Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

April 3

April 7th, 2016

April 3

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Wildflowers were the order of the day, though it started with white-faced black colobus monkeys, the same ones I heard making a strange, indescribable sound in the early morning. We started the day hiking out of the rain forest, the trees so covered with epiphytes that it was difficult to distinguish their actual leaves. Gideon, my friend and guide, said much of the Kilimanjaro slope is covered with camphor trees, but we did not pass any, though the forest floor was covered with orchids and we saw a tiny red flower called Impatiens Kilimanjaro that is only found on these slopes. On passing around 3000m elevation the rain forest stopped abruptly, replaced by a podocarp forest which, as we ascended, continued to diminish in height. The land was covered with flowers though, some familiar– Dusty Miller– and others variations on the familiar like a diminutive gladiolus. The trail remains incredibly well-made, covered in crushed lava and sometimes with tiny black shards of obsidian. At one point in the mud I saw reasonably large prints of what was a clawed animal– a cat larger than the house variety and smaller than a leopard or maybe a hyena. Gideon said that sometimes large game, including lions, pass through, though not often. The rain seemed to threaten all day, but held off– definitely not like yesterday. We stopped for lunch and Primo (the cook) made a hot meal. They really want me to eat entirely too much food, much of it a little bland (plantain soup, etc). For lunch he gave me cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off– felt as if I were at an English tea. This sort of trekking definitely gives a glimpse into the colonial period. I did have a brief conversation with a man coming down from having summited yesterday. He was brimming with warnings about the upcoming trail and enthusiasm for having made it. On arrival at the Horombo Huts, there were many more trekkers either preparing to climb or to descend back down tomorrow. I had not been thinking much about the end point, just how the trek was unfolding, in part because the guides make all the decisions, so I’m just along for the ride. Still, it’s much like Thorung La, with everyone obsessed about the peak, strange world that. The dining room was crowded with trekkers, guides, and lots of very bold mice. One group of guides included a man whose language had clicks — very interesting to listen in.

 

T. Hugh Crawford

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