- Journey: From Londorossi Gate to Big Tree Camp
- Hours Walked: 2
- Starting Elevation: 2,100 m
- Final Elevation for the Day: 3,250 m
I wanted to turn back within the first 5 minutes. Serious thing.
In those first 5 minutes, it finally occurred to me to wonder what the heck I thought I was doing. And I have never sweated so much in my life! To say I sweated like a pig on day 1 is a gross understatement. But, wait, I get ahead of myself.
Elly and the crew collected me at my hotel right on time at 8 am for our 1 hour drive from Arusha to the Londorossi Gate. Right up front, he advised me that we would need 5 porters instead of the 4 he had anticipated when we had met the day before. This was because of legal weight restrictions on how much one porter is allowed to carry on the mountain. Since we were doing the longer 8-day route, more supplies were needed and we would be producing more garbage (which we had to ensure was packed up at each campsite and taken back down the mountain at the end of our 8 days) and therefore one more porter had to be added. I looked askance at him, wondering if this was on the level, but I resolved to see what was really what, said OK and we departed.
Our team consisted of our cook, James (food so delicious! Carb loading was the name of the game) and 5 porters – Focus, Robson, Enri, Tumaini and Aron, the late addition.
We all piled into a hired minibus with our stuff strapped under tarps on top and set off for our starting point, Londorossi Gate. There, every sack that every porter carried had to be weighed to ensure that it was within the legal weight limit; Elly and crew had done this weigh-in themselves in preparation back in Arusha, hence his certainty that we needed the 1 additional porter.
Meanwhile, I was peeing like there was no tomorrow. Apparently, that’s a side effect of Diamox but it was one I could live with (there are others that are less pleasant). I went twice at the gas station we stopped at to get the bus’s tyre pressure checked before we got off the main road and onto the “African massage” road that would take us to the gate. And I went twice while we were doing our registration and weigh-in at the gate. That’s 4 times in about 3 hours. I prayed I could hold it once we got into the bush.
After another short drive to our starting point, more registration formalities, more weighing and a quick boxed lunch, we were off. I watched in amazement as our porters hoisted their giant burdens onto their heads or necks, balancing them with the backpack of personal items that each carried. I was carrying a simple knapsack with my waterproof jacket and pants, sweater, umbrella and camel bag.
Off we went through the forest. I was walking behind James, feeling happy to be doing this and quite pleased that my new boots were comfortable. By minute 3, I was huffing and puffing up the path. I heard from behind me, “Kristine, slow down. Don’t try to keep up with James or you’ll blow your lungs. Polepole.” [pronounced ‘po-leh po-leh’, which is Swahili for ‘slowly’.] Elly didn’t need to tell me twice. The sweating had already started and I was feeling the burn. All my walking up and down Armour Heights already seemed like child’s play compared to this.
When I felt my shirt sticking to my back, I seriously started to question if I was crazy to do this. Elly and his park warden friend were strolling along behind me, chatting up a storm, not even slightly winded. All 5 porters and James had quickly disappeared ahead of me on the path and I was trying to convince myself that I was a warrior, that I could do this. I sweated everywhere above my knees. Everywhere. Every. Where.
Eventually, the park warden sped up and passed me because he had to get to Big Tree camp, check on the rangers reporting to him and get back down to the gate before nightfall. I continued polepole.
We got there after 2 hours, at about 2 in the afternoon; I was never so happy to see a tent.
As he would at the end of every day’s hike, Focus brought me water to wash (bush wash up with hot water is very refreshing; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), Elly and I had popcorn and tea for a snack, followed by dinner a couple of hours later. As he would every evening after dinner, Elly measured my oxygen level and heart rate (they were always good), and I read my Bible, prayed and went to bed. Day 1 was over.