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Home > Treks > Kilimanjaro > Day 1 > 1.2
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A Tiny Airport and a Distant Hotel

A Tiny Airport and a Distant Hotel
 
 

THE SUN had set but the sky was still light when we landed on the tiny sealed runway. The plane taxied to the tiny airport. I had seen smaller before – Nelson and Invercargill airports in New Zealand are both smaller than this one, but not by much.

Arriving at Kilimanjaro Airport
Arriving at Kilimanjaro Airport

Kilimanjaro airport is 894 metres above sea level, the hub for Precision Air. It was built in 1971 and became the first privately owned international airport in 1998. Although it is a tiny airport, its runway is able to service all planes up to the size of the Boeing 747s and takes around 650,000 passengers per year.

We climbed off the small plane and walked into the airport. It was quite new, obviously due to recent demand on getting to the mountain. We entered a fairly large room on the lower level. There was a round booth in the middle of the room where we filled in our entry cards whilst awaiting our luggage. Once filled in, I collected my bag off the small carousel and approached the first desk to organise my visa.

There was a bit of a queue there and I realised I had lost my paper card. I looked back and thankfully saw it on the floor behind me. Upon reaching the counter the lady at the other side did the initial processing doing whatever they do, but then she wanted me to pay for a visa, so they sent me across to the counter on the opposite side of the room to pay.

Once paid I was through. It had been easier than I thought and this time there was no fingerprinting. I walked out into the main door and looked for a taxi.

I climbed into the taxi and asked how much the fare was. Thomas the young taxi driver said a hundred dollars. That sounded like an awful lot. I asked him how far away the hotel was. He said it was over an hour away. Gosh I hadn’t budgeted for such a long taxi ride, assuming the hotel would have been close to the airport. I mentioned that I needed to get to an ATM to withdraw some money. He said that there are several ATMs at Moshe, the town we will be passing on the way to the hotel.

We took off and headed up the road for a few minutes before turning right to follow a long road. The moon was high in the sky ahead of us, so I took note of its direction to see if Thomas was ripping me off as taxi drivers often do to foreigners.

We pulled up at a petrol station as he was obviously running low. There wasn’t any petrol at this station, so Thomas continued up the road to find another one. Fortunately we found one on the other side of the road that had petrol in it. We stopped there for about five minutes whilst an attendant filled the petrol tank and took the money off Thomas.

We were only a few hundred metres up the road when a large truck passed us going the other way and it kicked up a rock making an enormous bang on the windshield. Thankfully it didn’t break, but there surely must have been some cracking where it hit. I was a little shaken and thankful nothing had happened. This was a terribly remote location for me to be involved in an accident. It had happened so suddenly without any time for me to have shielded my face. A little bit more impact force and this trip would have been all over.

The long road to the Marangu Hotel
The long road to the Marangu Hotel

Once I was over the rock hitting the windscreen, I saw the moon again. Thankfully we were maintaining our direction, I started to relax a little. We continued along the road. In the almost total darkness of the night I had no idea what it was like on either side apart from the lights of a few houses. However I could see the moon shining brightly in front of us. I started wondering again if Thomas was taking me for a long ride just to make money out of me, but after half an hour we were still heading in the same direction with the moon still directly ahead, so I realised the hotel really was a long way from the airport.

After nearly an hour we arrived in Moshe. The road had been almost straight up till now as the moon was still ahead of us. Thomas turned off the main road and went to the middle of the town. There were almost no street lights here, so I felt rather unsafe when I was out of the car walking down a very dark alley to an ATM with a totally dark driveway on the side. I tried it, but it didn’t work. I returned to the car and told Thomas and asked if there was a Barclays bank as that had worked in Nairobi. He took me across two blocks to another very dark road with even darker alleys. What is it with ATMs and dark alleys? Later I would find out that Moshe would has an unemployment rate of around eighty percent making this particularly risky. I put in my card and thankfully it worked for me this time.

Now we were on our way. Thomas left town following almost the same bearing that we had been going for the entire trip so far. Now I believed him. The hotel was a long way from the airport. He continued another ten kilometres before turning left up a minor road. The road began on a slight uphill grade which gradually steepened. Obviously we were starting to head up the mountain. This was a good sign. Finally we reached a small village where we suddenly stopped outside a large gate.

The Marangu Hotel
The Marangu Hotel

A security guard let us into the gate and Thomas drove to a small car park. He helped me out with my bags as I paid him, and he led me a little further up the driveway past a few buildings into a courtyard where a tree in the middle had lights on it. We entered a small reception area before Simon left me to make the long return journey home.

I walked up to the counter and a young rather overweight local lady greeted me. I told Sarah who I was and she checked me in, giving me a large key on a wooden tag for room twelve. She told me the briefing for my trek will be tomorrow evening.

One of Sarah’s assistants led me from the reception and back down the driveway a short distance before turning right to a few small bungalows. She led me to my room – room twelve. She opened the door for me and I entered.

There were two single beds in the room. Both of them were very nicely set up with high frames and mosquito net tied nicely over them. It was pretty cold tonight though, so I didn’t think I needed them. The room was otherwise very nicely furnished with simple but effective furniture on a slightly rough tiled floor of large dull reddish brown tiles with a couple of small rugs. The ceiling was lined with straight logs about three to four centimetres diameter with log beams underneath. It had quite a rustic quality about it but not as rustic as the Masai mud huts. The room was illuminated with a light above each bed (below the mosquito net frame though) and a couple from the ceiling. They all had fancy rustic lampshades adding to the character of the room despite the lights themselves being florescent.

At the back of the room was a coat hanging area and a bathroom with a bath, shower, and toilet. I especially liked the bath – something to look forward to when I return from climbing the mountain in a week's time.

I quickly unpacked despite being very tired. I took out all my dirty clothes and ran a bath, washing the clothes in the bath and hanging them up wherever I could in the bathroom to dry. I hoped I wasn’t going to be asked to share a room like I had experienced in Cambodia and Borneo. That would really upset the apple cart with all the clothes I had hanging up to dry.

Once everything was washed and carefully hung to dry, I collapsed into bed and fell asleep almost instantly. I had reached the base of the mountain.

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12 August 2011

 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

 

3°S
37°E
700 - 1100m ASL

 

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