart some tents but I was high and dry with no damage.
Day three; this was the day that changed things for me. Still raining and cloudy and running abit behind, I opted to forego the sunscreen and used the hat instead. The bad thing was that I put the hat in the bag the porter was carrying. The sun quickly came out after we got going as we were getting above the clouds. By the time we stopped for lunch, I emptied my bag trying to find the sunscreen. Too late. The damage was already done. The sunburn was bad enough that it blistered in several places. At least all I had exposed was my face, head and the back of my wrists. This was the lava tower day, going up to 15,000ft, then back down to 12,500 ft. to camp. I staggered into Barranco camp so sunsick and so from the steep decent that I could barely walk. But I did make it. I would later find out my problems weren’t as bad as I may have thought. About 11:45pm that night, I was slowly pulled out of my sleep from the sounds of coughing and moaning a few tents behind me. After about 15 minutes of this, another series of coughs and then a scream so loud it bounced off the high canyon walls, first the east then the west. Right away, almost in unison, the sound of about a dozen zippers from tents opening and porters running to the guys aid. I didn’t sleep another wink the rest of the night. This camp was stunning. The mountain above, two steep walls on either side and views of Moshi’s lights below. All with a nearly full moon.
Still alive the morning of day four. After breakfast it was up the Barranco wall, a 2000 ft. vertical wall, a very daunting task but not as bad as it appears. Lots of ups and downs this day and all steep (or at least so I thought). Then came the mixup. We arrive at camp about 1:00pm only to be told we have to go to the next camp because I am only on a 6 day climb despite my arguing it was supposed to be 7 days. I lose so on we go, all the way to Barafu. We arrive at 5:00pm and by the time I get food and get to bed it is 7:30pm. At 11:15pm they would wake us up for the summit attempt. We left camp at midnight, heading for the summit. I could look up and see the long string of headlamps as the people ahead of me were much higher. Right out of camp we became exposed to quite stong winds (gusts to 50mph or more). They were helpful when it was at your back, cursing it when it was in your face, and dangerous when crossing from side to side. I set my goals small. Get to 17,500ft. Made it. Now 18,000ft. Made it and stopped just long enough to see a spectular sunrise framing one of Kibo’s two sisters. I knew at this point I had a chance as it was less than 1000ft to the rim. On we go, digging into the snow to take each step. As it seemed I was about ready to give up, I look up to see a green sign above me (maybe 100ft or so) saying congrats, you are now at Stella point. I drug myself to the crater rim to rest a bit and my guide says look over there. The highest point in Africa lay only about 45 minutes away, and I could see the sign. Slowly we made our way around about a quarter of the rim, came around a corner and over a ridge and there it was just a few hundred feet ahead. We got there and waited for about 10 minutes then my guide looks at me and says your turn. With almost no energy left, I dug my poles into the snow and took the last two steps and at 10:20am (1:20am CST) March 9, I found myself standing on the roof of Africa. I was too tired to care at that point and just as I was starting to think about what I had done, another thought came running through my head. How in the #%^@# am I going to get down from here. Another story for another time, but yes I did make it and have the certificate, pictures, burns, and bisters to prove it. Now it is off to Safari for the next five days. Talk to you in a few days.