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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Tanzania - 2 March, 2001

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Mt Meru - Saddle Hut S0313.096' E03646.402' 3,564 m
Mt Meru - Momela Route Stage 3 5 km (hike)
Mt Meru - Socialist Peak S0314.606' E03644.987' 4,579 m
Mt Meru - Momela Route Stage 3 5 km (hike)
Mt Meru - Saddle Hut S0313.096' E03646.402' 3,564 m
Mt Meru - Momela Route Stage 2 5 km (hike)
Mt Meru - Miriakamba Hut S0313.772' E03647.985' 2,512 m
Mt Meru - Momela Route Stage 1 5 km (hike)
Mt Meru - Momela Gate S0314.021' E03650.983' 1,606 m
Arusha
Finish Meserani (Snake Park) S0324.586' E03628.997' 1,312 m 63 km (car)

Total:

26,490 km

5,570 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very cold at altitude (with strong winds on stage 3 of the hike) and very hot at bottom of mountain.  Cool at night.

 

 

Daily Journal Entry:

Today we will attempt to reach the summit of Mt Meru - Socialist Peak.  We are up early - 1 AM.  Lars got some sleep, but Jacqui was not able to sleep very well.  We can hear the wind rushing around the hut with a strong moaning sound.  Lars gets up and gets dresses to go out to the toilet - he comes back with the news that there is not a cloud in the sky.  The night sky is full of stars and, while it is cold and windy, it is a great night to climb.  We finish getting ready and then have a light snack of tea and biscuits.

 

At 2 AM, we are ready to go and we head off into the darkness.  We each have a torch to light the way, but it does not penetrate to far into the black night.  We first start off on a relatively flat portion, but after not too long it starts to climb up.  Up we go and after a while we come to point where the guide says we should be careful and stick to the trail - when we shine our torches left and right, only darkness.  We walk along carefully in the dark.  Shortly later, one hour after starting off, we arrive at Rhino Point.  While it is supposed to have good views, we are not able to see much.

 

We carry on.  There is now a downhill stretch.  While it is easier than going up, we know that we will need to recover the altitude that we are losing.  At this point, the more difficult parts of the trail begin.  We come to a wall, and we need to climb over and down it in the dark.  With the meager light from our torches, we are able to find the foot and hand holds and make it over.  We hope that there are not too many of them.

 

It is beginning to get even colder and at times the wind is very strong and, it seems, threatens to blow us off the mountain.  It also blows dust into our eyes and mouth.  The trail varies quite a bit - at times it seems easy with a smooth surface where we can move quite quickly, but then we get to the tough parts where we are scrambling over rocks and walls on all fours.  we wonder what it will look like in the daylight.

 

As we hike up, we need to change batteries a number of times as the lights in our torches slowly die.  Jacqui changes her once and Lars has to change his twice.  But we suspect that we will be able to re-use the batteries later when they warm up.  The cold is effecting them.  We try to take a drink as often as possible, but the water is very cold.  It would freeze our teeth and throats, but it was important to drink.  We would take frequent stops as we walked up - the frequency increasing as we got higher in altitude and whenever the climbing was more difficult.

 

As we walked along, we could see the torches of the other climbers and when we looked down into the plains below, we could see the lights of the cars driving from Nairobi to Arusha.

 

We then come to the last bit of the climb up to the summit.  At this point, we have to do much of the last bit on all fours.  We take a break to put some more clothes on.  While climbing up, we are generating quite a bit of body heat, but once we get to the top, rest and start down, we will be getting colder.  So we want to be prepared.  The last stretch is the hardest.  We make frequent stops, but we can see that there will be great views and it is not too far away, so we make one final push and we reach the summit of Mt Meru, at 4,556 m, at 6:30 AM after 4 hours of hiking.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_01_Summit_Sunrise_Kili_2397_Web.gif (142977 bytes)

And is it a glorious view that we have from the summit of Mt Meru.  It is a clear sky, with just a view clouds coming in at much lower elevation.  The usual haze is also not there, so we have a great view of the surrounding countryside, including Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The sun is just starting to come up to the south of Kili.

 

We have only about 20 minutes at the summit, so we do not have too much time to waste. We look around and enjoy the fantastic views.  We also have something to drink and share a Twix bar.  The only problem is that the Twix bar is frozen and we have to crack it into pieces and then let it melt in our mouths.  The space at the summit is limited and there are quite a few people there.  One one side is the steep slope of the flank of the volcano and on the other side, about 2,000 meters straight down into the crater.  The ridge is only about 2 to 3 meters wide here.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_09_Summit_Lars_2406_Web.gif (154788 bytes)

We take pictures of each other at the summit, and then look around at the view.  In front of Kili, behind us the plains heading towards Ngorongoro Crater.  Mt Meru is throwing a triangle shaped shadow on the plains below, which slowly gets smaller as the sun rises.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_03_Summit_Sunrise_Ridge_2399_Web.gif (142039 bytes)

