Road to Kilimanjaro (Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

It was a warm, golden morning on the highway. We had left the earthy, red plains of Tsavo East National Park and were bound for the Tanzania border.



The moment I dreamed of was about to finally arrive.

I was about to see Mt. Kilimanjaro.

As we neared the country's border, the highway turned into an incredibly bumpy, rural adventure. There were no roads per se, just gaps between the trees and shrubs. As we drove through villages, groups of tiny, smiling children chased the truck for a high-5 and the off-chance of some sweets, which sadly I hadn't thought to bring!

The bumpy road kept myself and the Austrian family very awake, all the better to enjoy the surroundings: wide stretches if farmland, hills, rivers - so so quiet. Far from anywhere yet it felt completely safe.




While admiring the expanse of the bold blue horizon, I saw it. Out of nowhere, suddenly, it was there.

In the distance was Mount Kilimanjaro.


We reached the checkpoints at the Tanzania border. We were getting closer to Kilimanjaro, and it was slowly growing larger and larger.


We continued along a huge stretch of road which circled the mountain. Seeing Kilimanjaro's handsome, wrinkled features slowly rotate as we drove around it really gave me an idea of just how gigantic it actually is!


We had a pit-stop at the Tanzanian town of Moshi (it has nothing to do with Moshi Monsters - I checked!)

After filling up on fruit juices and admiring the town's marble mosque, we continued back around the mountain to enter Amboseli National Park. It was midday at this point, and Lady Kilimanjaro had shrouded herself in clouds for the afternoon. Little did I realise then, I had a completely different delight about to come.


We drove onto the grounds of our lodge for the night. I couldn't see it anywhere though. It wasn't perched on top of some rock like the one in Tsavo East Park. Perhaps this one was a campsite or something? I dunno.

I was sorta right. I was indeed going to be camping, but not just any old camping - this was glamping! Camping, glam style. You'll see what I mean shortly!

We were greeted at the reception with a huge song and dance: bongos thumping, tambourines wiggling, hands clapping. After a bumpy 5 hour road trip, I honestly wasn't expecting a dramatic welcome. I whipped up a massive smile, despite having a greasy lasagne face and matted hair from road dust.



Myself and the Austrian family entered the reception to a sanctuary of whirring ceiling fans an icy watermelon cocktail. The hotel owner himself came to meet us and gave an introduction the lodge's history, which apparently is quite a new development. At one point handed us a tambourine which (I think) we had to ring if we wanted to call for help!

I had a good giggle at that notion. Imagine having a heart attack, 'Where's my f**king tambourine?!'

A staff member showed me out of the reception and through the lodge gardens to my camp.




She was such a lovely, polite woman and she spoke to me like I was a prince. I noticed in Kenya especially, and other countries, that a lot of local people look up to white foreigners as though they're superior. Sadly, this attitude seems to be encouraged in the tourism industry especially. After all, tourists will pay good money for the royalty experience, with a 'servant' to boot. I'm ashamed at how many holiday-makers rise up to this and treat local staff appallingly, as if they were slaves. It drives me nuts.

When I come across local staff, I always take the effort to make our interaction as balanced and informal as possible. I never rise to the 'Sir/Madame' bollocks. I carry my own bags. I make conversation about their family and what they do outside of work, instead of groaning about some privileged Western lifestyle back home. I smile at them, relate to them, tell them how nice their clothes are, say how friendly they are, or compliment how nice their weave is even! When you do this, you'll be surprised how much people open themselves up to you.

So after a slow stroll through the gardens and an easygoing chat, I was presented with my home for the night.



Wow.

'Is it a hut...or a tent?' I asked.

'Both!' she replied.

I was invited to a buffet lunch (score!) and was left to venture into my new pitch.


As I stepped in, my bag slid off my shoulder and hit the floor. The ceiling and the walls were draped with soft, silky sheets that billowed in the savannah breeze. It was as though the entire structure was alive and breathing!


It reminded me of an archaeologists' tent. It was dressed with wicker furniture and felt quite old-fashioned, like living in a colonial adventure book. I had an hour to cleanse, refresh, recline and relax  before lunch. The tent has its own bathroom too!



So I opened all the windows, kicked off my muddy boots, whipped off my dusty clothes and went for a cool rinse in the shower. Afterwards, I wrapped up in a fluffy town an slipped onto the cool, silky bed covers to dry off in the breeze.



Once I'd dressed, I popped along to the dining hall and stocked up on fresh fruit, grilled meats and rice. Once I'd filled my boots with three platefuls, and got to know some of the staff, I went to fully explore the lodge's gardens.






My god. The place was totally abundant with green grass, tropical flowers and exotic bird cries.

Then it got a lot more exciting.



O'hai swimming pool!

And that's not all!

Ever seen a beer-garden in the middle of a savannah?


Now that I'd seen what the lodge had to offer, I was due to go back out on a game drive around Kilimanjaro looking for elephants. It was about to get real!

Back to the jeep!

(Read about my Kilimanjaro Safari HERE. )

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)

CONVERSATION

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