This blog is written in 2 parts. The 1st is the trip from Pangani to Marangu (at the base of Kilimanjaro) and covers our safari. Part 2 is the longer and more detailed account of the Kilimanjaro ascent and will follow in a few days.

We left Pangani well rested and ready to tackle Kilimanjaro. We passed through sisil plantations and camped in one of these when it got too late. These tough, spiky plants, when not puncturing Imraan's hands with its steel tips are, are harvested for the tough fibres found in its succulent leaves. These fibres are then dried, separated and spun into heavy duty ropes. Sometimes so heavy duty that they are used to anchor ships. They got the 'Jiten's thumbs up' stamp of approval for sustainability and being an alternative to plastic based products.


The 350km cycle to Marangu, at the base of Kilimanjaro was uneventful but did surprised us with the sudden change in scenery. One day we were cycling in sisil plantations and rice paddies and within a few kilometres were surrounded by a semi-desert landscape. The flat semi-desert landscape is difficult to camp in as not only are you visible from a distance but our green tents stand out in the brown barren landscape like Imraan on a PanAm flight.

We arrived at the Marangu Hotel on the 28th a little earlier than expected and camped there resting and waiting for the arrival for the rest of the Kilimanjaro ascension team, due in on the 2nd September. With a few days to kill we decided to do a small tourist run and organised a short safari. We left in a modified Toyota landcruiser on Wednesday and headed for Lake Manyara, set in the shadow of the Western cliffs of the Rift Valley. This lovely national park has a variety of different biomes and is renowned for its bird life. What made it special for us was the 'touristic' ride through the park in the landcruiser with it's hydraulic, game-viewing roof, getting out of the car to watch the hippopotomi wallow in the shallow pools and catching a glimpse of the elusive Manyara tree-climbing lionesses and cubs. 


The next day we headed for the famous Ngorogoro crater, the highlight of our little safari. After a long climb up to the crater rim, beautiful vistas of the crater wall and surprisingly flat basin awaited us during the descent into the caldera (collapse volcano). With the Masaai having grazing rights in the wider Ngorogoro conservation area and the crater itself, sightings of these tall majestic people, dressed in their red nangas (traditional draping cloth worn in layers), dyed red hair, covered in numerous shangas (beads) and armed with spears and belt knifes are common. We even saw small children, either alone or in groups of 2, tending goats and cattle alone – in lion country! 


The drive in the crater was beautiful, with sightings of numerous animals. Unfortunately we were about an hour late for both the lion and cheetah kill, but saw these big cats chewing cautiously while on the lookout for the ever present spotted hyena. The 3 day trip cost us each 35 times our daily budget. Expensive but worth it since who knows when we will be back in Tanzania. 


We got back to the Marangu Hotel on Friday 2nd and eagerly awaited the arrival of Donna (my girlfriend), Ashley (Ria's cousin's husband) and Kenneth (Ashley's friend). With the ascension team finally assembled we spent a day at the hotel getting kitted out and resting before tackling the highest mountain in Africa.

Be sure to catch Part 2: Climbing Kilimanjaro