Tag Archives: Mount Meru

Peak Time on Christmas Day

I just realized that this post coincides with Christmas Day for all of us in Africa! As you might guess, we actually didn’t really have a good sense of the dates while we were hiking. However, this was a day that we had to at least be aware of, right? After all, there was the small matter of a Secret Santa to take care of later that day. However, before that, we had to carry out our full assault on Socialist Peak, the highest point on Mount Meru, sitting at 4,562m. As per usual, before you get to the hard work of slogging through all of my banal thoughts of the day, head on over to the map that I made, as well as the folder of pictures up on Flickr. Once you’ve satisfied yourself that I actually made the trek that day, come on back and read the rest of my recollections.

As you would have already pieced together from my previous post, the term ‘summit day’ is almost a bit of a misnomer, as we got up around midnight and started our slow trek at about 1am. So it’s more like ‘summit morning’ 🙂 In order to help us fight the sandman, the porters were ready to give us some hot beverages, porridge, and biscuits as a bit of a breakfast before we left the comfort of camp. We were also given our atypical snack pack of cookies and a chocolate bar (Dairy Milk in case you’re wondering). I didn’t really find it too hard to get up and be ready. I guess that comes as a result of needing to be awake at various odd hours when getting ready for certain races (who doesn’t like a midnight start in an adventure race, right?).

We had all brought our bags to the mess hall, only to find out that we could just keep them locked in our rooms till we got back for lunch. Yup, the day would be long indeed. We were to start at Saddle Hut, hike to the summit, then come back for lunch. After a brief rest, we were going to grab our things and continue down to Mariakamba Hut for our last night on the mountain (and for Christmas dinner of sorts). We quickly got sorted, and our happy little crew lined up diligently to begin our dark shuffle into the night. We were a thin stream of hikers making our way by headlamp. The last couple evenings, it had seemed that the sky would clear at night, so we were looking forward to easy hiking.

Well, no such luck, my comfortable, dry friends. We had no sooner gotten about 100 paces from the camp that we felt the first raindrops. ‘Here we go again’ I thought. This time, we didn’t hesitate to stop and put on full rain gear. On a long day like this, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Once suited up, the shuffle gathered steam again. As per usual, the pace was quite slow, and once again, I found myself wanting to climb faster than the ranger wanted us to go. I should note that this time, we had the ranger at the lead, but also had both our lead guide Naiman, and assistant guide Richard with us as well. This way, if the group ever split, they could stay with the sub-groups. This is a smart and well-used mountain climbing method. However, it may also have cost me my summit 🙁 Keep reading to learn why.

As we kept pressing on, the lead group (Deb, myself and Jody) still seemed to be a bit too fast for others in the group, and we found ourselves needing to stop fairly frequently to wait. At one point I asked the ranger about our pace and ability to summit by sunrise at this speed. He said there was no way we’d get there by sunrise. I then [foolishly] asked if we’d be able to split the group so that the fast hikers could summit by sunrise, and just wait for the others up there. Two things were mis-guided in my question. Firstly, the idea of a sunrise was apparently not the way to go, given that it was raining. Secondly, I think the ranger really wanted to go faster anyway, even if it was the ‘wrong’ strategy. We only found out later that this was actually a bone of contention happening in the background between our actual guide and the ranger. Apparently it became a bit of a power struggle, with the guide trying to tell the ranger to reduce the pace so that we’d all summit, and the guide being stubborn and saying this was his group to lead. We also only later realized that Naiman hadn’t actually guided up Meru for the past 5 or 6 years, so he didn’t press the issue all that hard.

Okay, low-level drama aside, at the next pause, Marwa the ranger, and the two guides talked back and forth briefly, and then Jody, Deb, and I set back off at our quicker pace. In a very short time, it was clear we were putting serious distance between ourselves and the rest of the group. We’d already made it past Rhino Point, which is at just over 3,800m. The next part of the hike was where things got a lot trickier (although we wouldn’t find that out till the descent due to the darkness). Luckily, the rain had now let up, so the rocks were not slick with rain. Looking back as we scrambled we could see the other headlamps, but they seemed very far off in the distance. We steadily made progress, easily climbing past 4,000m.

