Kili-Day 1
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The first day, New Year's day, we woke up to pouring rain. This was a new experience for a few reasons; 1)I didn't have a splitting headache from the previous night, 2)waking up in a 3rd world country on the other side of the globe and, 3)we were about to start the climb up Kilimanjaro! After breakfast and some more packing we sat back and watched the organized chaos of the porters and guides getting ready. For our017a-porters.jpg (122668 bytes) group we had 1 guide, 6 assistant guides, and 37 porters. Watching these guys pack all of our stuff, tents, food, and their own stuff in burlap bags that they would carry on their heads was amazing. The rain let off and we loaded up in the monster Mercedes trucks for the couple hour ride to 018-porters.jpg (154155 bytes) the Machame Gate. We headed through small villages and towns where the children all waved and a kid even tried to sell us a turtle.
It was raining by the time we got to the gate, so on with the rain gear from the start (rumor had it that the rainy season was extended this year). The gate is around 5900ft and we would end up around 9800ft at the Machame019-Kili day1.jpg (205664 bytes) camp. One word to describe the day...mud. The trail starts in the rain forest and most of the rain was stopped by the canopy, though made its way down eventually. The mud went from shallow to deep, even shin deep in spots. The entire day was spent jumping from log to rocks to root to not-as-muddy spot. The efforts were futile though and everyone ended up covered. For the brief times that I could take my eyes off the next step, all around was enormous 021-Kili day1.jpg (219512 bytes) moss covered trees, vines, and wild looking plants. Going off the trail would be a disaster through the dense forest. Trekking poles came in quite handy to poke spots around to see where the mud was the least deep. Did I mention the mud?
I knew we were getting close to camp when a porter carrying nothing was coming down the trail and yelling at some of the other porters to speed things up. Got to camp after about 5hrs of hiking (in mud) just as it was getting dark. The porters were023-Kili day2.jpg (161057 bytes) bustling about setting up tents and starting dinner for us. Luckily Aaron's tent was set up already so we just had to change and attempt to dry some of the days clothes. Regardless of the conditions, I still had an ass-to-ears grin the entire time! Didn't end up taking many picture for fear of dropping my camera in the mud, or falling in the mud while trying to take a picture.
We were told to not expect much talk or interaction with the porters cause they are working the whole time. "Jambo" (Swahili for 'hi') was most of the conversation. Around Kilimanjaro there about around 10,000 people trained and qualified by the park service as porters, 022-Kili day1.jpg (182737 bytes) assistant guides, and guides. As a result they only work on the mountain about once a month, but what they make is more than most make in a month in Tanzania. In 6 days of solid work of carrying enormous loads of gear on their heads, then setting up camp before cooking and cleaning, they make the equivalent of what most Americans make in a few hours. Plus they are always working to impress the guides who pick about 2/3rds of the porters for the trips they guide. An amazing bunch of folks!

015-porters.jpg (205006 bytes) Porters getting ready; porters weighing in 016-porters.jpg (176253 bytes)

017-porters.jpg (228817 bytes) Porters lined up and ready to go; tea at the Machame Gate 020-Kili day1.jpg (186125 bytes)

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