Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tanzania: Day 6 Kilimanjaro-Horombo Huts to Marangu Gate

We started off the day in below freezing conditions. Our sink and vanity had frozen bits of water so there was no "hot water for wash." Fortunately, Godfrey brought us some but we had already used our water from our hot water bottles to clean up.
We had hot porridge and toast for breakfast and then we left. I have to say, I miss my chemical toilet. Although there are toilets at Horombo, most of them were not working; consequently, we had to wait for one very smelly toilet (at least it was flushable or at least, it was supposed to be flushable).
We walked on a fairly well laid out path going down toward Mandara Gate, crossing several bridges and streams along the way. You can tell when there is water around because of the vegetation like the Kilimanjari plants - some of which are almost 30 years old.  
Kilimanjari flower
One bridge crossing

Looking in the distance at Mawenzi, it was almost surreal to realize that yesterday we were there heading to Horombo. It looked so daunting before and after!

Mawenzi Tarn (where we walked from yesterday)
We walked slowly, and with every footstep forward, there we were, walking right through the cloud forest which I had been photographing last night. At times I felt like I could reach out and grab some of the fluff but it was misty and of course I couldn't. Godfrey was very patient while I stopped every few minutes, untangled my hands out of my walking pole straps and snapped a few pictures. That went on for almost the entire way down to Mandara Huts. 

Walking through the could forest

I noticed that the vegetation was changing quite a bit, getting taller and more green the lower we got. Godfrey said that some of the flora can only be found on Kili.
Kili flora 

Brush fire started by poachers
There were several areas where the earth looked like it was scorched by fires and Godfrey said that some are controlled fires and some are set by poachers. They set the fires and when the animals start to run away from the fires, the poachers nab them. There is a tremendous trade in illegal animals mostly to Asian countries. They claim to use parts of some animals for medicinal purposes.
Going down was getting increasingly hard on the knees so we relied on our poles even more. I can feel that tomorrow I'll have some sore quad and calf muscles. There was one section of the path that was covered in moss, making for am eerie feeling as if walking through a haunted jungle in a Harry Potter movie.

Moss throughout the forest on the Marangu Route

Eerie forest through Marangu 

No Tarzan swinging from the vine

Tree root in the Marangu path

Kili flora
Mandara Huts

We got to Mandara Huts where Cusmus and the other porters had a hot lunch waiting for us. I don't really know how they do it - pack up the previous camp after we leave and pass us on the way down with a 44 pound load on their heads and then get our hot lunch ready when we arrive. I have so much admiration for them that it's hard to express. They are the hardest workers and they get the least respect from their own people.

3 serious hikers on Marangu Route

Marangu Route
Sunita leading the walk
We didn't waste much time after lunch because Godfrey had arranged a rescue vehicle for us but we still had to walk for almost an hour to get to it. He said the rescue vehicle fee was paid for as part of our costs but I must say, if you are in serious trouble, don't expect to be helicoptered off the mountain. It won't happen. The rescue was only for the last hour of the entire trip so plan carefully and if you are unwell, just know that you are not going to have an easy time going down from wherever you are on the mountain. After seeing and knowing how much effort it took to come down over the last two days, I was very glad I decided to come down with Sunita.

Kili "rescue" van

We were picked up at the Marangu Gate by one of the vehicles from Mauly Tours which was the tour company that does the climb. We gave the porters their tips (they were hired from Marangu Gate and would not be in Moshi on Saturday) and they were very happy. Each of them got USD $5 per day for the entire 8 days even though we had only completed 6 days. We felt that it was worth it. That amount might seem low but many porters do not even earn that as their daily wage. Some porters are treated very badly by the companies who hire them - some of them working only for the experience and no wages so they depend on tips. I don't think that these porters are poorly paid but I don't think they are paid well - only because Hilda suggested a tip rate for each person of USD$5-15 per day. When we figured out how much we could have to tip, the rate worked out to be more like $23 per day for each of us. That broke down to $5 per day for each of 3 porters = $15/day, plus $2.50 per day for Godfrey, plus 1.50 per day each for the two assistant guides Honest and John and Chinga the cook = 4.50/day, plus $1 per day for the toilet porter. That was more than twice as much as we had planned for but after seeing how well the group took care of us, we felt it was the best thing to do.
Then off we went back to the Parkview Inn for a hot shower and a good scrub and of course a nice dinner and a sleep in a not so comfortable but room bed. We arranged with the hotel to get massages in our room tomorrow. So happiness is a good meal tonight.

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