After the long tour from Capetown which should finish up around March 20 or so I have 10 days before leaving for Egypt on April 1st. Currently I am thinking of going back to Moshi and seeing how much it would cost to climb Kilamanjaro. That should take a week if it happens. We'll see.
Nairobi - which should be called the Kilamanjaro stop.
I may have been a bit harsh on the campsite in the last update, it is ok, and cheap. Most of the group was just tired and ready to fly home. The last of our four drivers was in the hospital with Malaria so there was little organization to the conclusion of the trip. Everyone went to Carnivors ( a famous place for mixed game meats), but the price was higher than many wantted to pay, and without an organizing force the group wound up splitting into different groups each going different places. I wound up going with Leon, Ozzy, Sindy, and Yvonne to an Italian place downtown. All in all spent a couple of nights at the campsite which was close enough to downtown that you could walk in about 20 minutes. Second night just slept in the back of the truck which was more comfortable than the beds in the dorms. After two of the three required injections Jan was feeling better the next morning. Everyone else from the group had either flown out the night before or relocated to nicer hotels in town somewhere, so around 9:30 we drove out and headed for the border. The border crossing was uneventful except for the usual hassles from the touts convinced that saying "special price for you" will eventually wear down your strange reluctance to buy their junk. I did buy some Massi knifes for my brother at about 1/10 the starting price. I worry I will get back to the states and ask a convience store clerk how much something is and then ask for a "special sunday morning price" or "special cloudy wednesday afternoon for my special friend price" because "I really want to do business with you." :) We picked up Francois at the Messerani Snake Park who was feeling much better and I contacted "fish" to find a place to stay in town and arrange for a Kilamanjaro climb. Wound up staying in the Meru house at one end of town for about 8$ a night with hot water 24 hours a day! :)
Had a little trouble reaching Fish again, but finally tracked him down at the African Adventures office the next day. Worked out what equipment was needed and prices and whatnot and then I spent the rest of the day walking around town, sending email, etc. Found out my flight from Athens to Kathmandu was changed, because Gulf Air was stopping service to Athens April 1st. They had switched me to Turkish Airline to Istanbul instead which might have been interesting except it left the morning of the 19th before my boat from Crete was finished docking. Since this is a sideline I will jump ahead to say it looks like something is worked out with Olympic Air thanks to the work of Nicole at Airtreks.
Next morning started for Moshi in a landrover with my guide Amani and three porters. There are two main routes up the mountain for people without technical gear. The Marangu route, also called the Coca-Cola route takes 5 days and has huts at each night stop and is the easiest walk up with only altitude to bother you. I was taking the 6 day Machame route known as the Wiskey route which goes up the other side of the mountain and then back down a different way so you get a little more senery. Only camping on this route. First day was about 5 hours from the gate at 1700m to Machame Huts at 3000m. Worse part was slogging through the mud in the rainforest surrounding the base of the mountain. A few minutes before the campground we broke above the rainforest into a dryer moor land. This is rainy season and if we had come yesterday we would have been dumped on, but luckily for me it never rained except after we were already setup in tents.
Spent the night and then next day hiked 4 hours up to the Shira huts at 3850m. After setting up camp I walked up another 150m before bed to help acclimatize. I had a slight headache, but was avoiding medicine, because I wantted to know if I was adjusting or not. One option is to stay at Shiva for two nights to help aclimatize and take the western bridge route to the top. The other is too keep moving and hike around the mountain to a easier ascent route on the other side. I was the only climber on this side of the mountain and never did see anyone else until reaching the top. Felt good the next morning and decided to climb higher. I wasn't going to hike an extra 6 to 7 hours just for an easier route, but figured I could spend my extra night higher up on this side, so went about 4 hours to the Lava tower at 4600m. Since there was plenty of time I went the extra hour up to Arrow glacier at 4850m which would be our basecamp tomorrow night for the final summit. Lava tower is a cool tower which looks to have some good climbing if people brought gear and had the energy at that height. My headache was quite bad that night and I ate only a little soup and went to bed early.
Out for a pee in the middle of the night (I was drinking way too much water to try and help acclimate) it was cold, but very clear and you could see the lights far below. The only clear time was early morning on the mountain, by 9 the clouds had rolled in and covered everything and you were hiking in fog. Even in the morning it was only clear up top and looking down you just saw the top of the cloud bank, so this was the first time I could see all the way to the bottom of the mountain.
Headache was gone in the morning and I felt good enought to go srambling around on the boulders. We only had the short hour climb to Arrow glacier that day, so after reaching the next campsite I went up another 250 - 300m before coming back down. Had afternoon tea as usual and then sat around in the tent as it started sleeting all afternoon. The clouds broke right at sunset for some pictures and then closed back in.
