The final final countdown – 23/02/10

There have been so many final countdowns to this trip I have lost count, but this time it really really is it. I wake up in Africa for the first time, knowing that tomorrow the hard work really starts – it will be day one on the mountain.

I cannot decide what to do with myself today. After yesterday’s ‘ordeal’ in Arusha, I decide it is not exactly the place to spend a day being a tourist, and I ponder the virtues of my having arrived a whole day early, and actually wonder what to do with myself. After a decent breakfast in the hotel, I almost find myself logging to checking my work emails, but before I get the chance to do so, I am greeted by a girl saying “hello, are you climbing Kilimanjaro with Henry?”. I answer yes I am, and the girl introduces herself as Heather. She says that she is going tomorrow, and that she and her friend Caroline are really looking forward to it, but thought that there was just the two of them. I explain that I thought there were three of us, but that the other two on my trek were a “married couple from New Jersey”. This causes her to smile rather a lot, and says she will go get her friend.

Caroline and Heather, definitely not married.......

We all duly meet in the bar, then start to talk about our adventure. I ponder as to how they are connected, and whether they are a couple in fact, but decide not to ask. We will spend a week with each other, and I am just happy to meet them, it matters not one jot, and they both seem lovely people.

They tell me that they are going into Arusha to go and see the Rwanda War Trials Tribunal, which has been going on here for the last five years and is open to the public. They ask me if I would like to come along, and I say I would be glad to. We duly walk in, and I recount my tale of ‘John’ the previous day. It is not long before I get approached by about five more peddlers trying to sell me everything from newspapers to a Safari. I must be a magnet for the these people, and Caroline and Heather are amused as they do not get approached at all.

We lunch at a nice little place called “Via Via”, which is through the museum, and highly recommended if you are in Arusha. We then head off to the trials, which are fascinating, but having watched them for just an hour or so I can understand why they have been going on for five years already.

Here is a piccie of me taken outside the Tribunal, which has a mural of Kilimanjaro outside:

The Rwanda Tribunal building, Arusha

We get back to the hotel at around 3 or so, and we have our briefing at around 6pm. It seems that a beer is in order, as it is rather hot (that’s a good enough reason for today anyway, and this will be my last chance of a beer for a while too). Just then a big group of people arrive at the hotel, and they look suspiciously like they have just returned from a certain mountain that we all know rather well. They have indeed – they are from Belgium, and look like drowned rats.

They explain that they have done the 7 day Machame route, and that it rained every single day, except the summit night when it snowed. They say it was ‘brutal’, ‘ridiculously hard’, and they do not look like they enjoyed it at all. Apparently 12 of the 14 made it up though, which is great, and we congratulate them. They ask if we are taking Diamox, and Caroline and Heather answer yes, and I say no. He says “take it”, and I tell him that I do not have any, so he asks amongst the group and one of the guys comes up and gives me about 20 tablets – looks like I am going to take it after all – I am quite relieved.

At 6pm we get our briefing. Shortly before we start we meet another person who is joining us – we are not three after all, we are four! The guy introduces himself as Ronan, a 29 year old originally from Northern Ireland but now living in London. The briefing is done by a fairly serious guy called Deo, who will be our guide, and another guy called Samuel, one of the assistant guides. They go through a very comprehensive list of things we might need, and tell us we will need (amongst other things) poles and four layers of trousers for summit night. Ronan and I have no poles and certainly do not have four layers of trousers. It all seems quite daunting stuff – we are left in no doubt that this is no walk in the park and we need to take it all very seriously. Oh and during the briefing we learn that there are not going to to be four of us at all, but seven! There are apparently three more trekkers ‘from Lebanon’ staying in another hotel – we will meet them on the bus in the morning. Even more exciting!

Afterwards, Caroline, Heather and I go out to dinner at a place called ‘Stiggy’s’, which is a part Thai, part Italian (!) restaurant, and the food is great. We all munch on pizzas, but the evening is short and we are back by 9pm – we all need some sleep as tomorrow we will be picked up at 7am for a five hour bus journey to the Rongai gate – this is it!

I get back to my room and pack and unpack both my daypack and my duffle bag, trying to get things in the right places. I also repack my bag that will stay at the hotel – I decide to leave nothing valuable behind and carry everything with me in my daypack – I will worry about it a lot less if I can see it at least.

My alarm is set for 5.30am, so I can pack and fret some more – I sleep fitfully, and dream of reaching the top of Kilimanjaro – I hope I don’t let anyone down, including myself……………

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