M O U N T.......K I L I M A N J A R O

After months of planning, research, and training Larry II and I left Chicago via American Airlines for Africa at 4:30 p.m. on the 28th of August 2002. We arrived in London early on the 29th and spent the day riding "the tube" from Heathrow Airport to Piccadilly Circus in downtown London. We took the "Big Bus" tour, which included a pass by the major sites. We were too tired and too short of time to even attempt to go inside the museums, churches, palaces, castles etc.

We arose about 3:30 a.m. to get to the airport for the required two hours before flight time. However, the British Airways counters, security checkpoints, and restaurants weren't open when we arrived. After a minor conflagration of misplacing my passport at the gate, I was able to save the day by locating it in the innermost sanctum of my new triple pocket Samsonite neck pouch. Trust me, no thief could have stolen my passport since it took me about six searches to find it myself. After this bit of anxiety, we were off to Amsterdam and a connection to a KLM flight direct to Kilimanjaro. Our wide-bodied jet arrived about 8:30 p.m. at Kilimanjaro International Airport where we were met by personnel from the Marangu Hotel. Since this was the only KLM flight of the day, the airport entrance was jammed with Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, and 3-ton safari trucks. We were disappointed that the Tanzanian Immigration Officials did not request to see our immunization records after suffering through $175 in shots.

The Hotel vehicle was an old Land Cruiser, which looked more like a Land Rover. Its prior life must have been as a Safari vehicle since its condition indicated that the rough roads had taken their toll. The carbon monoxide level was ample in the passenger compartment. As is the case where the British have colonized, one drives on the left side of the road. Each time we met an oncoming vehicle our driver turned on his right turn signal as if to announce his presence. We traveled the 40 miles to the hotel in just over an hour. We noticed the many citizens who were standing by the roadsides that time of the night and the frequent speed bumps.

I awakened from a short nap about 11:00 p.m. when we pulled into the small-unlit circular driveway of the old coffee plantation cum hotel. That's when I noticed a tall Tanzanian wearing a stocking cap and a red facial bandanna approach our vehicle along with two other non-official looking individuals. To myself I said, "Wow, is this Tombstone, AZ or what?" When the driver failed to speed away, Larry and I apprehensively alighted from the old Land Cruiser. We were approached by the night watchman (old bandanna face) and his associates. There were no welcomes or introductions or receptionists to register us at that time of the night. Our posse of porters carried our bags to room #24 which was in an outbuilding on the spacious grounds. Safely bolted inside we began the process of straightening our legs. The rain that night made it seem all the more cozy.

Early the next morning an unannounced pot of tea arrived on our doorstep. A few delicious cups later, we made our way to the dining room for breakfast. The Marangu Hotel is classified as a ***+ hotel in the local ratings and has an ambiance that was refreshing. Cereal, local juice, fruit, toast, eggs, a small sausage, a half piece of bacon, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes constituted our daily breakfast.

Having an entire day to recover from our London travails, we enjoyed a three-hour "village tour" with a recommended guide named Rodric Kawa. We walked down the highway past banana groves and coffee trees and a Lutheran Church and school. Rodric explained that the Germans had colonized Tanzania (then known as Tanganyika) and had converted many of the local people to Lutheranism. There are about 18,000 inhabitants most of whom are either Lutheran or Catholic. There are few Muslims in this part of Tanzania. We passed a public elementary school and learned that all students must pay tuition. The downtown section of Marangu Village consists of a dozen or so businesses. Everyone we met was friendly and most greeted us with "jambo" which we took to mean "good morning." We climbed a muddy footpath up a hill past dwellings which seemed to all be on 1/2 acre lots. Most families had avocado, banana, lemon, and papaya trees along with corn, beans, sisal, chickens, and a cow.

Rodric took us to a mud and pole house and showed us the inside where a young woman and very old woman were sitting in an unlighted room, which he explained, was their daytime kitchen and living area. In an adjacent room was the requisite cow. Rodric explained that cows are a major contributor to the food supply of families and that if stolen the owner's probably could not afford another. A few feet away stood another small house, which was used by the family for sleeping accommodations only. Rodric said that there were few snakes, an occasional monkey and once an elephant, which ravaged local gardens until the park officials came and killed it. We passed a Catholic Church and vocational school. The schools all teach English as a second language and most of the populace are not hesitant to engage you in conversation.

