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To the Roof of Africa on Wheels.
As It Happens -
The Daily reports from
Jon Amos and the expedition team.
Day one - Sunday
Day Two - Monday
Well readers, we made it as far as Kilimanjaro at least. We have all arrived safely flying into and out of Entebbe without any problems. The flight from London, Heathrow with Aliance Air in a 747 and believe me, I'm not exaggerating when I say that the wings were hanging off both sides of the runway when landing at Kilimnajaro.
Arranging transport to Moshi was another problem. Five team members and a mountain of equipment was a "gift from heaven" to the local taxi drivers, but finally with a payment of 19000 Tanzanian shillings, roughly 19.00 pounds we were off.
The road to Moshi was different to say the least! Pot holes, speed bumps, and a mini bus overflowing with people and equipment filling every available space made for a less than comfortable journey which only lasted for about 45 minutes. Thankfully!
Arriving at the Moshi Sports Club the satellite link was soon established using the Indian Ocean satellite and individuals or schools who wish to interview Jon or the team can now do so by phoning 00 871 760 016 910 between 12.30pm to 1.00pm GMT or 7.00pm to 7.30pm GMT.
Tomorrow we hope to establish the Internet link and to visit the "Street Kids Centre" and perhaps give more details as the week progresses, so stay posted for further details.
As originally planned we started setting up our base camp at the Moshi Sports Club, but we have now moved into the snake infested garden of one of the teachers based at the school. He has made available his four-wheel drive vehicle so that we can freely get out and about.
As far as local information goes our most important discovery of the day is that the beer costs 50 pence, or the local equivalent. The down side of it is that Jon has banned us from partaking until after the climb.
If everything goes to plan I hope to send photographs tomorrow for inclusion in the web site so that you can follow some of the teams involvement in the many team projects.
Day Three - Tuesday
We had our first sighting of the mountain today and what an awesome sight. There seems to be an unseasonable amount of snow on the mountain at the moment, but this may not be so much of a problem as we first thought. The snow may prove to be an advantage in the long run because it will make the going firmer underfoot when we are actually climbing.
The team began the Educational Program mentioned yesterday. This is one way in which we hope to give something back to the local people who are supporting Project 98.
The temperature has been in the high nineties today and, as you can imagine, the heat brings other types of danger for us. We have been warned to watch out for two potential problem flies. The first is called the Nairobi fly, which has a nasty surprise in that if you squash and kill it, the acid in the body will burn and blister your skin. The second is called the Mango fly, which you can only be
sure of killing if you iron all of your cloths. No one has brought an iron!
We have established an E Mail link today so we are hoping the photographs will begin to filter through onto the web site as the week progresses. We are also extremely glad that we have made arrangements for our own power supply as this seems to be something of a local problem with power cutting off during the evenings. Most of the locals seem to have their own generators to cover such eventualities.
Tomorrow Derek and Mark are driving to Marangu Gate which marks the entrance onto the mountain to obtain the climbing passes. No one is allowed on the mountain without a pass so this is a very important step in the project.
Don't forget that you can now interview Jon and the team during the times that we are monitoring the satellite link on 00 871 760 016 910.
Day four - Wednesday
Today has had its good and bad moments, but we feel like everything we have set out to achieve has been worth while. Mark and Derek went to the mountain to obtain the passes mentioned yesterday, but they hit a snag. It appears that since our last correspondence with the Tanzanian Embassy in London the management of the Parks has changed and amongst other changes, camping is no longer allowed on our chosen route resulting in the need to use the mountain huts, and incurring extra costs.
As this was not part of our original plan, it was felt that Jon, Derek and Mark should travel to Arusha tomorrow to see The Acting Director General of TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks)
Mr. G Bigurube, to see if it is possible to resolve the situation.
During the remainder of the day, Jon, Mary and myself spent the day at the Street Kids Project. This was a heart felt experience for all of us. The journey there was horrendous as we traveled in our borrowed four wheel drive along roads with the most enormous potholes but the children more than made up for the roughness of the journey.
This project works with abused, neglected or runaway boys by offering them a refuge, where food, clothing, education and love are offered to them. Although they have made much ground since starting last April, they are still in desperate need of support in the form of basic resources, equipment and clothing. This is something that the Project 98 team hope to initiate on their return home.
During the visit, the children were shown how to use the Ricoh electronic camera. Not having had the opportunity to use anything of this nature before, most of the photographs that they took were of an unusual nature, with their subjects heads cropped.
Whitehouse Primary School from Bristol, England then took part in a satellite telephone link-up allowing the street kids and Whitehouse children to communicate and involve themselves in the "Global Village". This worked well as Sally, a teacher at Whitehouse school where Jon's wife Lynn also works, is fluent in Kiswahili as her husband is Tanzanian.
These children have not had the happiest of starts to their young lives but their smiles were wonderful and before we left they all sang and danced for us which had their teachers held in stunned astonishment because they had never sung to anyone before. Heart wrenching.
