Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 4 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Karanga Valley Camp (13,100 ft) after climbing the Barranco Wall. Now it’s time to face day 5, and make our way to base camp at Barafu Camp (14,930 ft). This day is all about starting around 8am, climbing the 4 hours to Barafu where we then eat and rest to wake up at 11pm this same day and climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft). This is the day that we’ve been working towards.

Day5a

You can see above that the morning view is clear and incredible. Between the clouds we can make out the town of Moshi down below. Note the frost on the ground and tents… it was a cold night, and it’s only going to get colder for the next 48hours.

Day5b

This is looking behind our tent up at the summit. I’ll see you summit in 24 hours.

Day5c

 

There’s that jungle layer down below.

Day5d

Time to pack up and get the day going. The earlier we get to base camp, the more sleep we can get to prepare us for our 11pm start for the summit.

Day5e

This was midway between the Karanga Camp and Barafu Camp… still SO far from the top of the mountain. It’s daunting and has me worried since we still have so much further to go.

Day5fDay5g

These porters are so impressive and speedy. This day is a pretty steady up hill climb, but nothing too crazy and we just took it all at a slow pace.

Day5h

Looking back down the trail mid-hike. It’s steep!

Day5i

Base camp is at the horizon line here. With the fog out of the way in the morning we could actually see where we were headed. Rare for Kilimanjaro.

Day5jDay5k

As we wind our way up to Barafu Camp, the views to the east are incredible. Thomas tells me that people use to hike this mountain in the distance but it’s no longer safe to climb. The Marangu route takes you up this side of the mountain, where the trail we’ve been on started on the west side of the mountain.

Day5l

Made it to the base camp!! It’s a steep camping area, so you do sleep on a bit of an incline.

Day5m

This photo was taken right outside our sleeping tent looking west. The summit is up to the right of the photo off in the fog. How are we still so far away from it? This is when it becomes clear that when we hike later tonight, we have a loooong way to go.

Day5n

Getting situated in our home for the next few hours (above). We arrived here around 12pm, where we ate lunch and then headed right to bed. I’m SO lucky that I actually slept for about 4 hours. They wake you up for dinner around 6pm. You eat dinner and then immediately head back to bed.

Day5o

I snapped this photo above (and below) of the sunset after we finished dinner.

Day5p

After I took this photo above, I immediately went back to sleep for the next 3 hours. At 11pm later this night we woke up and began our hike to the summit. More on that next as I talk about day 6 (the summit!) and day 7 (time to go down!) of our Kilimanjaro climb. Check back on Monday for my final Kilimanjaro post.

Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 3 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Barranco Camp (12,960 ft). Now it’s time to face day 4, and tackle the Barranco Wall to then end the day at the Karanga Valley Camp (13,100 ft). This is another acclimatization day, by going extreme up hill and then going back down to a campsite that’s only slightly higher than our campsite the previous night. This day will take about 4 hours.

**Anyone climbing the mountain in 6 days would pass through Karanaga Camp and head right to Barafu Camp (at 15,300ft) which is another 4 hours further. Is doing an 8 hour day doable? Of course, but following this 8 hour day is you waking up at 11pm the same day to climb all through the night to summit the mountain. It’s this portion of the hike that after an 8 hour day, greatly lowers your success rate.

Day4a

It’s another clear morning, which is good considering the clouds and fog of the night before. We woke up in the Barranco Camp, and can you feel the cold of the photo above? I took this looking out our sleeping tent. Do you see the frost? You can also see through the clouds to Moshi below.

Day4b

Above is the reverse shot, looking behind our sleeping tent. The building there is  a newer version of the outhouses we’ve seen along the trail. It’s pretty fancy considering all those building materials had to be carried up the mountain on the porters backs.

Day4c

Finally we can see a view at the Barranco Camp.

Day4d

I hinted yesterday at the crazy day that is to come. It’s at this point in the morning that I see the tiny ants on that sheer cliff wall. That’s the trail. Crap. Oh, crap. I had no idea we would have to climb anything so steep. I am terrified of heights. I’ve tried to combat it for years, and I’m much better with it than I was as a child… but this… this is scaling a cliffside without a harness! Gah! I immediately start crying in fear. It’s after I took the above photo that I put my camera away, and decided living through this portion of the climb was more important than snapping photos. Erica did have her camera out, so when she posts about Kilimanjaro, you’ll get to see her photos.

The only thing I fear more than heights are snakes. So to get through this I kept thinking “I’d rather be on this than on a path covered in snakes… this is better than snakes…” over and over again in my head.

Day4e

The above photo is taken at the top of the Barranco Wall. I should say that while I was trembling in fear and “kissing the rock” as they call it, the porters with all their gear were jumping around us to scramble the rocks. They seemed weightless and fearless.