By now, it was clear to me that Deb was indeed a robot. She could just push on as hard and fast as the ranger wanted. I was sticking pretty close to them, with Jody only a short distance from us as well. A few times we did slow down though, as the drop-offs (that we couldn’t see) were quite dramatic if you made a bad step, so we wanted to make sure our little group was together. Also, shortly after this, I started feeling the definite signs of altitude sickness. I developed a headache, but pressed on, as this is fairly common. Also, it was noted that I was starting to weave a little bit, also not a good sign. However, mentally, I felt sharp, and as long as I felt my head was clear, I pressed hard. However, I did pause long enough to pop a Diamox (which aids in AMS, but takes 4 hours to kick in… damn!). Deb also took the opportunity to pop some headache pills, but really was still super-strong.

As we climbed higher and higher, the sky started to lighten up just a little bit, and we were told it wasn’t far till the top. However, by the top, the ranger actually meant Cobra Point, which is at an altitude of 4,350m, still 200m lower than the true summit. Upon getting to Cobra Point, the day was starting to break, and I was quite happy to stop here for a bit longer and see ‘sunrise’ from this point (that, and I really needed to go for a ‘real’ nature break). I was definitely feeling the altitude, and didn’t want to press on right away. Unfortunately, the ranger had other ideas, he wanted to keep moving fast. I had to make a decision that wasn’t easy. I decided to stop here, and wait for the next ‘group’, with the plan that once they got there, I’d have rested enough that I could go on to the peak. Jody also opted to stay at Cobra Point.

Deb ‘the Robot’, wisely opted to go on alone with the guide. I’m really glad for her that she did, because as it turned out, she would be the only one to summit. Later, we would learn it was a bit awkward being alone with the ranger (don’t worry Deb, I won’t pick on you or share all the details of that experience ;-). I was now going to learn another lesson of climbing mountains. Sticking together as one big group is always preferable. You never know what is happening behind you. We soon learned the fate of the rest of our hikers. After about 20minutes, Dylan and John came into view, with the assistant guide Richard. They seemed okay, but as they got to us, it was clear that Dylan was hurting quite bad. He’d come down with a bad cold earlier, and it had taken all his energy to get up here. John was faring better, but obviously would stay with his son. We also learned that Sarah had gotten quite ill just after 4,000m, and that Naiman, Mike and her had turned back some time ago.

So there we were, 4 of us with one assistant guide. The guide wanted to continue (as companies always pride themselves on a high summit rate, and 1 out of 7 was NOT stellar), and I was now willing to press on. Jody was not convinced that either of us should keep going, and for his part, John seemed like he wanted to keep going, but I think paternal instincts being what they were, decided against it. This posed a brief dilemma, as the guide couldn’t just leave everyone there and go with me, and waiting for Deb and Marwa to get back first would have taken too long. So in the end, the sad reality was that I’d have to turn and start descending back down without having taken a shot at Socialist Peak.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t disappointed. By the same token, I had made the right call earlier, and had to live with that. Just keep in mind that most serious mountain accidents are on descent, not ascent, because people push too hard / fast and don’t stop when they should. At least I’d live to fight another day, and had become just a bit more ‘mountain wise’. With heavy heart, we started the long descent back to Saddle Hut. Once underway, we made the best of it, taking extra time to soak in the sights and marvel at the route we’d taken to get there. In the light of day, it became abundantly clear that this was in fact no cake-walk. Plenty of goat-like rock scrambles along sheer rock faces, and even a nice knife-edge rim with a drop-off on either side. Crazy. However, there were also some great views of the ash cone and crater itself before clouds started rolling back in.

We took a fairly leisurely pace down, as Dylan was wiped out. Richard had taken his pack for him so that he would not be over-burdened. I say leisurely because happily, when you are descending, you can pretty much go as fast as you want. In case you were wondering, I wanted to go fast 🙂 I was surprised at just how far we’d come to get to Cobra Point, but eventually we popped back out at Saddle Hut and poked our heads in to see how Sarah was doing. She was sleeping, but apparently not in too bad a shape. We hadn’t been there for more than 10 or 15 minutes when Deb returned from the summit as well. Apparently they were really flying back down the mountain, as even Deb remarked that it was really quick, and she had to focus to keep up with Marwa. I also learned of another thing that made me glum. Apparently at the true peak, there was an ammo box with a register that you got to sign indicating that you’d made it. Curses, I could have made my mark at the summit, and signed for ActiveSteve! Boo! Deb could tell I was pretty sad about, but still managed to poke a little fun at my expense. Good on her. She was clearly the better man that day 🙂 Luckily, I was able to counter by making fun of her new ‘special friend’ in the ranger. Ha ha!

