Our flight from Amsterdam was smooth, and we connected with another teammate of ours, Kate on that flight. We landed in the dark at Kilimanjaro airport around 8:30pm and stepped onto the tarmac to feel the warm breeze on our skin; not sticky like I was expecting. Customs and Immigration was easy, and once we had our bags, drivers from AFCA were there waiting for us. We climbed into a green Land Cruiser and started the two hour drive to where we were staying, Mbahe Farm. The guide (Manase) and driver (Mohammed) poured Swahili words into us, so by the time we got to the farm, we could say things like “where are the stars today?” and “coffee please”. I loved being in a place where people say jambo (hello) and hakuna matata (no worries).
The drive reminded me much of Kinshasa, but more civilized, things worked. I saw glimpses of stores and farms and people walking along the dark road and it felt familiar to me. Kate and Donnie had lots of questions, while I sat back with my window open and enjoyed the warm air. Mbahe Farm is owned by the same man who owns the guide group who would be taking us up the mountain. The farm is at about 6000′ on the side of Kili. As we gained elevation, we entered thick fog. It became so thick at one point, Manase stuck his head out his window and would tell Mohammed if we got too close to the edge (aka dropoff) of the road. Kate seemed a tad worried, but after lots of fog and mud and 4×4 driving, we arrived at the farm.
Well, almost. We still had a “short 5 min walk” to the farm house. Donnie and I had travelled in flip flops, and our boots were buried. Five min walk? Heck, we can do that in flip flops, no problem!! It was dark. And raining. And muddy. And slippery. And freckled with cow dung. And we had backpacks. After travelling for who knows how long, that 5 min walk seemed nearly insurmountable. I was so glad when we reached the house! We were given fresh mango juice and a short welcome from a man named Wilson before being shown to our rooms.
The next morning, I woke early and did a wee bit of exploring of the farm.
We had a lovely breakfast, including lots of water, coffee from the farm, fresh pineapple, papaya, bananas and passion fruit, banana bread, toast, and omelettes. After breakfast, Wilson discussed drinking water, geography and our climb with us, making a point to show us on a world map where we flew from. Then he went over the climb with us day by day. Wilson liked to talk, but I listened well, as he has summited Kilimanjaro more than 1000 times! I tried to think of something I have done more than 1000 times and all I could think of was eat and sleep…..
After being well fed, lectured about water intake and having our vitals taken (O2 levels, heart rate and respiration rate), Wilson inspected our gear piece by piece, advising us what to pack in our daypack (carried by us) and what to go in the duffel (which would be carried up by a porter and inaccessible during the day). Soon, the last of our group arrived, a day late, but there all the same. So very good to see these smiles….
After the “newbies” were briefed, given lunch (we ate earlier) and had a chance to dump their gear, we were shown how coffee is grown, harvested and processed there on the farm. Interesting process, especially when you get to see it done by hand. Many of our group purchased coffee, supporting the farm. Some of us walked around the village a bit, and had a chance to see how people in Mbahe live. These are the moments that stay with me, that make me grateful for what I have, and remind me that I have more than enough, remind me about what I can share.
We had dinner, drank lots of water, then all headed to bed. Tomorrow we would start climbing.
Blog post by: The Heskin Family