A Day At The Footsteps Of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is the fifth tallest mountain in the world, the tallest mountain in entire Africa and the tallest free standing mountain (not part of a mountain range). It has mesmerised and entranced people for centuries. There was no way I wasn’t getting up and close this colossus when visiting Tanzania.
My admiration was limited to getting up and close enough to admire the view rather than climbing this beast. The last 10-12 days of safari and exploration had me really tired any way.
Fun Fact: The nearest city to Kilimanjaro is Moshi instead of Arusha like most people think, in fact you cannot even see Kilimanjaro from Arusha city due to another behemoth; Mount Meru.
I stayed in Arusha for safari but did plan an entire day around Kilimanjaro in hopes of seeing its peak without the clouds. In fat, you get to see the mountain if you are driving from Namanga to Arusha after land border crossing from Kenya to Tanzania like we did. You can check the details here. It was covered in cloud however but we had enough days so the hope lived on.
Kilimanjaro is a difficult mountain and an inactive volcano. If you want to climb it, it requires courage of conviction and a lot of preparation. Based on the account of two friends who did it, it takes roughly 5-9 days depending on your level of fitness. You will need to hire a local agency to help you, they will take care of paperwork and arrangements which go from tents for camping to food and porters carrying your stuff. As the height increases oxygen becomes less and less in supply and your body depends on oxygen from water.
The costs start from $1800 for a basic experience to upwards of $6000 where yu can have private toilet and showers up there (with limitations of course). I would recommend checking two companies run by locals, both were very nice and fair. We did safari with Happy World Tours and Safaris who we did safari with and Active World Safaris who we spent this day with.
Arusha & Kilimanjaro Travel VLOG
Kilimanjaro Gay Travel
As much as I researched there is no gay or LGBT company which offers this activity. The locals are quite enthusiastic if you ask them and a couple of them even offered to take me around. It got a bit crowded so I had to decline but they are sweet.
Moshi or Arusha, Which One is Better To Stay In?
As I mentioned the nearest city to Kilimanjaro is Moshi and there are a few places in the city that offer great views of the mountain. It is a much smaller city than Arusha and there are also some safari operators here but most people stay just for Kilimanjaro. For safaris, it is better to stay in Arusha.
Best Views of Kilimanjaro
The best views of Kilimanjaro are scattered, For us the closest views really depend on the time of the day and your luck. The best time is early morning or around sunset time when there are fewer clouds. Some days it is open with no clouds and other days, it is just covered completely to the base.
Fun Fact: It is almost ironical that despite Kilimanjaro being actually located in Tanzania, the best views are from across the border from Kenya in Amboseli National Park. The iconic images of animals under the foothills of Kilimanjaro are from Kenya rather than Tanzania. If that’s your fantasy head to Amboseli Park because you cannot get that view here.
The best spots we discovered were:
- The Village of Materuni
- Kilimanjaro Airport
- Chemka Hot Springs
You can also get good view from Moshi but we had no time to visit any of the places. From my research these are the best places to see Kilimanjaro from Moshi:
- Kilimanjaro View Inn
- Mt Kilimanjaro View Lodge
- East Point Hotel Roof top
- Selig Hotel Rooftop
- Q Wine hotel Rooftop
A Day At The Footsteps of Kilimanjaro
It was my last day before the flight to Dar es Salaam, we woke up relaxed, packed our bags and headed out by 9 am. It was a mistake.
It took out some precious time because based on Google Maps, the way should have taken 2 hours and five minutes to first stop but it took 3 hours instead. Leave early the roads are bad and traffic is crazy.
Cost of Car with Driver – $65
Fuel – $15
Itinerary For The Day
We started from Arusha and headed to Materuni, hiked to Materuni waterfall, did the coffee tour, ate some local food. The last part was heading to the Chemka Hot Springs.
Drive From Arusha To Marangu
The village of Materuni is close to the Marangu gate of Kilimanjaro National Park. It took us 3 hours to get to Materuni. The road from the main road to village was very rough and when it rains, it becomes very slippery. This added to the journey time substantially.
Entrance Fee – TZS 10000
The village is small with the populations of roughly a thousand people. Most young people act as guides for the hike and coffee tours. Poverty is rampant but people are still nice and sweet.