With that, lunch was served. We had a nice warm lunch of soup and other things I can’t recall. We were then anxious to keep heading down, as we knew it was Christmas and wanted to relax. To mark the day, Jody donned her Santa hat for the rest of our descent down so many stairs to Mariakamba Hut. We passed a constant parade of porters and hikers that would form the next day’s summit attempt. There were many smiles and season’s greetings from all that we passed by, which kept the mood light and happy, in spite of the long day we were on. The remainder of the hike passed by with no incident, giving us more chances to chat amongst ourselves and learn more about each other.

Upon arrival at our hut, it was already time for snacks. Once again, Deb bunked down with Jody and I, so we spread our things out, and cleaned up quickly before heading to the mess hall. Upon arrival, we were greeted with fresh popcorn and hot peanuts, along with a spread of Christmas crackers and two bottles of wine to celebrate! It was awesome. However, at snack time we were too tired to partake, so we told David (our ‘waiter’) to hold on to it until dinner time, where we’d have our proper celebration, including the Secret Santa gift exchange. So we snacked, then went back to rest for an hour or so.

Finally! Christmas dinner. I used a big dry bag to collect all the secret Santa gifts in anonymity, which were labeled courtesy of hand-labeled surgical tape tags that Jody had put together. I took that, along with a candle lantern, and my iPod touch to the dining hall. I’d also been dragging around a bottle of Tanzanian hooch that Deb and I had bought together prior to the start of the hike, but which we’d never actually gotten the nerve to sample on the hike. Sadly, that also stayed with me, and to this day, it has never been opened, and sits on a shelf beside me as I write this (called Konyagi in case you are curious). Dinner was our typical African spread, but this time complemented with our wines, as well as some chocolate that Jody and John had brought along for all to enjoy.

I dutifully cracked open the two wines (one hi-test, the other ‘light’), and we shared the joy amongst each other and I proposed a toast to our group. In spite of a long day, everyone was in fine spirits. Especially Sarah, who was very anxious to get Secret Santa underway. However, first we popped the Christmas crackers and donned our paper crowns and read bad jokes to each other while my little iPod blared tinny Christmas tunes. What could be better, right? Well how about John (who has a white beard) donning the Santa hat and acting as our very own Santa Claus? Yup, it was that special up there for us. Felt just like a family Christmas to me 🙂 I loved every second. To show my appreciation, I tried my best to polish off all the wine (and coaxed Deb to assist). The light stuff wasn’t all that great though, so we ended up leaving a bit for the porters. The gifts were all fabulous and well received. I ended up getting a nice wooden rhino necklace from my secret Santa (which has been around my neck every day since I got it). Just ask if you want to see it.

Whoa! I should probably finally end my post, eh? What, were you expecting a short post for one of the longest, and most special days of our entire trip? No dice for you. If you’ve hung in there for the whole story, thanks! I appreciate it. After all, I’m writing these stories for you, dear readers. Quickly now, for my thought of the day. Experience counts. Trust in your guides (be they on mountains, or in real life), for they know the true keys to success. And if you don’t follow the right advice, at learn from your mistakes. It’ll make you stronger. Until tomorrow, here’s hoping you all have an action-packed, ActiveLife! Do what you love. Love what you do.

Many Stairs and Many Raindrops Later…

Good evening my friends. It’s that time once again. Gather round the glowing LCD and let ole ActiveSteve share another travel tale with you to while away some time. My post today takes us back up to Mount Meru, where Team Cantrailia was about to tackle our second day of climbing towards the peak. On the menu for today would be climbing from Mariakamba Hut at 2,500m up to Saddle Hut, located at 3,576m, and nestled at the foot of the Little Meru peak (smaller peak in the region). Once again, you can start out by checking out the custom map that I’ve put together, as well as the set of photos that have been uploaded to Flickr. I’ll try to keep things light and breezy for this post, as the heavy work is all about tomorrow… summit day! 🙂 Read on fans.

After the relatively nice ending to day 1, we were eager to set off on the trails, and hoped for good weather. Today’s hike was going to be much steeper and shorter. We were basically following a trail up the crater rim, which you can clearly see on the terrain map. Due to the short, steep, nature, we quickly found out that once again, we’d be ‘crawling’ up the mountain at a tired snail’s pace. The pacing was made even more difficult as there were quite a few stairs at the beginning of the trek. There were several times when I truly thought I’d fall over, and that I’d bump into the backpack of the guide ahead of me. Very difficult. I felt great physically, and the altitude certainly didn’t seem to be having any effect on me, but the idea was that the slow pace was to help in the long run.

