Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park

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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Last I left off, Erica and I finished climbing Kilimanjaro with Zara Tours and we were back at the Springlands Hotel. We had an additional rest day here, which was a godsend. I ended up getting pretty ill that night and I needed that extra day to rest and feel better for the second part of my African visit: meeting up with Nomad Tours for our 10 safari!!

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Meeting up with Nomad Tours:
That next morning we took a special ” shuttle van” toward Arusha. Really it was a taxi cab that we ended up sharing with another hotel guest, to another taxi cab in the center of Moshi who then took Erica and I to Arusha where the fellow hotel guest was taking another taxi to Niarobi. It was interesting to see this is the way to get between Moshi and Kenya if you didn’t fly into the local airport. The cab driver dropped us directly at the Ndoro Lodge where we were meeting up with Nomad Tours and I think it cost like $15 USD each? Worth it.

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The tour that I signed up for with Nomad is the Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South. The group technically met in Nairobi where they spent the day driving to Arusha, Tanzania. Since Moshi (where we were) is the town next to Arusha, it made more sense to meet the group at the first hotel in Arusha, rather than travel back to Kenya only to spend the day driving back to Tanzania. This was easy enough to coordinate with Nomad Tours and another couple in the group also met up with the group in this way.

I should also note that Nomad offers different levels of accommodation. Since Erica and I are doing this on a budget we signed up for the “camping” package. It also makes it more of an adventure! This means that we camped in tents (provided by Nomad Tours) and we had to bring along a sleeping bag and pillow. We alway had access to showers and bathrooms as well. The other option is “accommodation” which means a more typical hotel room, but it is a more expensive package.

Another great thing about this tour with Nomad is that this 10 day tour is just one portion of a longer trek. I was doing 10 days of the trek, but Erica was continuing on with the tour for a total of 30 days. This means that if I want I can save up for another trip I can literally pickup with the tour right where I left off and still get to see the same things Erica is seeing now. This also means there is turnover within the tour group as people finish their time and leave, and new people come in for another portion of the trek.

For my 10 day portion of the tour, we were a group of 18 with 2 guides. All of the other guests were from Europe and everyone was over 18. Erica and I were the only Americans. There was a German couple on their honeymoon (in their early 30’s), a father and son from Croatia (in their 40’s and 60’s?), an aunt with her college-aged nieces from Amsterdam, just to give you a sense of the wide age range of all the guests. This was not a party tour of 21 year olds (thank god!).

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Above is Tommy! Each of the Nomad trucks is named after a deceased musician, and we got Tommy. You can see the truck is huge and has tons of compartments for all the gear. Within the truck are lockers and every guest gets 1 (so bring a lock!), comfy seats, and the seating is elevated so you san see above other vehicles which makes the drive more enjoyable. You can also probably guess that this large vehicle stands out on the road, so everywhere we went kids would wave to us. It was adorable.

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Above and the next few photos are all the Ndoro Lodge just outside of Arusha where we spent night 1 and night 5 of the tour. Above is the restaurant portion, and below are the hotel rooms for the guests with the accommodation level travel package.

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The campers (aka me) slept through this gate in a beautiful open courtyard. The tents aren’t out in the courtyard photo above, but I’ll have photos later of our tents. You can see to the left is a clothing line which is great for cleaning and drying clothes, which was very handy when we stayed here night 5 after visiting the Serengeti.

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Once I was finally feeling better I could finally enjoy a post-Kilimanjaro beer! What better beer to order than a Kilimanjaro beer! The restaurant/bar at the Ndoro Lodge had all sorts of drinks, and our meals were prepared by our Nomad Tour guides (Norman and Servius) and included in the price of the tour.

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The next morning we drove to the Meserani Snake Park and Maasai Cultural Museum as we made our way out to the Serengeti to start our safari! These photos are from our Tommy truck, which is why they are blurry, but I wanted to give you a sense of the landscape around Arusha. ***One thing to note- be careful when taking pictures from the van, as police have road blocks all over Tanzania and even if you accidentally take a photo of a police officer you will be fined a lot of money.

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***WARNING- the following photos are very scary and have already given me nightmares***

The Snake Park is very scary for this girl. The only thing scarier than heights are snakes! Part of me considered not going in, but I think my imagination would have made it worse. It’s like I needed to go in just to see that these snakes were locked up, and thankfully most of them were.

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Oh dear lord, just so many nightmares about this place. I think I was the only person in the group who was afraid of snakes. There was a portion of the tour where they let you hold little snakes, which of course I didn’t participate in, but everyone in the group seemed to really enjoy it. I personally would rather take a nap in the crocodile pit than hold a snake.

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The nice thing about the snake park is that there were other orphaned animals too. We got to see several large turtles (above).