We continued through the tropical acreage and came upon two men measuring and studying a large Gravellia tree trunk that had fallen. They had a large crosscut saw about 7' in length with wooden handles on either end. With this saw they began cutting the log into six rafter beams, which were measured to be 2" X 3", X 13'. The tree is also a good source of wood for furniture. For a small fee I was permitted to photograph the crosscut in action.

We then passed a plot with several houses including a conical mud hut with thatched roof. It has reportedly existed for 150 years. The owners wanted $10 US dollars to view the inside.

That afternoon at the hotel, the lady entrusted with the equipment storeroom came to our room and inspected our equipment item by item. She then provided canteens, trekking poles, blankets, and a pair of ski goggles. It was explained that the flattish plastic canteens could be tucked inside one's jacket on summit day and thereby one would have unfrozen water available. The equipment lady didn't believe that our 0 degree bags were warm enough and gave us the wool blankets. The tinted ski goggles would shield the eyes better than Ray Ban sunglasses.

That evening, Desmond, one of the brothers operating the Hotel gave us a detailed briefing and answered our questions about the climb. The brothers Desmond and Seamus Brice Bennett are of Irish ancestry but grew up in Marangu. Having allayed any lingering suspicions, we accepted their offer and placed our wallets, passports, and travelers checks in a linen bag, which they placed in the office safe.

Diamox (acetazolamide) is a diuretic that is recommended to prevent/alleviate altitude sickness. We began taking Diamox that evening in the lowest recommended dosage. Most of the hikers brought Diamox with them but some didn't. Our post hike survey could not correlate the success or failure to summit with the taking of Diamox. However, we could attest to the fact that we had to roll out of our sleeping bags at least twice per night to purge ourselves of liquids. Or course, this wasn't such a novelty for a 63 year old prostate. The first evening I had a slight buzzing in my right heel as a result of the Diamox, but it abated before I could conclude that there were rattlesnakes in Africa.

On Sunday morning, September 1, 2002 we gathered in the courtyard where the guides and porters were gathered. Last minute equipment preparations were adjusted and re-adjusted. Two other trekking parties departed before our group, as they had further to drive to more remote gates. Larry and I were assigned a 48-year-old guide, a 25-year-old assistant guide, and four porters. Our large duffel bags were placed into vinyl sacks, which were placed into burlap bags. The food was carried in a large aluminum box whose exterior testified to its many skirmishes with the mountain. The stove was contained in a cardboard box tied with sisal. Plastic fuel and water jugs were carried by hand. Finally, Larry and I were sandwiched into the front seat of a tiny Nissan pickup. Our crew of six and all of the equipment somehow fit into the truck bed and we began the 4-mile drive to the Marangu Gate. The Nissan strained under the overload and the 1000' elevation gain but it managed to disgorge us at the gate. Upon arrival, I reacquired my Camelbak from the mountain of equipment to discover that the mouthpiece was missing. After a thorough search of the truck and equipment it miraculously appeared.

A hotel representative registered us with the Park Admissions Office and paid our park fees and hut rentals which amounted to some $460 each. At last we set out on the muddy trail at an elevation of 6494'. I noticed our guide carrying his daypack plus a gallon (perhaps a three liter) coffee can with a wire handle. Upon first nonchalant visual inspection all that I could see was hay. A later more detailed look revealed at least a dozen eggs neatly packed in the cut grass.

We soon passed another group of trekkers and noted that three of them were blind. Two used trekking poles to feel out the numerous stone ditches breeching the trail while holding on to the arm of a guide. The third hung onto a short leash with handle tied to his guide's pack. Since the trail was quite steep, muddy, rough, and rocky, I was amazed that these sightless trekkers were moving steadily upward.

