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
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7

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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.

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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.

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We still have a LOT to go! Eek.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Up we go!!

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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.

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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?!”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Above the fog slowly slips away.

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

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

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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.

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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
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
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Above, the porters are all gearing up.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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
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
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
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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.

Celebrating July 4th in Big Bear (Mountain-Style)

Did everyone have a fabulous 4th of July? Did you check out my instagram? I was in Big Bear for the 4th of July an it was AWESOME! A bunch of friends chipped in on renting THIS cabin from HomeAway and boy was it fun.

Only 2 hrs outside of LA, it felt like a real getaway without being too difficult to get to. I drove up after work on Thursday the 3rd. I stopped off at a Ralphs to get some food essentials to share with the gang. I arrived around 10pm on Thursday evening to see our awesome bear-themed cabin. Everyone was in the hot tub when I arrived.

The house had a master suite, 1 bedroom with a queen bed, and a bedroom with full size bunk beds and another queen bed. We also had two sitting areas, each with fold out couches. Lets just say our huge group fit comfortably. Everyone brought some food along and we ate each meal at the house (a money saver) plus it was super fun cooking and helping prepare the food. I’m not a good chef, so my way of helping was on the cleaning end.

The cabin was also so full of activities: a hot tub, ping pong/pool table, picnic table on a big deck, foosball table, and giant dining room table which was perfect for boardgames. One of my favorite things to do on any vacation is get up early and do a neighborhood walk. This was especially nice in Big Bear, as we were on the south side of the lake in a great walking neighborhood. There were several spots with views of the lake.

On Friday our first big activity was renting a pontoon boat! We walked to the docks, then realized we made a reservation at a different dock and raced over to the right dock (on the north side of the lake).

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By the first dock was a pirate boat for rent! That was a bit more than we needed, but I still needed to take a picture with my boyfriend (above), Black Beard.

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After making our reservation at the right dock we took the boat out on the lake for 2 hours of pure boating bliss. We packed sandwiches and snacked out on the water. Our plan was to swim (technically not allowed) but the water was so cold we just put our feet in. The clouds came and went and we even saw a rain storm brewing on the mountain.

At 2pm we made our way back to the cabin where it became hot tub/shower/nap time for most of us.

Around 5pm we walked to the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain where for 4 dollars you ride a chair lift up he mountain and sled your way down.

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Here’s a shot (above) of some of the group preparing to sled down. Super fun and super cheap! I highly recommend this even for young kids visiting the lake. We also had tremendous views from the top while waiting in line.

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After Alpine Sledding, and a bbq at the house, we packing up our to-go drinks and walked to the water for an excellent view of the fireworks show over the lake.

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The next morning while making breakfast we experienced a pretty big earthquake! The cabin was a’shakin! After the quake, some rain storms rolled in so we decided to have a big game of 7 Wonders at the giant dining-room table. It was a lot of fun, especially playing in teams due to the large number of people participating.

Another great group game we discovered on this trip is Quickwits. It was developed by a coworker of mine and is a great party game. We ended up playing this multiple times throughout the weekend. It’s got a similar vibe to Cards Against Humanity, is super easy to pickup, and doesn’t take too much focus/time so it was a great “lets play around while the food’s grilling” game.

Once the storms passed, we made our way out for a short hike. Turns out the hike required pretty much off-roading in order to reach it. My Mazda 3 was SUPER not happy about it. But we did get some exercise eventually, which was the goal. And it was on this hike where I took the above photo. You can see the clouds started rolling back in again.. we even heard thunder! It was exciting for us city-folk.

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Here’s a shot of the hikers above. When we made our way back to the house and rejoined the rest of the gang, we had a fun bbq’ing night. After dinner I had to take off to try to beat the sunset down the mountain and head back to LA. The group continued on for another day, kayaking and picnicking out by the water.

I think it was unanimously a fun weekend full of good times. Especially given our large group, it was great to find so many activities we could all participate in. I’m loving these staycations! Big Bear for the 4th was a big hit and I totally recommend it to people looking to get a taste of the mountains.

#SistersOnSafari

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So it’s officially, official! Tickets are all booked! In July I am meeting up with my sister (As Her World Turns) in Kenya where she and I will go to Tanzania and hike Kilimanjaro with Zara Tours. After that we join Nomad Tours for a 10 day safari. I won’t be bringing my computer, which means I won’t be live-posting anything to the blog during that time…. BUT you can follow me on twitter and instagram and facebook as I’ll be live-updating photos of the excursion. My sister and I will both be tagging everything #SistersOnSafari, so if you search that hashtag you’ll get to see both of our updates in real time. When I’m back of course I will share all of it here on Life Absorbed. Check out my sisters POST about her upcoming 4 months in Africa, as I’m only joining her for 3 weeks of it.

