Getting up in the morning is still somewhat difficult for us. It's cold outside. We try to eat a bit, later in the day we will see it was too little. We pick up our bags from the ranger’s shed and pay.
The entry fee for the Mt. Kenya National Park consists of a "fixed" amount of $ 150 per person and the first three days. Each day that follows (“extra day”) cost 55 dollars. We fill out a giant guestbook. And then it comes to payment.
"Gentlemen, it's $ 205 from each of you. $ 55 for yesterday's "extra day" and then $ 150 for the current three days. This way, you will have it pre-paid and I will record your trek as starting only this morning."
Another trick! It seems that whenever it comes to paying in Africa, it can not happen without problems. Moreover, in the morning I lack a bit of distanced view and I get a little cranky.
"Can you please explain why shall I pay an extra day right at the beginning of the trek even though I do not know if I’m not going to make a u-turn after several hundred meters and the trek would thus end up for me already today or tomorrow?"
It’s pretty obvious where he is coming from. He would cash in those $ 55 from each and then would issue the three-day permit for $ 150 starting this morning…. and he behaves like he were doing us an awful lot of good!
"If you would be so kind we would take just the basic three-day permit."
Ranger is visibly upset. The day starts off rather bad for him.
"I’m putting down the beginning of the trek for you from yesterday, i.e. Monday, September 6 10:00, when you have crossed the Forest Gate."
"And now write down here the numbers of all notes that your pay with."
We spend 10 minutes filling out a special form with serial numbers because we arrived to Africa with pockets full of small notes.
We set off at 7:30. The landscape is beautifully lit. Today we want to be up to Minto's Hut (4297m). A solid vertical drop and distance ahead of us. Most probably we are about to start the hardest day of our trek, without prior acclimatization, which we did not have time to made before departure, so we suspect that it will come to headaches today.
The path can be read very easily. A pair of ruts. First a forest with beautiful trees and later on a sort of high moor. After seven kilometers the path ends at a billboard saying:
"Chogoria Roadhead - Alt. 3300 m ...there is no source of water from here up to the camp Minto's Hut."
There is no lack of water around. The trail crosses a brook and even the laziest tourists have to continue on their own feet, no more cars. We take off our backpacks and go to have a look at the nearby Nithi waterfalls. A narrow path is taking us down. Water falls into a deep of 150 meters. In the fifties of the last century the Mau Mau insurgents used nearby caves as hideaway.
We return, take up our bags and head for a much more demanding part of today’s leg. After crossing the brook we begin a steady climb following the southwest ridge. In 3700 meters, at a fine viewpoint, Japhet says that we have reached a point that carriers call "transition point", we're halfway there. I was hoping for him to say that only 1-2 km remain. But "half", it really doesn’t sound good!
We are compensated for the effort by splendid views of Vivienne waterfalls and into the steep ravine to the left of the road. We can see that our next steps will be taking us only a tiny distance from the edge of the ravine formed by almost perpendicular, up to 500 meters high, rocky cliffs.
We are getting higher and higher. We spotted some remnants of snow and even the first lobelia. Hills such as Mugi Hill or the Giant's Billiards Table, which we admired yesterday from below, are now somewhere deep beneath us.
A steady climb ends at 4100 meters. Up and down and over and over. I believe that each emerging hill is the last one. I don’t even care about the grown-up lobelia and other plants that Japhet keeps showing us. I just want to reach the camp. We are at its altitude but still nothing on the horizon.
"Guys, the camp is behind that hill!"
Japhet´s words are music to my ears. The hill is bloody unpleasant but after a while we will sit down and have food. Almost eight hours of walk. The vertical drop is 1200 meters but in total we climbed more than 1700 meters!
In Minto's Hut there’s nothing but a tin shed for the carriers and a shit-shack. Tourists have to put up with tents. There are two. A three-member British team (a girl and two guys). They are first tourists that we meet at Mt. Kenya. They were reasonable enough and split our daily portion into two days. Tomorrow they continue to the Austrian Hut. When we say that tomorrow we will try to get to Point Lenana (4895m), they are just staring incredulously at each other!
We pick our tent and begin to cook. We’ve got a slight headache and feel a bit dizzy, which makes building the tent a good fun. We hope that our well-proven panacea Aspirin will sort this out!
Lake Hall Tarn is situated around the camp. We filter the water. We take stock of today's day and are happy for the fine weather. Today, it was hailing just a little while, otherwise the sky was clear. After dinner, which was enriched by small pancakes from the Brits (they had full service), Japhet shows us the "GSM spot”.
After dusk, we take our backpacks to the “carriers´ den”. There’s a heavy burning oil smell in their hut. We agree our plan for the morning. We’ll get up before five and try to attack the summit. Meanwhile, the carriers will get our gear down to our planned base camp - at Lake Kami Tarn. We hope it will work out fine.