Despite being so tired the night before, neither of us slept until the alarm. Crystal got up a little after 2am, and Justin got up at 4:30. Our wake up call was at 5, but since we got up earlier we were able to enjoy longer showers and a more leisurely breakfast. We checked out and headed down to the front door where we met Samuel, who was our bellhop the night before. He got our gear packed, and we headed off back to the airport, but not before Justin got to say "Asante, Samuel." [For those of you scratching your head, Asante means "thank you" in Swahili and Asante Samuel is the name of a star football player in the NFL.]

The airport was a zoo, but not really that bad when compared to LAX on Friday morning. For one thing, the kiosks (or the people using them) worked a million times better. Also, because the terminal was out of commission due to the fire, we went down to large, spacious catering tents that must have been 10x bigger than the terminal itself was. We remembered in 2007 that there was nowhere to sit, the hallways were super narrow, the air was full of smoke, it was hot, the bathrooms were filthy - all around just a great place. This time we were outside in comfortable temperatures, there was no smoking allowed (perhaps due to the fact we were in a tent, perhaps because of our proximity to the planes, who knows, who cares), and there was tons of space with nice music playing over the speakers. Maybe they should just keep the tents as the terminal area. We killed time waiting in the tents by reading and updating the trip log.

The only bad part of the new setup (although we aren't sure we wouldn't have had to do this anyway) was the bus over to our plane. The bus ride wasn't too bad, but once we got to the plane, we just sat there. So for about 10-15 minutes, we were idling, breathing in exhaust fumes, and cramped in with dozens of other people. Not good times. Just when we couldn't take it any more, they let us off, and we sprinted off the bus and up the stairs onto the plane. We had read that it was better to sit on the left side of plane (although we weren't 100% in our recollection), so when we checked in we changed seats from the right to the left. After takeoff (which was delayed 15 minutes for who know's what), we didn't see much of anything. Interestingly, only after getting above the clouds did we see the mountain.

Thankfully, we had moved to the left side of the plane, because Kilimanjaro was in plain view out our window, well above the clouds. It was nuts how tall it was, and we felt a little crazy for wanting to climb it in the first place. We basically rounded the mountain 180 degrees, then came in for landing. Several people on the right side of plane kept craning to look out the window, so we were glad we had moved seats. We landed just after 10am. The airport was much more modern (and organized) than the Nairobi airport, although part of that might have been due to it being smaller. Since we already had a Visa, our line was much shorter, and we were in and out of there in about 5 minutes.

Outside the terminal we were met by Aaron from Hoopoe Safaris (who we used for Kilimanjaro and for our time in the Serengeti), who drove us to our hotel in Arusha, the Ilboru Safari Lodge. We got checked in and then started re-arranging all of gear for the mountain, moving stuff we weren't taking into one duffel bag, putting stuff we were taking but didn't need on our backs (i.e. extra socks, toiletries) in a duffel bag the porters would take up the mountain, and put all of our day-use stuff into our backpacks. We were getting very tired (presumably jet lag), and decided to break for lunch about halfway through. Our food was pretty good, but we were really in a daze so the lunch wasn't especially enjoyable. We decided we would finish packing, and then take a short nap. When we had finished packing, we felt pretty good, as the backpacks were lighter than they had been on our training hikes - but then we remembered the water bottles were still empty.

When we finished taking a nap, we did actually feel pretty good, much more rested. Not too long after we got up, the phone rang, and it was folks from Hoopoe Safaris to give us a brief on our hike. Oker (sp?) introduced us to our guide for the next 9 days, Joseph. Apparently Joseph has been up the mountain over 200 times, with over a 90% success rate, and he told us (jokingly? half-jokingly?) not to screw up his stats. They went through our route, the basics of what to expect day-to-day, and asked what sort of questions we had. One good piece of information was that they would be filtering all the water, so we wouldn't need to bring our iodine tablets. Then they checked our gear (Oker especially liked our insulated water bottles), and everything was in good shape except for our Diamox - they thought the dosage (500mg twice a day) was too high. Fortunately we still had some 250 mg pills from prior trips, so we decided to bring both and see what happened. We charged batteries as much as possible, knowing we wouldn't get another shot before coming down the mountain, and then headed off to dinner.

At dinner we had an assortment of Tanzanian food, with beef stew, fried chicken, spinach, vegetables, curried fish, beans (similar to refried beans), spicy rice, white rice, marinated beef, beef with plantains and coconut milk, and some other goodies. After dinner, we got cleaned up (last chance for 9 days, at least with full facilities), then crashed for the night.