Now I know this trip is still 6.5 weeks away (!! that actually feels soon!) and I’ll update you with all this info right before I leave, but I’m just excited to officially hare the news with you. Happy Thursday everyone!

Here Comes The Rain

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LA, the rain is coming! Are you ready? I’m looking forward to it. Los Angeles needs the water. This week seems to be my last week of daytime freedom before I start up on a project, and it’s jam packed with fun. Yesterday I reached a big goal of finishing all of the Secret Stair walks from Charles Fleming’s book (a big goal of mine). I’ll be finishing up a table today, and also visiting the Reagan Presidential Library this afternoon. When the rain rolls in, I’m looking forward to deep cleaning the house, reading my book and working on some blog posts for you. February is over at the end of the week, so expect a resolutions check-in. Lots to do, lots to do!

UPDATE:

The Reagan Presidential Library is a lot of fun! Expect a write-up on my visit soon.

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Weekend Time!

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It’s Weekend time! Are you ready? I had a fabulous Thursday night hitting up Mr. C with my uncle and some good friends. Who knew that was such a scene? I highly recommend it for the people-watching. On to weekend plans- who’s gott’em?

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Tonight, Friday February 21, 2014, The Comedy Bureau’s Jake Kroeger is hosting Night Cap at Goorin Bros. Hat Shop on Melrose in Hollywood. The show costs $5 and starts at 8:30p. Come see Maria Bamford, Margot Leitman, Baron Vaughn, Andy Peters and more!

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On Saturday, February 22, 2014, The Echo is hosting Sock Puppet Sitcom Theater Presents: The Golden Girls! It starts at 8p and tickets are $10. This is going to be awesome.

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If you’re looking for something equally as old school but a little more hip+happenin’, Drink:Eat:Play is throwing an 80’s Prom Party at the Fonda starting at 9pm on Saturday. Tickets are $30.

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Neil Hamburger has a show on Sunday February 23rd at the Satellite, with guests Nick Flanagan, Jason Rouse, Brody Stevens and Eddie Pepitone! Tickets are $8 and you can get them here.

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If hiking is more your thing, what better than to check out Modern Hiker’s beautifully redesigned website, pick a trail and make your Sunday all about nature! And of course stop by Golden Road for a post-hike refreshing beer.

Secret Stair Walk #15: Avon Baxter Loop

—  In 2012 I had the goal to do all 42 walks from my book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I was 10 walks shy of meeting my goal, but thats means I get to enjoy the Secret Stair walks in 2013! These posts are to (hopefully) convince you to buy the book and get out there to explore the secret stairs around LA. Enjoy!  —

It’s always a delight to take a Sunday morning Secret Stair walk in Echo Park, and even more fun when a few friends join in. We met up at Chango to explore walk #15: Avon Baxter Loop.

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Haha the photo above still makes me laugh. People in this town are so creative. This Missing/Wanted poster is an ad for the play Terminator Too Judgement Play at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. It stars the original cast of Point Break Live (for those who got to check that out). Anywho.. the walk continues..

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Graffiti fun!

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Up, up up!

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The above photo is to illustrate the steepness.

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We walk down the hill to catch these massive stairs, up we go!

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The views make it all worth it and distract from the stair climbing pain.

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Toward the end of the loop, we made a friend!

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Color fun.

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Windows, doors and texture. I love it all.

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We stopped into this shop, The Dog Show, to try on some clothes. It really felt like a Portlandia skit. One wall was completely covered in wig hair. I just couldn’t resist stopping in here.

Palos Verdes

After spending several hours exploring the Nixon Library, it was time to move along to our afternoon destination, Palos Verdes.

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We made our way down the 110 and then just drove along the coast on Palos Verdes Drive South (looping up onto Palos Verdes Drive West). We stopped along at several of the little parking overlook areas along the road to take pictures and enjoy the view.

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The above 2 photos were taken above the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles.

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The next place we spent significant time was in Abalone Cove. We had to pay to park ($5?) but it was worth it.

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Follow the path down to the rocky beach.

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Bring shoes that are comfortable for climbing over these rocks (aka not flip flops).

