Kilimanjaro – Day 01 – Lemosho to Big Tree

Friday 28th and Sat 29th Dec 2018

We flew on Friday from Cape Town to Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Airlines, had a short night there and flew on Saturday from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro Airport. We were picked up by African Scenic Safaris which took us to the hostel they own, Hostel Hoff, in Moshi. In the afternoon, Simbo from African Scenic Safaris came to tell us all about the next 9 days and took us to a shop renting mountaineering gears, we all tried and picked up stuff we needed to complement the clothes and gears we had. We also went on some errand in Moshi to buy some snacks. In the evening, we just packed and repacked.

Sunday 30th Dec 2018

Here we were, waking up on D-Day of the hike start which would take us hiking on Kilimanjaro for 9 days on the Northern Circuit, all the way to the highest point of Africa. It was very exciting!!!!

Here was the description for the day:


Here is a great map of Ultimate Kilimanjaro I wanna put in each article to illustrate where we went each day. Copyright ‘Ultimate Kilimanjaro’.

northern circuit map from ultimate kilimanjaro

In the morning at the hostel, we did our final packing in the dorm room where the 5 of us had slept, closed the 109 Litres dry bags provided to us, had some brekky, fruits and peanut butter toasts. Since we had arrived, it was really hot and humid, around 30-35 degrees Celsius and we couldn’t wait to get away to cooler spots. Our guide Antipas and assistant guides Nesto and Juma arrived with the van driver to pick us up. We placed all our luggage and backpacks into a corner as we were told no one would be sleeping in that room until our return. Annie said good-bye to the puppy dog she had fallen in love with who lied on her bed looking a bit sad.

And off we drove around 9.30am! We kept looking on our right, hoping to see Kilimanjaro as it had been hiding in the clouds since we had arrived. Did it really exist or was it actually just a myth??!! How high would it look? Suddenly, we had a glimpse of its summit through the clouds for a short period. And it did look…really high!!! Maybe it was a good thing it was hidden until now, haha. Were we to climb to the top of that, really? Sounded like a crazy idea suddenly. 🙂

Can you see the top of the mountain, just behind the cloud, on the left of the pole, under the top electric line?

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We drove through villages, observing everyday life going on on the streets. In the background, behind the man pulling a cart, is the corn flour spread to dry on some carpet. Corn flower mixed with water makes a meal base called ‘Ugali’, which tastes a bit like polenta. It is eaten a lot in Tanzania with beef and vegetables sometimes added on top.

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We stopped to buy some last-minute stuff, toothbrush, AAA batteries, wipes, toilet paper.
I would definitely NOT recommend waiting for the last minute to buy snacks as this is the choice you get on your way to Kili. Better bring them from your country or buy them in Moshi if you want to have specific stuff.

At one point, we stopped for a break and met the group of porters briefly. Nearby was this butcher shop.

During our drive, our guide Antipas realised he had lost his smartphone so we drove back again to this place but sadly Antipas couldn’t find his phone anywhere so he was a bit down about it for the rest of the day.

We continued the drive and sometimes saw shepherds taking care of their cattle alongside the road.

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We saw lots of people walking alongside the road, lots of road work being carried on, and lots of people carrying huge loads of various things in different ways.

We arrived around 12pm at some spot where our guide Antipas had to get out to get papers signed to be authorised to continue the drive.
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This was the beginning of some forest.
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While we drove inside, we saw some peculiar pine trees with curved branches.
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At some point, we stopped to observe some black-and-white colobus monkeys. Their white furry tail and back is so incredible!! Sadly they were quite far in the distance, but it was great to see three at once as we ended up not seeing any other during the hike.

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Some cool facts about the colobus monkey:
The word “colobus” comes from Greek κολοβός kolobós (“docked”), and is so named because in this genus, the thumb is a stump. Colobuses are herbivorous, eating leaves, fruit, flowers, and twigs. Their habitats include primary and secondary forests, riverine forests, and wooded grasslands; they are found more in higher-density logged forests than in other primary forests. Their ruminant-like digestive systems have enabled these leaf-eaters to occupy niches that are inaccessible to other primates.
Colobuses live in territorial groups of about nine individuals, based upon a single male with a number of females and their offspring. Newborn colobuses are completely white. Cases of allomothering are documented, which means members of the troop other than the infant’s biological mother care for it.
Colobuses are important for seed dispersal through their sloppy eating habits, as well as through their digestive systems. They are prey for many forest predators, and are threatened by hunting for the bushmeat trade, logging, and habitat destruction.

We arrived at the Londorosi gate about 20 minutes later.
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We stopped there and had a packed lunch while the porters queued to weigh the green bags containing everything they would carry, food, tents, chairs, our bags. Regulations normally enforces that all porters should not carry more than 20 kilos of company bags on their back, hence the weighing, although it is said that some agencies sometimes bribe the park rangers to have their porters carry more (sometimes up to 45 kilos!!). This is where I was really happy to have chosen a KPAP-certified agency ensuring that the porters we hiked with would not carry more than they should.

After lunch, we did the last bit of driving through the forest until the Lemosho Gate.

There, the porters onloaded the bags. We picked up our small packs, and got our gears adjusted. I had left Moshi in shorts but had changed for pants at Londorosi Gate and I was now putting on my gaiters. We considered for a bit whether to put our rain pants on but the weather was quite hot and some other hikers were actually taking them off so we decided to stick to not putting them on until it would rain. At the Londorosi Gate and at the Lemosho Gate, we saw the white necked-raven, native of Africa, a quite huge bird that I had never seen before and that we got to see on Kilimanjaro most days during our hike time there.
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Before the start of the hike were some signs, one giving some recommendations to all hikers and one writing down all the rates for the National Park. Then we finally started the hike itself and walked from 2.30pm until 4.30pm roughly from Lemosho Gate to the Mti Mkubwa Camp (known also as Big Tree Camp). Our assistant guide Juma was leading the hike. He went very ‘pole pole’, which means ‘slowly and steady’ in Swahili. As the slowest hiker in the world, for me, that pace was perfect! Finally a pace I could keep up with!!! Legend!!! I had found my mountain!! 🙂

So we got to Big Tree Camp at an altitude of 2,650 meters around 4.30pm. Our tents had already been setup by the porters and many other hikers were camping there too. Diner that night tasted yummy. When the sun set, it cooled down a bit, but it wasn’t that cold on that first night.

Here we were…on Kilimanjaro!!! Ready to keep going higher up and up and get our bodies used to the altitude during 7 full days, an entire week of simply hiking, so that we would be well acclimatised by the time we would start the Summit Night Ascent.

Next day…off to Shira Camp I !

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