Davanu shuttle bus wound its way through the paved central streets
of Moshi. The ultimate destination was the Springlands Hotel,
an outfit run by the Zara
(the company providing
our climb and safari package). The bus started to head out of
town and onto a rough gravel road. There were simple ramshackle
huts about, and the area looked poor. Garbage was everywhere.
Soon the bus arrived at a tan-walled compound, complete with
a large solid black metal gate. A little door within that gate
was open, and we were spied by someone just outside that gate,
and the doors swung open to accept the bus.
Shuttle arriving at Springlands
The bus drove into a different world. Outside seemed somewhere in the vicinity of the poverty line, and in here somewhere near the luxury line. Whitewashed buildings, carefully manicured tropical plants with tended crushed-stone paths in between; shady tables where guests sipped drinks; pool, gym, bars. The Springlands hotel was a self-contained island of creature comforts. The feeling of this was enhanced when a cold fruit drink was pressed into my hand as I got off the bus.
Springland's central courrtyard
As I mentioned before, the Springlands Hotel is a business owned by Zara travel. Zara travel is the organization with which I booked the climb of Kilimanjaro. The deal included two nights, one before and one after, at the Springlands Hotel, and transport to and from the start and finish of the climb.
The bags were unloaded and piled together. I registered and was told that we should await in the central courtyard of the hotel - a debriefing for climbers for the next day was about to be held.
Signing us in
One thing that struck me about the Springlands hotel was that every single guest there was non-black. I really felt like an apart / special group, that this was a little piece 'of the west', so to speak, surrounded by a wall. There was something disquieting about this feeling. I could imagine why this place was the way it was, however; Kilimanjaro was a huge draw, and given the costs involved, the local populace was clearly not going to be able to afford either this hotel or the climb. That left first-world tourists, who were mostly white. It would be nice to see more of an integration here, but I suppose if locals were to climb Kilimanjaro they might choose not to say in such a fancy establishment anyway.
Chombo, our guide
Soon we were introduced to Chombo, a quiet-spoken fellow. He was to be our guide for our 8-day climb of Kilimanjaro. He went over our objectives, what we needed to bring, and talked a bit about altitude considerations, logistics, expectations, etc. We were to give our non-daypack gear (e.g. tents, sleeping bags, etc) to the porters, but subject to a weight limit. Each of us could give no more than 15kg of stuff to be carried by the porters.
I spent the rest of the day re-organizing my gear into take-to-the-mountain and a leave-behind piles. The Springlands hotel, fortunately, provided a locked storage area for my duffel bag full of leave-behind stuff. As I was completing my packing, I was suddenly struck by the thought that I should get outside and see if Kilimanjaro had made an appearance yet. I knew that the solar heat that was probably driving the cloud formations around the mountain would be diminishing, and you must understand that at this point I had not yet seen the mountain. Since seeing such a powerful and well-known symbol of an entire continent is a pretty exciting thing. I dropped what I was doing and slipped out the massive metal gate and across into the garbage strewn field next to the hotel.
The clouds had indeed completely cleared away, and, in the slanting late-day light, Kilimanjaro stood completely clear, its summit rising nearly 20,000 feet above. The first time you see an imposing subject, it often evokes an automatic response. "Wow" was my response... a fact mocked by a couple of local girls nearby. I could see two glaciers coming down off of the summit itself, and the rest of the upper mountain was dusted by a recent snowfall. I wondered if this recent snowfall would affect my climb of the peak.
Kilimanjaro from Springlands
Mount Kilimanjaro from Moshi
Mount Kilimanjaro summit
Video: Kilimanjaro Appears
A 30-minute (compressed into 10 seconds) time-lapse sequence from my Digital Camera captures the clouds dissipating from around Kilimanjaro.
(Click on the black square to the right to start playing the movie)
Dinner at the Springlands hotel was an open-air affair. A large buffet in a roofed but open eating area contributed to a tropical feel to the place. I can't say that the food was excellent, but it was certainly acceptable. I was more excited about the prospect of starting my climb of one of the world's seven summits the next day. Back at the hotel room, I fiddled with the bug-net (this was a malarial area) and aimed the rotating fan towards my bed. It was warm and the rooms at the hotel did not have air conditioning. Safely ensconced inside my transparent cocoon, the night passed away.
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