Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tanzania - Part 1 of 5

Off to Africa

After a year of planning it was finally happening!  I was on my way to Tanzania to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.  On Saturday Sept. 8 I took off from Boston and on Sunday morning I met up with Wood & Rick in Amsterdam.  Woody (Mike Woodman my college teammate) and Rick (Woody’s running buddy) joined me for the 9+ hour flight to Kilimanjaro airport.  We arrived in Africa at 8 PM on Sunday and were picked up at the airport by Ashante tours and Robert (Molnar, who had come up with the idea of this trip).  Robert works as a guide for a company that has ties with Ashante and had also hike Kilimanjaro before so we were in good hands.  We got into our hotel (Weru Weru) by 9:30 and met up with the final two members of our group.  Andy & Tatyana (CMS teammate and CMS teammates GF) had arrived a few days earlier for an extended safari.

On Monday (09/10) I was up at 5:45 and out the door for an easy 3 mile run with Robert.  Running would be a rare treat on this trip!  Missing a day of running on Sunday was my first ZERO since December 7, 2011.  I knew this going in, but that didn’t make it any easier.  The trip would involve a lot of “alternative” exercise, we’d be hiking quite a bit each day (6 hours) and it was either unwise, unsafe, or just plain impossible to run on most days. 

Our first test would be a four day trek on Mt Meru.  At 14,977’ Meru is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fifth highest peak on the African continent.  The four day Momela route would cover 38km and climb/descend 10,059’.  Many people use the Meru climb to aid in acclimatization prior to attempting Kilimanjaro.  Meru gets a lot less traffic than Kilimanjaro so animals are not scared by humans, as such we’d be led by an armed park ranger.

Our first day included a 10km hike with 3,300’ of climb from the Momela Gate to Miriakamba hut (8,215’).  It was a great day with perfect weather as we hiked for 4:50 with a lunch break and a couple of short rest breaks.  Along the way we saw giraffe, zebra, warthogs, water bucks, blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, velvet monkeys, water buffalo, and a lot of baboons (one big group got very close when we were having lunch).  We finished the day with tea and then dinner at the hut.
Mt Meru day two - Tuesday 09-11
We all got up around 6:00am and had our porridge and tea and started our very short hike.  This was a pretty steep 4km (2.5 miles) with 3,400’ of climb.  We were on the trail by 8:30 am and reached the Saddle Hut (11,680’) in four hours.  After lunch and a little rest Robert and I were off for an extra hike to the summit of Little Meru (12,400’).  The others were resting with various “dings” or stomach issues.  At 4 Pm our guide (King William) took us from the saddle hut to Little Meru on a rugged switchback climb.  It was very dusty on the climb and a bit rocky on top.  We were rewarded with great views of Meru and Kilimanjaro.  In all the side trip took 1;28 (45 minutes up, 15 on top, and 28 down) and we got down in time for an early dinner and 8 PM bed.  We’d be up in a few hours for the push to the summit so even a short nap would come in handy!

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