Monday, August 28, 2017

Kili climb, day 1: to Simba Camp

Today was a good day.

The morning was a little hectic, what with stowing our extra gear, getting our duffels weighed, settling our tabs, and checking out of our rooms. But at 8:45 the courtyard of the Springlands Hotel was bursting with bags and nervous ready-to-climbers.

We piled on the buses for the three-hour trip. Wil and I sat in the second from the last row, right over the rear wheel. The roads weren't very smooth -- I mean, #thisisafrica and all that -- and they were liberally studded with speed bumps of all shapes and sizes. Amusingly, while on the bus, all of us in the back with Fitbits hit our step goals... just from the jostling.

We stopped along the way for a pee break -- just a spot with some bushes near the road. A lot of people piled off the bus, including Wil, even though it meant climbing over backpacks and bags. But Annie, in the back row, did not, because we thought we only had another 20 minutes or so to wait. 


After half an hour Tony -- who was also in the last row -- gallantly called to the front of the bus to ask if there might be another pee break soon. Erik, slightly exasperated, said, "We stopped 20 minutes ago! Why didn't you go then?" And it was clear that no break was coming, despite Annie's "We're really squeezing back here!" plea.

So Annie, being a #totalbadass, peed in a bottle. On a packed bus. A moving, bouncing bus. Full of people she did not yet know. Bless her heart.

A little while later, we turned off the paved road onto a dirt track to the trailhead.

A tense moment or two when we couldn't make it up a deeply dusty hill, but the driver backed down, got up some speed, and made it out. And then we arrived at the trailhead.

I took advantage of the "Tourist Toilets" (= ones with seats), and then we had our boxed lunch. The omnivores got chicken, I believe. We got a big bag of pineapple. Which I see as a win.

Then we signed in to the climbers' register for the first time and it started to feel real. Sorta.

We still had some time to kill while the paperwork was being completed, so we went for a little walk through the village. Our guide told us that the village wasn't supposed to be there -- you can't build in the national park -- but people need places to live.

We were shadowed by the sweetest gang ever: a bunch of school kids on their way home. The soil here was beige powder -- I assume it was ground pumice? Very, very dusty.

We reassembled at the trailhead for a little pep talk from Jenny and Erik. They reminded us to walk at our own pace, to take our time.

And we took a "pre-race" photo, of course:

so clean! so fresh!
And then we set off ... shadowed again by the kids, who held our hands and sang to us.

The soil changed to a dark brown powder as we walked through farmland. We passed some houses and even a few enterprising village stalls before the path turned into the forest.

"Nalemuru" is the alternate name for the Rongai route
a porter heading up the trail
Sunny heading up the trail
We had one brief break -- but we and a lot of others just decided to keep walking. Before we knew it, we arrived at Simba camp.

Wil chose a tent -- this would be the only time we "chose" our location; from here on out our tent would get set up wherever and our bags would be put in it -- and we got settled.

We started our routine: get to camp, set up the sleep pad and sleeping bag, get a little cleaned up. Then go into the dining tent -- a looooooooooong tent comprised of 4 separate tents set up together -- and have "snack": usually popcorn and hot drinks. We all got obsessed by the full-fat powdered milk.

While we sat in there, Wil went exploring and came back to tell me that the mountain was out. So I went out ... as did half of the tent ... to take a look. To be honest, we weren't sure if it was really the summit, so we asked Yesse. Yep, that's the summit, far, far away....

Soon it was time for dinner -- served family-style. It started with bowls of hot soup, followed by platters of rice, potatoes, and meat. We had a special little platter with some stewed beans, much to the envy of the omnivores.

After dinner, Erik spoke to us about the plan for the next day, and then Yesse and some of the guides poked their heads in and sang us a lullaby. Very, very sweet.

Then we all headed off to bed for our first night on the mountain.

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