Until the last piece of our equipment flies out with the rest of the team on Monday, it is difficult to send photographs. Our first taking 9 minutes after fighting to get a phone line through to Nairobi, but I will try to send one of our visit to the Street Kids project showing the satellite linkup. The Street Kids project have also asked us to put them on our web site so that their program can be publicised and the Project 98 team are more than happy to do this on their return.
Although it has not actually rained as much today it is very hot and very humid and the rain quickly turns everything into a thick sticky red mud which can best be described as "Goo". As a result there are a lot of the Nairobi flies around which we have already mentioned and if you swat them, the acid from their bodies is like inflicting a 200 degree burn on yourself. As for the rest of the
local animal, reptile population, the dogs howl all night and when they stop the cockerels take over at about 3.30am which is not the best aid to restful sleep.
During our night time satellite linkup, I was on the grass trying to get the up link established and Jon said, "Look at that snake", I thought he was joking. He wasn't. Since then Mary has sneaked twigs that look like snakes into my tent and generally been most unsympathetic. I'll get my own back!
In the next few days we plan to visit an orphanage, local schools for the
Day five - Thursday
Today Derek, Jon and Mark traveled to Arushi. The result was that no one was prepared to resolve the problem of no camping on our mountain route. At this late stage they decided that the best thing now was to book our places on the mountain using the huts and to use the rest of the week to resolve the remaining fee problem.
For the rest of the team, today was spent at a local school which has approximately 956 students, 17 of which being blind. This school which obviously would benefit from technical assistance are desperate for what might be considered simple equipment by our educational standards. They need things like old-fashioned typewriters and Braille machined which would be considered throw away items by those in the UK who are converting to computer technology. It would be nice to think that our visit could be of lasting benefit if anyone could help them by providing some of this desperately needed equipment.
Tomorrow morning we are hoping to establish a satellite link to the Whitehouse School in Bristol, England with the Moshi International school whose staff have been of great help to us during our visit.
Day Six - Friday
A day to catch up. Derek and Mark were up at the crack of dawn. School classes here start at 7.30am and they have been roped into helping with the Moshi schools sports program. Charging equipment batteries and preparing and answering E Mails has taken up the biggest part of today's time.
In the late morning Jon, Mark and myself then gave a talk to one of the classes at the Moshi school on how we intend to make the ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro, what kind of food we will be eating and how the digital video, computer and satellite links work. To finish, Whitehouse School arranged a linkup via the satellite phone to complement both schools educational programs. We have also had the opportunity to get out on the local mud roads to do a bit of mush needed
Seen another snake today!
Day Seven - Saturday 24th January
The day started off as an administration morning. Updating our diaries and making sure that we were all at the correct locations, and at the correct time.
Derek, Mark and Jon have been running coaching sessions in Baseball. I have no idea how they were able to keep going in the heat of the day but the children truly enjoyed the expert tuition.
Unfortunately the satellite phone is at present out of action due to a system problem and attempts are being made to solve this. For the time being, all communication should be via E Mail at:-
Later, boarding children from the International School Moshi gathered to view the video footage taken on the training ascent of Blencathra, and to see at first hand how Jon was able to negotiate "off road riding".
They were genuinely interested and many questions that they had asked at a previous session with Jon in school were answered. One of the more senior students was able to relate to the climb as he had already climbed Mt Kilamanjaro with the school.
In preparation for the remainder of the team joining us on Monday, the advance party has made all the necessary arrangements to ensure that their arrival goes smoother than the advance parties did.
More to follow..
Mountain - Day One
Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut (9000 ft)
Arriving in the pouring rain at Marangu Gate and knowing that we now had to achieve in five days what we had origanally set aside eight days for, the team was met yet again by more bureaucracy and red tape. Form filling and payment of the fees dulled the eagerness of the team to start the ascent of the highest free standing mountain in the world, and indeed the largest in Africa.
Finally with the rain now falling even harder, the ascent commenced and being filmed by Andrew Burrows, a BBC camera man, the team escorted Jon and his specially designed wheelchair up the track leading towards the first section of the mountain, a journey that normally takes ordinary trekkers 3 hours, it eventually took us approximately 7 hours.
Our party consisted of Jon, a guide, an assistant guide, three porters and eleven team members. Every member of the party, including the guide, was carrying a full expedition pack containing everything required for a five day duration on the mountain.
Illusions of an up-hill stroll under the African sun soon turned sour with mud, rain, tree roots, and projecting rocks hindering our every step. Even when the rain subsided, the path, or should I say the stream bed, still oozed with the water running down the mountain, but eventually we made our first overnight stop at Mandara Hut encampment described in the trekking books as a hamlet of small Norwegian-style chalets built into the forest. Standing to one side however was a white shack. Guess which one was ours!
It comprised of three rooms, each with four bunk beds (Jon had the top one of course) and one central table. Wooden shutters blocked out the majority of the light which made it quite damp, but exhausted with the days trek, any shelter was home. As night fell and we had our wonderful boil in the bag food, a cabin rat rummaged through our rubbish,it was time to retire from the first day of our world record attempt to ensure an early start to our second day.
More to follow...