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When we arrived (around 4pm) the sun was already starting to set. Our big regret was not getting here sooner, because it was awesome. Although now we know that we could easily spend a day at this beach. Around 4p surfers were hitting the waves.

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Nude Sunbathing Prohibited!

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Once we arrived at the tide pools, we didn’t want to leave. At first I thought “What are all these people looking at” and upon closer examination realized almost everything here was living. It made me really think about reach step, as to not hurt the marine life. You would see what looks like a pile of shells and rocks, but if you poke it, it MOVES! So cool! There were plenty of kids and adults.

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We were pretty protected near the pools, but if you climbed way out on the rocks (like these fishermen) you would be facing some giant waves.

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See? So cool!!

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It’s easy to miss all the marine life if you aren’t really focused on it.

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So much to explore! Each little pool of water had so much life in it. And experts/volunteers from the Natural History Museum were there to help explain what we were seeing. Everyone is super friendly and wants to show you and share in the enjoyment of marine life.

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The sun was setting, so we had to make our exit. The parking lot closed at dusk. We continued along on our Palos Verdes sea-side drive until we hit Point Vicente Lighthouse.

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It was so beautiful catching sunset from this spot. The lighthouse was closed, but it was beautiful to walk the paths along here. Many people were doing engagement photos and other photo shoots.

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We walked through the outside of the Point Vicente Interpretive Center- which looked like a little maritime center. You can see the people at the far end of the photo had been whale watching, since this is the furthest point which allows you to see south and west.

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As the sun fully set we walked back to the car and finished our loop of Palos Verdes. Now we know, plan more time than just an afternoon. There are so many walking/bike paths to explore, that I could spend so much time there. If there are any camping beaches, I should just move there.

2012 Resolution Recap

It’s that time! Time to see what I was able to get done over the last 365 days. I’ll start by going through my 2012 New Year Resolution List. (Sorry for another pictureless post)

Life Absorbed’s 2012 Resolution List

– Complete all 42 walks in “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA”
I wasn’t able to finish the entire book due to some health issues, but I certainly did 80% and now I have the pleasure of enjoying the walks as I complete the rest in 2013.

– Go rock climbing! I got to go indoor rock climbing with Amber, Lindsey and Adam thanks to a groupon to Hangar 18. Despite my crazy fear of hieghts, I was actually pretty good and got into it. I’m no pro, but I would gladly go again.

– Do at least one “monster” walk in 2012. Use my new “Car-Free LA” book to find a good really long walk and make a day of it. This didn’t get to happen. I’ve done monster walks alone, but they are more fun with a friend and my walking buddy Michelle had a wild year of getting pregnant and giving birth to lovely Cole. This goal will have to pushed to my 2013 resolution list.

– Resume hikes from my hiking book! Give those new hike boots a work out. I wasn’t too successful completing a ton of new hikes from my hike book, although I did complete a handful from the book in 2012. Bigger than that, I hiked Mount Whitney! That’s a pretty big goal for 2012, in fact I was so concerned I wouldn’t follow through with it, I didn’t add it to my resolution list from 2012. And I did it! 

– Go camping! Camping happened for a few days around Mt. Whitney as well as on The Channel Islands and when I went tubing the Kern River. 

– Hike (or ski) Mt. Baldy. I got to complete this with weights as I was training for Mount Whitney. I actually found this to be more of a challenge. 

– Go back to Catalina! When my parents came to town in September, we got to take them to Catalina and took them parasailing. My sister and I had so much fun doing it last year, that when another groupon deal came up, we bought enough for all of us to go as an anniversary gift to them. 

– Keep filling my nights and weekends with fun activities, even if it means being tired the next day. It’s worth it! This is of course hard to gauge, but I think I did a really good job at going out a lot after work and on weekends. In fact I went out so much didn’t get a ton of my night walks in. It’s about finding a balance and I have to be better about that in 2013. 

– Visit Hearst Castle. Check! I got to go when my parents came to visit and loved it. As a family we took a weekend trip up there and drove back along the coast stopping at the small beach towns. 

– Go cross-country skiing for the first time. I wasn’t able to complete this (due to lack of snow last winter) but the groupon was extended into 2013 which means I’ll be going this winter and already Big Bear has gotten some great snow. 

– Go white-water rafting. Another side-effect of no snow in the winter, is that the run-off over the summer is so depleted that there’s not enough water to make it “white water”. But in place of rafting, we got to enjoy tubing down the Kern. I’m looking forward to white water rafting in the summer of 2013!

