Hiking Mt. Meru
Arusha Travel Blog› entry 1 of 11 › view all entries
Mount Meru is located in Arusha National Park and is the 5th largest mountain in Africa at 14,980 feet/4,566 meters. An active volcano, Mt. Meru's last eruption was over 100 years ago.
My group of six was visiting Arusha as the starting point to climb Kilimanjaro, however, our trek company (Thomson Safaris) had suggested a pre-hike on Mt. Meru to help us acclimatize. Our intent was not to summit, but to get up to almost 12,000 feet - which would give us all a chance to seriously start the acclimatization process - which we continued by taking the slow route up Kili. Mt. Meru was like stretching before exercise - just a prep walk to get our blood going.
We were all still somewhat jet lagged, having just flown in from different parts of the globe to meet up in Arusha. The pre-hike hike would also give us time to recover from our jet lag. So, the morning after arriving in Arusha, we started the first of our Diamox tablets - to help with any altitude sickness - and headed to Mt. Meru.
At the gateway to the park, we were issued our gaiters, poles, sleeping bags & pads. We met our guide, Joakim, and our porters. We also had a ranger named Innocence who would accompany us. We were surprised to see that Innocence carried a rifle - which was a tad bit off-putting for a little hike up a hill, but we were told that Mt. Meru is full of cape buffalo and their dispositions can be nasty at times.
Our destination on day 1 was the Miriakamba Hut, at 8,250 feet. The hike was only to take 4-6 hours, with a lunch stop along the way. We passed through grassland, with views of the promised cape buffalo, and through forest with lots of monkeys. After a few hours of walking, I started to feel quite nauseous - even though we were at a low altitude it was much higher than my sea level lifestyle in California and I was jet lagged. The second youngest of our group, I was the one holding up the rear. Before I had a chance to tell anyone, another person fell back, also having some problems. Together we struggled through the rest of the hike to the Hut. It was hard to enjoy the flora & fauna of Meru when we felt like we had to upchuck or faint - so we were glad to reach camp.
Miriakamba Hut was a wooden bunkhouse with rows of bunk beds in the back of the building and picnic tables in the front. There was a separate toilet building and cook area and we had gas lanterns for light when the sun set. Since we arrived in late afternoon, it was still warm enough to enjoy the setting - a beautiful grassy glade with our first views of Kili in the distance. The actual sunset was fantastic and the encroaching clouds made the view even more romantic. It also chased us indoors as the temperature dropped and we snuggled in our sleeping bags to sleep away the jet lag and nausea.
On day 2, our goal was to reach the highest point we were able - either Saddle Hut (almost 12,000 feet) or at least Elephant Ridge at slightly over 10,000 feet - and then descend.
The long walk down was particularly beautiful as we hit the grassland areas again - with countless buffalo and antelope in the distance and our first giraffe. There were a few buffalo that came a little close for comfort - so we were pleased to have Innocence's gun, just in case one of them was having indigestion.
We were all surprised that after training for so long and being in top shape, we would almost all undergo some sort of unpleasantness on our pre-hike. Jac & I had been hiking regularly up to 6,000 feet with no problems back in the States and the others were actively running & hiking at lower elevations. We could only attribute it to the altitude - which was still so much less than what we would encounter on Kili - and our jet lag.
Luckily, this was the only time 4 of the 6 of us got sick. Ed never got sick (or else just never complained about it) and John was nauseous only on our last day as we summited Kili - but he also was the only one who didn't take Diamox.
I would recommend our pre-hike to anyone planning Kili - it's a good way to work out the kinks from the airplane and get somewhat used to the altitude - and see some enjoyable scenery along the way.