Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - 4 - Day 2 (Orientation in Marangu)

The day started off with me trying to switch a "birds' call" iPhone alarm, only to realise it was an actual bird just out of our window!

Anyway - was a good start and after a shower went up to the hotel's dining room for breakfast - Glorious!!! Fruit, cereals, toast, eggs to order and some strange looking but tasty bacon & sausage - the basic staples, but all amazingly fresh. I must stress on the fruit. In Tanzania the Papaya & Mangos are to die for and I simply couldn't stop eating (that also might explain some rush trips to the bathroom later on when thinking about it!).

First Marangu Breakfast
The Fruit 😍
After breakfast, we all got ready to go for a walk around Marangu, but before managed to get some basic Swahili words :

Thank you          : Asante
You’re welcome : Karibu 
Good morning   : Habari 
Water                 : Madi
Hello                  : Jumbo  (Don't mix this with Jamba since the latter means "fart" and can be embarrassing!!)

Before leaving I managed to get a quick glimpse of the mountain, since when we had arrived the day before it was always covered in clouds. This was a shock! It was huge and I couldn't help thinking "how the hell will I manage to go up there!?"

A small glimpse of the mountain
When you are training in Malta, its easy to loose perspective of what it means to climb a mountain. The highest point on the islands is 253m (830ft), so its very hard for us to imagine what 5,985m looks like - not to mention how completely unknown is the reaction altitude would have on us! (That was one of my major concerns.)

When we all gathered, our guides (these are guys which will be waiting outside the hotel grounds to see if anyone wants some guided tour - easy to find, cheap and they are quite knowledgable indeed)

The target location was "Ndoro" (meaning Waterfall) and it is found through some winding paths between banana plantations and coffee bean fields, which are quite abundant in the area. The guides told us that the waterfall is a living proof of how important Kilimanjaro is for the people, since the water coming from its glaciers makes the land so fertile. This immediately makes me wonder how things would change if, or mostly when, the glacier would vanish, since unfortunately this is receding with an amazingly alarming rate. 

Pathway to the waterfall
After nearly a 45min (or so) walking we reached a steep staircase down to the valley and here the guides suggested we avail of walking sticks being offered by some local guys at a makeshift bar (which after we had to tip obviously), to ensure we do not tumble or hurt ourselves just before our climb which was starting the next day. Due to being extra cautious, we took quite some time to get down next to the river, but when the waterfall revealed itself it was oh so worth the walk.

The river - yes you come down from up there!
It didn't take long at all for us to simply decide "let's swim!" and thats where the fun started. The water was freezing and the rocks extremely slippy, but this was an amazing and refreshing (pun intended) experience.

Ndoro Waterfall
Well, we actually needed more refreshing after the climb up, which wasn't at all easy and in fact some of the team opted for a quick transfer to our lunch destination by van.

Our lunch venue was a restaurant near the Marangu Market area. Well the place was a room furnished with plastic chairs and tables and here we were offered a meal of BBQ meat and bananas. Honestly, the meat wasn't great and the banana, the way it was cooked, I guess its very much an acquired taste.

Helping ourselves to BBQ meat & bananas
food Marangu Tanzania
Slightly charred meat and grilled banana :) 
But yet again the fruit saved the day and I think a picture says a thousand words so......

Avocado, Pineapple, Mango & Watermelon
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel and after a quick refuelling at the bar we were summoned for the main climbing briefing. 

Here we were given the instructions for the next day (early morning) as follows:

  • 7am sharp Breakfast. 
  • Have all things ready - Day Pack and Duffle Bag. The latter cannot be more than 15kg and is thoroughly weighed - anything extra you need to carry in your day pack (which is more than fair!
  • Prepare luggage with extra stuff to be kept in hotels luggage room.
  • Prepare water bottles and ensure you have 3. These are to be filled with filtered water (which is very safe, but you can always use sterilisation tabs to be sure. Important to try these before as the taste can be somewhat strange
  • Meet the Guides and the Porters. 
  • Ensure a last dash to the bathrooms since the drive is long (& you won't be seeing one for 7 days!)

Also, we were explained our route and we were given lots of tips and "warnings", which actually come very handy during the climb. One very important instruction is the pace. You will hear the guides saying a lot "Pole Pole" (read Po-Le, Po-Le) which simply means SLOW DOWN. This is very important due to the altitude. Yes you take longer, but you tire a lot less. One experiment you should do to see the effects of altitude is to try to run for a couple of metres and see how this effects you - trust me, I tried and its not nice! 

Another important tip is Hydration. You need to drink lots of water, frequent sips to keep the fluid intake constant. This is essential to counter the effects of altitude.

Then we discussed Diamox. This is a pharmaceutical which aids breathing in high altitude situations. The issue with Diamox is that there are many different schools of thought how to use it. The suggestion we were given was to start that evening with half a pill and continue with half pills for the next 2 days, then switch to a whole pill when we reach the +3K meter mark. Obviously you can get professional help and advise from a doctor or pharmacist on this, but my suggestion is always try this first before travelling to ensure it doesn't has any side effects. Two side effects which seem to hit everyone are tingling of extremities (toes and fingers) and excessive urination - yes you pee a lot! This also means that apart from the increased amount of water intake you need due to the altitude - you need to also compensate for the extra urination - that's why 3 bottles of water are better than 2! 

The Briefing
Well, we were all excited now, pumped up and ready to, ermm....... relax a bit and have a beer 😇

Post Briefing relaxation
Serengeti Beer