Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pole Pole

  • Pretty low-key day at the Mount Meru Hotel: amazing breakfast, gorgeous view, reading by the pool.  Hosea stops by to do a gear-check and a mountain briefing.  There are three rules on the mountain- eat enough, drink enough, and pole pole (slowly). 

  • Last morning of civilization for a while; spent the early morning hours staring at the ceiling waiting for the clock to read 6:30.  Watched Laura fall out of bed when the wake-up call interrupted the silence.  Apparently that pager-response instinct runs pretty deep.  Hoping the worst injury we have is a bruised neck.
  • Peter gives us some lessons in Tanzanian culture on our drive to the Machame gate.  Despite the many different tribes that inhabit Tanzania, tribalism has been pretty much absent since the first president took over in 1961.  He made a concentrated effort to integrate the tribes via a version of affirmative action- busing kids to different cities to attend school with other tribes, forcing adults to work in other areas once they were done with school, etc.  Peter’s wife is from a different tribe and he says their family essentially trumps the tribes.  Unfortunately, clouds cover the sky and obstruct our view of the mountain as we approach the gate.
  • The gate is madness.  Buses and vans everywhere, dropping off wide-eyed tourists while porters start grabbing bags and running off to weigh them.  I can only hope that the porters who took our bags are with Kiliwarriors.  
Ready to go
  • Our Utah friends from the Amsterdam airport are waiting at the gate too.  Michelle (who goes by Mitchell—crazy!), her husband Peter, Peter’s sister Mary and her husband Steve.  We joke about drinking enough water, the adequacy of our gear (our Mary can’t get her gaiters on), and the groups around us.  A French group has custom t-shirts that say Kilimondjar on the back.  I turn to Mitchell in mock concern, “Someone needs to tell them they’re on the wrong mountain!”
  • The wait stretches well past the hour mark.  Hosea says something is wrong with his card (the credit card he’s using to pay the park fees).  Mary wants to pay cash and forego the tips at the end of the week.  The delay does give all of us the chance to use a real bathroom one last time.
  • Finally on the trail.  Pole pole really means pole pole.  Dad keeps rushing past Efata, our assistant guide (nicknamed Shanta for future references) who spends the early hiking teaching us some Swahili and explaining that having 4 daughters is good, because when you give away your daughter’s hand in marriage, it’s worth 40 cows.  Lots of jokes ensue.  Shanta’s wife’s name is Mary and his daughter is Michelle—lots of name coincidences thus far.  First view of the summit reminds us why this journey will take a week.
The summit is there, look through the trees
  • Lunch gives us a glimpse of what our week will be like, and reaching the first campsite confirms that we will indeed be “glamping” (glamour camping).  Mess tent with backed chairs, tons of fresh food, bathroom tent (which is good, because the first 8 hours of today, the Diamox hit me 6 times), cupcakes.  First pulse ox = 98%, HR = 89.
The mess tent

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