Day 1: The gates have opened..

Machame Gate – Image by Sameera.tay

It is 7am of February 1st and Redemptor, our Popote point person [ yes! That is one epic name! We called her Redeem] along with Dixon (hike guide) arrived at our hotel for gear inspection. Missed gear was easily arranged by them at a nominal fee. After the briefing we did our best to down our breakfast but the nerves got the best of me. Knowing the journey is soon to begin, I didn’t’ want to eat much in fear of going in the bushes during the hike – if you know what I mean. I agree, it’s merely first world problems.

A post about what to pack and bring for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,with some personal learning to be added soon!

Tips for others:

  1. Take a day to rest instead of booking your hike the next day after your arrival into Tanzania. It is good to be well rested and calm your nerves. We just did not plan that part well but you learn..

By 11am, we were met with our two guides Dixon and Sironga from Popote and our journey to the Machame gate had begun. It took another hour to arrive at the main entrance. I was overwhelmed to see the large number of porters chilling outside the gate, and the abundance of other hikers in the lunch cabin.

Then we wait, and this wait seemed like the longest even though it was merely an hour. Registration at the Machame gate was required, which just made things a bit real. A hefty lunch box was served and 4 litres of water provided as that is the water consumption requirement during the hike. Lunch box content:  Some staples that were in most lunch boxes on the trip- banana, apple, 2-3 kinds of bread, local chocolate bar, cookie, loads of baked chicken. The local cats got a scrumptious feast as the chicken we got wasn’t halaal.

New furry friend – Image by Sameera.Tay

What does one do while waiting for the next part of their journey to begin!? Naturally, people watching! Yes we were the creepy folks who sit around and just watch people. In  my case, I was comparing my physique to theirs – which is one thing my trembling nerves didn’t need. At every turn we saw an even better sculpted individual stretching in a jovial mood. At that point, I seemed like an unlikely candidate to complete this summit adventure. It didn’t help to have two physically fit women in my group. My exact sentiments were “Hmm… do you think the porters could carry me up!? How much cash do I have to pay each to do so!?Hmm.. but I do exceed their 20kg daily limit. I had to eat that pack of cookies. Argh!”

Machame Gate – The journey to come

The main Machame gate opened, which signaled a flood of porters running up to their designated tour jeeps. The division of luggage and weighing had commenced. Our crew was a group of 8 porters, 1 cook and 2 guides. The porters carried the tents, food supplies, and our duffel bags – the weight could not exceed 20 kg. The hikers carried their daypacks that had basic supplies for the day – snacks, 4L of water, rain gear and some needed meds. Trust me with my newly discovered shoulder muscle tear, carrying the backpack was a task!

“The fellowship stands and looks upon a vast cliff…”  [lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.]

In our case, the fellowship trembles as they look upon this enormous ironclad Machame gate. The rugged terrain surrounded by lush green peeking through the gate, saying “Are you ready for this journey of a lifetime!?”

My inner voice replies “Lifetime, you say!? Will be there be life left after this journey!” I wonder if Frodo & Sam felt heroic or trembled as they stared at the Black gates of Mordor.  Probably heroic! Where is Gandalf to rescue me – I would take grey or white, just him appearing at a snap of a finger would be a relief.

The doors opened. Deep breath taken. “We can do it, we must do it”. We enthusiastically step forward, gripping on to all our will/courage and calling our Lord…

‘Pole Pole….’ said Sironga. “Dada, just go pole pole and drink water” uttered Sironga again. These were words that our ears got accustomed to for the duration of the trip.

Pole pole in Swahili meant “slowly slowly” and we definitely redefined that phrase with our snail speed.

Tips for others:

  1. Walking poles are your saviour! Trust me.. just get them. 

The temperature was HOT and humid, everything sticking-to-you kind. The terrain was steep with areas of rugged rocks. Given we are at ground level the altitude sickness hadn’t hit us – that is for the true higher altitude that we meet at day 2/3. That is why the guides nag us to drink water, to better prepare us for “higher grounds”.

Bringing the focus away from the heat and exhaustion and back to the landscape was much rewarded. In the sensory overload that is this rainforest my lungs breathe clean air, while my brain is in awe of the shades of green and the way vines coat the trees thick. The denseness of the forest had made me feel like this was my Secret garden, which was leading me to the next adventure.


The weight of the day pack pack was starting to aggravate my shoulder tear; the k-tape had no additional relief to offer. Being stubborn I was not going to seek help, instead decided to endure it while praying to Allah to open doors of relief.  The lessons from this trip are remarkable, around my spirituality and self-outlook which I will cover in a separate post.

Our group & Dixon- Image by Sameera.Tay

As the saying goes, “… ask and you shall receive..”; the kind and patient guide, Sironga, insisted on carrying my day pack for the remainder of the trip.

The first day hike was estimated to take 4 hours to climb, but our pace got us to the Machame camp in 6-7 hours.  


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