After several hours, we stopped for lunch on a side trail and observed a Park Service Toyota 4-wheel drive vehicle that had ascended on a route concealed from the hiking trail. Our daily provided lunch always included two sandwiches, a boiled egg, an unretouched orange, and two three inch bananas. Our unspoken question about the presence of the Toyota was answered soon after we resumed our climb. We passed a porter coming down the steep muddy trail with a young woman on his back. Just around the next bend we observed a stretcher with a bicycle wheel in the center lying beside the trail. Fortunately for the young woman, the faulty stretcher was replaced with a strong porter. Her altitude sickness was soon to improve after descending to the gate in the Land Cruiser. Our guide explained that two trekkers had been evacuated the previous day. He assured us that most people recover soon after getting off the mountain and that there are only a couple of fatalities a year.

Within two hours we arrived at Mandara Hut, elevation 8856'. The camp is a collection of Scandinavian Chalet A-frame huts, a group dormitory, a dining chalet, two outside toilets, run down staff quarters, and two cook shacks. The chalets were divided by a center wall. Each side contained four built in bunks with sheet-covered mattresses and a covered pillow. The dining hall was approximately 20' by 35' and jammed with picnic tables. The two toilets actually flushed but were primitive by our standards. They have porcelain bowls flush with the floor (if you will excuse the pun.) There was no hint of toilet paper or soap at the lone lavatory. The reception hut employee assigns the rooms and offers coca cola and beer. The price of beverages increases at each level of huts since everything is packed in by porters.

Our crew staked out a portion of a table in the dining hut by unfurling a table cloth and placing decanters of hot tea and hot water, along with instant coffee, hot chocolate, creamer, brown sugar, salt, spice (pepper to us), peanut butter, and marmalade. Dinner was always served with cloth napkins and usually began with soup (mushroom and asparagus dominated) and then pasta (never with a tomato sauce) or rice with some form of chicken, sliced carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bread. While rather bland by our standards (no hot sauce available) the food was plentiful. In order to keep dehydration at bay, we drank prodigious amounts of the hot tea that they provided at breakfast, lunch, breaks, and dinner. We treated the spring water for our Camelbaks on a daily basis.

We were in the clouds our entire time at Mandara Hut and it rained periodically. It was dismal and cold but was, of course, above freezing in the rain forest. In mid-afternoon after tea and cookies (definitely not Keeblers), we hiked up the oozing trail to Maundi Crater and around its rim. On the way down, we saw a family of Calabus monkeys, which were feeding in the moss-laden trees. They had longish black and white hair. Back at camp, we saw another species of monkeys foraging in the hut area. They were charcoal gray with shorter hair. It rained periodically throughout the three-whiz night.

The bucket of eggs was diminished by four at breakfast on Monday morning. We eagerly set out on the mucky trail and within an hour were out of the forest and the clouds and into the heather and the sun. We proceeded skyward at a steady pace and stopped for lunch at a picnic table whose seat planks were balanced precariously on some rocking boulders. We shared the table with Tommy and Jill, an unmarried Irish couple of great personality. We continued up the foothills to Horombo Hut which is located at the edge of the Moorland at the 12,136' level. Same setup as before but we were paired with the Irish couple in a 4-bunk chalet. The very wet clouds rolled in and stayed with us. Some white collared ravens leered at us from their perches on the rooftops. Kilimanjaro still managed to escape our view. Larry and I met a few descending trekkers at dinner who said that it was a tough go. The blind hikers arrived late in the afternoon. The continuous smoking Dutch couple stayed out in the heavy mist until dark. We all retired quite early since there was no place to go or to be and there was no room to stand in the A-frame. The sub-freezing temperature induced the males to limit themselves to two Diamox induced relief trips into the cold.

We chose a six-day hike and spent the third day acclimatizing at the Horombo huts. On Tuesday morning, it was clear, cold, bright, and sunny. We were elated to get our first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro and it's glaciers. Ernest Hemingway's words in "The Snows Of Kilimanjaro" did indeed apply "There, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro."

The camp water supply did not thaw out until mid morning. Some of our new acquaintances, Ernie and Hanna from London, proceeded on up the mountain on a five-day trek. The Japanese group of ten also proceeded. Several had graying hair and one was my senior. All of the six-day layovers went on a mandatory four-hour hike up to Mawenzi Saddle (about 15,000') with an elevation gain of 2800'. Mawenzi Peak is a sister peak to Uhuru Peak which is the high point of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mawenzi is very steep and dominated by cliffs and almost vertical scree slopes. It is seldom climbed, as it is technical. From the saddle we could also see Kibo Hut, the third and last hut, and wished that we were already there. We descended past Zebra rocks, which were aptly named.

