Thursday, March 10
7 p.m. local
We hiked about three hours up through the Rongai Forest from the gate (or trailhead) to Simba Camp, an ascent of about 1,000 vertical feet to 8,850 feet. Our guide, Yusuf, brought 22 other assistants, cook staff and porters, which is common for our size trekking group. It was warm and sunny during our afternoon walk, during which we saw monkeys. An elephant was heard near our camp as we prepared for dinner.
A national park staff member who is a friend of Yusuf's arrived with a semi-automatic weapon, which he carries in case of animal attacks. Yusuf told us he is a Christian and we listened as his friend immediately went to work sharing with the many Muslims in our crew.
This was Day 1 on Kilimanjaro.
Bob told us this morning how the mountain was diminishing in his sight. Even though he came here to explore bringing at-risk youth to climb and he was physically moving closer to Kibo, he has seen the Lord's work of this Evangelic Expedition grow in importance. That has been our prayer for the team: that each member would recognize it's about the mission, not the mountain; the people, not the peak; the service, not the summit.
1:30 p.m. local
We have arrived at the Rongai Gate and are preparing to begin our seven-day trek on Kilimanjaro. All are well, and full of nervous excitement. Onward and upward.