– Go kayaking. I got to do this during my weekend excursion to the Channel Islands as well as doing it about 3 times when I was visiting my parents in Cape Cod this past summer. I love it.

– Try yoga. Did it repeatedly! I love the Core Power Yoga free Sunday noon class. Although I didn’t realize you needed to pay to borrow the mats, so I didn’t realize I was stealing every time I went. But now that I’ve realized it I will be investing in a yoga mat in 2013 🙂

– Try spinning. I did not do that this year, although I really need to. I ended up canceling my gym membership this year, so now I’ll have to pay to go to a class but I still want to do this. The only reason I didn’t complete this goal was because I was busy, and frankly I forgot about it. This is why it’s good to do midyear resolution recaps, to remind myself what I still need to complete. 

– Make new recipes to last during the week. This I did only a few times. It’s hard to make meals for one. Also my job often provides meals that are around dinner time, so it’s nice to save money by eating that food and leave the cooking to the professionals. 

– Go to Chicago to visit my good friends and see a new city. CHECK! This was a really fun resolution. I got to lump a short stopover in Chicago onto my summer trip to Cape Cod. I had such a great time visiting friends and seeing the tourist sights (the FLW House!). 

– Keep up my nightly walks. An hour a day does so much. As I explained above, I did this but not as regular as I used to (since my walking buddy was busy having babies and I started doing more event stuff at night). But in 2013 I’m going to go back to doing this a solid 5 times a week, if not more. 

– Try new bars, restaurants and museums from my “L.A. Bizarro” book. (As Amber pointed out to me, we don’t have to see any of the porn-esque stuff and that is agreed). I got to do a bunch of these with Amber earlier in the year, although they did take a back seat to all of my other goals as the year went on. It’s worth digging this book out again and going more in 2013. 

– If someone says, “try this hike with me” or “lets do this sport” or any other physical activity, say yes! So far so good. Saying yes to life has only meant good things.

– “Grow a Pair!” In 2012 I need to face the little fears. I successfully faced giant fears in 2011, so this should be easy right? I’m always working on that, and that’ll continue into 2013. 

– As a part of “Growing A Pair”, I’m going to go on dates in 2011. It’s something Ive been putting off because I hate doing it, but why not? If it’s the worst, then oh well. If it’s great then maybe I get a new friend out of the deal. I’ve jumped out of a plane, I think I can handle a silly little date. So send your single, outdoorsy, male friends my way. This remains true in 2013. Also, I’ve decided that “date” is too scary a word, and only call them “friend meetups” in an attempt to making dating less scary. 

– And of course I will work hard to maintain you, Life Absorbed. I wish I had started you last Jan. 1st, so now I must make up for lost time. I feel like in one year I did a lot to improve the blog. I tried (and I’m always trying) to come up with new features like Font Friday and Do This Today. I try to blog 1 or 2 times daily midweek and once on the weekends. I also designed a business card for the blog and changed the layout a bit. The “Life Absorbed” logo photo shoots where fun, and I hope to do more in 2013. Now all my photos have watermarks and I really work hard to make improvements as I get feedback. I’ve gotten retweeted by Scott Aukerman this year. I’ve gotten “shared” on facebook by some of my favorite comedians and even CBS included me in an article about the Secret Stairs of LA. It’s been good progress and I’m looking forward to more improvements in 2013!

This completes my resolution list for 2012. I can honestly say I gave it 110% and filled my time to capacity. There’s only so much time to get things done and I have no regrets with how my time was spent in 2012. I also want to share some things I did that weren’t on my 2012 resolution list:

A big Hawaii trip that included zip-lining, snorkeling, and hiking around an active volcano. Visiting the Queen Mary with my parents. Sitting in the UCB green room with Doug Benson and Zach Galifinakis (thanks Gabe!). The 1 million comedy shows I saw this year (I’m only exaggerating a little). Finally seeing David Cross do stand up! A fun weekend getaway to Palm Springs. My first hospital visit (not a good situation, but it could have been so much worse). Running the Denver Turkey Trot and getting to enjoy Denver fun. Getting to be Shari Lewis for the day. Doing all my DIY projects. Brunches with the girls. Visiting the JPL and going to about 5 neighborhood festivals. Doing the Color Run with Lindsey. Having my celebrity crush, Harris Wittels, comment on my blog. Tubing Mt. Baldy with Michelle and Lindsey. A weekend getaway to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. Visiting the horse racing park for Tom’s birthday. Going to a Beer Collaboration event. Magic Castle with the girls. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Chinatown. Gosh, this has been a busy year!