Thursday, 6 September 2012

Meru Camp and Mount Meru

We were given a warm welcome by the locals at this camp as we were taken down to the river to be shown how to wash clothes in the traditional African way, which was rather impressive. It was good to see so many people had come to watch and help, the children were really enthusiastic at helping us and exchanging songs and clapping games etc.

The first morning at Meru Camp my half of the group were invited to be shown the process of making coffee. The owner of the coffee and banana plantation also owned the land the camp is on, and was very keen to show us his traditional way of making money. We started by picking the red berries and washing them to soften their skins, this allowed for them to be 'peeled' by the machine shown below.                                    

The machine removed the skins of the berries allowing for  the beans to be separated. Before the beans were ready for roasting they are dried for 1 week to 1 month (however the ones we used had to be dried for almost 6 months as it had been a 'dull and cold' winter by Tanzanian standards). The ore-dried beans were then pounded in a giant wooden mortar and pestle to crack the now brittle hard coating off, this coating was then separated by throwing it up in the air as shown to the right. Now the fun could begin!

 A fire was then lit and the beans slowly roasted in a pan. To cool the beans quickly they were thrown around on this wicker tray again. The beans now could be smashed up into a fine powder for us to sample. Many of us bought some coffee but unfortunately the price was very high due to the longer then usual drying times.

For the rest of the day and the next day we worked on the nearby school preparing the ground for a veranda to the classroom and sanding the window frames for glass to be replaced. This involved breaking up rocks from behind the classroom, digging the trench, filling the trench with the rocks and filling it back in with soil and water. We were really pleased to get the preparation job completely finished and the pupils even turned up to see what we were doing even though it was a Saturday.


Packing was next on the agenda, ready for our 'adventure' aspect of our expedition which was climbing Mount Meru (4566m). We were dropped off at Momella Gate (1500m) met our guides and set off slowly up to Miriakamba Hut at 2500m taking in the beautiful scenery that keeps on drawing people to this area near Kilimanjaro. The second day of climbing took us up through the clouds and rainforest layer absolutely brimming with life. After a light dinner at Saddle Hut (3500m) we climbed Little Meru (3820m) at sunset as seen in the picture on the right.

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