Got up that night at 12:30 for some hot chocolate and then started climbing at 1. Unlike most previous nights the clouds were still around and it was misting us as Amani and I started climbing (the porters would head back down and around later that night to meet us on the far side). The lack of visablity made it hard to find the way and the frozen ground kept sticking my poles making every step harder. All the rocks were covered with a slick frost making footing treacherous. Finally climbed above the clouds after a couple of hours and the moonlight on the rock walls was beautiful. The western bridge route is diffinetly a more visually arresting route, but can't be retreated from because there are sections that must be climbed. It is not hard climbing, except for the altitude and loose rock only lightly attached by frost and the long fall below if you slip. I diffinetly don't recommend it for anyone with a problem with heights or if you were already sick with altitude sickness. The second bad thing is that unlike the other routes that you can just take small shuffle steps on to save energy, here you had to step up to footholds sometime several feet higher requiring large bursts of energy. Those of you who have been on high mountains know how tiring it is to keep moving at all with small little steps. I wouldn't hesitate to send my brother Randy on this route, but then he is not a man like other men and is cut from a different cloth than the rest of you mortals. So don't take this as a blanket recogmendation for this route. Safty wise it is probably worth it to take the extra time to hike around to the easier route on the other side.
As I think is normal, the next couple of hours were a slow struggle to keep going, but finally I reached the crater rim at 5600m. A final hour of exhaustion saw me to the top at 6:37 to see the sun rise above the cloud layer from Uhuru peak at 5895m. Along the way the question of why I was doing this to myself kept coming up. I can only say "for all the chicks!" Then of course you have to go back down, so I spent until noon running down loose scree and hiking out to the final campsite. Then because I don't have much sense I answered the question of how I felt with "Great", which lead to the decision to skip the last camp and walk on out for another 5 hours through that damn rainforest mud slide. Almost 17 hours after starting this morning I finally reached the park gate for a ride back to Arusha. Spent the next couple of days limping around town, sleeping, getting clothes washed, sending email and postcards, etc.
Took two girls from the peacecorp out to dinner last night to an Indian place and then stayed up talking about what it is like to work as a teacher here in the small villages until almost 1. Tomorrow I will take a bus back to Nairobi for a last day or two before flying out to Cairo. Unless something crazy happens this will probably be it for the Nairobi update.
BBFN: John - March 29, 2002
Well, only a couple of things worth mentioning to finish out the africa account.
Had a flat tire on the bus back to Nairobi which was a bit exciting, followed by period of heat and boredom.
Nairobi itself has a reputation of robbery, but I walked around town late at night after some movies and going out to clubs and never had any problems.
I felt bad that I didn't give Carnavoirs a chance the last time so I went back. Their reputation is for the open pit roasted game meats, but it was a big disappointment for me. The meat was generally tough and not nearly as good as what I had in Capetown and along the way. Had a few new types like zebra and giraffe, but nothing was worth the exorbitant price they charged. My hope is I cause one reader to skip the place.
As to the people, Nairobi showed me two sides. On one hand you saw well dressed africans going about real jobs with a sense of prosperity not evident since Capetown. Unfortunately as a tourist there was no real reason for them to interact with me. The other side was all the hustlers wanting money. There was constant exhortions to see their shops, take their cabs, and flat out "give me business", which I compare to the hawkers at the earlier towns trying to sell you trinkets. Of course Egypt will be no better in this reguard. While annoying, at least I could just politely say no thanks and keep moving. Worse were the people who started out with "Whats your name? Where are you from? How do you like africa?" etc. These individuals would want to tie you up in conversation, try to become your friend and then have you simpathize with their plight and help them out with some business or donations. While I can feel sorry for the lack of opertunaties available to them, it quickly would become apparent they didn't care what my answers were and would tell me what they thought I would want to hear rather than real answers to any of my questions. You were faced with a large number of people who had nothing better to do but try to waste your time in hopes of seeing some money out of it. While normally I love to talk to people from wherever I am travelling, and always try to be polite and answer questions. I have to admit that after two days I didn't want to tell anyone my name, or even acknoledge that they were speaking to me. I try to remember that these people don't represent all the people living and working in Kenya, but they make the biggest impression so I finally left with a bad taste in my mouth for Kenya in general and doubt I will be back. Which is the first of the countries visited that I wouldn't want to return to.
The last interesting bit which is also kind of depressing was the nightclub/disco I went to called Florida2000. Located above a gas station a few blocks from my hotel "Embassy", it is in the guidebooks as the local hotspot. I went about 11pm which is probably too early and was the only white guy there until one or two came in much later. As I walked over to a table all the girls in the bar were watching me, and as soon as I sat down two came over and asked to join me. Both were very beautiful and would easily find work as models in the States. Since I am not Brad Pitt, I figured they were working girls, but at no time did they ask if I wanted to go back to the hotel or spend money on them. One actually bought me a drink to keep me from leaving earlier. She also made it clear that if I wanted a wife she would be happy to marry me just to get out of africa and into the states, where she claimed she would be quite happy to work in the fields for a dollar an hour. 200$ a month for 10 hour days picking cotten sounded like a good deal to her. Of course, my plans to enjoy life and work as a divemaster were unexceptable, and I was expected to get a real job. :) Some things never change I guess.