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Horombo – The Huts in the Heathland

Horombo – The Huts in the Heathland
 
 

HOROMBO was a much larger camp than Mandara. This is because people stay here going both up and down the mountain. Mandara is only used for people staying on their way up the mountain. In addition to this, many people going up the mountain stay here for two nights to acclimatise. The huts here can accommodate up to one hundred and twenty people.

Final steep climb to Horombo
Final steep climb to Horombo

A large dome tent dominated our view before the huts. It was covered with a tessellation of orange and grey triangles. It would have belonged to a group of porters.

Behind the tent stood two large dining huts. Each dining hut was a little bigger than the one at Mandara. Behind that were the A framed huts where people stayed. They were the same size as the ones at Mandara.

We turned to the left of the dining huts to head towards the hut where we sign in. On the way up was a sign which I posed behind. It said “Welcome to Horombo Huts, Alt 3720 MASL. I was just thirty metres short of the altitude of Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. This will be the highest altitude I have ever slept apart from the two nights I had spent in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca where I was about a hundred metres higher – but I wasn’t trekking at the time, so that didn’t count.

Arriving at Horombo
Arriving at Horombo

We reached a small hut with a small sign saying “Caretaker” above the door. That was an interesting office with a very long commute. We queued and entered the small reception and signed in. Ashley had a photo taken of her writing that she was 31 for the first time ever. In a couple of days’ time I can start writing 40 for my age.

We looked back down the ridge. There was a ledge just past where we had come up where a group of tents was pitched beneath a blown out wind sock. So they land helicopters up here for rescues. Nearby was an array of solar panels with about fifteen car batteries underneath. This must be our power supply. My legs were still a little sore from the waterfall the other day, but thankfully they were finally starting to feel better.

Signing in at the reception
Signing in at the reception

I saw a porter wheeling a strange wheelbarrow. I had seen one of these at Mandara, but didn’t take much notice of it. It had a wooden frame with handles at either end about two metres long and half a metre wide. A single wheel was attached to the bottom of it raising it nearly a metre above the ground. The porter was wheeling it. Jaseri told us this was a stretcher. People who needed to be carried off the mountain would be wheeled down the trail on that. To me that was a very precarious way to travel. If I were to injure myself then I’d much rather walk. Spending a day or two on one of these wheelbarrow stretchers would be torture.

We were allocated our huts, both next to each other behind the upper dining hall. Hopefully people won’t be too noisy there tonight. There was a strong smell of old used machinery oil. That explained why these huts were black. They had been painted with a layer of machine oil. I wondered how that helped them. There was a very steep set of two concrete steps up to the entrance. These huts were sitting on tall piles of stone columns nearly a metre off the ground. It was very hard climbing those steps at such high altitude with sore legs. Once inside the hut it was exactly the same as the huts in Mandara.

Signing in
Signing in
Inside the A-framed hut
Inside the A-framed hut

Jaseri gave us the key to the padlock of the door. Hopefully we were going to be a bit more successful in keeping the door locked this afternoon than we had yesterday.

A communal dining hut
A communal dining hut

I took the bed behind the door as I had done last night. That had worked well for me, so why not. To my surprise Jono took the top bunk again. Will he sleep tonight after his complaints this morning? Mark took the bunk below Jono and Gary came in our hut tonight. He obviously didn’t like staying with the girls last night. They had their own hut.

We put out our beds and walked down to the far dining hut. On the way there we discovered a concrete cow trough with a tap running a small trickle of water into it. The water was very cold. It was used for washing up no doubt. We entered one of the two dining huts for afternoon tea where we were served popcorn, peanuts and biscuits.

Looking down the mountain
Looking down the mountain

Following afternoon tea, I returned outside to explore the camp. Large boulders were scattered with alpine plants growing in whatever shelter they could find. The rest of the area was either huts or bare soil worn down by many boots.

Up the hill was a rather modern looking toilet block. I needed to go so I went up to the block where to my surprise there were modern flush toilets and running water. This was a big improvement on the filthy squat toilets at Mandara and the disgusting long drop toilets along the track.

The water supply trough
The water supply trough

The hut had a small florescent light in it. There was a small paper notice of basic rules written in poor English, posted on 9 October 1995 – sixteen years ago! The notice was in surprisingly good condition.

It was still overcast here, but the sun had come out further down the mountain over the conical peak now far below us.

We eventually returned to the main hut where dinner was being prepared. There was white ducting leading to light bulb fittings with light bulbs in them this time. There was obviously a solar powered lighting system set up here and still working.

Dinner
Dinner

Levi and Rachel joined us. This was the last time we were going to be having a meal together as they were going to be staying here an extra night, and had every intention of sleeping in as much as possible tomorrow.

Dinner was served – firstly a very nice vegetable soup. We ate it quickly before it got cold as the porters lit a couple of candles on the table. It was freezing in here and we were all wearing our woollen hats. Then they served us a nice lasagne with some steaks and vegetables. That made for a very hearty meal.

The dining room was full of quite a lot of people. Most were people who were on their way up the mountain, but some were people who had successfully reached the summit early this morning. They were obviously elated by their achievement, but also rather exhausted from their long fourteen hour day.

Dinner
Dinner

It was completely dark outside by the time dinner was finished. Thankfully the lights were working. The others stayed in the warmth of the dining hut whilst I returned to the hut, got the tripod out, deciding to put it to good use, then set the camera up below the huts.

The sky had cleared. The stars were brighter than I had ever seen them before. That made sense as we were over forty percent of the dirty layer normally encountered at low altitudes. Here the air was perfectly clean. Far below were the lights of a town. The stars appeared enormous and very bright from way up here. This definitely was the brightest I had ever seen them. I had seen them from Laban Rata on Mount Kinabalu, but that was about four hundred metres lower than this. All the nights on the Inca Trail had been overcast, so I had not been able to see the stars at all from there.

View of Moshe and the stars above
View of Moshe and the stars above

I experimented with a bit of photography. Unfortunately you can’t have long exposures otherwise the pinpoint stars become streaks, and that assume the tripod stays still.

Finally I returned to the room and went to bed. We were all exhausted, so we quickly fell asleep to Mark still singing the “We’re going on a jet plane” song he had been singing on and off since waking up this morning. Perhaps this was his way of expressing his altitude sickness symptoms.

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Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

15 August 2011

 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

 

3°08'20"S
37°26'19"E
3720m ASL

 

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