Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 1. Moshi to Rongai Gate to Simba Camp. Our arrival into Tanzania and first day’s 7km walk of the scenic Rongai route.
In September, Lady Lynne and I completed the 70km, 6 day Rongai route ascent of Kilimanjaro. This is our day by day recap of that walk.
There are seven routes to choose from when considering climbing Kilimanjaro.
When we were choosing which one of the 7 climbing routes we would take, we chose the Rongai route.
We chose that route because we were advised it was more scenic than the most popular Marangu route.
Also on the Marangu route you sleep in large huts with many groups and other people.
On the Rongai Route you sleep in your own tent and have a personal guide and crew of porters to assist you.
The Rongai route is located on the north side of Kilimanjaro. You gradually ascend, walking through a whole variety of different and spectacular landscapes, staying at a new camp each night. Until you summit early in the morning on day 5.
Climbing Kilimanjaro was an amazing experience for us both. Physically challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable. An experience neither of us will ever forget.
We shall treasure forever our memories of standing on “The Roof of Africa” at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet).
First of all, in order to climb Kilimanjaro we needed to get to Tanzania. A new African country for us both.
We flew from Glasgow airport early on Saturday 1st September to take a connecting flight from Amsterdam, Schiphol airport to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
There was a couple of hours to kill before our flight so naturally we headed to the bar to sample some local produce. 🙂
It was a 10 hour flight to Tanzania.
Looking round the rest of the passengers on the KLM flight I think that pretty much everyone was headed to do one of the routes on Kilimanjaro!
The majority of people had rucksacks rather than suitcases that you would normally expect to see on a long haul flight.
Lynne and I had our day sacks on the flight with us. We had our hiking boots in our day sacks, as advised, in case anything happened to our main luggage.
As long as we had our boots anything else needed for the climb could be hired at the hotel.
Looking out of my airplane window view I took this shot as we crossed into Egypt and flew over the Western Desert.
I had to look up the details about the Western Desert on our return to the UK.
Essentially it’s an area of the Sahara which lies west of the river Nile, up to the Libyan border and south from the Mediterranean Sea.
This part of the Western Desert is known as the Great Sand Sea and is approximately 72000km² mostly covered by sand dunes.
Looking down on it as we flow over was completely mesmerizing.
Met by a wall of heat on arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport we assembled with the other passengers to have our passports and entry visa’s checked.
You can pay for an entry visa on arrival into Tanzania ($50 – $100). Or as we had chosen, get one prior to travel at £40 from the Tanzania High Commission in London.
Also for Tanzania you need to have consulted with your doctor prior to leaving the UK.
You need to ensure your inoculations are up to date for yellow fever, rabies if you need it (particularly if going on a safari) and that you have a supply of anti-malaria tablets.
It’s hardly surprising that it’s the Dutch airline KLM that has most of the long-haul flights that arrive at Kilimanjaro International airport.
I read that they invested millions in a major upgrade of the airport from 2014 – 2017.
The airport handles nearly 1m passengers a year. Mainly tourism.
There are daily flights to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania as well as other African destinations such as Ethiopia and Kenya too.
It was about 10pm by the time we got through the airport, picked up our luggage (it had arrived safely) and took our scheduled transfer to our hotel, Springlands Hotel in Moshi.
There was time for a quick beer at the bar before we both headed to bed. Exhausted from travelling.
We had Sunday to rest, to meet our head guide and to have our equipment checked.
We also had Sunday to continue sampling some of the local Tanzanian beers.
We tried Kilimanjaro and Safari, both of which were tasty and refreshing premium lagers. But Serengeti was our favourite and became our beer of choice for our time away.
It was to be a week before we would be able to taste it again though. There was no alcohol on the climb!
And Lynne thought she would try on my new glasses. It was nothing to do with the beer. Honestly! 😉
The rooms in Springlands Hotel were adequate, clean and comfortable. Each room had an en-suite bathroom with a walk-in hot shower.
We were lucky to obtain a room with 3 beds which meant plenty of space for us to lay out all our hiking gear.
We’d brought as much of our own hiking equipment as our luggage allowance would allow us from home.
We hired arctic sleeping bags at the hotel. Sleeping in temperatures well below zero in a tent isn’t something we normally do in Scotland!