The walls of the Mt Meru's crater is bathed in a golden glow from the rising sun.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_05_Summit_Sunrise_Kili_2402_Web.gif (149393 bytes)

But is starting to get a bit too cold with the strong wind and we have a long way to go today - we are hiking all the way down to the bottom today - so we begin the long descent at 6:50 AM.  It will be another 9 hours until we get to the bottom.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_12_Descent_Jac_2409_Web.gif (182792 bytes)

When we begin our hike down, we are in for a bit of a shock.  We can see what we have just climbed up and Jacqui summed it up well - if she could have seen the route on the way up, she would have turned back early on.  But going down, we had no choice.  We needed to get to the bottom and we did know that we had made it up. In the picture at the right you can see Rhino Point in the mid-foreground, with Little Meru the peak behind.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_17_Descent_Ridge_2414_Web.gif (271041 bytes)

So down we headed, but we took our time and went slow and easy.  We would climb over and around rock ledges.  We would walk along ridges with the crater cone cliff face on one side and the steep flank of the volcano on the other side. Here you can see one of the trails - only about 50 cm wide.  Amazing that we came up here in the dark.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_19_Descent_Jac_2416_Web.gif (184877 bytes)

The wind seemed stronger than when we came up and it would make us quite nervous when we crossed very narrow ridges.  The guide did not make things any easier telling us that a Dutchman had, only last December, died falling down the flank.  He pointed out the white flag fluttering in the wind way down the flank that marked the spot where he was found.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_20_Descent_Ridge_Jac_2417_Web.gif (203290 bytes)

We thought Jacqui could just be blown away in the wind.  The wind also picked up the fine volcanic dust and would blow it into us at high speed.  In this photo, you can see the dust being blown by the wind along the ridge, where the trail went.  Often we would have to stop and close our eyes.  The dust ended up everywhere - in our mouths, nose, ears and hair.  We were cleaning it out for days afterwards.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_22_Descent_Kili_Jac_2419_web.gif (223044 bytes)

We had great views the whole way down - here Jacqui is admiring Kili in the distance.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_27_Descent_Crater_2424_Web.gif (219641 bytes)

The guide was quite good and would give Jacqui a hand whenever she needed it.  We finally came to the slope leading up to Rhino Point.  While it was not far up, it was very daunting.  For a while, Jacqui threatened to go on "strike", but in the end we made it up to Rhino Point and were rewarded with some wonderful views of Mt Meru, Little Meru, the crater and Kili.  It was great, but we had to continue our walk down to the second hut.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_31_Descent_Kili_2428_WebCrop.gif (131199 bytes)

At this point, clouds were slowly starting to come in around Kili, but we still got clear views of the top of Kili suspended above the clouds that surrounded it.  We make it to Saddle Hut at 10:20 AM, over 8 hours after we left this morning.  We were quite tired, but we still had quite a bit of walking to do to get down to the bottom.

 

We had a quick breakfast, after which Jacqui went to take a nap and Lars repacked our stuff that we had left in the hut while we climbed to the summit.  A little bit after an hour after we got to the second hut, we headed down towards hut one.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_32_Descent_Lars_Tree_2429_Web.gif (265800 bytes)

It was a wonderful walk through the forest. There were the same fantastic trees that grew in all different ways.  It was quite shady most of the way and it was not too difficult.  We would see a number of people coming up, and we would tell them they had a wonderful climb ahead of them.

 

We get to the first hut at 1:30 PM, and we take a half hour break for lunch and a short rest in the shade.  We are offered a lift down in a land rover, but we decide that we want to complete the hike on foot.  Our guide seemed quite disappointed - looked like he might have a date.  

 

On the way down to the bottom we took the short route (we had taken the long route on the way up).  It was not as interesting as the long route, but it was not as steep and it was shorter.  On the way down we saw some giraffe, deer, warthogs and buffalo.  We arrive at the bottom shortly after 4 PM.  What a day - we have been up for 15 hours and climbed up 1,000 meters and down 3,000 meters.  While we were tired and a bit sore in spots, we were very happy and excited.  We had made it.

 

After getting organised, getting our certificates and paying our tips, we loaded up the car and headed back to Arusha and the campsite.  Our adventures did not stop there, however.  There is a long drive on dirt roads and about half way on this very bumpy road, the muffler fell off of our very old Peugeot. But it did not seem to faze the driver.  He got out and after fiddling around under the car for a while, said we were ready to go.  Boy, did we maker a lot of noise.  He must have just tied the pipes in place, but not reconnect it, so we were driving without a muffler.

 

Tanzania01_Meru3_21_Descent_Ridge_Kili_Jac_2418_Web.gif (191054 bytes)

On the way into town, we stopped off at a garage and he had it all welded up in 10 minutes.  We then stopped by the safari office to pick up our bags and then head off to our campsite at Snake Park.  We arrive there just after 7 PM.  We have a quick dinner, set up our tent, have a shower, do some stretches and then head off to bed.  We fall asleep right away.  What a great day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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