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.

Day3b

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

Day3c

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

Day3d

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

Day3e

Up, up up!

Day3f

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

Day3g

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

Day3h

You can see Erica off in the distance snapping photos.

Day3i

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

Day3j

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

Day3k

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

Day3l

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

Day3m

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

Day3n

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

Day3o

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

Day3p

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

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

Africa 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!).

KiliDetails3KiliDetails4KiliDetails5

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.

KiliDetails1

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

KiliDetails2

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.