Arusha national Park & Machame Camp
10 miles, 2950 meters
The Prouty Mountaineering Program
(the first Prouty Challenge Event benefitting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center)
December 13, 2012
Mt. Meru Inside Arusha National Park
Miraculously, our team all arrived on time at Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, Tanzania – leaving the luxury of an open rest day before the climb. Arusha is a city of almost a million people today, growing from a local village over the last half century, propelled by jobs in tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. It is also home to the Dik-Dik Hotel, a small Swiss owned gem that is the rallying point for our team of 5 climbers before and after the climb. The first team action in Tanzania was a unanimous vote to spend the unexpected free day touring the Arusha National Park.
The city has slowly grown to nearly swallow parts of the adjacent 552 sq. mi. eponymous park and wild game refuge. Arusha Park enjoys a tremendous diversity and density of wild animals including zebras, giraffes, waterbucks, reedbucks, klipspringers, hippos, buffaloes, elephants, hyenas, mongooses, dik-diks, warthogs, baboons and vervet and colobus monkeys.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro 2012 from Arusha National Park
The main geographic features of the Park include Ngurdoto Crater (a collapsed volcanic feature) and the alkali Momela Lakes to the east. To the west is 14,990 foot tall Mt Meru. The two areas are joined by a narrow strip, with Momela Gate at its center. The park’s altitude, which varies from 1500m to more than 4500m, has a variety of vegetation zones supporting numerous animal species. Included in the plant species is a giant parasitic fig tree, considered holy objects by the Masai. These trees can grow to tremendous sizes, as seen in the photo below.
A giant fig tree easily contains the entire team
Ngurdoto Crater is surrounded by forest, while the crater floor is a swamp. West of the crater is Serengeti Ndogo (Little Serengeti), an extensive area of open grassland and the only place in the park where herds of Burchell’s zebras can be found.
Zebras & a Giraffe in the Park
The Momela Lakes, like many in the Rift Valley, are shallow and alkaline and attract a wide variety of wader birds, particularly flamingos. The lakes are fed by underground streams; due to their varying mineral content, each lake supports a different type of algal growth, which gives them different colors. Bird life also varies quite distinctly from one lake to another, even where they are only separated by a narrow strip of land. Mt Meru is a mixture of lush forest and bare rock with a spectacular crater.
Rafts of pink flamingos on the Momela Lakes
The next day dawned with the nervousness of a big climb – all of our team members are experienced climbers and hikers, but hiking above 14,500 ft. is new ground for most. The first day is through the Machame gate, and up a good road, and then a very well maintained path for 10 miles to 10,100 feet and the Machame Camp.
The 2012 team, led by head guide Kapanya on the left
The wonders of Kilimanjaro hiking were obvious the first day – we have 42 porters and guides for a team of 5, and all of our gear, other than daily on-trail necessities, are carried by porters. Throw in a hot lunch by the trail and it sets a standard pretty hard to imagine for those who hike in New England.
Lunch by the trail
On this hike we pass through four distinct ecological zones dictated by altitude – tropical rain forest sub-alpine heather, moorland, and finally alpine. The first day saw the transition from rain forest to heather around 9,000 feet. The explosion of plant species associated with this transition is incredible.
Bio-diversity by the Machame trail
Kelly gets a pack adjustment by Kapanya
Jeff Goodell teaches fifth grade in Newbury Vermont, and got a terrific sendoff from his students including the hat below, celebrating the dragon mascot for the Newbury Knights. Included in the send-off package were several of the pins in the hat, and promotional bumper stickers from Vermont – quite a cross cultural exchange. Jeff has as extensive climbing background, dating back to his college days in Vermont, and he confesses to going to Black Mountain – one of my favorites – for training hikes after school. He really wanted to get a blog out for his class and community, so I hope that this one makes it!!
The hat celebrating Arthur the Newbury Dragon, and a community’s support of Jeff Goodell
Jambo, from Machame Camp, Kileman-Jaro
Adios, from Kilimanjaro