The heavily misted clouds moved in again during our descent to Horombo Hut. Larry played cards in the dining hall with our new friends. The game was moved to our A- frame when other diners filled the hall. This delayed our bedtime until 8:00 p.m. We met a physician from New York who was trekking with her two college age sons. Indira was a gastro-interologist at St. Clare's Hospital in Manhattan. She carried the contents of a small pharmacy with her but her prescription pad was seldom needed.

Every day we met trekkers and porters descending the mountain. The standard greeting was "jambo" and "jamboo" which seemed to variously mean "good morning", "good day", "howdy", and "whazzup?" The greetings abated by mid -day and virtually disappeared by descent day.

Wednesday morning was clear and cold but we had filled and treated the water in our Camelbaks the night before and didn't have to wait for the thaw. We were anxious to resume our journey but it was 8:55 a.m. before our guide had the egg bucket rearranged. At lunchtime we sought refuge from the chilling wind in a heap of boulders. Having climbed another 3000' in elevation, we arrived at Kibo Hut in mid afternoon. Our respiration hinted that we were now at 15,426'. The accommodations were in a single building built of stone and wood. Each congested room had twelve bunks and an intrusive picnic table. Many tents were pitched next to the Hut and we visited with a threesome from the Marangu Hotel who had ascended via the Rongai route. They included a couple from Vancouver, B.C. and a redheaded Irish lad named Owen. There was no running water but there was Coca Cola for $3.00 a pop. Our guide had siphoned the cooking water from an oozing spring on the route up to Kibo Hut. We treated all of the water and divided it into one quart in the Camelbak, one quart in a Nalgene bottle with insulated cover, and one quart in the chest flask. Everyone in our room nervously discussed, checked, and rechecked his equipment for the impending summit attempt.

My headlamp was discovered to be malfunctioning. Our assistant guide, Brayson, found a bare wire but before I could get out my duct tape another hiker produced electrical tape and new AA batteries. Frank was a cardiologist from Sacramento who was accompanied by his 12-year-old son, Kip. Frank also had "ivs", and numerous other medical accoutrements. Kim had vomited on the way to Kibo Hut and wasn't well. Frank administered Dexamethasone to relieve his son's altitude sickness. Kip stayed in bed most of the time but came to life at 11:30 p.m. when it was time to put on the daypacks.

The authoritative British diplomat, who was stationed elsewhere in Africa, began extemporizing on equipment needs and preparation. Eventually Larry asked him how many times he had ascended Kilimanjaro. "None", he replied "but I was briefed at the Marangu Hotel." With that we knew that he had received the identical briefing that we had and he withdrew. His companions, a retired British foreign service officer, and an Australian were subdued but friendly. Dinner was served soon after 5:00 p.m. in our cramped quarters. We were located hard against the mountain and the sun disappeared early causing the temperature to drop quickly and everyone was in his sleeping bag by 6:30 p.m. We restlessly visualized ourselves beginning the trek and eventually most of us slept for an hour or two before the general call to arise at 11:10 p.m.

I donned a medium set of CoolMax long underwear, a pair of expedition weight underwear, an alagash shirt, a fleece pullover jacket, and a Gortex rain parka. Below decks, I wore a pair of expedition pants over the two sets of long underwear, short gaiters, one pair of poly sock liners, one pair of wool socks and un-insulated Danner boots. We were served hot tea and dry crumbly cookies. I put on my mid-weight balaclava, glove liners, and gortex mittens; and finally came the Camelbak Peak-Bagger daypack and the Petzl headlamp. The weather was clear and cold and the stars seemed telescope close. All trekkers assembled outside and we began our heavenward trek at midnight.