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Look at this cutie above. She had been rejected by her tribe (they had a sign explaining it) so being here is better for her health. I heard other people saying that she could slap high-fives! So adorable.

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Here are a few of the larger crocodiles.

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Do you see that little crocodile hiding in the water?

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After the Snake Park, we walked over to the Maasai Cultural Museum. The tour was lead by a Maasai Warrior (not pictured), and was filled with these life-sized dioramas.

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This is the portion of the museum all about circumcision. It was disturbing.

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There’s a portion of the museum dedicated to the clothing and how each outfit represents something different within the tribe. For example boys wear different colors and patterns after they are circumcised at 15 years old.

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The museum exits into a women’s market. Each of these huts (and there are many more un-pictured) is a stall with different jewelry and craft items for sale. I avoided taking pictures of the women selling them, as I was trying to be sensitive to the culture.

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Up next, we make our trek through the Ngorongoro Crater on to the Serengeti where by sunset we have our first game drive! Spoiler- we see lions!

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Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7

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 5 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Barafu Camp (14,930 ft). Now it’s 11pm that same night and it’s time to begin our ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft). This is the start of the climb I’ve been dreading. Assuming we don’t get too sick from the cold and altitude, we should arrive at Stella Point around 6/6:30a to see the sun start to rise and then it’s just a slow low-incline for the next 45 minutes to the actual highest point (Uhurhu Peak). Oh yea, and then we have to get down. Easy-peasy, right?

I should start by saying, my night photos really don’t come out so from the start of our climb at 11pm until about 6am I kept my camera packed away in my backpack. So I don’t have photos to share with you of those 7 hours of hell, but I can assure you the terrain is extremely steep and it goes on and on forever. Hiking without a watch in the dark meant I had no sense of time but the hours seemed to go by so slowly as we inched our way to the top.

When you hike this steepness in the dark, when you look down you see the headlamps of the people on the train below you and above you see the headlamps of the people ahead of you… although those lights seem to stretch all the way into the stars. You can’t tell where the land ends and the sky begins. This really is a marathon hike. The view at 2am and the view at 4am were identical- pitch black with just the headlamps above and below. This plays mindgames with you. How could we have been hiking for so many hours, but it feels like we haven’t moved!?

I would say around 3am I start crying. I’m so deflated, low on energy, cold (my water froze about halfway up), and it feels like we are making no progress. I’m so thankful my sister was there and started asking me questions to distract me from what we were doing. “Tell me your favorite Grandma story” (it was her 96th birthday when we began our summit trek), “who was your favorite teacher?”, “what are you going to have to celebrate when we finish the climb?” (beer and chocolate). This really helped. I also made a rule for myself that I was no longer allowed to look up, or look down. From then on I would only look at Thomas’ feet, and no more breaks. I would stop when I reached Stella Point. The best way to make it through is try to focus on one thing that can distract you all the way to the top.

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After what felt like forever, Thomas said to me “turn around” and that’s when I took my camera out and took the photo above. We were so close to Stella Point and it must have been around 6/6:30am for us to see the sun rising. While hiking I was in such a trance to cope with it all that I didn’t even notice the sun was rising until Thomas pointed it out. We are so close. I’m so low on energy that I give my camera to Thomas and he takes nearly all the photos from Stella Point on to the summit of Uhuru Peak. I feel so lucky to have made it this far and the idea of even holding a camera is not an option, so Im grateful to Thomas for taking over.

When I got to Stella Point I immediately sat down and had a bite of one of my bars. I hadn’t sat down since halfway through the climb and I’m just so tired. One of the guides has a hot water thermos and we take sips of the water. Not long after sitting Erica comes up over the peak with our guide Bruce. We had separated mid-hike and I had no sense of how close or far behind me she was. She was crying at this point, which made me start crying again too. Once you make it to Stella Point, it means you’ll make it to the summit and it felt so good to do it together.

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Here is a photo Erica took of us at Stella Point. On our way up I didn’t take photos of Stella Point, but when we start our descent I took some (later in this post). It this point I’d been resting for a little while and my hands started to shake from the cold. That’s the trick, once you stop hiking your body temperature starts to go down so you really do need to keep moving. Erica had just arrived, so she stayed longer at Stella Point with Bruce and Thomas and I kept moving on to Uhuru Peak.

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Thomas took all of these photos for me. Look at those glaciers. I had no idea what they would look like from this angle. They look huge! Up until now when we looked up at them, they looked so flat against the mountain and it’s from this angle that you can see the depth.

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It was just incredible. Even talking about it now takes me back to that feeling of awe as we slowly walked to the summit.

