Our heroine's Epic accent of Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Trip Start Apr 07, 2006
Trip End Oct 2006

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Sunday, August 20, 2006

After our heroine's wonderful experience in Machu Picchu, Peru I did not think that she would want to climb another mountain! I could sense that she was very hesitant to say "yes" to climbing Kili but reluctantly agreed. She knew that it was one of my goals and it was also listed as one of the things to do during a gap year!

So I had the difficulty of trying to a good company to go with. Luckily for us we met Scott and Rachel in London, England, who had just got back from a Safari in Tanzania. They gave us the names of a couple of tour companies, which allowed me to do some research on the internet. Well actually they did a lot of research themselves and gave us the names Pure Afro Travels and Sunny Safari's.

I kind of liked what Pure Afro's had to say on their web page and proceeded to make arrangements for our climb. It was not until 2 days before our flight to Tanzania that I realized that they did not accept credit cards for payment. They wanted a 50% deposit to reserve the climb and would help us arrange a flight from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha but needed us to send them cash! They required over 1 million Tanzanian shillings for everything...... where did they think I was going to come up with that much money at once?!? . Especially since I was in South Africa and not Tanzania??? I could use my credit card but was only allowed to take out a little at a time and had to pay 15% surcharge per transaction.

So in the end I had to tell them that we were putting everything on hold and then got in contact with Sunny Safari's. Sunny Safari's not only accepted credit card payments (charging only 5% extra), they just required my credit card number and details as security. No reservation fee required! So I provided our details and everything was set for our trek up Kili. (I am not too sure our heroine was as excited as I was!!!!!)

We caught our flight to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and got our entry visa with no problems. When we went to pick up our bag, we were asked where we were off to and was quickly partnered up with a travel agent. You would think that we would learn after all that we have been through, but we ended up talking with this guy. He told us there were only 2 flights left, one in 40 minutes that was more expensive and the last flight at 6pm. So we took the 6 pm flight, which was delayed to 8 pm and then further delayed until 9 pm. Ahhhhhh!!!!!! Flying nightmare!!!!!! To top it off, the flight first stopped at Zanzibar Island before going to Mt. Kilimanjaro International Airport, a 45 minute drive from Arusha.

Luckily for us the airline offered a free shuttle to Arusha, not lucky for us was that it was a Sunday night and the shuttle was full of people returning from their weekend break. We managed to squeeze onto the bus and got to our hotel in one piece. We got to the Sunny Safari office to confirm our trek, book a safari in the Ngorongoro Crater, 2 more nights at the hotel and our flight back to Dar. Very convenient, especially since we got to pay with our credit cards!

Looking at all the routes, we both felt that it would be best to book the 6 day trek (instead of the 5 day) on the easier Marangu Route. This gave us one extra day of acclimatization before the accent to the peak. This route also provided small huts to sleep in, so we did not have to freeze our butts off in a tent. Needless to say we did not have the best warm gear for this kind of climb!

We met our guide, assistant guide, cook and waiter/porter on the drive up. Apparently we were supposed to meet up with 2 more porters at the gate, which we were not introduced to! Most groups we met did not know who their entire group was, make sure you get introduced to all the porters before you start the trek!

Our first day consisted of a 7.9 km hike from the park gate at 1970 metres in elevation to an elevation of 2720 metres or 9000 feet. We made sure we had lots of water to hydrate and completed the hike in 2.5 hours. It did not help that we beat our gear to the Mandara campsite and did not get lunch until after 3 pm! Our pace for our climb was not too fast and this elevation did not seem to affect either of us. Very slight hint of a headache, which is not too bad at all. We were awarded with some fresh fruits, veggies and popcorn! There is something about freshly popped popcorn after a hike, it just tastes ohhhh soooo goooood!!!!!!! We met a group from the UK at dinner and then another couple from the Netherlands. Even though our group was just the two of us, it was good to know that we would be seeing the same people on the trail, sharing in all the same experiences!

On the second day, we hit the trail (njia in Swahili) at 8:15 am for our 11.7 km hike. We were off to the Horombo Huts at an elevation of 3720 metres. After just 5.5 hours we reached camp, which was way too fast for our heroine. . Most groups completed the hike in 7-8 hours, while one guy finished in 3.75 hours. Our guide was asking us if we wanted to do the trek in 5 days instead of 6. He was saying that if we were feeling good, sometimes it is better to just keep on going, as the weather changes quite suddenly. I did not think this was too professional of him, especially since we had paid for the 6 days!

I had a slight headache, while our heroine was feeling quite queassssy! On the way to our wonderful snack of popcorn and cookies, Vivian had to run to the bathroom to throw up. When I saw her take off, I was right behind her and unfortunately she did not make it to the bathroom before throwing up twice. She was feeling a bit better and managed to make it to tea time and eat some popcorn and cookies.

Vivian's headache was now quite strong and she decided to take some Advil. Well that did not help in her state for she literally tossed her cookies. She threw once more and decided that she was not feeling well enough to eat dinner. I brought her some food and put it by her bed in case she felt better after some rest. I was getting a little worried and told her that if she was not feeling better, we should probably head back down the next day. One good thing about taking the 6 day trek is that we were to spend two nights at the Horombo Huts.

