When we landed in Tanzania, not only were we a little unprepared for the visa situation, but we were also a little off on our itinerary dates and packing lists. Instead of starting the Kili climb on Feb. 6th, we were scheduled to start Feb. 7th — which was a welcome surprise as we had been on-the-go and were in need of an extra day of rest, not to mention some extra time to pack.
Our first morning in Moshi started with a leisurely bike ride around town with Simon as our guide.
Then we headed to the SENE office to take a look at our gear and see if we were missing any important items for the climb. Conclusion: we were missing every single important item found on any basic Kili packing list. There are people who show up to climb Kili with every accessory imaginable — Osprey daypacks, Camelbacks, a 10-day supply of electrolyte tablets, and warm clothes sufficient for the Canadian arctic. Then there was us…
Simon took one look at my low-top Merrel hiking boots and was beside himself. My boots were beyond insufficient, we had zero warm clothes for the summit (which is 0-10 degrees F.), no suitable daypacks, and my headlamp was somewhere in southern Chile. The list goes on, but let’s just say we felt like we had shown up with a bag full of swimsuits and flip flops for a 7-day climb of Africa’s tallest peak.
Thankfully, Simon rescued us again. He gathered extra gear from the SENE office (mostly men’s sizes for Dan) and raided his wife’s closet for me (thank you, Tara!!) the only thing missing was boots for me, which Simon insisted I rent at the trailhead.
After lunch at Moshi’s best pizza place, Joseph (of visa-rescue fame) drove us up to Mbahe. Mbahe is Simon’s family farm in the foothills of Kili, where all SENE guests stay before and after the climb. The farm is like a pre-Kili retreat center — fresh air, beautiful rolling hills and waterfalls, gardens filled with fruits and vegetables, and an amazing staff to make you feel at home. And at 6,000 feet, Mbahe also gives guests a chance to acclimatize a bit before the trek.
Our Mbahe host was Wilson who at age 67 had guided over 1,000 successful trips to the summit before Simon recruited him to work with guests at the farm. Wilson was a fountain of climbing words of wisdom (“Nothing easy is worthwhile doing” and “You are number one! Not number two!!” were repeated in my head many times during the tough moments) and made us feel at ease about our climb.
After settling in, we took hot showers, ate a delicious farm fresh dinner, and slept for ten hours straight — only to be woken by Wilson’s knock at 8am the next morning.
We spent the next day walking around the farm and surrounding village, including a stop at the nearby Marengo trailhead where I succeeded in renting some awesome hiking boots. Woohoo!! Once I had the boots on, both Dan and I started feeling much better about the climb.
Wilson and our guide, Ayumwi, walked us through the map of the Machame route, pointing out each campsite location and elevation. We also practiced taking our vital signs (which we would do every morning and evening on the mountain) — oxygen saturation, heart rate, respiration patterns, and water intake. We quickly realized we were in very good hands with SENE.
Then it was goodnight Mbahe, goodbye peaceful farm and cozy bed (+ running water, electricity, episodes of ‘The Good Wife,’ etc…) and onto our big adventure….