In starting our day off, the sun seemed to want to come out and say hello, and we even caught a couple nice views of the mountain in the early morning sunlight. On the trail early on, the sun was shining bright and keeping us warm. However, the ranger was pretty certain we’d see more rain further up the road. Well, as long as it stayed warm, right? Well, for at least the first hour and a half, mother nature was fairly accommodating. Although it started getting a bit foggy, it was still not raining. On the plus side, the trail we were climbing up today had no real stopping points or viewing areas. It was simply a straight hike to our next hut. The real plan was to get to the hut, have lunch, then attempt a climb up Little Meru, which is a peak at about 3,765m, and easy to get to from the hut. I was excited for that, since I love getting to a peak. It’s always a sweet feeling.

Unfortunately, the weather did change, and we suddenly found ourselves donning out rain gear to keep hiking. I resisted doing so, but the rain just got progressively heavier and heavier, so getting cold was now starting to be a concern. I hadn’t put on many layers, wearing only shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt. So, I threw on my thin gore-tex jacket and hoped for the best. I hadn’t realized it yet, but this jacket, which I often use for adventure racing, was full of little holes, so this wasn’t even very waterproof. D’oh! Most of us chose not to put on rain paints, as the hike was only supposed to last till lunch.

True to our pace and predictions, we had only another 2 hours of hiking that morning. Sadly, the rain was so heavy that by the time we arrived at Saddle Hut, every square millimeter of my was soaked. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Always throw on the rain pants as well. Having really we underwear and continuing to hike is a recipe for coldness and ultimately discomfort. Even after arriving at the hut, and getting out of the rain, I felt even colder, as we were no longer moving. While we’d each had our own rooms at the first hut (with 2 per room), we were told that this time, we’d have to double. As Jody, Deb and I were all there at the same time, we agreed to bunk together, which left Dylan, John, Sarah and Mike to share another room. These were not very roomy spaces, and the fact that Sarah and Mike had an extra bag between them made their lives even more complicated.

We all tried our best to get comfortable in the short term. We all basically stripped down and crawled into our sleeping bags to try and warm up and dry off for a bit. We also tried (very unsuccessfully I’ll add) to string our clothes up where we could to dry. However, with no circulating air or heat, it just made our room feel like the inside of a locker. The one high point during this brief period was the fact that the porters had come room to room to deliver us hot beverages of our choice, as well as deliver us our warm ‘washing’ water. I had a nice cup of hot chocolate while we waited for word that lunch was ready.

Outside, the rain continued to come down relentlessly. Not fun. No one had any desire to attempt to tackle Little Meru at this point. During lunch we talked about options, including trying to figure out a cut-off time for trying Little Meru. I was still keen to go, but honestly, with nothing by soaked clothes and soaked boots, I knew it would suck in the absence of sun. The plan was further complicated by the fact that we’d be leaving this camp around midnight in order to make our way to the summit. That meant that we’d have an early supper (5pm), then all try to sleep a few hours before being awoken again in the dead of the night. So Little Meru would HAVE to be tackled before supper, and we needed about an hour and a half to do it.

We played the waiting game with the weather. Happily, we had brought some games to kill time. Being lugged up the mountain by our trusty porters was a set of Mille Bornes cards and a travel Battleship set that Jody and I had brought. As well, Mike and Sarah had brought along a game of travel scrabble. So while the rain fell, Mike and Sarah played scrabble, while Deb, Jody and I raced cars in Mille Bornes. John and Dylan opted to rest, as Dylan wasn’t feeling 100% to start with, and wanted all his energy for the summit bid.

Somewhere just before 4pm, a mini miracle unfolded. The sun peeked it’s head out from the rain clouds. For the first while, the rain continued even though there was sun, which was frustrating, but eventually we had a reprieve. In a very small period of time, all hands were on deck, and all the groups flocked outside to try and drape clothes all over the surrounding branches in an effort to dry some clothes out. Unfortunately, the effort was rendered mostly moot, as no sooner had clothes been spread out that fog rolled up from below our location. Although it wasn’t raining, there was no more sun :-(. All we really would have needed is about 20 minutes of direct sun, but no dice for us.

