The terrain is much different from what I’ve been in lately. Broad flat plains with that distinctive dark red soil that signals volcanos. A lot of agriculture here–good sized fields of corn along with banana plantations. All the labor seems to be done by hand. While driving to Kilimanjaro park, we passed many people (often quite young) shouldering heavy hoes on their way to work. In the villages they sweep the grounds, so the dirt is in swirls, and they burn all the leaves. There is a real fastidiousness that distinguishes this countryside from many I have hiked through. The farmhouse architecture is interesting though I have not been able to see a house up close. The buildings near the roads tend to be three or four bay structures with doors opening to the front of each bay. The standard building material is either cut volcanic rock or rough formed cinder blocks (with some brick). The nicer buildings then are stuccoed and perhaps painted. The farmhouses are of the same material but have a more complicated style, with multiple rooflines, porches, dormers. I assume it is adapted from English colonial forms, but they are good looking buildings. Most of my morning was meeting with the trekking crew, including my guide Gideon who is quiet, strong and inspires confidence. There are also a number of porters and guides who rode up on the bus with us, though just now, I am not clear who or how many are with me. I have to admit, it is a little awkward getting the Hemingway safari treatment. I’m carrying a nearly empty pack and walking very slowly with Gideon while the other crew take a different route and meet us at camp. As it is the rainy season, we are taking the Marangu route. There are camps with huts at each point of 1000m altitude gain, so there is no need to set up tents in a downpour. Our first night was Mandara Huts (elevation 2720m which meant we climbed almost 1000m today). After a few hours trekking in the strongest downpour I have ever hiked, I found myself the occupant of an a-frame hut complete with mattresses and pillows and was soon brought a washbasin with warm water and soap, then a snack and hot coffee. Near as I can tell, I’m not supposed to do anything except get up every day and walk (slowly). I really do not like being waited on, but that apparently is the only way I can climb this mountain, though I’m still not convinced there actually is a mountain. It’s been very cloudy since I got off the plane and I haven’t seen anything yet that even looks like a volcano.
T. Hugh Crawford