Machame Gate To Machame Camp (7/27)
I woke up at 6:00 am and had my last shower for a while. I finished packing and paid my portion of the hotel bill for bottled beverages. Alpine Ascents pays for everything but bottled beverages. We had to wait for the manager to arrive in order to check our passports and money into the hotel safe. The manager is very thorough in checking in your stuff. The process is: put your stuff in a big manila envelope, seal it, sign across the flap, 2 strips of tape over the flap, two strips of tape across the bottom and staples on all of the corners. You then have to sign a receipt and a copy of that gets attached to the envelope.
We then loaded our gear into 3 trucks and headed for Machame gate. Once off the main highway the road is dirt and gets quite steep near the gate. I could see where this road would be one big mud bog during the rainy season. We drove into a gated area that separated us from the local porters looking for work. The porters stand behind a fence hoping to be picked. We then went to the park office and waited in line to sign in. Then we hung out for a long time waiting for Allen to pay our park entrance fees. There was only one cashier on duty today and he was in no hurry. They inspect each bill and write down the serial numbers. One of our bills did not pass the visual inspection so Allen had to come up with another one. He only had a $100 so they had to find someone else to make change. What a process. Bureaucracy in action. While waiting we were given our lunches in plastic Tupperware boxes.
Finally we were ready to go at 11:00 am. We were introduced to our Tanzanian lead guide Roy and our assistant guide Fungi(?). So off we went. The trail is really nice. They redid the trail a year or so ago. The days of wallowing in mud are gone. We did not need our gators. We hiked at a nice slow steady pace. The trick is to not go too fast to burn yourself out or use up too much energy. We would hike for 45 minutes and then stop for 3 to 5 minutes. We had a lunch break for about 15 minutes. I would eat a little of my lunch at each break.
Today's hike was through the forest zone of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This area is dense with trees and lush foliage. During the rainy season this area gets a huge amount of rainfall. Lucky for us we are here during the dry season. The trails were nice and dry.
Each day our lunch boxes contained a juice box, hard boiled egg, sandwich, pastry (a pancake or hot pocket like thing) and chocolate. The food was always good. Although I think I'll not miss eating hard boiled eggs.
While hiking, the porters are zooming up the trail. Sometimes they are carrying their loads on their heads. They hustle to get their day done and get to camp as soon as possible. We tried to hike on the right side of the trail so the porters could pass us on the left.
It took us about 5 hours to get to Machame camp. We stopped at the green hut and registered once again. We then headed up a little higher to our camp. My altimeter said we ascended 3, 880 feet. We had a great spot. Isolated from everyone else in a nice location. Our tents were already up when we arrived in camp. We identified our dry bags and unloaded our gear. We had 3 person Sierra Designs tents that two people shared. The tents were nice except that the zippers sucked. The fly zipper seemed to always get stuck. The tents are pitched so tight that the tent zipper never worked easily. You had to unhook poles or pull the tent body to relive the pressure so the zipper would slide.
After we unpacked we went to the dining tent. This is a large two room Coleman tent. We have tables (complete with tablecloths) and chairs. We were treated to fresh popcorn and hot chocolate.
You have two options for going to the bathroom on the mountain. There are permanent outhouses with Asian style squat toilets or a portable pit outhouse complete with toilet seat. Allen suggested we try the squat toilets. They are cleaner in some sense because you don't touch anything (unlike the portable outhouse that has a zipper door and seat). I had to take care of business so I tried the squat out house. It was rather nice. It became my preferred outhouse.
We were brought warm water and soap to clean up before dinner. Dinner was great. We had leek soup, rice, salad (like cole slaw), meat stew, water melon and mango. To drink we had hot water and hot chocolate. The tea is somehow missing. To make the hot chocolate you mix 3 teaspoons of cocoa, 2 teaspoons of whole powdered milk, and one teaspoon of sugar. Then add hot water and drink up. We also had two kerosene lanterns to light the tent.
Our team name is "Kili Time". This was thought up by Ryan (age 13) who is the youngest member of the team. He came up with it back at the lodge while looking at the label of a Kilimanjaro beer.
After dinner Jamie and I headed for bed. Tomorrow we head to Shira camp. This is supposed to be a steep hike.