At first it was a gradual trek on a trail before coming to a scree and volcanic dust slope that was very steep. The faint trail zigzagged up the slope. We proceeded single file very slowly to the frequent incantation "pole-pole." This means "slowly-slowly" in Swahili and apparently is the key to acclimatization and stamina. Each step upward seemed to be no more than 6 or 8 inches. We soon developed a rhythmic pace that was not overly stressful but which left us with enough reserve to feel confident that our ascension would be completed. Periodically, the different groups would catch up to one another and pass if appropriate. On one occasion, the British diplomat and his partners from the hut quickly passed us while we were moving. We were impressed with their speed.

After about three hours my headlamp failed. Soon thereafter, we reached Hans Meyer Cave where we rested for about 10 minutes. Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller were the first to summit Kilimanjaro. My batteries were replaced and I had a Luna bar and a gel packet and some water. By this time, my Camelbak mouthpiece was frozen but I was able to crunch the ice enough to get the flow going again. As a preventative, we continued to blow the water in the tube back into the reservoir after each sip. When we paused after leaving the cave, we looked up the mountain and observed the zig zagging headlamps above and then looked down the switchbacks and saw the same thing. Awesome! I did not do this often, as it was a bit disorienting and interrupted our hypnotic march upward. As our breathing became more difficult, the guides began singing a Lutheran hymn in low supplicating Swahili voices. I found it comforting and inspirational but Larry characterized it as a funeral dirge. The sweep of the zig zagging lights above and below on the switchbacks, the singing, the effort required taking each small step upward, and the exacerbated breathing all contributed to a surreal experience. I later found out that the hymn included the repetitive phrases "deliver us from our sins' and "Lord protect us on Kilimanjaro." We marveled that the guides had enough breath to sing at all.

Eventually, we conquered the sheer scree slope and entered an area of rock outcroppings. Some scrambling with hands was necessary but it was mostly just steep. We arrived on the crater rim at Gillman's Point at 6:00 a.m. The sun was barely a promise but the headlamps were turned off.

Gillman's Point

Gillman's Point is located on the rim in the boulders at 18,630' and sports a "Welcome to Tanzania" sign. Some of the trekkers who were too tired, too ill, or lacking in resolve turned around at this juncture inasmuch as the high point, Uhuru Peak, was still an hour and a half away and required another 710' of net elevation gain. At this time, Kip, Frank's son, returned to Kibo Hut under the care of his assistant guide.

Hemingway states in his fictional short story, "The Snows Of Kilimanjaro", "close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude." At Gilman's Point, we were about 300 yards south of Leopard Point and headed in the opposite direction. The leopard did in fact exist. Between 1926 and 1933, the frozen carcass was observed by four different parties of climbers.

All of a sudden while taking pictures of the welcoming sign at Gilman's Point, the guides began urging the trekkers to saddle up and hurry off to Uhuru (Freedom) Peak. After two quick flash photos, off we went. The trail undulated through the boulders and cliffs on the calderas side of the rim.

After 45 minutes or so we came to Stella Point where trekkers from another route were just ascending to the crater rim. We continued but at a slower pace as we trudged through the 19,000' contour line. We encountered one of our bunkmates, an Israeli, who had been to Uhuru Peak and was already headed back to Gillman's Point. We were amazed at his speed. When we were within a quarter of a mile of the summit and still climbing, I began to run out of energy and breath. Larry asked me why I was stopping to rest and I replied, "we are above 19,000 feet you know." Larry was still strong and raring to summit. After three or four rest stops of a minute or so we summitted.

On Africa's Roof

A chilling wind off of the glacier picked up but there was no snow on the summit. We formed a line with the other 20 summiteers and took our mandatory pictures with the "Highest Point In Africa" sign. The sign had been placed facing west so that the camera lens squinted directly into the early morning sun. While waiting for our photo op, our Irish friend Tommy wobbled up with a look of complete exhaustion on his face. He greeted Larry and I with the terse exclamation "I'm focked."

After admiring Kenya from "The Roof Of Africa", we photographed the nearby glaciers, some of which were 150' thick. Cold and hungry and at our guide's insistence, we headed down to get out of the wind but I insisted that we stop and have a snack since we had consumed little nourishment in the preceding 15 hours. We had a bit of cheese and a Luna Bar and we gave the guides some trail mix. The snack improved my energy level considerably and the only remaining effects of the altitude were a low-grade ache in the back of my head and a slight loss of balance that began at about 17,000'. This was, I suppose, the initial phase of high altitude trekking as described by Tom Dunkel, who summitted in the mid-fifties. It was, he said, "taking a long walk toward senility. Body and mind slowly crumble."

