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California to Kilimanjaro: Roof of Africa Journey Part 2

April 14, 2020


After waiting

and waiting

and waiting

we finally started hiking from the entrance gate to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park up to 9000′ Mandara Hut. 

I understand now why– they had to divide up all the weight of our stuff and food and camp and get going themselves BUT I really wish they’d told us what was going on. And why couldn’t we get going? I don’t know.

Once we started hiking, it was cool and overcast and we were hiking in a rainforest. It felt great to finally be moving UP. It was great to be on the trail.

I was surprised that the trail had so few people on it — mostly people like us going down with generally a successful summit to share.




That’s what everyone said to each other– the universal greeting. In Swahili it’s a greeting much like hello.

About three quarters of the way up, we stopped for a bathroom break where we saw picnic tables with umbrellas and a paved road where it turns out most of our necessities were hauled up leaving the trail for the trekkers like us (aka TOURISTS) …and the road serves as an emergency access.

Highlights of our hike up included  this waterfall and dappled sunlight both above.

It was warm enough for us to wear shorts but we all wore layers and had rain jackets easily accessible. We also all had on gaiters to help keep our feet warm, dry, and clean.

Beautiful and serene.

Honestly, getting to Mandara Hut at almost 9000′ was really a walk in the park: green, rainforest, water, lush.


We felt great:



Above Steve takes Tim’s picture. Below, Protus, me, Tony, Tim, Steve, Marie.

We were assigned a large hut (pictured below) with three rooms filled with many bunks– 8 or more in each room.

Tony and Tim took one room, Marie and Steve took the other room, and I took a top bunk in the middle room and Protus, our guide who lives in the Catskills but grew up in Tanzania, took a bottom bunk on the other side of the room.

that’s my bunk in the corner– I didn’t expect the bunk next to it to have that higher wooden frame…

We had barely settled in (and found the toilet!) when large bowls of warm water were brought to each of us by smiling porters — along with a bar of soap. It seemed an unnecessary but welcome extravagance to me. We all washed up happily, and soon it was time for a hot dinner.

Perhaps we couldn’t get going because they had to provide this hot water for us on our arrival?

After backpacking 2800 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1985, and after having experienced stress fractures in my feet from backpacking in Yosemite in 2016 and in Wales in 2018, I will tell you I REALLY appreciate NOT having to carry much on my back up Kilimanjaro in 2019.

And it is SO NICE to have someone else not only carry your sleeping bag but also to heat water for washing and make dinner and do the dishes.

Not so nice: people coming and going to pee and snoring, lots of snoring. Bad enough to deal with my spouse’s spring but I hadn’t thogutb i’d have to deal with it in Tanzania too.

I climbed down from my bunk to get ear plugs and climbing back up hit my head HARD. I was afraid my glasses were destroyed, and my head also– it really hurt. Shockingly bad. I was exhausted but I eventually got to sleep and in the morning bent my glasses back into a semblance of shape.

Between losing my prescription sunglasses the day before I left and banging up these I was down two for two vision-wise and wondered how it might impact my success.

Stay tuned and subscribe or next week’s installment and check out Tony Fletcher’s From Kingston to Kilimanjaro: A Four-Part Series on a Journey to the Roof of Africa, part 2 In August 2019 Tony Fletcher set off with four friends (including ME) from around the globe, and a Catskills-based, Tanzanian-born guide, to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Tony is a writer and broadcaster by trade, so he brought his recording devices along with him for the journey up the mountain. Over the course of this four part series it’s Tony’s hope that you’ll  be able to experience a little bit of what it’s like to go on an adventure like this, and that by the time we are all done, you’ll be ready to embark on one of your own.

Link to Part 1:

Tony Fletcher is the British-born author of nine books, including biographies of Keith Moon, Wilson Pickett, R.E.M. and The Smiths. In 2019 he  hosted and wrote “It’s A PIxies Podcast”. In 2016, he backpacked around the world with his wife and then 11-year old younger son. A keen trail runner and a Show Director at the Rock Academy in Woodstock, he lives in Kingston.

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