We wake up thanks to a loud muezzins´ production. It’s still dark outside. For a while, I can’t get what is going on - trying to feel my watch iu the dark. I stare at the clock and can’t believe it. It’s only four a.m.
Breakfast is “included”. Not a great feast but better than nothing. Yesterday evening, while we were enjoying the life on credit, we managed to get a small talk with the waitresses. One of them agreed to arrange a meeting with a guide for tomorrow morning.
Siranji Saíd, sturdy guy in his thirties, sits down with us to have a chat about different options of the ascent. Right at the beginning he talks us out of taking the path through the glacier Heim - Heim Glacier route (Grade III). This route is somewhat comparable to the classical variant of the path via Polish Glacier on Aconcagua in the Andes. In his opinion it is too late, the season is coming to an end and the glacier is unstable, porous, and the climb would not be a pleasure. Rather dangerous. We promote our plan “B”. We want to take the little used Umbwe route, proceed to the Arrow Glacier camp and sleep in the crater of Kilimanjaro. We manage to get the first price offer of 1350 USD per person down to more acceptable 840 USD.
After the morning warm-up discussion with the guide we go to town. We have debts everywhere we look. We need to change money and find out what kind of offer do have other agencies. For each 100 Kenyan shillings (KSH) we get 1810 Tanzanian shillings (TSH). Not far from the exchange office we come across one of the hundreds of agencies providing services to tourists dreaming of the snowy peaks of Kilimanjaro. A professional mountain guide and organizer of the Marangu Colobus Travel, Mr. Kennedy G. Moshi doesn’t hesitate to proudly show us his certificates and complimentary letters from satisfied clients. But what we are interested in is price, number of people (carriers) who will have to go with us, and what services will we get for our money. We will carry our backpacks ourselves, including most of the equipment. We would appreciate a bit of food and a guide who would go with us to the crater where we want to stay overnight.
Mr. Kennedy, a fellow with a black beret and a big smile, looks more trustworthy than Saíd. For 900 USD per person he proposes food, four carriers and one quality and experienced guide. The price offer includes a special fee for staying overnight in the crater for all those who will accompany us up to the summit (only the guide with one carrier). Considering that from those $ 900, an incredible chunk of $ 660 goes to the Kilimanjaro National Park Administration, we are comfortable with the result. Some 110 USD per person per day go to the park administration. The admin also determines how many days you have to pay compulsory! Even if you managed to make it to the top and back in three days, you still have to pay six days – except the Marangu Route (also known as “Coca-Cola Route”) the minimum charge is for five days.
We decide not to go to other agencies. But to be safe we once again cross verify all the information during a meeting with Saíd and then with Mr. Kennedy. There is no shift from the plan.
Here comes the moment of signing the deal with Marangu Colobus Agency. I stubbornly insist that the paper must contain an accurate description of the route or the places where we want to sleep. First we will follow the Umbwe Route to the Barranco Hut camp. Then we’ll take the Western Breach Route (also known as Arrow Glacier Route) to reach the crater of Kilimanjaro. There we would like to sleep before the final assault on the last tens of meters to the edge of the crater where there is the main peak - Kibo (5 895 meters).
Long talk about food. Lada is loosing his temper because of me. He wants to pay quickly and have the negotiations behind. Paul too begins to be a bit sick of the endless haggling about number of carriers and different food options. But I just do not want to be outsmarted one more time à la tanzanienne and require further details. Already back at home we said that we will not go surrounded by a horde of sherpas and guide with a couple of other helpers. We seal the deal that there really will be only four carriers and one guide. We keep the amount of food to the bare minimum. Only a little breakfast and then dinner. During the day we will take care of ourselves. Mr. Kennedy apparently does not understand our thinking. He thinks that if he goes along my wishes, we will return disappointed because we would not have the same comfort that all tourists are accustomed to and then we would surely spoil the reputation of his company on the internet forums.
Coming to the payment! Pavel arrived in Africa perfectly trained from Asian destinations and has his pockets loaded with small dollar bills. To his surprise, In Kenya and Tanzania nobody was interested in one dollar notes! So, where better get rid of them than here and now. I think that Mr. Kennedy has not counted such a pile of banknotes in his life. Pavel pays a whole hundred USD in one dollar notes and the remaining 900 USD in five, ten and twenty-dollars! Green papers are flying all around the place - a total of $ 2700! Mad sum! Blowing so much money and not getting up to the summit? Just horrified at such a thought. My leg is still somewhat stiff and I keep swallowing loads of painkillers to beat the pain around the knee and occasional convulsions. The other guys just do not look any more relaxed.
After a great lunch in the recommended restaurant Deli Chez (which has only one flaw – does not serve any alcohol) we book three seats on the bus of Impala Shuttle Service to Nairobi for early Saturday morning.