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Elusive Mount Kilimanjaro

January 31, 2016

Kili First Look.jpgAt nearly 20,000 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa. My time here nearly over, I had not caught sight of her: I arrived in the dark, and she was shrouded in clouds every day. But as luck would have it, she decided to give us a peek on the day Diana and I  had chosen to do a day hike in the national park that encompasses the mountain.

She was decked out in a cloud necklace this Friday morning, and floated above the landscape. Of all the tallest peaks on the seven continents, she is the only one that stands alone, without surrounding mountains or even foothills. Edson, our driver, assured us that she would disappear before the day was out.

Kilimanjaro National ParkIn Moshi we picked up our hiking guide, Stanley, who had just climbed to the summit four days before (he has done it countless times); and he assured us we’d have a gentle hike. We drove up a winding road to the park entrance at 1879 meters, just over 6100 feet, and set off on the path through the rain forest.

On the Rain Forest Trail

Climbing steadily, we eventually heard thunder in the distance, and occasional gentle showers kept us cool. The trail got progressively steeper, and after an hour or so we asked Stanley how far it was to the lunch spot. “Just around the corner!” he declared.

Just Around the Corner.jpg   Elephant Trunk Tree.jpg

Another thirty minutes later, we asked again. “Seven minutes!” he promised. “You’ll feel so healthy after you take a hot shower! It’s good for you!” By now we knew it was pointless to expect any accurate predictions from young Stanley.

The lunch spot miraculously appeared at 4.5 miles — the halfway point of our “easy walk.” The box lunch was pretty terrible: no protein, just empty carbs — very unsatisfying after a strenuous hike that had taken us up to about 8000 feet. After a brief rest, we headed down again, and it was much easier, though by now the rocks on the trail were slippery.

At last we reunited with Edson, after a gentle hike of eight miles! As we turned onto the highway and looked back, Kili, pulled the blankets back over her head and disappeared. And so back to the African Tulip for cocktails and dinner.

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