GETTING THERE: Moshi, Tanzania, about 275 miles northwest of Dar es Salaam and 150 miles south of Nairobi is the jumping-off place for the Marangu Trail, the easiest and thus most popular way to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The park gate is about 20 miles from Moshi, but a minibus will deliver and pick up hikers five days later for about $20 per person.
Both Moshi and Arusha, 50 miles west of Moshi, are served by Kilimanjaro International Airport at Arusha, which receives flights by KLM, Sabena and other carriers. Buses also run to Moshi from Arusha and Dar es Salaam. There are no schedules -- visitors just go to the bus station -- but hotels and the YMCA can provide general information. There are complete tours available to Kilimanjaro as well as to surrounding game reserves and national parks. (For specific information on air service and tours, contact a travel agent.)
THE CLIMB: The only requirements for climbing Kilimanjaro are a guide and a park entrance fee, currently $190 per person (it was raised substantially last July and will be collected at the entrance -- unless a tour package has been purchased and the literature states that this fee is included in the price). So hard-core backpackers can and do carry everything themselves -- food, bedding and water -- on the most bare-bones and cheapest way to go. For those unaccustomed to or unwilling to endure such an excursion, porters are also available at varying prices to carry your pack and -- if desired -- supply and prepare food.
The Kibo and Marangu Hotels, both nearer the park gate than Moshi, will outfit trips to the top and similar packages can be arranged from the United States. But for those already in Tanzania, a tour agency working out of the Moshi YMCA offers what is probably the most popular package because it is one of the least expensive.
The five-day package includes guide, food and porters to carry and cook the food as well as carry the gear. Cost is 2,148 Tanzanian shillings, or about $180 per person, in a party of four at the current official government exchange rate. If there are only one or two climbers, the rate per person is about 3,000 shillings.
WHAT TO TAKE: At the park headquarters, necessary equipment not already carried -- such as sleeping bags, heavy boots, parkas, gloves, canteens -- can be rented. Extra-high-energy food such as chocolate bars or trail mixes cannot be found in Tanzania, so take them with you. But basically everything else you will need can be rented, if necessary.
Beware: Park officials demand to see and copy the government currency declaration you filled out at the Tanzanian border. Guides and porters then gather around to learn which climber carries how much money. Many of them are eager to exchange money at black-market rates, and they especially seek out hikers who listed ample cash on their currency declaration.
U.S. citizens traveling to Tanzania will need a visa, which can be obtained from the Tanzania Embassy, and inoculations may be required. Antimalaria pills should be started a week before arrival. Health requirements may change -- check with your travel agent or the D.C. Department of Human Services, 673-6715, for the most current information.
Tap water in Tanzania is not potable. Take water purification tablets because beer, soft drinks and bottled water are not always available.