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With the sun rising, it was all just so beautiful. Also given that it’s sunrise, it’s the clearest (less foggy) time of the day. This is a big perk of climbing it from 11p-7a. If you climb it later in the day you risk getting up to the summit only to be covered in clouds (view-less). Also if you could see the terrain on the way up, I have a feeling most people would give up. In the dark at least we couldn’t see just how far we had to go.

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The shadows in the photo above were crazy, so I had to photoshop it a bit so you could my face. I must have hiked faster than I thought, as there really weren’t many people around me until I reached the summit.

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Did I really just climb Kilimanjaro?

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Above is the view into the crater at the top of the mountain.

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WE DID IT!! Here’s Thomas and I at the summit Uruhu Peak! We are on top of the world.

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(Above) Oh, you know, just hanging out on Kili. Typical day.

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As more people arrived they took photos by the sign and Thomas and I walked around to see each direction off the mountain.

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We are trying to buy time, as I wanted to take photos at the summit with Erica, but she was still back by Stella Point. They say you really can’t be at the peak for more than 15 mintues due to the lack of oxygen due to the altitude. I read that for example, if each breath at sea level you take in 10 oxygen units, up here for each breath you only take in 3 units. Since your brain needs oxygen to function properly, up here you feel drunk if though you’re obviously not.

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Thank goodness! Erica arrived and we took some fun photos and then I had to take off to head back down with Thomas.

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Thomas and I looped back down to Stella Point where now I was feeling well enough to pose for photos. With the sun now out it started to get warmer too.

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Here’s Thomas and I at Stella Point (18,885 ft).

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It’s  around here where I need to put my camera away and focus on getting down this crazy mountain. Up until now I had been so focused on getting up the mountain that I didn’t really think about how me we were getting down. I don’t have photos of the terrain, as my camera was away and I was just so exhausted. I felt not well the whole way down.

The terrain heading back is scree. Scree is loose rock and dirt that you basically ski/slide down with your feet. It’s not a solid path. Thankfully by sliding it means we can go down much faster than I thought… but it’s also like you’re sliding down Kilimanjaro. Scary for me as I’m so afraid of heights. You just don’t have a lot of control trying to slide down scree.

I arrived back to our campsite at Barafu Camp around 11a(?), where I immediately went to sleep. When Erica got back to camp we had lunch and then rested some more. At 2:30p we had to pack up and start our trek to our next campsite, Mweka Camp (3,100 ft). Yup in 1 day we will have gone to 19,300 ft back down to 3,100 ft, all on our two feet.

It takes 4 hours to hike down to the Mweka Camp, and after the insane night/day that we’ve had, that 4 hours feels very long. The terrain goes from dry and rocky to slippery/muddy, as you hike down in a riverbed and end up within the jungle layer again. Once I arrived at Mweka Camp (around 6:30/7pm), we ate dinner and went directly to sleep. Erica and I were both SO tired.

The following morning we hiked the 3-4 hours through the very wet rainy jungle layer to the end of the Machame Route. **Bring some type of rain jacket layer. Thomas said in this portion of the hike it’s always raining.  After signing in at the station, a bus is packed up with all the porters, guides, chef, waiter etc. It’s at this point that you really get to see how many people it took for Erica and I to get up the mountain. Wow. That’s a lot of people.

We ride the bus back into Moshi to the Springlands Hotel. Here we get our room for the night, pick up our luggage that was being stored. Then we meet back with Thomas and Bruce out in the hotel courtyard where we figure out the tip for everyone and receive our certificate for having summited Kilimanjaro.

Now when it comes to tipping, it’s very confusing. Zara gave us a 2014 tipping guide when we booked the tour, which had conflicted information from with Bruce was telling us about the process of handing out tip. For example everything we read said give the money directly to the porters, but since it’s all kept away from us, it’s hard to tell who our porters are. Bruce said Zara doesn’t want people bringing money on the mountain (to prevent the threat of getting it stolen) so tip was to be figured out back at the hotel away from where the porters are. It was all a bit confusing, but Erica and I followed the tipping guide that Zara had sent to us. This worked out to being approximately $350 each? I have no clue if this was enough or too much, but it’s what Zara had recommended. Plus it was really all I could afford to do. I hope it was enough given how good our guides, chef, waiter and porters were.

Please contact me if you have any specific Kilimanjaro questions that I didn’t answer in my posts. I highly recommend Zara Tours and specifically Bruce and Thomas. They are really the only reason Erica and I made it to the summit.

This is the final post about Kilimanjaro, and next I’ll get into the safari portion of my trip with Nomad Tours!

 

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
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 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.

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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.

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

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There’s that jungle layer down below.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Finally we can see a view at the Barranco Camp.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Above is our home for the night.

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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
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Up, up up!

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

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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).

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You can see Erica off in the distance snapping photos.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 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.

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.

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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.