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.

IMG_5732 (Photo by As Her World Turns)

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!

 

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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 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.

Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School

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

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

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GettingThereMap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Above) Erica with one of the students.

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

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

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

daladala (Photo from HERE)

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