The hotel itself isn’t really somewhere where you might consider staying more than a couple of days.
It’s more of a transit hotel to take you to your next destination.
It has everything you need though. A bar, restaurant, Wi-Fi and a swimming pool.
However, it’s not somewhere you would lie about sunning yourself all day. It’s extremely busy with people coming and going.
The food served for breakfast, lunch and dinner was buffet style and excellent.
There were plenty of curries, stews, pizza and cake desserts to choose from. This was a trip we definitely wouldn’t be hungry on!
On the Monday prior to our departure to commence our climb we placed our valuables that we wouldn’t be needing in a locked safe for our return.
From the balcony we could see all of the buses beginning to assemble outside the hotel.
Some of those buses would be taking people on to their safari destinations. Others to climb Kilimanjaro.
Moshi to Rongai Gate to Simba Camp
At 10am on Monday 3rd everyone began assembling in the courtyard.
There was an air of excitment as people began to get ready to leave.
Head guides came and picked up the rucksacks of their clients and escorted them to their transport. As ours did too.
We drove in our bus for about two and a half hours with our head guide and a trainee guide.
There was a lunch stop at a bar in a village. There we had packed lunches supplied by the hotel.
These were huge lunch boxes of chicken, fruit (oranges, pineapple, banana) yogurt and cake.
It was early afternoon when we arrived at the Rongai Gate.
We signed in to the reception centre (above) and waited for our team of porters to assemble with all of the equipment we would need for the next six days.
Our team for the week consisted of 11 people.
This included our head guide, a trainee guide, a chef, a chef’s assistant and the person in charge of the toilet!
There were six general porters. Goodness knows how many times these guys had done this route before but they were fast!
Our porters were always ahead of us carrying the equipment and always had the next camp set up for our arrival!
And then we were off……
Our head guide, Gilibert Kasaba setting a gentle pace for our first day’s 4 hour walk to camp number one, Simba Camp.
Gilibert has spent nearly 15 years working on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. 6 years as a porter and 9 years as a fully qualified professional guide.
I did ask Gilibert at one point during the week how many times he had summitted Kilimanjaro. He just laughed. It’s so many times that he doesn’t count it and can’t remember. Imagine that!
This was the only public toilet on the route to Simba Camp.
I won’t dwell on this subject for too long.
It’s just safe to say that those who haven’t opted to have someone carry a chemical toilet for their climb and who choose to use the public facilities on route, and at the camps, are brave.
I did try to use the public toilets like the rest of the team. I failed. I hang my head in shame for being a spoiled Westerner. Sorry team!
The walk to the Simba Camp is really enjoyable.
There’s a small path all of the way. Maintained by the park staff, that winds through pine forest.
There are Colobus Monkeys in the forest but we didn’t see any that day. We did later on in the week…
Simba Camp is at 8,530 feet at the edge of the moorlands with views over the Kenyan plains.
This was our tent for the week. As I mentioned earlier it was always set up for our arrival at the camp.
We had a little table for eating off. The guys had even thought of putting a tartan tablecloth on it to make us feel at home!! Ha ha!
The sleeping compartment was large enough to take both of us along with our main large rucksacks, which the porters were carrying.
There was hot water for washing in on arrival too. This was great for getting rid of the dust of the day.
It was a shame Lady Lynne and I had forgotten to bring towels with us. No matter, the fresh African air soon dried us off!
Everday on arrival to a new camp we were greeted with a huge tray of freshly cooked popcorn with hot tea and coffee.
Within a couple of hours we were presented with our first meal of the hike.
We both had fresh vegetable soup for starters. Lynne had vegetable stew and pasta for main course.
I had fried fresh fish with stir fry cabbage and also some of the pasta. Dessert was fruit. Which we think was Guava, but we were never that sure and forgot to ask!
It quickly gets cold when the sun goes down in the evening. As we soon found out on our first night.
It wasn’t long after dinner that we were grateful to get into our arctic sleeping bags!
So folks that ends Day 1 Moshi to Rongai Gate to Simba Camp. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks for Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 2. Simba Camp to Kikelewa Camp.
If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other African adventures such as when we went to Uganda on our African Adventures to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to see wild mountain gorillas.