Beginnings of a Long Trek

Day 1 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Excitement. There’s really no other way to describe the first day of our trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro. We had to be out the door of our hotel and ready by 8am, so we spent the night before separating and packing our things—items we needed on the mountain and those we could leave behind at the hotel—weighing our trekking duffle to make sure it wasn’t too heavy for porters, and dreaming what it would all be like.

Getting ready to leave Bristol Cottages in Moshi for our Kilimanjaro Trek. Phil LaBelle, 2017.

After breakfast, we put water in our Nalgene bottles, loaded up our day packs with rain gear, snacks and the like, and finally hopped on small bus that would take us to the gate. Most of that first day was driving. Three hours along the roads to get us to the gate at Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park to check in officially with passport numbers and all our info. All the gear had to be weighed again for the porters—this is a wonderful thing to make sure those carrying gear aren’t being overloaded—and we had a box lunch.

Once all this happened, we needed to get back in the bus to get to our official starting gate on the Lemosho Route. Our group of seven clambered off, grabbed our bags, tightened our boot laces and extending our hiking poles.

The hike begins steeply. I’ve been on hikes like this before. Immediately you gain a quick two or three hundred feet of elevation and you wonder if the whole day will be like this. Practically it begins steep because of terrain and if it were more reasonable perhaps the gate would be further up.

We entered into the rain forest and within the first half hour saw our first Colobus monkey—fluffy black and white mammals hanging out in the trees. The route did flatten out some soon after the start, and while we gained a fair amount of elevation along the path, the excitement lingered.

I couldn’t believe we had begun after so many months of planning. Being with Noah, enjoying the beauty of the country, talking about baseball stats (Noah’s favorite hiking pastime), meeting new friends, and taking it all in. Our porters left before us with our gear, tents, food and the like. (It takes a small village to get a group to the top of Kilimanjaro, and I was always amazed at their hard work and joy.)

After a few hours, we arrived at camp, welcomed by our Tusker Trail tents, mess tent and all our porters. It was a great day of hiking, and we all stopped to snap a photo by the sign welcoming us to Big Tree camp.

I ended the day where it began: with excitement and joy. We saw a blue monkey trying to get snacks off other trekkers. Our dinner, prepared by our chef, Alex, was wonderful. We met with our guides to make plans for the next day, and after conversation around a lantern set on our dining table, we headed off to bed.

Noah and I said our nighttime prayers, giving thanks for it all, and promptly fell asleep. He slept through the night; I awoke a couple hours later due to jet lag and the surreal aspect of it all. It took me a while to fall back asleep, my thoughts filled with scenes of Africa and the expectation of what was to come.

Totals: 4.3 miles and ~1800 feet of elevation gain. Elevation: 8700 feet.