The Machame route is nicknamed the 'Whiskey Route' as it is harder, more intoxicating and more expensive that the 'Coca Cola Route'. The Western Breach has its own reputation. In 2006 part of a glacier on the Breach collapsed killing 3 climbers. After that, the route was closed for a few years whilst it was modified to minimise the risk. Some sources still maintain it is a hazardous approach, while others say that, with proper precautions, the Breach is no worse than most Grade 1 routes. Either way, it is probably the toughest challenge on the mountain which does not involve a roped rock or ice climb.
The first few days, however, would be easy walking. Day 1 took us from Machame Gate at 1800m, through the forest, to Machame Camp at just over 3000m. The path, just as on Meru, was excellent. Several times I wished we could import some of the Tanzanian path builders and set them to work on the Lakes. With the good path, the trees shading us from the harsh sun and the flowers that we passed on route, it was possible to believer you were in some National Trust Garden or other back at home.
Once we were settled at Machame Camp, it was time to be introduced to our support crew. It's a fact that no tourist walker could climb Kilimanjaro without a lot of local help. To service and support the 7 members of our party took a 21 man support team of porters, tent crew, cooks and guides. They are paid a daily wage, but it is not much, so it is important to tip at the end of the trip.
With a lack of light pollution and atmospheric pollution, the night skies were the clearest I have ever seen. Dusk came at about 7.15pm each night and, being so closer to the Equator, it fell like an anvil. So with little else to do at that time, other than go to bed, I tried a start trail shoot. This was the same technique as I used in Cornwall. For a focal point, I used a nearby long drop and neighbouring tree, painting them with head torches for the last of 30 shots.
Day 2 took us from Macahme Camp to Shira Camp at 3850m. We left the forest behind and headed into the second of Kili's 5 habitat zones, the moorland.
The change in terrain meant that Shira Camp was more open than the tree dwelling Machame Camp. We could see the tents of the other teams taking this route. More importantly, we could now clearly see our objective. From now on, the upper mountain would be a constant sight until we finally reached the Breach. At times it seemed so close that we imaged we could run up it in a couple of hours. At others it still looked a long way away.