Day 24 – Kilimanjaro / Kibo Rafiki Hostel

Today I had no intention of moving from the surprisingly lovely Rafiki hostel that I had found by complete chance on the previous afternoon and where I would while away my day gazing upon Africa’s tallest and most beloved mountain, what a treat!  The thought of lounging around for the next 24 hours made my body purr with delight, there would be no pedalling, no labouring up hills, and most importantly no sore bottom from too many hours in the saddle!  Yipeeeee!  Actually I have to admit that my Brooks Flyer saddle had been great so far and was proving to be the the best bicycle saddle I had ever used for both comfort and durability.

I pulled my blankets up over my shoulders enjoying their warmth for a long moment, ahhhhhh this was what is was about!  The mattress was a little thin for my liking and I could feel the slats beneath but I remained comfortable enough and let out another satisfied sigh “Aahhhhhhhhhhh”.  Unfortunately the moment was lost rather rapidly as my brain started to wake up and I had remembered the words of one of the workers telling me that the best chance of seeing the mountain would be in the early morning. Why world whhhyyy, please just five more minutes or ten even?  Ok what if we call it fifteen and I’ll get up extra early tomorrow?  Perfect, it’s a deal!

I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and headed up to the breakfast room that connected to the small spiral staircase that led up to the balcony.  I had noticed that there was a laptop yesterday so I brought my Garmin GPS to see if I could add some maps to it that I had saved on my external HDD, but when I attempted to power it up the girl in the kitchen told me it was broken, damn.  I already had my map for Tanzania loaded so I was fine for now but in my short experience in Africa so far PCs seemed limited and regularly out of commission as this was so whenever I saw one I took the opportunity to save pictures and update my GPS maps.  Unfortunately I could only seem to store 2 countries at a time as it is comes preloaded with a complete map of Europe and I was unsure which files I had to delete in order to free up some space?  That being said I wanted to delete Kenya and add Malawi as that was to be the next country I was to enter but I wasn’t worried, there is still plenty of time to go before I arrived at the southern border of Tanzania and I’m sure I will find something before then.
As I was making my way through the breakfast hall an English couple descended from the spiralling steps and I asked what the view was like today?  “Completely covered in cloud” replied the man and “Nothing to see yet” added what I assumed was his wife.  Noooooooooooo I thought and a pang of regret circulated my being at wrenching myself out of bed when I had been so comfortable.  “Well I’m sure it will clear soon” I replied trying to be optimistic although they didn’t seem totally convinced and we all decided to partake in some breakfast as a conciliation.  
A piece of laminated paper was presented to us with several pictures of the different variants of eggs that they could prepare.  I pointed at the Spanish omelette that came with veggies as well as egg meaning more food for hungry old me and then poured myself an instant coffee from the thermos on the counter before taking a seat.
The couple joined me and we chatted over our omelette, toast, and banana breakfast and I discovered that the guy had been volunteering in Kenya, teaching the basic subjects to poor under privileged children in a village not far from Nairobi and his partner had joined him for the last two weeks to do some touristy stuff before they both returned home to the UK.  It was interesting to hear about his experiences and also some of the politics involved.  One story in particular aggravated me as it seems as though someone, be it the government or another unknown party, is trying to profit off of the western desire to want to come and help the poorer people of Kenya and I’m sure other parts of Africa too.  Maybe being annoyed at this is not my right especially as I have become a man who throws stones at poor starving Ethiopians and is against giving money to every begging child with their hands out (which is a lot and far more than my bank balance can afford to pay I might add), but he told me how there had been a group of them all of whom had brought a suitcase of items for the children loaded with pens, pencils, paper, clothes, shoes and more.  All of these items had to be second hand and without receipts as upon entry to the country if the security officers or immigration or whoever is responsible for the luggage decides that these items are for the aid of THIER VERY OWN Kenyan children, the foreigners would be charged 100% duty on what was contained inside each case, hence no receipts I guess so it’s harder to discern their worth?  Fortunately they had been accompanied by a Kenyan national who managed to smooth things over with the officials at the airport and only after much time and deliberation by the sounds of it, but had they been more strict with the kind hearted volunteers they would have faced a fine of $10,000 and would have therefore been forced to abandon the cases at the airport rather than paying the extortionate fine thus preventing the poor kids for receiving the aid intended for them, absolutely ridiculous!  This seems very dodgy to me and surely there is someone profiteering from this government approved rule?!  On entering Tanzania I did notice a large sign stating something similar but I passed by pretty quickly and didn’t really pay much attention to it.  Hmmmm maybe there is a reasonable answer for this as I don’t care much for politics but it sounds wrong to me.

