So after an 8 hour flight to Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi, I land at 6am local time (3am for me), and am in Africa for the first time! I feel like doing a Pope thing and kissing the Tarmac as I walk down the steps of the plane, but there are people with guns and things (probably) and so I decide better of it.
So After being bussed back to the terminal, it is a short walk around to Gate 3, from where Precision Air Services flight 724 will be taking me to Kilimanjaro International Airport (which I imagine will be a bit of a shed) at 8am.
The short wait in a none too salubrious waiting area passes ridiculously quickly however. I am of course excited beyond compare, despite not having slept for more than probably 20 or so minutes last night. And then, before I know it, I am boarding the small plane to Kili – damned if I know what sort it was, but here is a picture of it:
I have seat 1D, and wish that I had asked whether that will be the side of the plane to see Kili. It wasn’t. If you happen to do this subsequently then sit on the left hand side of the plane.
The flight is just 45 minutes long, and we are told that we will be flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet. I realise that this means that we will not be as high as Kilimanjaro – we will be looking up at it still from the plane! Sure enough after about 20 minutes in there is a clambering at the left hand side of the plane. Everyone grabs for their cameras including me, and this is about the best that I could do:
The day is very cloudy, but there strutting well above the clouds, and a lot more steeply than I had imagined it to be, is Kilimanjaro, in the flesh for the first time. It is dark, brooding, menacing almost. It tells you it is boss right away. I feel a bit scared just looking at it. I look around and see the plains of the Serengeti, and to the right of me the quite majestic Mount Meru (the little sister to Kilimanjaro at 17,000 feet). I want to cry out with excitement.
I wish I had someone to share this moment with. You really should not do this in your own. It is the ultimate Kodak moment – when you want to turn round to whoever you are with and just let the emotions out. You want to grab them and let them see what it means to you, and then take 100 photographs all of exactly the same thing at the same angle. It is exulting, exciting and exhausting all at the same time. I have been fortunate to see some great sights in my life, of which I would choose The Grand Canyon, the atolls of The Maldives, and The Matterhorn as being right up there with the best, but right here and now this tops them all.
My flight lands at 8.46am local time in Tanzania. Kilimanjaro International Airport is indeed little more than a shed, although I do not see any cows. The process of having your Yellow Fever certificate checked, to getting your visa ($50 over the counter, cheaper here than in London), is frustrating if not overly long. After about 30 minutes I am reaquainted on the other side with my luggage. I am surprised it made it. I am always pessimistic about luggage not arriving, but this time I was warned. The advice was to travel in walking boots and other kit such that if your luggage did not make it out of Kenya then at least you had a head start. I am not the only person by any means on this flight in walking boots either.
As I get through to the arrivals hall/hut I am met by a driver. There is myself and two other guys who are on their way to The Outpost too, and on their way of course to do the same thing as me. They are older than me, which makes me feel slightly less daunted about what I am facing. The first one I talk to says “doesn’t it look incredibly steep at the top?” I hastily agree, and we both clearly ponder the ramifications of that.
The journey to Arusha is quite an eye opener. The next post will tell you why………….