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Published: September 13th 2008
This is my last night in Africa for now. Tomorrow, I am flying back to Nepal.
My last group just left, and even though it was the same trip, it was very different. Smaller group but different stories...
The first part of the trip, Mt Meru, was just as beautiful as always. I really enjoy climbing that mountain and every time, I find it easier. Now the part that scared me the first time seems like fun, and sleeping in the little huts is like being in my own bed, well...almost! This trip was great because there was hardly anybody else on the mountain. Very quiet, which made it a lot easier for the clients to sleep. But a few suffered quite a bit from altitude sickness, especially during the summit day. I started worrying a bit about the Kili, a few days later... But everybody made it to the top of Meru and there was this legend about the fact that Mt Meru was more difficult than Kilimanjaro... I didn't want to scare the clients, but I really think Kili is much harder. Because of one day and one night... But we joked a lot about it. Meru vs Kili.
But after Meru, we had a day off, again at the nice lodge where we stayed before. Then we went to Kili.
The first day was great, sunny and dry. Again, it was much quieter than the previous time I was there. The second day was good too, but cloudy in the afternoon, so we never saw the mountain. Too bad because the view is great normally from the Shira plateau. On the third day, the problems started. One client got altitude sickness, despite our trip on Meru to acclimatize and he had to be evacuated. This went well, thanks again to a great local team. The rest of the group continued in the fog and eventually in the rain. Not a very nice day, no view at all and cool enough for one guy to get bronchitis.
The fourth day was nice, less clouds and fog, more views, but going higher and higher. But that night, the real adventure started. Incredible strong winds started in the middle of the night. Our tents were all tied to big rocks, but still it was impossible to sleep. So noisy. We had to get up early anyway to go up the mountain, and just as I was getting ready to get out of my tent, a big gust of wind got under the tent and I was airborne with my tent! Waw! That was really scary because my tent was on a rocky slope and I had no desire to roll down the hill on the sharp rocks. I got out of the tent before I started flying further, and I was sitting in the vestibule, holding on to the tent so it wouldn't take off. One client came and helped me to take it down. It was a struggle! A few minutes later I was with the local guide I work with, trying to do a similar rescue mission with the big dining tent. We were getting ready to eat our breakfast when one client came in and said a tent flew right over her head, and actually hit her on the head. The tent was lost, we found it 2 days later, a few km away from the campsite, not in very good shape... And we did another tent rescue before it was time to go. Crazy morning, and we hadn't started to go up yet... Only one tent was still OK, the one where the sick client was. I felt really sorry for him when we both realized that he was too sick to continue and had to go down that day.
So the rest of us went up, but it was a tiring day because the wind was so strong and nobody had slept the night before. Every time we stopped, some clients would sit down or lay down and close their eyes. It didn't look like anybody was having too much fun and some were talking about going down. Even our porters were still behind us, which is very rare. There was very few other trekkers too. Sounded like we were the only crazy folks out there... But little by little we were getting closer to Stella Point, and by mid-afternoon, we reached the crater rim and went down to Crater Camp to enjoy... more wind and some sun!
All rested in the afternoon, had supper and eventually went to sleep. I was happily surprised to see few altitude problems and pretty good spirit. We all tried to sleep, still very hard with the wind that never slowed down. I worried I would fly again inside my tent. We got up early the next morning to climb to the top. Unfortunately, one client had to turn around 150m from the top, too tired to continue, but at least the others managed to reach the summit. It was a clear morning, thanks to the wind, and everybody was happy to get back to lower elevations where we can breathe better. We camped one last night on the mountain and then, back to Arusha before we left for a safari.
Great safari again, lots of animals. The highlights were 2 cheetas hunting a gazelle (they didn't get it but it was amazing to see the speed...), 2 rhinos, one quite close to us, and a baby lion with his mother on a tree with an amazing sunset in the background. We also had buffalo near our campsite, an elephant in the campsite, and zebras grazing between the tents during the night.
Last night we had a different experience... We were staying in little huts. All was fine, the huts were quite comfortable and very clean. That was until dark. Once it was dark, millions (and I don't think I am exaggerating) of little flies started coming in the huts. I had a mosquito net but it was to big. These flies were harmless but still, it was very very annoying to spend the night with them. Eventually the wind started blowing, even in the hut through the window, and the flies didn't seem to be able to resist. But it started raining through my window too and I had to move to the next bed... When I turned on the light , the bed was covered with those flies. I had to shake everything to be able to sleep on that bed. Later on, it got better, but in the morning I was amazed to see the floor of the shower black with dead flies, and the same with the toilet. The village where we were staying was called "Mto wa mbu". That means "Mosquito River". You bet.
And after seeing a few more hippos, elephants and baboons, we headed back to Arusha. The group left tonight, and I enjoy one last night in Africa.
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