March 2, 2004 – Team arrives at Machame Camp

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

It’s the morning of March 2nd and I’m calling you from the Machame Camp at the top of the forest on the slopes of Kilimanjaro at 9,800 ft (2 986 m). Jetlag must still be a factor and I know the excitement about being underway in this adventure and on the mountain finally, is a factor as well.

On the roads to MachameA bunch of us were up early in the brilliant starlit night this morning. John, Brian, Paul, myself and Dennis were up talking about our goal, about the joy of being out here, about our sponsors, loved ones back home. Most of the rest of the group were still inside their tents but I could hear their voices softly talking about where we were and the excitement of being out here.

Yesterday, our day began at the hotel. As you know the government delegations with all the presidents in town had asked us to move back from the main entrance to load our land cruisers. The safari drivers drove us the hour and a half drive out from the town of Arusha to the lush farmland, the green slopes adjacent to Kilimanjaro. It was a beautiful drive that took about an hour and a half.

I know a lot of people imagine that the dry savannah comes right up to Kilimanjaro, but it does not on this side of the mountain. The homeland of the Chagga people and other people of Tanzania are at the base of the mountain where there is rich farmland. The culture of these people is a big part of our experience here and so is the food! One of the reasons we eat so well on the mountain is all the fresh produce that is grown literally at the edge of the mountain is very easy for us to get it brought up the hill with our Chagga staff and porters.

Our goal yesterday was to climb from the park entrance at 5,600 ft (1 707 m) more than 4,000 ft and at least about 15 km almost 9 miles all the way up to where I’m calling you from now. The hike through the forest for this group went extremely well. One of the joys we had was after hiking a number of hours we rounded a bend and Hodson our chief cook and the staff had stopped and prepared our lunch and set it up. The style, the elegance really, out here in the bush in the forest that these guys showed the group, I think made a big impression.

Chef on KilimanjaroBy example we learn from these guys about the dignity and the pride that can be involved with serving. Their smiles were genuine, their sense of humor was great, Hodson is a trained chef, he and his assistant do wear white, chef hats and a couple of the guys that wear the same grubby mountain clothes we do walking up the trail, find these waiter coats to serve lunch in and then we all pack it up and move up the trail. We had a lot of fun with it but as I said, I think it’s a good lesson for us from the West about service and the pride we take in our jobs.

Our climb was successful, the group I’ll have to say the teamwork had begun months in advance for this group. Even though they live in cities across Canada and most of them had never seen one another until the day before yesterday, the teamwork was already evident because the training had been consistent. This group moves very well together compared to most groups I’ve seen on the mountain and that’s going to pay off. The fact that for months and months this Investor’s Group, Climb for a Cure, ALS team had the same goal and they were working together for it.