Amsterdam

We arrive in Amsterdam after a long night and day of travel. We are greeted at the airport by John’s cousin, Nelda and Aunt, Emmy. Such a welcome pleasure and so very different from other trips where we arrive without knowing a soul.

We enjoy a coffee and beer at the airport and collect our thoughts before continuing our journey. We find the lighthouse marker where we find Nelda’s car and relax while she expertly navigates the car to her home. I reflect on other trips where we frantically search for the rental agency and then twirl our way out of the airport, brows furrowed as we find our accommodation sleep deprived. I decide I like this experience much more.

We arrive at our destination, a beautiful, spacious apartment with a view of the Amstel river. We set our bags down in our room and visit for a few moments before exhaustion settles in and our eyes’ blink rate slows. We crawl into bed for a nap with a planned wake up call a few hours later to break the jet lag.

The knock on the door arrives and we peel ourselves away from the comfortable bed to the dining room where we meet Marieke, Nelda and Emmy for coffee. Soon dinner arrives without our effort and we indulge.

Satiated we decide on a walk around the neighbourhood. The light dims, the river shimmers as we admire architecture, each building unique and beautiful, all favourites its too difficult to choose. Nelda points out important landmarks, the train station, trolley and bridges. We get our bearings.

We arrive back, drink wine and learn about each other. Soon we are talking and laughing, like we have always known each other, deep belly laughs and tears run down our faces to round out our first night in Amsterdam.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Such excitement in the parking lot of the Parkview hotel as we wait to begin our journey to the Nalemuru gate and the start of the Rongai route
We take pictures of each other and of the bus as they load the top with our luggage. We wait long past the time of planned departure as Africa time is definitely not the same as Canada time. Finally we are off

We snake through the streets of Moshi staring out the windows of our khaki clad cocoon gawking at such a different way of life in a country half a world away from what is known and comfortable

Our guide, Brighton gives us a pep talk to motivate and is more than successful in allaying our fears. He speaks of the summit as a piece of chocolate and that the pain we would endure is temporary but the success would be with us the rest of our days

We stop to use a washroom and are surprised to see a squat toilet. I use it but cannot help but think that there is not enough hand sanitizer in the world to make it right

A few minutes drive later we arrive at Nalemuru gate and our last chance at a porcelain toilet. I use it twice and relish washing my hands with running water. We are given our first box lunch of chicken, hamburger with egg on a bun, French fries, muffin, and banana–so tasty. It seems as though we are on a newborn schedule of eating every few hours. I wonder if it’s possible to gain weight hiking Kilimanjaro? Something I had not previously considered

Brighton and Michael introduce us to the other guides, such beautiful smiles. We watch the Porters organize our gear. There is a scale but I never see it used

Our group takes pictures of each other, the signage at the start of the trail and we pose for a group shot.

Finally we are off. The Guides tell us Pole Pole (slowly ) as we begin our ascent up this great mountain. We go slow to allow a chance to acclimatize. The first 20 minutes is difficult as we climb up with little flat land. We take many breaks as we become accustomed. Soon we find our pace and it becomes easy. The Porters whiz by at break neck speed carrying our bags, tents, toilets, fresh eggs, bread, their own packs and any number of items we would need on the mountain. The majority they carry on their head. I’m envious of their perfect posture and instinctively I straighten.
We are in awe as we carry only a daypack with some water and a few personal items

We hike through potato fields and gradually enter a jungle type environment complete with very large monkeys with tails like skunks. After four hours we arrive at our first camp, Simba camp. We register find our belongings, claim a tent and settle in while we await tea, popcorn and water for washing. Very dignified and I think I could easily get used to this type of camping

Soon it’s time for dinner. We have voracious appetites quickly eating all the food offered. Tired, we prepare for bed and crawl into our bags for sleep that comes easyIMG_0433.JPG

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