Friday 10 August

We all sleep reasonably well and in the morning allow ourselves a bit of a lie-in. Our first job is to speak to the Africa Walking Company to let them know the situation with Rachel’s luggage. After a few miscommunications with the hotel’s receptionist, we get to speak to Richard, who is encouraging and promises to do what he can to get the luggage to our hotel as soon as possible.

Road to Ilboru Lodge

With that sorted out as far as we can for the moment, we head down into town. We follow the dirt road down the hill between wooden shop fronts and houses. Children call out to us. One girl running up wraps herself around my legs, much to my surprise. “How are you?” “I‘m fine. How are you?”

We turn left onto the Nairobi Moshi highway and follow it down the hill, then turn right towards the centre down Afrika Mashariki Road. We pass the Arusha International Conference Centre, where the Rwanda Tribunal is still underway. The Maasai roundabout described in the guidebooks is under wraps at the moment – there is nothing to see besides a corrugated metal fence.

We head for Sokoine Road and select a reputable-looking bureau de change for Rachel L to obtain some local currency. Next we try to find a pharmacy for Rachel S to get some lip sun screen, visiting a succession without success. Finally we end up in Shoprite, a large supermarket on the edge of town, and there have to admit defeat.

Decide to take a taxi back into the centre. RL’s feet are starting to feel a bit sore, since her thick walking socks are held up with her luggage. Testing the guide’s claim that most journeys within the town should cost around Tsh2000, we try three taxis before we find one who is willing to take us for that fare.

Arusha Central Market (photo: RS)

We are dropped off in Boma Road, the main tourist street where most of the cafés and safari companies are, and have lunch at Jambos. RS spots Kat, whom we saw check in on her own at the Ilboru last night, and invites her to join us. Eat a passable lunch of ‘baguette pizza’, then off to find an Internet café.

Kat goes off to do a bit of shopping while the three of us visit the German Boma at the top of the road. We decide not to bother going into the museum (the guide is very luke-warm about it) but spend a few quiet minutes sitting in the gardens, away from all the noise, dust, fumes, and the hawkers. Although initially not as bad as I had expected, the attentions of the fly-catchers are becoming quite irritating. The best way to get rid of them seems to be to tell them that we have already booked/have been/are leaving tomorrow. We meet Kat again at the clock tower and share a taxi back to the lodge.

Our Kilimanjaro briefing is at 5 pm, so there is time for a quick swim. A toe-test tells me that the water is rather cold, so after the briefest of hesitations, I dive in. It is a lovely big pool to swim in but I wouldn’t want to hang about for long. I notice four people sitting in a line beside the pool, each reading their own copy of the latest Harry Potter book.

Our briefing is from Emmanuel, an experienced guide, though he won’t actually be leading our group. There are nine of us, which seems a good size: Noel, an Australian, Nicky and Alison from near Derby, Tom (English) and Orsi (Hungarian), Ghislaine (French-Moroccan), plus the three of us, so we are a truly international bunch. The briefing itself is rather less detailed than I had been led to believe from my reading of the ATR website, but seems adequate enough. Afterwards we all eat dinner together in the hotel restaurant.

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that tomorrow we start climbing Kilimanjaro – who knows what is ahead! Actually it is probably best I don’t think too much about it. Better to take it as it comes. Hakuna matata!

Back in our room it is time for final packing. RL anxiously waits for news of her delayed bag. Just before 10 pm the phone rings. I get to it first – it’s for Rachel. Her voice gives us no clue about the news she is hearing, until finally we hear her words: “That’s great!” We breathe once more. The bag won’t actually arrive until midnight, but we do finally know that it will be here.

Doze until midnight when on the dot of twelve there is a knock on the door, followed by much rejoicing.