And so it begins. After months of preparation my bag is packed and loaded onto an old bus ready to drive to the Rongai gate and the start of our trek. After the briefing last night I feel confident, the nerves subsided and I’m eager to get started.
We meet our guides and porters at the gate. A team of 54 men and women to help us climb the mountain. A whole community of people dedicated to making this happen. Sitting in the shelter to keep out of the sun we eat our packed lunches and make the final preparations for the day’s climb.
We start in woodland, shaded from the heat of the day. Our walk is slow, pole-pole, behind Lucia our guide, who walks with a package balanced on her head. Every so often the trees give way to farmland: fields of cabbages, a man working the ground, the sound of a radio.
We stop for a while to watch colobus monkeys high up in the trees. The woodland becomes thicker and we stop at some picnic benches to snack and use the small toilet shack. Lesson learnt, never again.
As we climb higher the woodland gives way to dense vegetation and moorland. But not like the moorland of home. The path is lined with trees covered in long hanging lichen, meadow flowers and spiny yew type plants. Behind us we can see the plains far below stretching towards the mountains of Kenya, distant in the haze.
After several hours walking we reach our first camp. We sign in to the registration book just as the first few drops of rain start to fall. The campsite is busy with other groups. Over at our patch of the campsite our porters wait for us with our bags. I meet Bertuse my porter who has carried my kit bag much faster than our slow pace. He shows me to my tent – home for the next week.
A bowl of hot water is brought to each of us. Washy-washy then a hot drink and popcorn in the mess tent. I never expected such relative luxury on the mountain. We take a short walk a little way from the camp to help acclimatise after tea and enjoy once again the views of Tanzania stretched out below us in the evening sun.
After a hot dinner I fall asleep cosy in my sleeping bag. Tomorrow we continue to ascend and I’m looking forward to it. This place is so very beautiful.