After breakfast I ambled up the stairs to the balcony and took my position on the comfortable sofa to start my stack of blog posts I had to catch up on. The mountain was still hidden amongst the clouds but that was fine, the hour was still early and I had plenty of time.  I drank a couple of cups of coffee up there while I wrote and was thoroughly enjoying the ambience and serenity of the morning and even more so the comfort of the sofa that I had now sprawled out on, I was quite the picture of relaxation.  I glanced up from my writing an hour or so after I had arrived and my eyes lit up as they beheld the sight that was in front of me, Mt Kibo and its two friends Mt Shira and Mt Mawenzi were on show in the now cloudless sky completing the trinity that made up the beautiful and tallest mountain range in all of Africa and what a sight it was!  Yesssssss at last!  It’s funny how to me snowy mountains seem that much more impressive than the ones without, maybe because it confirms their enormity but regardless of this what a sight it was to behold.  I enjoyed the mountain for many hours that morning sipping my coffee and imagining the cold trekkers who must be up there somewhere and would probably do anything to circle their freezing hands around my warm mug let alone sample the hot liquid inside, and although I like trekking and climbing mountains for now I was glad to be right here with my feet up, warm and relaxing.

Kilimanjaro Peak with snow. James Taylor.
Credit for this image goes to the real photographer at Auram Safaris.

Later when the mountain had decided to clothe itself in a blanket of cloud once again and my brain was struggling to compile sentences that made any sense at all I decided to take a break and go for some food.  The convenience of the restaurant next door was great, the menu however, or lack there of, left much to be desired and yesterday I had chosen the only thing available “chicken & chips” that I wasn’t too keen on at the time but I was hungry so it was good enough and as I stepped over the threshold today I was eager to find out what they were preparing.  The girl was lovely, very welcoming and although not great at English she did her best at understanding my strange tongue.  I asked if I could eat and she nodded agreeingly and when I asked what they were making today she said gingerly “chhiiips & chicken?” almost as if it had been a question.  Ha!  This place was amazing, as if she could fool me by putting the word chips before chicken today in an attempt to make it sound different!  I wonder if they know what a definition of a restaurant is?  I told her to maybe consider changing the name to the “chicken and chips bar” but the humour was bad enough already and obviously lost from her lack of English anyway.  Well it was either that or a long walk to town that I was reluctant to take so I agreed with an unenthusiastic smile and took a seat.  Now, here’s where the trouble started, not that I would appreciate the benefits until the morning of course.  I had become inspired sat in the comfort of this fine establishment and started to write something that popped into my head during which time my food had arrived, I began to eat without really looking up still typing away frantically in the notes app on my iPod when after 3/4 of the way through my meal I noticed that the chicken part of my famous and much revered “chicken & chips” (that surely they must be the masters of by now seeing as it was the sole item on their invisible menu?) was raw in the middle, yay what a treat.  Yes I had been munching away on raw chicken and although I did consider the final mouthful for a second I decided to pay up and resume my writing back on the balcony in the hostel.  The ramifications of eating uncooked poultry swirled in my head for an instant but I quickly pushed them aside and ensured myself that I had nothing to worry about, haha ok Jamesey boy well we will see won’t we…
By 5pm and with only a few more glimpses of the mountain my head had began to swim with all of the strain from the writing but I had almost caught up so I was pleased if not suffering from a slight bout of brain confusion as I fumbled my way back to my room.  I think I will skip the chance of a final meal next door though, I’m sure I’ve got a dry old husk of bread floating around in my bag somewhere which seems much more appealing at this point!
I lay on my bed under my mosquito net and wrote a little more and before long my eyes must have closed on their own accord as I didn’t wake up again until the morning.

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