Kilimanjaro Hike: Day 1 – Getting Going

Writing about our hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro is no easy task.  What to share?  Clearly the “facts” of the route, camps, durations, weather, gear, the day-to-day routine, etc. are all important elements of the story.  But the more I thought about how to write about this experience, the more I realized I wanted to share how it felt first and foremost, covering some of the elements listed earlier as they fit into the overall story, instead of making those the focus.  As I mentioned in another post, preparing for Kili is more than training and gear.  As you will see over the series of writeups, the emotional element also applies to actually doing the climb.  Let’s get going with Day 1!

The route and the climb

Well, before getting into the hike itself, a quick word about the route and the climb.  We went up the Machame Route, known for its vistas and for not being as crowded as other routes.  Also, Machame is a route with a higher likelihood of success than the so-called “Coca-Cola” Route (the Marangu Route) since it offers better altitude adjustment (climb high, sleep low; 6 days of ascent; etc.).

The climb itself is to Uhuru Peak.  Mt. Kilimanjaro actually refers to the entire mountain, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.  Uhuru Peak is the highest point on the mountain and, therefore, in Africa!  Uhuru Peak is the goal and the entry point to the summit area on this route is called Stella Point.

Getting going on Day 1:  the Machame Gate and the wait

It starts on day 1 when, full of anticipation, the trekkers finish prepping the daypack they will carry on their backs and the other piece of luggage that will be taken from camp to camp by the porters accompanying our group.

Backpacks ready to go up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Daypacks waiting for their trekkers!

We got up at the crack of dawn to head from our hotel (the awesome Honey Badger Lodge) to the hotel from which the mountain trek would leave, the Springlands Hotel, home base of Zara Tours who Trekking for Kids had hired to do our trek.

The ride to the Machame Gate, entry point to the Machame Route, could not start quickly enough.  As with many things, one gets ready and then one waits.  After we finished leaving some of our non-trek stuff in storage at the Springlands, our bus arrived and the process of loading up our trek bags began.  Soon enough we were on our way to the Machame Gate.  It seemed to take forever but it couldn’t have been more than 1 hour or hour-and-a-half.  We were just so ready to get this climb going!

Once we arrived at the Machame Route, we proceeded to, you guessed it, sit and wait for about an hour.  The reason, though, was quite simple:  the permits had to be purchased by the lead guides.  This process takes time as we were not the only ones there (fancy that!).  This would be a reality throughout the trek:  others are there with you.  Not that we expected to be alone, mind you.  Just that one never stops to consider that until one gets to this first gate.  While it could have been chaotic, it really was not.  We proceeded to eat our boxed lunches while we waited and took a few pictures to commemorate the start of our climb!

At the Machame Gate at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro

ilivetotravel doing the obligatory photo at the Machame Gate, looking ready and clean!

Another thing you can do while you wait is read the few signs posted with instructions and warnings for those starting to climb Kili!

Sign on Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro

We cheered when we saw our guide come over with paperwork – it meant we were ready to go.  The funny thing is that we saw other guides come out around the same moment with their papers.  You would think the first-come, first-serve approach would have led to guides coming out gradually and sequentially.  Nope.  It seems all permits were issued almost at the same time for all the groups waiting!  That meant, everyone got going at the same time creating a little bottleneck at the entrance gate.  We got to pass quickly through without waiting long so we were FINALLY on our way!!

The hike on Day 1

Day 1 was mainly going through a forest habitat starting at 6,000 ft (1,830 m) and ending at the Machame Camp at 10,200 ft (3,100 m).

Day 1 of the Machame Route of Kilimanjaro

Typical of the Day 1 Machame Route. Notice the porters on the trail.

It may have been the built-up anticipation but, for the most part, I didn’t feel the altitude wear on me as the day went on.   We were fortunate it did not rain that day so the gaiters were not really needed (those green things I am wearing on my legs in the earlier photo to help prevent mud or pebbles from getting into our boots).  This part of the trail is about the nicest one with some work done to create a good trail for part of the way.

We got to camp about 4:30 PM, five hours after we had started.  We were thrilled at having completed our first day of 6 to get to the summit!  While we knew we still had a lot of challenges ahead, it felt SO good to have one day under our belt!  At this point we did our first book signing to show we were there – a requirement if we wanted to be issued an official completion certificate at the end of the hike.

Register at camp in Kilimanjaro

The Machame Camp sits in an area with plenty of vegetation.  This means we had more smaller animal life than we would have higher up; read, mice.  Key here is to keep the tent zipped up when not coming and going!   The Machame Camp has a toilet building that is pretty new.  I heard it had both Western toilets and Turkish toilets, if those are the proper names for the fixture types.  We also had a pair of portable toilets-tents and I preferred those… (less smelly).