Glacier Near Summit
The view of the nearby glaciers bathed in sunlight was magnificent but we were thankful that we did not have to traverse them. A large marker resembling a flagpole was imbedded in the top of one of the glaciers and we surmised that it was used to measure the rate of melt.

The 11,000-year-old snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro will disappear within 20 years according to researchers who have measured a six-foot recession in the past two years.

Although our route up the slopes of Kilimanjaro had been in a northwesterly direction, we did not approach the location of another phenomenal find. David Brashears, in his introduction to Audrey Salkfeld's book, "Kilimanjaro To The Roof of Africa", tells of discovering the sun-bleached bones of an elephant resting near 15,000' in the desolation of the alpine desert. Brashears "marveled at the elephant's perilous journey and contemplated the purpose of the difficult climb it had made."

On our descent, we were out of the wind and into the sunshine just below Gilman's point. We took off a layer of clothing there and again at Hans Meyer Cave. We steadily descended to the abrupt scree and dust slopes where we viewed other descending trekkers raising clouds of particulate matter into the air. We began a slow run straight down almost as if skiing and pushed the slope under us. In this way we avoided the mile of switchbacks and quickly put the detestable slope behind us. However, we were a bit gritty when we arrived at Kibo Hut at 10:30 a.m.

At the hut, the Israeli had been in his bunk for a while and was feeling quite poorly with nausea and a pounding headache. The cardiologist gave him some Celebrex. After an hour or so the British diplomat arrived at the hut quite ill and pronounced "I think that I will have to be evacuated." The retired British diplomat had arrived before him and was not ill. The bellicose diplomat said that their Australian companion had become ill going up, aborted, and returned to Horombo Hut to relieve his altitude sickness. Jill had also aborted at Hans Meyer Cave but was feeling okay when we saw her at Kibo Hut. As far as we know, everyone recovered sufficiently to return to Horombo Hut under his or her own power.

The porters served us a light lunch and we packed our gear. Outside the hut we looked back at the horror of the stratospheric scree slope and then postulated the reason the climb is begun in the dark. In daylight hours, the task would be so daunting that the number of washouts would be unacceptable. The round trip to Uhuru Peak from Kibo Hut was only 8 miles and 4000+ feet of elevation gain but the thin air undoubtedly exacerbated the climb. The summit at 19,339' is over 2000' higher than Everest Base Camp, which is at 17,300'. At noon, we continued the downward trek for another six miles and 3000' in elevation loss to Horombo Hut. Enroute we could but look at the ascending trekkers in amusement as others had grinned at us the previous day.

At Horombo, we shared a six person A-frame with a Basque couple also on their way down. After seeing them several times a day for the past five days, they were still basically uncommunicative either in English or in Spanish. Our other chalet mates were a Finnish couple in their fifties. The friendly Finns spent a good deal of time smoking outside and asked whether I thought that a daypack was necessary for their ascent. I asked whether they had been briefed by their outfitter or guide and the lady said that she had turned off the video when it got to the difficult part. She opined that they would carry water bottles in their hands. I advised her that it was a formidable challenge and to confer with her guide. It did not seem likely that they would summit.

After a good night's sleep at Horombo, we were awakened about 6:30 a.m. on Friday by a lot of activity in camp. Upon exiting the hut, we encountered three trekkers strapped to wheeled stretchers. The three were bundled in mummy bags.

The bag of one had been wrapped in foil presumably to ward off the effects of the wind. Two covered their faces to prevent being photographed. They had become ill at Kibo Hut at 15,000' or above and their evacuation had begun at 2:00 a.m. Each stretcher was manned by four porters. There is no medical help available on the mountain other than from other trekkers. A Czechoslovakian Internist, who is on the staff at Oklahoma University, treated them with Immodium for the vomiting and diarrhea and the porters soon continued the descent. Our guides advised that sometimes they get drafted to assist in evacuations if the endangered trekkers do not have adequate manpower to get down the mountain. We departed at 8:40 a.m. but never caught up with the evacuees. They were apparently taken to the hospital in Marangu Village. There are no published figures on how many climbers succumb to cerebral or pulmonary edema but others have said that it could be as high as one a month. Elias, our guide, would not comment on fatalities but did say that there are evacuations almost every day.

