This is how not to begin your Kilimanjaro adventure. The night before you go, do not meet a group of ex-Marines who have just arrived back from their own successful trek and do not celebrate by drinking with them. Because if you do, you will begin your own trek with a hangover that will make you want to throw yourself off the nearest mountain, never mind go and climb one.
We started off around 9am on the first day and we spent a few hours on the road, picking up the rest of the group and driving out to the Londorossi Gate where they sorted out the permits and so forth, finally arriving at the Lemosho Gate, where we were starting the trek. It was a reasonably easy and short hike (about two and a half hours), there were a few steep sections but really not too bad. And the stunning ancient rainforest scenery was definitely my favourite section of the whole trek - I'm talking serious Tarzan territory here and thinking about buff men in loincloths swinging through the trees certainly helped me pass the time on that particular hike...
Plus: monkeys!!! And not just any monkeys either - Colobus monkeys, which I had never even heard of before, never mind seen. They're gorgeous! If I had to be a monkey (boy, if I had a dollar for every time I'd said that...), I would totally be a Colobus monkey. They're black with big fluffy white tails, which they swish around like they have their very own built-in boa. And they just sort of drape themselves over the trees in a languid and rather glamorous way. So fabulous.
Anyway, as we were hiking, our porters went scampering past us on the trail, not only carrying our luggage - on their heads, no less - but all of the supplies for our camp (Mti Mkubwa at 9,498 ft). So by the time we arrived, our tents were set up and they brought us a basin of hot water for washing, after which we went to the mess tent for hot chocolate and popcorn, then a short break before an extremely delicious hot dinner. No complaints here - I was very happy with that start to the trek and I went to bed looking forward to a good night's sleep as I was extremely tired (and have I mentioned the hangover?), but nope, my ugly friend insomnia came to visit and I didn't sleep at all that night.