In any case, getting to camp means setting up the sleeping tents and the mess hall tent.  Normally the porters who carry these items and set them up get there ahead of the trekkers and the guides but on Day 1 we got there at the same time.  So this day we got to watch them at work.

Camp being set up in Kilimanjaro

Setting up camp

Once the tents were set up and before dinner was ready, I, like some of the other trekkers, got organized by washing up, taking out the items needed for the night (headlamp, etc.), and preparing the daypack for the next day.  Oh, and the getting drinking water and treating it (Steripen worked wonderfully!) – a staple of the every day life on the mountain!

Trekker at camp in Kilimanjaro

Yours truly getting ready for my first night camping ever!

We got to enjoy a beautiful sunset before heading to the mess hall tent for dinner and an early bedtime so we could be well-rested for Day 2.  Dinner included a hot soup, potatoes, fried fish, vegetables, and small bananas along with tea and hot chocolate.  On to my first night camping ever and Day 2!

Tents at Machame Camp during sunset in Kilimanjaro

Our tents with a beautiful backdrop courtesy of the African sunset

On to Day 2

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Other posts about the Kilimanjaro trek:

Preparing for the hike is more than training and gear

The Machame Route:  our way up

Day 3 of the hike

Day 4 of the hike

Day 5 of the hike

Day 6 of the hike (summit night)

7 things you will not see me without as I climb Kili

Interview with fellow Kili climber and Ultimate Global Explorer

Comments

  1. Olivia Campos says:

    This is awesome Raul! Perfect summary of Day 1. Day 2 was my favorite, so can’t wait for that, and please do the beauty of moorlands justice. I know you will. :-)

    • Hey, Olivia, thanks for stopping by! I agree with you that Day 2 was really nice. That night’s camp was also my favorite of all the camps.

  2. Wow! This is going to be a very handy guide for those looking to do the climb in the future. I can’t wait to see each new day come along. Great summary and it is fun to remember these details. I remember how clear the night sky was one night one and how clearly you could see the milky way.

    • Hi, Austin! Yes, I forgot about the Milky Way being so clear! Thanks for stopping by and keep adding to the story with your own recollections! Day 2 is coming out soon.

  3. Very cool, Raul! I wish you much luck as you climb up. Can’t wait to see photos at the summit!
    Charu recently posted..In The Cayman Islands, A Culinary RevolutionMy Profile

  4. you look so comfy in your tent!!! That was a nice trail..it seems so easy… looking forward to day 2

  5. Awesome stuff Raul…can’t wait to read more about your adventure, and it’s great to have you back!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Path of 20,000 DreamsMy Profile

  6. Oh I love this – takes me back a few years when Mr. O did the same journey, i remember the names! But I enjoyed following your trip when possible via social media – times have changed!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..My hOtel: Sofitel Berlin GendarmenmarktMy Profile

  7. What a great start! I can’t wait to read about, or better yet, talk to you about this great experience.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Small-Town Nirvana is Found in @TellurideMy Profile

  8. baaah i cant wait to see what the rest of the journey had in store for you! climbing mt kilimanjaro has always been one of those things i’ve wanted to do and never thought i could… you’re inspiring me, raul! xo, the wino
    thelazytravelers recently posted..happy birthday to the romantic!My Profile

  9. Hard to believe such an epic trip started with a level trail through the forest, as seen on the picture in this post. I know what you mean about waiting. Reminds me of the song by Tom Petty “The waiting is the hardest part.”
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Cute boy to the rescue in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Yes, Ted, it was strange how the climate zones changed daily – who would have thought to thread them all into one mountain! It did make everyday different and new for sure.

  10. I love how you say, “looking ready and clean.” I can only imagine just how dirty you got! Just in my trip to Africa camping, I was filthy. Filthy and so happy, but it was the dirtiest I’ve ever been. I’d imagine you were even dirtier than that. This is getting me so excited to make the climb one day!!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Speak Like the Irish.My Profile

    • Erin, not sure how it compares but after the upper camps in the mountain and the safari days, dust became part of me. One day I used like 3 wipies per foot to clean my feet. I thought boots, the wool sock, and the liner would have done a much better job of keeping dust out!

  11. Kathleen says:

    Love the details, Raul. Look forward to reading them all…and as far as the mice goes – good thing the hills weren’t filled with roaches! ;)

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  1. […] my buddy Raul of I Live To Travel spent a week trekking his way to the top and wrote a fantastic 7-piece series about the struggles and rewards of the […]

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