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Meeting More New Friends at the Hotel

Meeting More New Friends at the Hotel
 
 

ONCE back through the entrance of the waterfall track, we followed another road heading back towards the hotel. We passed through another part of the village, where most of the derelict houses were surrounded by very healthy banana plants standing three or four metres high with vegetables growing beneath them.

Banana trees amongst the village
Banana trees amongst the village

Now banana trees do attract snakes, and we had to go very careful. Now I never saw any snakes on the way back to the hotel, but the others saw a rather dangerous one very close by. I think it would have been a deadly black mamba.

We walked through the avenue of banana trees occasionally greeted by children who seemed so happy to see these strange pale foreigners walking through their village. They would frantically wave to us from outside their homes.

It was not long afterwards when we reached a long high concrete wall. Aleck told us this was the wall of the hotel, so we must be close now.

Entrance of the Marangu Hotel
Entrance of the Marangu Hotel

We finally reached the entrance of the hotel ready to pay Aleck the agreed five dollars, but no, he wanted five dollars from each of us. Grrr – Gary’s naivety this morning had well and truly opened us up for getting ripped off. I made a mental note to get any future agreements in Africa in advance, in writing. Clearly this was the land of the unconscionable upsell!

After paying up, we walked back up the driveway through the incredibly colourful flowering bushes. No doubt the rainfall was high here. Thick cloud still shrouded the view of the mountain, so there wasn’t anything to see.

Massive lunch!
Massive lunch!

Once back in the safety of the hotel, we were rather hungry, so we went to a large outdoor seated area to order lunch. We all decided to go for a steak and chips with salad. Clearly I was deviating from the local cuisine, but given what I had seen in Masai Mara, I just wasn’t game to go with what would pass as being local diet.

The food was amazing though. The portions were very large. Perhaps this was because the much larger African people here have a bigger appetite than us Caucasians to maintain their amazing physique. Gary also had a Coca Cola, which curiously in his words "tasted like shit". Normally he really likes his coke, but he had no idea why it tasted so revolting. Later this evening we would find out why.

Contemplating lunch
Contemplating lunch

The three of us just relaxed eating lunch. Then Gary started talking about the locals and how unfriendly they seemed. They all seemed to have hidden agendas around getting our money. Honestly I couldn’t agree more.

He mentioned that they had travelled between Kilimanjaro airport and here during the day. From their taxi (which was even more expensive than mine) they had seem how rough people lived here, describing the huts they lived in. It didn’t sound too impoverished to me though – certainly not compared to Cambodia.

Then they mentioned that most of the other tourists here didn’t seem overly friendly either, but I was an exception – they had already decided I was the friendliest person they had met in their short time here. I was quite taken aback by that. Not many people mention that I’m friendlier than most others, but then again we were all New Zealanders, so we had the same cultural background. As they say birds of a feather flock together.

Flowers in the hotel grounds
Flowers in the hotel grounds

After lunch, I sat around in the gardens photographing the amazing flowering plants and the tiny birds that drank the nectar from the large flowers. The grounds were immaculate. Once rested, I walked around the gardens, firstly passing my room where next door to me were two rather noisy people who appeared to be from India but had distinctly North American accents who had just arrived, but I just missed them. The power was still out.

I walked around to the back of the hotel buildings to a large vegetable garden. No doubt all our fresh food came from here. I have never stayed in a hotel before where the food was grown on site. There were a few hanging rags acting as crude scarecrows, and a few people working in the rows of vegetables. There were plants of all sizes, indicating good planning and a steady supply.

Hotel vegetable garden
Hotel vegetable garden

I returned to my room to see whether my washing was dry. Thankfully all of it had dried apart from one of the thicker shirts. I now had enough clothing to wear up the mountain. The power suddenly came back on, so I started charging one of the camera batteries. I had to keep them all as full as possible in case there are more major power outages before we leave tomorrow.

I sat down on one of the rickety chairs on the porch to rest. Then the two Indian guys came out. I introduced myself, and they introduced themselves. The older one was Mark and the younger one was his son Jonathan – or Jono as he preferred to be called.

Colourful gazebo
Colourful gazebo

Mark had the deep lines and strong features all over his face typical of someone who spends too much time outdoors. Jono had a rather young looking short black beard which I imagined was his first attempt at growing one. They spoke with strong Canadian accents and told me they were from Toronto, although Mark had grown up in India. They were here on a family trip having toured around the Serengeti and were now about to head up the mountain.

We quickly realised that we were all in the same group, so I told them they should join me out in the outdoor dining area soon where we will hopefully meet Gary and Dawn. Now Jono wanted a bath, and they both needed to unpack, so they returned into their room.

Hotel rooms
Hotel rooms

Once they were back in their room, I decided to wander back to the outdoor dining area where Gary and Dawn were relaxing. We talked for another half hour before Mark and Jono joined us. Then a young lady sitting nearby came over and introduced herself. She was Ashley, a school teacher from New York. Within a couple of minutes we realised she was also part of our group.

There was a circle of chairs further up the hill where a group of about ten people who had successfully returned from their epic five days on the mountain. They were assembled seated in a circle on some of the garden chairs saying their goodbyes to their guides and porters. They were singing the Kilimanjaro song. They had completed the hike. We were yet to start.

How I envied them – lucky sods!

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13 August 2011

 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

 

3°18'S
37°31'E
1100 - 1200m ASL

 

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