Mount Kiliminajaro is the highest mountain on the African continent, and fairly unique in being a 19,000 foot high mountain that one can hike to the summit of. Granted, it's quite a long hike with lots of time needed for acclimatization to the altitude, but nevertheless, the summit can be acheived without any technical mountaineering.
We didn't have time for a week long trek to the summit, but we were able to do a day hike on the Shira plateau of Kilimanjaro. Shira is the lowest of the three volcanic cones that make up Kilimanjaro. Extinct and collapsed, it forms a large plateau.
When we were discussing the hike with our hosts at Kambi ya Tembo, they offered two possibilities - the three hour hike, and the five hour hike. "We think you want to do the five hour hike" (We did. In four hours).
The road from the camp to the turnoff towards Kilimanjaro National Park is often lined with purple jacaranda trees, which were nearly all in full bloom while we were there.
Some silliness may have occurred at the gate while Jerry (our guide from Tandala for our entire stay in Tanzania) took care of all the necessary paperwork.
The starting point for the Shira Plateau day hike loop is also a mustering point for the Shira route to the Kibo summit of Kilimanjaro. Our route started out towards one of the waypoints on that route, then looped back around across the plateau to eventually return to the trailhead.
Sambeti explains the geology of the plateau.
The first section traverses the plateau from the trailhead to the Shira Huts (a campsite not actually comprised of huts. There are a couple of derelict huts left, but you wouldn't really want to camp in them).
It's possible that our guide enjoyed hamming it up as much as we do.
It takes barely an hour to arrive at the huts (something the guidebooks say takes 1.5-2 hours) where there is....wait for it.....more paperwork.
Not really a hut you'd want to sleep in.
Not long after departing the hut the rain arrived, so we had a very fast lunch grabbing whatever shelter we could.
And then for a while our view was comprised primarily of this:
Beautiful, in a cold, dreary, lonely sort of way.
Sadly, Kibo (the highest peak of Kilimanjaro) rarely actually shows its face (big mountains tend to make their own weather systems).
It did eventually clear, however.
Well, until it rained again.
But then there was some sunshine!
Until it hailed.
But Kibo did peek out of the clouds at us!
For about 5 seconds.
We had fun anyway. After a week of sitting in a Land Rover all day, getting the chance to stretch our legs for a few hours was a nice change.
After the final half an our or so of walking through nearly every weather condition there, save for snow, we enjoyed a beer with our guide Jerry, back at the now very clean Land Rover.
And of course - Kibo showed itself along our drive back to camp .
And back to Kambi ya Tembo in time to enjoy a glass of wine while the sun went down.