Day4f

I was so relieved once the Barranco Wall was done. There’s a nice flat area at the top where you can rest. I’m relieved that I survived and glad to have the scariest part of the done by 9:30am. The rest of the day was easy in comparison.

Above is the group of Americans from Florida. They are all related uncles, fathers, sons and nephews of each other and it was a present for one of the boys who graduated college- instead of a party, lets have a guys trip where we climb Kili! I think it’s brilliant. This group was super fun to hike with. They had a speaker that they hooked their ipods up to, so they were dj’ing the hike. They did a big song/cheer each time they reached camp and they were just very motivating.

I should note that one of the men in the group offered me a Werther’s Original suck-on candy, as he read that they help on the climb with little surges of energy. He was right, and I wish I had brought suck-on candies. When he saw that I liked it he gave me a handful to use for the summit day. This was really sweet of him, and little did he knows it’s significance to me. Growing up my grandma and grandpa always had this candy around the house, so I can’t help but associate it with them. When he gave me the candies, it was the day before my grandmothers 96th birthday. We started for the summit (day 5) on her birthday and it’s these candies and thoughts of her that helped me make it to the top. I am very grateful to be hiking with this group. I also ran into the man who gave me these candies at the summit and gave him a big hug.

Day4g

Back to our celebration of finishing the Barranco Wall. I took some jumping photos of Erica above the clouds… and some standing ones (above).

Day4h

Above is another European man that I spent several days hiking along side. He and his girlfriend were very sweet. It’s hard to tell but where he’s standing is a cliff that drops down and the ridge beyond him is very far away… and where we are headed.

Day4iDay4j

Thomas and I kept on hiking (above) with the Florida group of guys. Since we are starting and ending our day at around the same altitude, for all the altitude we gained climbing the Barranco Wall, we now have to descend slowly over the next few hours.

Day4k

Ok, sometimes it’s not such a slow descend. It’s best to try to take it slow as this is not the time to sprain an ankle.

Day4l

Onward we go. You can see how the path snakes up to that ridge.

Day4m

This part of the hike was really enjoyable. There were clear skies and it wasn’t a super steep climb.

Day4n

The fog above started to block our view of the top of the mountain. In fact, it’s better not to think about the top of the mountain. It’s still SO far away, and yet we begin our summit trek in about 30 hours from when this photo was taken. How are we ever going to make it?

Day4o

It’s time to stay focused on getting to the Karanga Campsite. From where we are standing in the photo above, it’s a big climb down one side of the mountain to a valley where we immediately start climbing up the vertical path in the photo, and our campsite is at the top of this path.

Day4p

You can see above that the path is dirt and dusty, which makes it slippery. I actually preferred climbing up more than I did descending down into the valley.

Day4q

We are about 10 minutes to the top, in the photo above. The views of the valley were incredible. This path was steep but nothing like the Barranco Wall, so easy-peasy in comparison.

Day4r

Thomas took this photo of me above. As one of the climbers from Connecticut pointed out “You carried 3 whales up the Barranco Wall, impressive!!” Haha. You can see in the photo the path that we took to go down into the valley. This lower valley has a river running through it (nothing huge), and it’s the last water source along the way. This means that porters were making many trips up and down the hillside to get this water for this camp and for the camp ahead. We saw porters who had come from base camp to here to get water and then walk it all the way back to basecamp. Wow. It makes our trek seem so little compared with what they do every day.

Day4s

Yay, Karanga Camp! We signed in at the ranger hut (like we do at each campsite) and then it was time to take off our boots and rest. It’s the 6 day summiter’s that can’t rest here, they continue on for another 4 more hours to base camp. Thank god that’s not us.

Day4t

Since it took us 4 hours, I would guess we arrived here around 1:30p? Some people do mini hikes from here to help get acclimated. Bruce suggested we rest, as the start of the summit was the next day and we would get very little sleep in the next 48 hours. Erica read and I listened to music. I think we played cards and wrote in our journals. It was relaxing, but the summit day is looming in my mind through it all.

Day4u

The sky stayed pretty clear into the night and the sunset cast a beautiful light over the camp.

Day4v

Above is our home for the night.

Day4wDay4x

I like the photo above of the porter on the rock above the sea of clouds. I wonder what he’s thinking.

Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow morning we hike for 4 hours to Barafu Camp (Base Camp) where we begin our summit climb at 11pm. I just need to make it through the next 48 hours… That’s up next! Check back for the Day 5 post tomorrow.

Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 2 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Shira Camp (12,600 ft). Now it’s time to face day 3, and head to the higher elevation of Lava Tower (15,190 ft) for lunch and then head back down to the Barranco Camp (12,960 ft) for the night. This stretch is all about acclimatization, by going extreme up hill, spending time at that elevation for lunch, and then going back down to a campsite that’s only slightly higher than our campsite the previous night. It’s a bit deflating knowing that we have to do a lot of uphill only to then go back down again, but this is a key day in getting used to the altitude.

Day3a

Here is our morning view from our tent at the Shira Camp. I love how the mornings are the clearest, as it’s nice to start the day with a fantastic view. It gets me amped up for what’s to come.

Day3b

Time to hit the trail! As the sign says, we are 6 hours from our next campsite, with lunch at the halfway point (Lava Tower). Thomas leads the way above.

Day3c

As we get higher and higher, our Shira campsite dissapears from sight and the clouds begin to roll in. I make it my goal to keep moving to avoid the mid-morning fog for as long as possible.

Day3d

This portion of the hike is steady uphill (nothing too crazy) and very rocky/volcanic looking.

Day3e

Up, up up!

Day3f

How are we ever getting up there? That question looms in my mind the entire week.

Day3g

I enjoyed this half of the day a lot. I kept my speed up long enough to avoid the fog for a few hours, which meant sunny skies and you can see the terrain was steady uphill, but doable. Plus I didn’t have to worry about heights (Im VERY afraid of heights).

Day3h

You can see Erica off in the distance snapping photos.

Day3i

Thomas leads me on the last stretch up to Lava Tower (that upper rocky area above).

Day3j

Lava Tower (above). This is were we took a longer lunch break, meant to get us used to this altitude. The porters set up our bathroom and food tent and we hung out her for longer than our other lunches. This was a taste of the altitude and thankfully neither Erica or I felt any altitude sickness. This bodes well for the upcoming portion of the hike.

Day3k

Above is the reverse shot of Lava Tower. There is a trail from here that leads up toward the summit. I think it’s extremely challenging and not many people attempt it. We could see the path upward that they would have to climb and it was practically straight up the mountain. You can see there are a few tents setup, and I imagine those people are attempting this route.

Day3l

After lunch, we started the descent down to our campsite at the Barranco Wall. I did not enjoy this half of the day because it was covered in fog the whole way. This meant it was chilly and we had to wear lots of layers but also the air was damp, which chilly and damp are not fun. Plus you could hear waterfalls and you could tell that this landscape was really beautiful, only you can’t see it!! Oh well, at least we had a relatively fog free first half of the day.

Day3m

We also met up with a fellow American we met while in the waiting area at the entrance gate for the Machame Route. It’s funny how some climbers you bump into every day and others you see many days apart, even though you are all doing the sam trek. She is very sweet and we hiked and chatted all the way to the camp. I should note that most of the hikers we met were from Europe and only this girl (from Oregon), another couple using Zara Tours (from Connecticut), and a group of men/relatives from Florida were Americans.

Day3n

The trees in this portion of the hike reminded me so much of Joshua Tree. In the photo above you can see one waterfall of many that we passed. It’s too bad they were so hard to see.

Day3o

Because of the fog, this portion of the hike seemed to go on FOREVER. Not being able to see far ahead on the trail really messed with my psyche. Plus not having a watch made it so that I had no sense of how far we’d gone. But eventually, like a mirage, the sign-in hut seemed to appear out of the fog. We made it to the Barranco Camp!

Day3p

It was foggy most of the evening, so the views weren’t too impressive. Thankfully at night the fog eventually lifted and we could see stars again. At night Erica and I would read or play cards. I would do my best to rehydrate while we had our toilet setup. Going back and forth to the bathroom sucks in the cold of night, but it’s better than having to go mid-hike where everyone can see.

Day 4 on the trail was the worst for me (other than the summit day, of course) due to the height issues. Thankfully at the end of day 3 I didn’t know what was coming tomorrow, so I was able to sleep through the night in ignorant bliss. More on day 4 of the hike tomorrow…

Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 1 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Machame Hut. Now it’s time to face day 2, and head to the Shira Camp. This stretch is about 3,000ft of gained elevation, and estimated to take 4-6 hours. This was one of my favorite and most memorable days on the trail.

Day2a

Above and below are images from the morning at the Machame Hut. The fog lifted, and we could actually finally see Kilimanjaro. Up until now we couldn’t even see the mountain. It was such a relief to wake up to clear skies and see the mountain.

Day2b

We still have a LOT to go! Eek.

Day2c1

The above photo is our tent at the Machame campsite in the morning. Notice it’s damp from the dew, and a bit muddy.

Day2c2

To the right of our sleeping tent is our food tent and then off in the distance is our toilet tent. Yup there’s a toilet in there just for me and Erica. Spring for the toilet tent- it’s worth every penny.

