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The climb day one

The next morning, we had to measure the weight of our extra bags. Each was to be no more than thirty pounds. The bags containing the equipment we would be giving to the porters to take up included sleeping bags, tents, clothing, flashlights, headlamps, first aid supplies, etc., and there is a strict limit on how much they can carry. I got frustrated about this measuring, trying to be exact with the scale I was using to weigh my gear. I pulled stuff out of my bags, stuff I thought I could do without. I’d repack and repeat. Finally, perfect! I was ready! Then we met with our guide, Mohamed. He walked over to my extra bag, hefted it up, and walked away. No scale was used; what a waste of time and effort having stressed about this! So what was all our fuss about? Our American engineer mentality.

We piled into the big vehicle (Land Rover) at 9 a.m. and drove into the heart of Moshi. We got our first view of downtown on a bustling business day. Most people were walking or working in front of shops on the street. One worker was cutting rubber from tires to make sandals, and we got a snapshot of that. My buddy Bill wanted to take some interesting pictures, here and there.

Across the street was this military-type policeman at a checkpoint into the city. “Hey that’s cool!” I exclaimed about something on him that caught my eye. Snap, snap! In less than a few minutes, this guy with an automatic machine gun who just had his picture taken came over to our vehicle, and a huge argument ensued. Ah, the polisi were not happy, and we weren’t really catching on why. This went on and on, back and forth, with phone calls made. From the tone of it all I didn’t feel it was a warm-and-fuzzy; in fact, I wondered if we weren’t headed for jail. I think Bill, Craig, and I eventually figured out what the problem was through some very broken English translations of the Swahili. (Our guides weren’t the best with our language.) No pictures of police!!!! Bill (“Mr. Kodak”) showed an officer the image on the display of the digital camera and then proceeded to delete it while they both watched. Thank God the guy understood what we did. We were off and running with that behind us. After a little bit we all laughed.

The Kili views from here on the highway were breathtaking. The grassy green terrain was changing to vivid red dirt, very rough. What impressed me was the colorful clothing of the people against the barren terrain. Contrast. . .all over. Rich/poor, black/white, have- and have-not. We were to understand more of this new culture as the moments passed by.

The paved road now climbed into the highlands through banana and coffee bean groves, and the road got even choppier. We passed through many very poor villages but saw fairly well-established Christian churches and schools with little kids in uniforms. This was the really rural agrarian area where you still see a bit of western influence, with little touristy sheds selling “African stuff” to the folks coming into the trailhead.

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