We stopped at Mandara Hut for lunch and took a group picture with some of our fellow trekkers. We subsequently saw a couple of monkeys and one underfed green snake (hopefully not a deadly mamba) on our way out of the rain forest. We saw no other animals on the hike with the exception of a few rodents, the collared ravens, a few lizards, and a few small birds. We exited the park at about 1:50 p.m. after our guide obtained our certificates of success from park personnel.

A Marangu Hotel staff member greeted us at the entrance and provided transportation in the same little underpowered Nissan pickup. In the preceding 38 hours we had ascended 4500', descended 13,500', and walked 24 miles. No wonder our feet wanted nothing further to do with our boots. Back at the Hotel we quickly bathed, obtained our valuables from the safe, turned in our equipment, and met our guides and porters under an arbor of blooming bougainvillea. A couple of rounds of Kilimanjaro beer (quite good) and Safari beer (that dark stuff) had put everyone in good spirits. The oldest porter (maybe 50) who carried the aluminum food box on his head for six days requested and received Guinness, which he richly deserved. After the guide presented our "diplomas" for the climax of Uhuru Peak, they sang us a song in English about our accomplishment. Midway through the second beer our guide began putting the hard sell on me to pay tuition for his children's schooling and to help support his six dependents. This was after we had tipped him the same amount as the salary that he had been paid by the hotel. On this note, the round buying ended. All of the other crewmembers seemed quite happy with their tips. Four of the six were related. The Marangu Hotel (http://www.maranguhotel.com) provided our comfortable accomodations before and after the climb and also provided the guides, the porters, and the food in a seamless operation. They were friendly, professional, and efficient, not to mention affordable.

We then bought Dr. Frank a brew for supplying the electrical tape and batteries for the repair of my headlamp and bid he and Kip goodbye.

On Saturday we coasted at the Hotel. We met a retired couple from North Carolina who were on a camping tour with Guerba and who were camped on the Hotel grounds. They were the sole paying occupants of a 3-ton self-contained truck, which sported a crew of three. They were camping in several countries for six weeks and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

We also visited with a South African couple, Eric and Carol, who had a Land Rover fully equipped with camping accoutrements to include a tent on the very top of the vehicle where only giraffes and elephants could annoy them. They had quit their jobs and had been traveling the continent for 7 months. They were not going home until they ran out of money.

On Sunday Larry and I walked to Church for the 7:30 a.m. Mass in Swahili. The streets were clogged with well-dressed people on their way to worship. We only recognized the words "Alleluia" and "Hosanna" but most of the service seemed quite familiar. It was a High Mass with incense and a choir. Musical accompaniment consisted of subdued drums. By mistake, we sat on the side of the church with the women. Upon discovery of the proper seating arrangement, we attempted to give our seats to late arriving ladies but they gently pushed us back into the pew as they smiled profusely. At the Offertory, everyone in church except us (who didn't recognize the protocol) went forward to the communion rail. Later we realized that they were individually placing their offerings. Then an Offertory procession of some 25 people came from outside the church and down the main aisle. It was led by a youth holding aloft a green banana stalk hewn in the rough form of a cross. Others bore larger gifts and one white haired parishioner carried a red chicken with its legs bound. Some offerings were wrapped in newspapers or carried in bags and all were placed behind the communion rail.

A single priest and two nuns dressed in white distributed communion to the mouth of those kneeling at the rail. There were a total of about 8 nuns near the front of the overflowing church. No young children were present, as their Mass did not begin until 9:00 a.m. The service continued for an hour and a half, which included the reading of a lengthy letter from the bishop (we think.) We observed another Catholic Church on the way out of town.

We returned to the Marangu Hotel where our Land Cruiser from Bushbuck Safaris of Arusha was waiting for us. So began our four-day and three-night photo safari to the Tarangiri, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro National Parks.

Author - Larry Bagley