Day2d

Okay, enough of our morning at the Machame hut as it’s time for us to hike onward to the next campsite. I love that this chunk of trail is above the jungle layer, so it’s much drier and sunnier. Plus between 8a-12p it was relatively fog-free, so it was extra warm. This is why I suggest dressing layers. When if was foggy and over night it was very cold, so I assumed the day would be cold as well, and I was wrong. I immediately took off some layers when we started the day.

Day2f

Erica and I were hiking at different paces, so we decided to split up. Erica was taking lots of photos and thereby, pauses on the trail. I needed to keep on moving as I was anxious to reach the tougher portions of the trail while I still had energy. Plus, everytime I took a break it was tough to get moving again. At this point Erica hiked with our lead guide Bruce, and our assistant guide Thomas and I hiked together. Thomas is in the red above.

Day2g

With the fog out of the way, the views were incredible. This really was my favorite hiking day and I think it’s obvious from the photos.

Day2h

Above, Thomas took this photo of me mid-route. You can see Bruce and Erica in the background. This was a steep day, but equally rewarding.

Day2i

Up we go!!

Day2j

There’s a fun spot where you can hike off trail to the top of these rocks to snap some fun photos. You can see the jungle layer below and the fog. I could tell the fog was creeping up as the day went on, so I was doing my best to out-hike it.

Day2k

From this same spot above, you could see the prize: the top of Kilimanjaro. It’s crazy to think that in a few days I would be standing WAAAY up there. Every time I looked at the peak all I could think was, “how are we going to do this?!”.

Day2l

Up we go, and as I struggled with my light backpack, it’s all put into perspective when the porters carrying so much weight on their necks out hike you. The seem to hike at a jogging pace. It’s so impressive.

Day2m

Above is a cute photo of Thomas on the trail. I like to follow his steps, so I always have him lead. You’ll see his back in most of my photos for this reason.

Day2n

Up, up up! You can see above, the fog is catching up to us.When the fog hits, it get ssignificantly colder, and it also makes it so you can’t see more than 10 feet in front of you. Bye, bye good views.

Day2o

It officially sets in as we stop for a lunch break at the top of a big uphill portion of the climb. Thomas gave me a yummy boxed lunch and we ate and put on more layers. My guess is it was around 11:30/12pm?

Day2p

We continue onward toward the Shira campsite. Before the fog rolled in, I heard fellow hikers say they could see the campsite far in the distance. Now, I wasn’t able to see much in front of my feet. There was a bit of scrambling as the path went through a rocky area, but Thomas helped me through it all.

Day2r

My reward for being speedy through all the uphill today was arriving at camp around 1p (I think). That meant I had from 1pm until bedtime to relax and enjoy my time.

 

Day2qDay2s

Not long after I arrived the fog started to lift! That meant for the whole afternoon I could lay out in the sun enjoying it’s warmth while I listened to my ipod. It was such a meditative time, and I listened to the new Coldplay album which I’ll forever associate with this climb. Every time a song from that album comes on the radio, I’m taken back to feeling like I was in heaven on top of the world in the warmth of the sun.

Day2t

Above the fog slowly slips away.

Day2uDay2v

Above is our meal tent, sleeping tent (in yellow) and our toilet tent to the left.

Day2w

At sunset it started to get chilly, but it was so beautiful.

Day2x

Even the porters were taking pictures. You’d think they’d be used to the beautiful view, but  even they had to snap some photos.

Day2y

At sunset the clouds shifted away and illuminated Kilimanjaro. We are going waaaaay up there! Unfortunately, my night shots from this campsite didn’t come out well, but you’ll have to check out Erica’s night photography when she posts about it. We could see every star at night and her camera was able to capture it all beautifully.

Yes, this was definately my favorite day of hiking and relaxing on the mountain.

Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details

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Now that I’ve gone over what to pack, where to stay, and how it all works it’s finally time to start the hike! After breakfast we brought all the luggage we didn’t want to bring on the trek to the hotel storage room, and checked out of the hotel. Around 9:00a we met up with our Zara Tour Guide Bruce and Assistant Guide Thomas in the Springlands Hotel courtyard. Our van was loaded with gear and then we left on our journey!

We made a last minute pitstop at a row of shops where we picked up some goodies (cookies and crackers) and Bruce picked up some snacks. We then continued on our way to the Machame Gate just as it started to rain.

Day1a

It took about 45 minutes (?) to get to the Machame gate (see gate above). I should note I purposely didn’t bring a watch, as I didn’t want to know the time and wanted to feel free of watches, phones, and electricity for the trek. Once you arrive, you fill out the permit forms and then wait while the permits are processed and your group of porters assemble.