Around 12, we arrived at the Materuni village entry point, paid the entrance fee and got ready for our hike to the Waterfall. The entire way up is very lush and green with banana trees planted the entire way. The village is also covered in vegetation, many of them crops for people like avocados, passion fruit, maze, bananas and coffee.
Entrance – TZS 10000
We met our guide Justin who was very enthusiastic about taking us to the waterfall but we noted another presence when we started walking. Behind us was Mazay, she was Justin’s dog and the sweetest little thing who went with us all the way to the waterfall. She would stop when I did and she would accompany whoever was behind from both of us.
I totally miss that cute face!
The hike was really beautiful and took about 25-30 minutes. Justin showed us everything about the village from plants to his favourite spots along the way. Mazay quietly walked along. The patch got narrower and hiller and soon enough we had a stream flowing right by our side. We finally arrived at this massive waterfall.
The sky was covered in dark clouds, our every attempt to see Kilimanjaro up close was fading until we were dealt a final blow with heavy, relentless rain. Within minutes, I had water running from my head to my shoes in no time. It rained and rained and the path became very slippery and muddy. After a while, we gave up and actually quite enjoyed the rain.
If someone had told me I’d enjoy a downpour like this, shirtless, in January I would have laughed at them but this is why I love travelling. When we got close to the village, the sun was out blazing hot and we dried in a few minutes. It never rained on this side.
By the time we got back it was roughly 2pm and we were famished.
Cost – TZS 10000
Justin had our lunch already prepared which we had to request a day in advance. It consisted to banana and beef soup, a curry made of banana and yams, rice with peas, chilli and collard greens. It was absolutely delicious, we almost devoured the whole thing without a second thought. The fruit platter was also great. The lunch was probably the best food I have had in Tanzania. Everything was locally produced and sourced.
The Coffee Tour
Cost – TZS 10000
The Coffee tour was more like a coffee experience. Justin had already showed us the coffee trees and since this is not the season, the fruit was still green. At this elevation, Arabic coffee grows only, Robusta is grown at low elevations.
The tree produces a fruit which turns red when ripened. It is harvested around July. The fruit has two slimy beans which are washed and then dried for a few weeks. The result are white beans which we had in front of us.
We took the beans and put them in a giant wooden mortar and pestle to remove the white skin, sifted through it and got the red beans.
Everything was really fun and I got to try my hands on the grinding and sifting. The small wood burning stove finally roasted our coffee which I helped to grind in the same mortar. We brewed it and soon we had the freshest cup of coffee of our lives. The aroma was amazing.
I don’t drink coffee because it gives me jitters and even I wanted to try a sip or two. It was delicious.
It was getting late, we had to skip Moshi altogether and headed to our last stop before the airport to take our flight to Dar es Salaam.
Chemka Hot Springs
Entrance – TZS 10000
The springs didn’t seem too far on the maps but it took us an hour and a half to get there. The road from Materuni to main road was bad and the road from main road to Chemka springs was even worse.
We arrived 45 minutes before the place closing down. The springs are in the middle of a very barren space with no signs of life. It is a bit of an oasis which is really serene and calming.
Most people were leaving by this point, there were a few monkeys and squirrels and us chilling in the beautiful pools. Unlike what I had thought the water was not (these are not geothermal waters) but rather pleasant water that is very clear. They are also quite deep and for a bad swimmer like me that was a problem.
Luckily I wasn’t the first one out old tyre tubes for TZS 5000. My problem was solved. The rest of the time I was a happy bunny splashing about in the pool.
There are some very creepy fish in the pool inside, they just come crawling and biting your legs for dead skin. I couldn’t bear them but the outer pool had no such problem.
Kilimanjaro finally decided to be nice to us. Good things happen to those who wait indeed. I was getting changed into my clothes. Our driver pointed a mountain peak slowly coming out of clouds covered in the perfect light of golden hour.
It was mesmerising. The day had just been made perfect.
The entire drive from Chemka to Kilimanjaro Airport was full of Kilimanjaro, almost like a surreal dream. It was a beautiful day full of adventure and fun. I will be eternally grateful for getting the chance to experience it.