We had a four bunk hut to ourselves the first night in Mandara but ended up sharing a hut with 2 guys from Wales. They were on their way down, after reaching the peak. After seeing Vivian's state, they gave us some diamox (for altitude sickness) that they got from another girl before their accent. Hopefully it will help but she will have to wait until she is feeling better to take any medication.

I had quite the restless sleep that night, always wondering who was getting up in the middle of the night. It was basically those two guys going pee every couple of hours, or so it seemed! Then around 2 am, I heard crunch, crunch, crunch! Apparently Vivian was starting to feel better and was getting some food in her stomach. Now that was a good sign.

The next morning, Vivian was feeling much better and decided to join us in a short 1.5 hour hike to Zebra Rocks, at an elevation of 4000 metres. After a short break, we headed back down to camp to rest up for the next two days. We met a group from Israel, who were all taking the diamox to help with the altitude. They took one pill every morning and felt no side affects. So when we got back to camp, both Vivian and I took half a pill to see if it helped. It apparently got rid of Vivian's ill feelings and she was feeling that much better!

Our fourth day consisted of a 9.26 km hike, taking us to the Kibo Huts at 4700 metres in elevation. The highest elevation for both Vivian and myself. We took this hike a lot slower and we both felt not too bad. Once again, just a slight hint of a headache. We had dinner at 530 pm and went off to bed. We were supposed to get up at 1145 pm for tea and then head up for the summit at 1230 am. Yikes!

Most groups were leaving for the summit at 11 pm, so we pushed our time up to 1200 am. We were sharing a room with 7 other people and it was difficult to get any sleep! People were busy getting ready for the night climb, while other people were getting up to go to the bathroom. Everyone was told to drink at least 3 litres of water everyday! Crazy huh? No wonder I had to quickly get dressed and use the facilities myself.

We maybe got 2 hours of sleep and it was time to get dressed for the final accent. Vivian was actually feeling queasy when she went to bed and decided to take a diamox before the climb. After some tea and stale cookies, we got suited up and headed out into the cold dark morning..... or night towards the peak. Our start time was 1225 am on Aug 26.

It was a good thing that it was dark out and we could not see just how high the top was. The route was quite steep, so we were walking up switch backs. It was at least minus 10 degrees celsius and the thin gloves we were wearing were just not keeping our hands warm. We were walking in single file, with our guide setting the pace. At time I felt it was a bit quick, as we passed two groups. But Vivian and I were sure glad when we caught up to slower groups, this helped reduce the speed of our accent and gave us a bit of rest.

My hands and feet were freezing, I was tired and my body was starving for food. We had to be mentally strong to keep on going. Take deep breathes...... try and take some water...... get something to eat....... step.... step.... step...... getting weaker by the second. I actually felt that I might be on the verge of blacking out, my body was shutting down it was sooooo fatigued. I was wondering how Vivian was doing and was actually considering turning back down, if she said she was not feeling good.

But when we finally reached Gilman's Point at 5681 metres in elevation, our guide turned to us and said that we were reaching the top for sure. I had a surge of adrenaline and with sun about to rise, everything was getting better. "Its was just another hour to the peak!", our guide told us. At this point, our heroine was not looking too good and the thought of another hour (which is more likely 1.5 - 2 hours) did not appeal to her, but she kept on trucking!

On the final accent to the peak, Vivian was looking like a walking zombie. Our guide then took Vivian by the hand and started to lead/drag her to the top. Once again I felt that the pace was too fast but they could not hear me and I did not have enough energy to yell at them. But we persevered and made it to the Uhuru Peak at 740 am, 5895 metres (or 19336 feet) in elevation. We made it!!!!!!! Wooooohooooo!!!!!!! Wow, was that tough!

Unfortunately Vivian was not feeling all that great and spent most of the time sitting and resting. I took a bunch of pictures and took in the wonderful view before the long trek down. The fatigue was really taking it toll on our heroine and our decent was not very fast. We were on the home stretch to the camp when our heroine gave yet another offering to the mountain gods. With very little food in our bellies, it was mainly water but we were very close to getting some much needed rest. We made it to the Kibo Huts by 1045 am and Vivian got in a couple hours of sleep before our final decent to the Horombo Huts.

Our heroine stuck it out and stood on the highest peak of Africa, Mt. (Milima) Kilimanjaro! We even got a certificate to say that we reached Uhuru Peak, what an accomplishment!

If you are planning on doing this climb, I would strongly suggest taking a 6 day trek. Make sure you have a sleeping bag rated to at least minus 5 degrees celsius (our plus 5 sleeping bags were just a bit too cold), bring warm mittens (or gloves), warm shirts for the Horombo and Kibo huts, a windstopper jacket plus a shell (with a hood), maybe some goggles, wind pants or thick long johns, hat, sunscreen (especially for the neck on the hike up), sunglasses, warm socks, a couple of water bottles (or buy some 1.5 litre bottles of water and refill them), Micro pure water tablets (or other water treatment pills/drops so you can refill your water bottles from the stream), maybe some energy bars and be mentally prepared!

When we left the Kibo Huts for Horombo, some really dark clouds rolled in and we even saw a bit of snow falling. Apparently most of the groups that tried to ascend that night turned around because of the cold strong winds.

Now that the hard part is done, it was time for us to sit back, relax and go on a safari!

bryan and vivian
clouds, frowns, sunshine and smiles!
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