On Friday 26th August we set off from Switzerland to begin our Kili adventure. This was quite a stressful day, as we found out during our Swiss holiday we couldn’t fly directly from Geneva to Amsterdam to catch our KLM Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro airport flight. Our travel and medical insurance stipulated that the holiday must start in the UK, so we had to rush around and get another two flights…one from Geneva to Gatwick and then Gatwick to Amsterdam, just so we could set foot in the UK to have valid insurance. Total farce, but nothing we could do about it. We stayed overnight in an Amsterdam airport hotel and then set off the following morning on the 8 hour flight.
We finally arrived at Kilimanjaro airport at 8pm. It’s less of an airport and more of a small room: an entrance and then baggage reclaim area, separated by passport control. We handed over our $50 for visas and got let in after having our fingerprints taken. Given that everything else looked over 50 years old, this cutting edge fingerprint scanner looked a little out of place. I inhaled several sprays of insect repellent when putting some on my skin, a commonly reoccurring problem over the next week! My tongue was definitely not going to get bitten by a mosquito this week! After finally getting our suitcases and bags after 45mins, we found our private taxi and set off for the hour’s drive to our Moshi hotel, called Springlands. Unfortunately it gets dark at 6.30pm, so the ride was uneventful except for the last 20mins – Springlands is on a dirt track road and was possibly the bumpiest I’ve been on, and the car was making frightening clanging noises when we went over them.
On arriving at the hotel two traditionally dressed Maasai men carried our bags to the room. We didn’t have any change, so they got a tip of $5 each – the same as a whole days worth of work for a porter carrying bags up the mountain…! All the websites I looked at give good advice on how to tip your guides and porters on the actual trek, but not regarding taxi drivers, hotel porters, airport porters etc. I think we may have tipped far too much on most occasions, but we had enough money and I’d rather tip too much than not enough.
The room was lovely and spacious, and the hotel was great. All the hotel room’s doors led onto a centralised garden if on the ground floor, or onto a balcony overlooking the garden if on the first floor. The garden was very pretty with tropical plants and palm trees, a fountain and plenty of seating. The restaurant was also outside with a roof, and there was a TV room, computer room (with Ubuntu machines), sauna, swimming pool and garden bar.
The hotel is owned by Zara, who are the organisers of many Kilimanjaro trips and Safaris. So everyone at the hotel was either just going on a Zara trek or safari, or had just been. We booked ours with STA Travel, who in turn used Gap Adventures to book the trek. Gap hire Zara to do the actual organisation and hiring of porters and equipment. Therefore our guide and assistant guide, Silvano and Abell, were employed by Gap, but the rest of the crew by Zara.
The night at the hotel was not a peaceful one – we were right next to a mosque, and it being Ramadan, the call to prayer occurred at least 3 times during the night. I swear the loudspeaker was right beside my ear!