Day1b

Above, the gate is on the right, then the permit building in the middle (with a restroom) and on the left is the holding area for the climbers waiting for their permits to be processed. My sister had a watch, and noted that it took about 2 hours until the permits were processed and we could start the climb. I sort of didn’t realize it takes this much time, so when you start your day at the hotel, the earlier you leave the earlier you get to start the climb.

Day1c

While we hung out in the holding area, we met some fellow climbers. It also didn’t occur to me that we would end up seeing these people all along the trail as we climbed. They were all in different groups and with different companies, but you are all on the same trail together and end up motivating each other when times get hard.

Day1d

This is the view from in the waiting area. You can see far off in the distance all the porters are getting organized while us tourists take “before” pictures.

Day1e

This is a great rundown of the Machame route (minus the Arrow Glacier trail that splits off). This makes it seem not-so-long, right? Some 3 hour days in there… I can handle that, right? I should note that the 3 hour days are steeper than the 6 hour days. Except for the Barranco Wall… nothing is steeper than that. More on that in my “Day 4″ post.

Day1f

Above, the porters are all gearing up.

Day1g

The logistics of who-carries-what seems complicated, as there’s so much gear and food to carry and each porter has weight restrictions. I think just for me and Erica, we had a support staff of 10, which is required as part of the permit process. It promises employment for a lot of locals and helps fuel the Tanzanian economy.

Day1h

I think these were some of our porters (above). It was all a bit of a mystery to us as we were never introduced to the whole gang and since everything was always setup when we arrived at camp, we never saw who-setup-what. Once the permits are processed and ready to go, you walk through that metal gate above, and you’re officially on the Machame Trail.

IMG_38851 (Photo via As Her World Turns)

We took a last minute “Are we really doing this?!” photo, and then started the trek. Waiting the 2 hours for the permits to be approved was painful because I just sat there panicking. I was anxious to get started and to prove to myself I could do this.

Day1i

Day 1 is basically 5 hours of jungle, so be prepared for moist air. It’s got interesting plant life and birds. You can see the trail is wide and a bit muddy. The bottom of my pants got pretty dirty but once the mud dries it flakes off. So when I took the photo above I had no clue, but the guy on the right with the gray shorts is actually Earnest our waiter. He was super nice and it’s funny to look back at my photos and recognize porters I met later in the trek.

Day1jDay1k

Porters far off in the distance. They carry so much on their backs and heads and still way out-run us up the mountain. I can’t imagine how many times they’ve climbed this mountain.

Day1l

About 2 hours (?) in we passed this outhouse above. Thankfully I was able to hold it most days along the trail. Who knew they’d have outhouses?

Day1m

There was interesting plant life in this portion of the climb. Thomas and Bruce told us about several of the plants.

Day1n

Up we go! Thomas and Bruce are in the photo above.

Day1o

 

This photo above gives you a sense of the steepness at time during day 1. It’s also slippery, but the trail is clearly marked and even has “steps” built in.

Day1p

We went slowly to take many photos, so we arrived to camp later than I hoped. Above we signed in at the Machame Hut which is our home for the night.

Day1q

When we arrived our tents were setup and snacks were waiting in the food tent. Our sleeping tent is the round one by the tree and our triangular food tent is to the left of our sleeping tent. Our bathroom tent is hidden off in the trees. You can see we were in thick fog, which made everything damp. This had me a little down, as all my clothes felt wet and it was only day 1. The dampness added a chill to the air as well. We got setup in our tents next, as once the sun sets, it’s hard to change clothes (too chilly) and organize our sleeping bags in the dark. They also give us a hot water bowl and soap at the start and end of each day to do a little sponge bath.

Day1r

Above is our food tent, and Guide Bruce checking on things.

Day1s

Inside our food tent there was hot water and yummy cookies and popcorn waiting for us. The popcorn was so delicious and Erica and I looked forward to that at the end of most hiking days. You can see our table also has lots of condiments on it that went with us to each campsite.

Day1t

Dinner time! Since it’s dark, we eat by candlelight. For dinner we have a first course of hot soup and bread.

Day1u

For the main course we had some pasta, veggies, and potatoes. For dessert we had fresh fruit. All the meals were very large like this and very tasty. Since I’m a vegetarian and Erica doesn’t eat eggs or cheese, we were a challenge for the chef, but he did an excellent job making meals Erica and I could both eat. There was always SO much food.

After dinner Erica and I played cards via candlelight while drinking hot cocoa. Bruce stopped by to chat about the next days climb. Tomorrow would be a shorter distance but would have some steep sections. After day 1 of hiking I was feeling more confident and ready to do this!

Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
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Now it’s time to start my posts about Kilimanjaro. I’ve decided to break it down into 3 posts: Kilimanjaro Details, Kilimanjaro Day 1-5, Kilimanjaro Day 6+7. This post is all about the details. In my “Planning Logistics” post I touch on what I packed and some important info, but here is where I want to list out for you where I stayed, what I packed, how I trained, what special items I bought or rented, and overall costs. Basically it’s all the nitty-gritty of planning your Kilimanjaro climb.

Zara Tours + The Springlands Hotel:
We did our climb with Zara Tours, which is based out of the Springlands Hotel in Moshi. As I’ve mentioned before, we took a shuttle that the hotel arranged for us, to go from the airport to the hotel. The hotel is $72 a night, lunch is $5, dinner is $9 (credit cards not accepted, bring cash). Meals are all buffet, which included some vegetarian options (yay!).

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The Springlands Hotel is behind large gates that lead you into a courtyard which seems very secluded from the rest of Moshi. Within the compound is a pool, dining hall/restaurant, the Zara Offices, a shop for buying snacks, a rental shop for gear for Kili, a luggage storage room, and a courtyard with seating and free wifi. Aka, you never need to leave the hotel since it has everything. Since it’s not really in the center of town (it’s a ways down a bumpy dirt road) nothing is really a comfortable walking distance away for tourists, so for any exploration in Moshi I would ask the front desk to call you a driver. This is the safest option, since tourists really stand out here.

You can purchase bottled water here, which I suggest drinking 2 bottles the night before to make sure you are plenty hydrated while you have a toilet. I should note that money is exchanged when you check out, so you charge everything to your room number (even in the gift shop) and then pay when you check out before you leave for Kilimanjaro (they take Euros, USD, and Tanzanian money). Even meals at the dining hall are charged to the room.

They have a rental room where you can rent additional gear for a cheap price. My sister and I each rented climbing poles and a large duffle bag (which the porters will carry) and we purchased a plastic water resistant lining/bag. You put your gear in the plastic bag, then put that bag into the larger duffle, which will protect against water leaking in. For those who need more gear, HERE’s the full list of rental items and costs. It’s fairly priced.

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Here’s our room above, and bathroom below (it had a sink too, which didn’t fit in the photo).

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We booked our hotel room for Thursday the 24th and checked out the following morning since we left at that time for our Kilimanjaro climb via the Machame route (the Whiskey Route). We then finished the climb and stayed at the hotel the night of July 31st and Aug 1st. We allowed this extra day to rest and put our feet up, since we knew we’d be exhausted from the climb. Best. Decision. Ever.

***At the meeting the night before the climb, I asked about how the “bush toilet” works and our guide said “we can bring a toilet, do you want us to include it?”. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. We learned later that this was something like an additional $100, and it was worth every penny. I feel so bad for the porter in charge of carrying the toilet, setting up the tent and maintaining it along the trail, but it was a GODSEND. If this is offered to you, pay the price for it! And you can see it as hiring another porter for the trek who then will make money to provide for their family.

What to Pack:
Be aware of the weight limit of 32lbs for your duffle bag. Don’t overpack or you will have to carry the weight difference. The less you bring the better as it’ll give you more room in your tent and just be less to stress over mid-hike.

Here list of what to include in your daypack:

1 camelbak filled with 2 liters of water
1 water bottle filled with 1.5 liters of water (filled at the Springlands hotel with bottled water)
1 camera
Powerbars and snacks (I packed 2 per day and didn’t eat them all)
1 headlamp (cause it’s small and you never know)
1 small assortment of bandaids + moleskin to prevent mid-hike blisters
1 P EZ (for midday peeing, thankfully I didn’t use this much)
Some toilet paper (always carry some on you in Africa)
Additional layers (some days this was gloves, a hat, my outer shell jacket, or a sweater- this depended on the days hike ahead)
1 rain poncho (I used this only on my last day in the jungle where it’s usually raining)
2 hiking poles (I used these everyday to hike with)
1 hand sanitizer (you’ll use this constantly)
1 mini sunscreen
Sunglasses
Lip Balm (spf)

**Don’t just bring the bottled water from the store, it must be put in a water bottle per the park rules. We didn’t know this ahead of time and my sister spent the trek having to hide her bottles of water.

