When a lifelong dream becomes a reality, I believe that one of the best ways to preserve those precious memories is to put the experience down in words. A diary, a notepad, or in this case, a blog, are great tools for remembering, sharing and reliving those highs and lows that come with an extreme adventure, and as we share our Kilimanjaro Climb story over the coming days, we hope it encourages you to share your own.
Day 1 – Arusha
Despite having lived in South Africa for almost two years, we were somewhat surprised when we landed at Kilimanjaro International airport. The barren lands between the airport and our destination town of Arusha were occupied by masses of people, ranging from immaculately dressed schoolchildren and businessmen, to pastoral Maasai tending to their flocks of cows and sheep, the stark red colour of their robes contrasting brilliantly against the terracotta land and blue sky.
‘Pure Africa’ is the first thought that came to my mind, and despite seeing extreme poverty just moments outside the airport doors, we also witnessed children singing and playing, groups of men (young and old) drinking a cold beer together, and saw a whole lot of bright and beautiful smiles that were to become part of everyday life in Tanzania.
Arusha town is slightly less ‘advanced’ than I had anticipated, but it is filled with the chaotic charm that comes with many East African towns. Packed ‘Dala dala’ minibuses share the road with taxis, motorbikes, man pulled carts and donkeys, and while there doesn’t seem to be any specific traffic rules, everyone seemed to manage to get where they were going!
Our wonderful haven amongst this madness was the Planet Lodge Hotel. A small and spotlessly clean hotel consisting of an impressive reception and restaurant area, and several rotund ‘huts’, one of which was to be our home for the night.
Managed by Frank and his team of helpful staff, our stay at Planet Lodge was brief, but perfect in every way, and if you ever need a hot shower, a great meal and comfy king size bed in Kilimanjaro – you know where to go!
After we had settled into our room and taken a much-needed shower (after our 24-hour journey!), we met our mountain guide from Big Expeditions. Mathew Mtui explained our schedule for the following day in detail, ensured we had all the necessary gear for our Kilimanjaro climb, and answered all our questions before leaving us to enjoy our afternoon by the pool.
Dinner was followed by an early night. Exhausted yet excited about what was come, I believe our last words to each other before drifting off into a deep sleep were, “We are going to climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow”!