Mountain - Day Two - Mandara Hut to Horumbo Hut (12000 ft)
The day started with a now legendary, but monotonous boil in the bag breakfast which, for those who were lucky enough to be able to, could choose from burger and beans, beefburger and beans or go really mad and have porridge oats yet again! There's very little choice after two weeks of the same monotony, and knowing the amount of methane gas released by team members during the previous night, beans were voted out!
Knowing that the next section of the ascent would take normal trekkers 5 hours, an early call, to move out, was met by the reality that our clothes from the previous days trek were what could only be called, very damp. Most of us would have said wet! Not wishing to surrender our small supply of clean, dry clothing needed later for the colder parts of the ascent when every piece of warm dry clothing would be needed and without the warmth of the rising sun to ease our discomfort, the party set out for the climb to Horumbo Hut on yet another day of un-seasonal weather.
Towering above us to the right was the peak called Mawenzie and the next section held the now infamous seven fingers of Mawenzie. When the mountain had erupted, fingers of lava flowed down its slopes which now left the ground formed into seven steep rock covered ravines, each with its own stream. It now needed several slow meticulous descents followed by the same amount of strength sapping ascents to traverse each one. It was well into the late afternoon that we knew that Horumbo was well out of reach before night fall. Our progress was further hampered by sage stumps, burnt dead-wood scrub and very narrow, deeply rutted tracks which is considered by able-bodied trekkers to be of no consequence.
In order to replenish our strength, boil in the bag rations were eaten cold, knowing that there was still a lot of arduous work to be done. Every mouthful needing the willpower to swallow, knowing that Jon and the parties safety would depend on an after dark trek over the last of the ravines with only our head torches to pick our way to Horumbo.
Twelve hours and twenty minutes after setting off, we finally made the last few steps into Horumbo under the bright lights of the BBC cameraman, and to the relative sanctuary of another nights shelter on the mountain.
What a day!
Mountain - Day Three - Horumbo to Kibo (15400+ ft)
With an early rise, 5.30am, day two had now started to take its toll. What had been a long 12hrs plus day, now seemed to be running into a 24 hour day. Exhaustion and the first signs of altitude sickness started to affect the team, having had little time to recover from the nightmare of the seven fingers of Mawenzie on the previous day. A decision now had to be made, the most obvious one of remaining at Horumbo for an extra day to both acclimatise to the altitude and to recover our sapped strength was beyond question, knowing that TANAPA had only allowed us 5 days on the mountain. The last thing we needed now was even more beauracracy and red tape! Now there was a more important decision to be made. This was to set ourselves a cut off time, (based on the previous day's workload), of five hours whereby we would have to be further than halfway to Kibo or we would have to turn back. We could ill afford to be caught stranded between the two points with a debilitated team! The pressure was really on, as up until now most of the information given to us had in no way taken into account the extra problem of 'trekking' in a wheelchair.
The sun was shining with a cold biting nip in the air as we again left the safety of the overnight encampment. With our 'guide' in the lead and our porters following up behind, we started the slow ascent to Kibo.
Step by step we began to gain altitude very rapidly wondering if this was to be yet another repeat of day two? With almost half the oxygen available to us than found at sea level, every step was an effort. Our expedition packs, now two days lighter of food had now had their weight increased by the extra water, packed into our 'Cambelbak' hydration units which would be needed for the final ascent and the return to Horumbo. Each full litre of water weighing an extra kilo in weight.
We finally had reached the saddle and, making good time, we decided to press on to Kibo. Jon, having lost the two front wheels to his chair, had to depend entirely upon the aid of the tracker unit attached to the front of his wheelchair. He was now able to detach the safety ropes used to provide brakes for the ascent so far, and progress unaided across the barren landscape, giving an extended rest to the team.
As the climb progressed, our team doctor's attention was drawn to the condition of the BBC cameraman. The affects of the altitude and the day upon day exertion of keeping up with our ascent had now left him needing urgent medical attention. The diagnosis was acute altitude sickness and the only remedy was for him to return immediately to the safety of Horumbo and a lower altitude. His professionalism however, still prevailed, and after handing over the essential tools of his trade, camera, tripod, batteries and light and a scribbled note of what he needed filming, we parted in different directions.
In the far distance we could now make out the outline of Kibo Hut hundreds of feet above our present position. It was not too soon as a few members of the team were now either showing signs of fatigue or altitude sickness, or both! The terrain we were now traversing was dry, parched and although we were wearing coats, gloves and hat, almost all of the team was suffering from some form of sunburn. Ears, tops of heads, backs of necks, backs of hands, anywhere that had not been covered or protected was fair game to the UV rays searing down from thecloudless skies.
Finally, very, very slowly the team edged its way into the safety of the shade of Kibo and to the applause and greetings of our fellow climbers who had now come to appreciate and respect the enormity of the undertaking "to take a wheelchair to the roof of Africa".
All text and photographic material are the copyright of Project 98. We have
agreed to allow all photographs placed on our web pages, to be used by the Press
or any other interested organisations provided that they are used to promote the
Project and its aims and objectives. However, as they will appreciate, we are
raising money for charity and therefore, any donations to the project charity
fund would be more than welcome. Any other photographic record taken of the
project other than those up-loaded into the web site will remain the property of