Trip Planning for Climbing Kilimanjaro

Trip Start Feb 28, 2008
Trip End Mar 14, 2008

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Flag of Tanzania  , Moshi,
Friday, February 29, 2008

Recently, I along with my boyfriend, Jason, my best friend, Jennifer, and her boyfriend, Nick, went to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro and embark on a four-day safari.  We began planning for this trip in November 2007.  The four of us are in our late 20's, are avid hikers and were looking to do some backpacking in a more exotic location.  After considering other places such as Australia, Peru and Nepal, we decided to go to Tanzania.  One reason was that Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and we thought it was a lofty goal to try to reach the summit.  Secondly, the glaciers on Kilimanjaro, which have been there for thousands of years, are reported to be disappearing, and we wanted to see them before they were gone.  Lastly, we chicks thought a safari afterwards, camping under the African stars, would be nice and romantic.  So after getting unanimous agreement from Jason and Nick, we began looking more deeply into when to go, and with whom.
Tanzania is on the equator, so the weather is always pretty warm (but cool compared to our native Phoenix, Arizona).  But Tanzania does have rainy seasons, from mid-March to May and from November to December.  We wanted to avoid those times, but we settled on the beginning of March, around the shoulder season.  We figured that we would still have a good chance of nice weather and perhaps we would see fewer crowds.  Also, that would leave us with enough time, three months, to amp up our training to prepare for the mountain.  The next step was to figure out what route we wanted to climb.  There are five main trails used which come from all different sides of the mountain.  We wanted something challenging, but also wanted a reasonable chance of succeeding.  So we x'd out the Coca-Cola route (known as the tourist route), the Rongai route (known as an easier climb), and Umwe route (known as a very hard route).  That left Machame and Lemosho.  We decided on the lesser used Lemosho route, considered a difficult route, on an 8-day itinerary.  By using 8-days, we padded our time on the mountain to allow for proper altitude acclimatization.  Some people try climbing Kilimanjaro in 5 days, which by all accounts is pretty idiotic due to the dangers of acute mountain sickness.  The final choice we had to make was who to use as our climb operator.  This was a very hard choice because there were just so many companies out there.  We looked into at least ten companies initially, including both US companies and Tanzanian outfitters.  We found that there was a pretty huge difference in prices that companies were charging.  Basically, the Tanzanian companies charged as low as $1,060 per person (Shah Tours) and the US companies charged as much as $5,600 per person (Alpine Ascents) for comparable itineraries.  We narrowed our companies down to a short-list of three.  The finalists were Tusker Trail (, Kiliwarriors (, and Ultimate Kilimanjaro (, all US companies.  We felt comfortable dealing with a US-based company.  We read horror stories of people who booked with Tanzanian companies, wired money, and then get scammed.  It was a lot easier to communicate with the US companies and they were much more responsive than the Tanzanian companies.  Tusker and Kiliwarriors are well respected companies, but just I couldn't justify paying their prices.  We chose Ultimate Kilimanjaro.  
We flew into Kilimanjaro airport on a KLM flight and were met by a nice young man who would be taking us to our hotel.  About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Springlands Hotel, located on the outskirts of the town Moshi, near the base of Kilimanjaro.  There we checked into our rooms, which were nice and clean, and outfitted with electricity, fans, hot water and mosquito nets.  After a buffet dinner, we organized our belongings.  We were greeted by our happy guide, David.  We went over our itinerary and he inspected our gear to make sure we had all the right stuff.  David has been working on the mountain for nearly 10 years and had climbed it over 80 times.  We were reassured and uplifted by his knowledge, experience and joviality.
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