Here’s what to include in you duffle the porter carries:
Sleeping bag meant for the cold (no need to pack a mat, it’s included with the tents)
1 Sleeping bag liner
1 blow-up pillow
1 mini flashlight (this is handy in addition to your headlamp)
1 pair of shoes you can slide your feet into with socks on and that you don’t mind getting dirty (like cheap off-brand Toms)
Soaps + dry camping shampoo if that works for you (it doesn’t for me, so I didn’t bother)
Hand wipes for a nightly sponge bath
Your standard assortment of meds, but include advil for day hiking aches and advil pm to help sleep at night
2/3 pairs of Wool socks
7 pairs of normal socks (to go over wool socks when it’s cold)
7 pairs of underwear
1 outer shell jacket
1 fleece jacket lining
2 long sleeve bigger shirts
2 long sleeve undershirts
2 teeshirts (these shirts are all to layer)
2 pairs of hiking water resistant pants (and outer shell pants if you own them, I didnt)
2 pairs of polyester long underwear
1 scarf+gator for the summit night
1 pair of winter gloves (I added a layer of thinner fleece gloves inside which I was glad to have)
2 sports bras (for the women)
1 winter hat
1 earmuff band
1 baseball-style cap
1 pair of water-resistant/proof hiking boots (I wear Merrels similar to these)
Contacts + glasses (I wore contacts everyday, glasses at night)
Standard toiletries

*I wore almost all the clothing I packed on the summit day (4 pairs of pants and 6 shirts). So be ready to layer for the warm jungle day and the cold summit day.

Here’s what to pack to keep entertained at night:
When planning and trying to keep my bag as light as possible, I almost completely left off anything to keep me entertained, which is a bad idea. Some days you arrive at camp by 1pm… so what do you do until you go to bed? In my case I listened to my ipod, but I did that sparingly to save the battery. My sister packed a book and deck of cards, which helped pass the time in the evenings. I also packed a little waterproof paper notepad I was given as a gift. This was perfect to write down my thoughts on each days climb and the waterproof pages didn’t wrinkle from the dampness (everything gets wet/moist in the jungle).

How to Train:
I hiked ahead of time, and I recommend it. I worked up until the day I left for the trip, so for me it meant hiking on the weekends only. This wasn’t ideal, but the best I could do. I  emailed hiking friends and got hooked in with a great group of people training for their Mt. Whitney climb. We trained together on the weekends usually every-other-weekend and I filled the “off” weekends with local hikes in the area (anything to help put in the outdoor hours). It also helps doing some high altitude hikes (for me in Los Angeles it was Mt. Baldy, Big Bear, Echo Mountain, and Mt. Wilson). Doing these made me feel more confident about the climb, and I think really helped on Kili. But really, just do the best you can to train in someway. In my sister’s case she had been traveling for many months prior to the climb so she didn’t get to train and yet she did the hike and reached the summit. So training hikes are not required to summit, but I recommend it.

Zara Costs + Meet our Guides:
For the Machame Route (with an additional 7th day, to help acclimatize and greatly increase our chances of summiting successfully) it costs $1,885 USD. This doesn’t include tips. When you book, Zara gives you paperwork which includes a tipping guide. When budgeting the trip, we budgeted approximately $300 in tips and I paid more like $350 as I followed the Zara tipping guide that was emailed to us. I have no clue if this was “enough” or way too much (??), but we figured they gave us that tipping guide for a reason so we stuck to what it suggested. Hopefully we didn’t insult our guides and porters as they were awesome.

Speaking of guides, our lead guide was Bruce (below, right side) and assistant guide was Thomas (below, left). They were recommended to me by friends from high school who had climbed Kili with Zara. We asked if they were available when we booked with Zara and when we arrived at the Springlands Hotel, there they were! They were excellent and I highly recommend both of them. Erica and I hike at different paces, so I spent most days hiking with Thomas and she with Bruce, and we would all meet up at the campsite each night. We were both really happy with how it all went.

Our waiter was Earnest who didn’t speak much English, but from the little Swahili I learned, I could tell he was very sweet and polite. We also had our own chef who was awesome and prepared huge yummy 3- course meals. As a fellow Zara climber noted, “Im going to be the first guy to climb Kilimanjaro and gain 10 pounds!” as the food is plentiful and they worked around mine and my sisters food allergies/vegetarianism. Each time our food tent was assembled, it included a kit of powdered coffee, hot cocoa, peanut butter and several other condiments for our meals. I would only suggest bringing power bars or hard candies to give you a pick-me-up mid-climb each day.

When you leave the campsite each morning the campsite is fully assembled and when you arrive the campsite is fully assembled and snacks are waiting in your food tent. This means that while you are climbing, the porters take apart your tent, hike fast passing you along the way, get to the next campsite and reset-up the tents before you arrive. The porters are amazing and make it look like magic.

AsHErWorldTurnsKiliPhoto (Photo by As Her World Turns) Thomas (left) + Bruce (right)

If there’s anything I didn’t mention, or if you have any additional Kilimanjaro questions please email me at lifeabsorbed@gmail.com. I’m happy to help, as when I was planning this trip I relied on many peoples advice and it was all very helpful.

My next post will be a run down of Kilimanjaro’s Machame route days 1-5.

Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe

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GettingThereMap

Now it’s time to bid farewell to Kenya and make our way to Moshi, Tanzania. Moshi is the local town/city/district at the base of Kilimanjaro. I’ve had an excellent 24 hours in Nairobi and I really hope to go back and see a lot more of Kenya (especially the Masai Mara Reserve!).

Since Nairobi and Moshi aren’t THAT far apart, if you have the time and are looking to save money you can take the public bus between the two cities. Since we were tight on time, we paid for the Precision Air/Kenya Airways flight. Our ticket says it’s an hour flight, but I feel like it was only 35 minutes of actual air time. Plus the views from the air are incredible, and I had an awesome seat for it (choose the “A” or “B” seats for the best view).

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There’s Kilimanjaro from the plane. “It almost feels like we are only a few feet higher than the peak! EEk, that’s a tall mountain and we are about to start climbing it TOMORROW!” was running through my head. You can tell this is Kili due to it’s unique shape. Kili doesn’t come to a point and is more square shaped at the top.

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Kilimanjaro is off in the distance and Mt. Meru is the closer mountain above. You can tell because Mt. Meru comes to a point.

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There’s Mt. Meru as we circled around it to get to the Kilimanjaro Airport.

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Once you get below the clouds you can see the lands of Tanzania. I have no idea what I was expecting the topography to be like. I had no preconceived notions, and it was a nice unveiling as we descended through the clouds.

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There’s Erica, after we just walked off the plane.

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It’s all starting to feel real! We are doing this! You should know that once you get off the plane and walking to the entrance of the airport, there are guards checking everyone’s yellow fever certificates (proof of the vaccination). You’ll run into a snag if you don’t have one, so be sure to bring this and keep it safe with your passport.

This airport is very small (2 rooms) with the first room being where you get your Tanzania visa. It’s $100 USD for vacationers. Be sure to get clean unmarked new bills to pay this. There aren’t ATMs in here, so you have to come with this money on you.

Once past this area, we grabbed our luggage from the second room and went outside to look for a cell phone/sim card shop (they didn’t have any) and an ATM (they had this!) where we got Tanzanian shillings. We already had our stay booked with the Springlands Hotel which arranged the airport pickup. The Springlands Hotel is Zara Tours hub.

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I took the photo above and below on the drive to the hotel. I was DYING to take photos of the people, and the landscape but I know you really aren’t supposed to take photos of people and everyone else in our van restrained themselves, so I only snapped these two images. Everything was just so different and I wanted to capture it all.

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This was as we made our way into Moshi. It was about 40 minutes from the airport to our hotel. When we left the airport it was surrounded by farm lands and felt very rural. The center of Moshi looked a lot like the photo above with several 1 or 2 story buildings lining the streets. You’ll notice the main road here is paved. As we made our way to the hotel we took a busy unpaved road which seemed like a tire-buster of a road.

After offloading our luggage and being told we would have a late afternoon meeting with our Kilimanjaro guides, we rushed to get a cab and make our way to visit the Good Hope School. A friend of a friend has been working there with and we were excited to meet her and all the students.

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Our time here was really special. It began with the students each introducing themselves and describing their favorite foods and future goals. It was a great chance for them to practice their english and for us to get to know them.

Erica and I talked about our work in the entertainment industry, as many of the students expressed an interest in acting. They are going to be doing a production of the Wizard of Oz soon and sang us some songs and danced for us. This is just such a great place for these students to be. Many students walk a long distance to attend the school and do it because they want to learn. School in Moshi is a privilege and not a mandatory thing like it is in the US, so these kids are very happy to be there. Good Hope is a nonprofit community organization offering schooling to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

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When it was time for photos out in front of their school room, they were so excited. They loved posing for photos. They were all so sweet and had such a positive energy. I can see why people come to this community and want to stay to volunteer.

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(Above) Erica with one of the students.

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(Above) Erica poses with one of the mothers who started this organization and a student.

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Above is Jen, the friend of a friend we were visiting who teaches at the school. She volunteered here for a short time and loved it so much she came back and committed to a longer stay. It’s easy to see why she wanted to come back. Erica and I felt really lucky to get to meet these people and get a taste of real life in Moshi. If you want to donate, check out their website HERE (no pressure).

After spending time with the kids we took a dala-dala into town to grab a quick lunch. The dala-dala is their form of public transportation and is a minivan that they pack with people and use like a bus. Again, I wanted to take a picture of it but with the people around it I felt uncomfortable doing that. This is a good photo of a dala-dala I found online. They always pack everyone in so it’s not uncommon to sit on people’s laps.

daladala (Photo from HERE)

After a quick yummy lunch at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge (American friendly food) we made our way back to the hotel to meet up with our guides, pack and get ready as the next morning we started climbing Kilimanjaro!