And so endeth my tale of Day 2. There are no more interesting parts to the day. Just more rain, more food, and then an attempt at sleep before the summit. But that will have to wait until my next post 🙂 So, my thought of the day? Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Rather than a thought, I’ll make it a lesson learned: Always put on the rain pants when the rain starts on a long hike. You may ‘lose’ some time, but there is always a long-term gain. In this case, it would have made the arrival a bit more pleasant. That’s it, that’s all. Stay tuned for the Meru Summit Bid!

Getting Down to Business on Mount Meru

Okay friends and well-wishers, enough messing around with safaris and red bananas and lounging by a pool. It’s high time we got down the business of scaling some of the bigger peaks in Africa. This post will serve as the kick off for the first of our true hiking experiences during out African adventure. On tap first? Mount Meru, which at 4,566m high is Africa’s fifth highest peak. The purpose of us scaling this lesser peak first was primarily to assist us with acclimatization, as well as giving our lead guide for Mount Kilimanjaro a chance to see how we might perform when it came time to the big show. This climb would take us 4 days and 3 nights, although the only real climbing day would come starting at day 2 starting at midnight. On that day, we’d be going for the summit. However, before we get to that day, I’ll write a post for each of the days we spent on the mountain, but try not to make them too long ;-). Also, since we’re on a mountain now, I’ve got a map to share with you, as well as a set of pictures from the first day itself. Enjoy those, then click on back and read the rest of the story.

Before starting the actual hike, we first had to make our way from our lodge to the start of the trail. We also had the task of deciding what gear we’d need on this part of the hike vs. Mount Kilimanjaro. Both sets of equipment had to be sorted, as we’d be sleeping at a different hotel before the two mountain climbs (but with very little time to get prepared between the two). My strategy basically consisted of choosing enough clothes for each hike so that if something went wrong, I’d at least not have to worry about laundry or anything. Of course, that meant wearing pretty much the same thing for lots of the trek, but seeing as showers weren’t in the cards anyway, I could care less. After all, it wasn’t like the company we’d be keeping would be fashionistas or in any better shape than us 🙂

So of course that leads to the question of exactly what company would we be keeping? Well, primarily, we’d just be by ourselves, our Team Cantrailia slowly making our way up the peak. Along with us at every step would be another ranger, which we’d pick up at the gates, as well as one lead guide and one assistant guide. Also along for the trip would be our normal porters (numbering 12), as well as our cook and the ‘helper porter’ who’d be with us on both peaks helping at meal times. Some of the porters would actually be in our shuttle bus with us for the ride out as well, but we didn’t really get to talk to them much, as the porters themselves generally don’t speak English.

So once the gear was all sorted and packed in the right bags, we all made our way to the lobby to board the shuttle bus. The weather was fairly agreeable, but had definite signs that we might get rained on. I was generally of the thought that it wouldn’t rain much, if at all, as we were supposed to be at the end of the rainy season, and so far the weather had been spectacular. How wrong I would actually turn out to be wouldn’t be apparent for many more days, but let’s just let that develop as we work our way through the posts, shall we 😉 ?

Okay, back on the buses, and an approximately 2 hour (?) drive to the part entrance. Although technically it turned out to be one of two entrances. First gate was some of the paperwork, but the main entrance and prep area would be further up the road. At both gates were some interpretive panels, as well as some nice dioramas of the mountain hike ahead of us. I love these real models. I basically committed to memory the route we’d be taking, where the stops and sights would be, as well as what altitude we’d be at for various points in the hike. Isn’t learning fun? I just like to be aware of my surroundings I guess. The porters also just hung around outside waiting at the first gate. However, once we hit the second gate, it was time for them to get to business. Each porter was only allowed to carry 12kg of our gear up the trail, so there was a strict weigh-in. We also had to do some of our own paperwork, listing things like name, address, passport number, occupation. What? Who cares about occupation. To reflect that thought, I decided to put in ‘musician’ for this first log. Why not, right?

Finally, we were ready to start out trek. It was pretty anticlimactic, as the trail for this day was actually more of a 4×4 track that we got to hike along. No great inclines, no tricky footing, just a leisurely walk while we gained over 1,000m in elevation, climbing from 1570m to 2610m. For this part of the hike, we were lead by our ranger (whose name I think was Marwa), and the rear was being pulled up by our assistant guide. I was already shocked at how slow the pace seemed to be, but which was assured this was the speed we’d have to walk. At the front, there were some rumblings between Deb and I about how if we had to go any slower, we’d be falling over. It just didn’t seem natural. Don’t worry, there was still a lot to learn about pacing on big mountains, and I assure you I may have learned some valuable lessons.

Also, little did I know it, but in that formative day, a very familiar order started to emerge in our group. Although I’d love to say I was able to relax and just go with the flow, I seemed to always find myself on the leader’s heels throughout all our days. Behind me always seemed to be Deb ‘the robot’. She would have gladly lead over me, but seemed to prefer yielding it to me instead of tripping on the guide’s heels. After Deb was usually Jody, who as we know could fight her way up any mountain with her determination. After that was usually father and son John and Dylan, happy to pick their own pace, but never too far from the lead. towards the back would be John and Sarah (although John sometimes joined us at the front for variety). Sarah was happy taking pictures of various flora and fauna, and quite often messing around with umbrellas and other assorted rain and/or sun defending devices. Honestly, a couple times I tried to let others lead, but it never seemed to last very long. The moment someone stopped to fix something or take a nature break, I’d scamper around to the front. I couldn’t help it. Years of competition have sort of ingrained the need / desire to be near the front. I wouldn’t say it’s that I wasn’t able to relax, I just prefer the view from the front. I think Deb shared that general view, in fact in several cases, I dare say she may have been even worse than me in that aspect 🙂 Don’t worry, it came back to bite me in the ass a little later. Just stay tuned.

For this first day, there were really only a few highlights in the scenery, which consisted primarily of cloudy skies, obscured peaks, and a forest all around. The first such attraction was a place called ‘Fig Tree Arch‘, which as the name implies was a huge fig tree which at its base formed an arch large enough to allow vehicles to pass under it. We paused there for a few minutes to snap some photos, then carried on our way to our lunch stop at Maio Falls picnic area. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I took my seat on a relatively comfy looking log looking over at the waterfall, it started raining. At first, not too heavily, but it picked up steam as I struggled through my boxed lunch. Luckily, rain gear was on in a flash (top at least), and it was still warm. Deb had taken a log opposite me, as we were the first ones to arrive. As other got there, they took up station at various overhanging branches seeking some shelter, but eventually, we all got wet, and had to face facts. The rain would be with us for a bit 🙂

After lunch, we picked back up and walked back to our 4×4 trail, making our way further upwards to our ultimate destination for the day, Miriakamba Hut. To get there, we eventually passed by a place called Kitoto Viewpoint, which unfortunately due to the clouds offered little in the way of views. On a good day from here, I suspect we may have seen over to Kilimanjaro, as well as seeing upwards to Meru itself. Regardless, it seemed like a nice enough spot, plus the rain had stopped, so we were walking comfortably again.

The final section of the day took us along the actual crater base, where we at least had a pretty good view of some of the crater wall. The hike for the day finished pretty flat, and even a bit on a decline. When we arrived at Miriakamba Hut, it again looked like it might rain, but luckily for us on Meru, we’d be sleeping in the huts themselves instead of a tent, so staying dry should be easy, right? Well, that might be the case, but it didn’t prevent some of our gear being handed over in a rather soggy state. Apparently the bags the porters used to carry our stuff wasn’t necessarily water-tight. Lucky for me, I had packed all of my things into dry bags, so I was pretty dry (apart from the bag with holes in it!). Unfortunately for Jody, her down sleeping bag was pulled out of the stuff sack showing definite wetness. Oops. Hopefully that wouldn’t persist in the coming days, as wet down sleeping bags are the inverse of fun!

However, all of this was forgotten during tea (and POPCORN!!!) time. Now, you all know how much I love popcorn, but that’s not the only reason all was forgotten. We also managed to get a slight reprieve in the clouds as we sipped warm beverages. Enough so that heading out to the front deck of the mess hall yielded us with our first true glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro of the entire trip! Yup, prior to that, even while sunny during our other travels, Kili had stubbornly decided to keep wearing her cloud hat! Well, she took it off, albeit briefly, for us to marvel at and take some photos (and the accompanying blog post video). That certainly made my day and got me motivated to keep on keepin’ on (awesome Joe Dirt reference there, right?).

So there you have it. Day 1, and nearly 1,100m of vertical gained on Mount Meru. Thought of the day for this leg? Hey, it’s gonna rain sometimes, that’s why we carry rain gear. It you’re ready for the rough stuff, when the clouds go packin’, life seems that much sweeter! Oh yeah, that and popcorn (even those small semi-popped kernels) makes everything better 🙂 Stay tuned for day 2, hopefully flying off my fingertips tomorrow night.