Europe, Africa · 9 Days · 21 Moments · August 2018

Touch the Sky

18 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 7 (cont.) I was really glad we got there when we did (one of the first few to Uhuru) because as we started descending it was getting massively crowded. Traffic jams everywhere. So after such a triumph I started to get loopy because of the altitude. We did our best to descend quickly but the way down was awful. We went a different way - down past Stella Point - but it was horribly painful. Downhill through scree for hours. We then had several more hours to get to our agreed lunch spot and my knees were destroyed. And then after lunch it was another 2 hours to camp. I was so exhausted my brain felt totally fried. At camp I got to shower again and then we did the tipping ceremony for the porters. Such a great group of people - they really made the trip. Tomorrow up early again to hike to the gate and then off to the hotel before heading to Zanzibar.
Kilimanjaro Day 7 I did it! Wow what an experience! Definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I hardly slept before getting up at 11PM for a meal and then heading out. I barely had an appetite for anything other than the cookies laid out and sweets basically became my diet for the next 18 hours. We headed off shortly before midnight and the wind was horrible. Climbing in the darkness with nothing but a headlamp was frustrating because you couldn’t see how much farther. Most of the first 5 hours was a series of switchbacks over scree. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the wind and we made really good time (just over 5 hours to Gilman’s Point where we were met with even worse winds over the crater. I had a brief bought of tears as I was so happy the first part was done. Then it was off around the crater in the darkness to Uhuru Peak and we also made record time getting there just at sunrise 6.5 hours all-in.

17 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 6 (cont.) Chef made me pizza for lunch today but I really didn’t have much appetite. Finally feeling some of the effects of the altitude. Respicius gave me the summit night briefing after lunch. I’ve now dressed myself in all the gear I will wear tonight as we sleep in our gear given how cold it will be on the climb. 6 of us will summit together while the rest sleep and then pack up and move to our final camp. It will be a long day tomorrow - between 12 to 14 hours. Mental toughness!! 🧗🏼‍♀️💪🏻
Kilimanjaro Day 6 (cont.) So the 5 hours turned into less than 3 and by the time we got to camp the porters were still setting up. Apparently I’m moving at a super quick pace compared to others. Although we are slowly walking on the trail, I haven’t needed that many stops so we make good time. It was very cold and windy today though with barely any sun until the end of the hike. We are at Kibo Hut and it is already super crowded with porters from other camps. I think I am the first client to arrive though. Now I wait for lunch and then rest. Super windy again, hopefully it isn’t cold tonight!
Kilimanjaro Day 6 Dinner last night was very good (we received fresh food from the bottom of the mountain) but I am starting to lose a bit of appetite. Hopefully just the nerves about the task ahead over the next 36 hours. Off to base camp this morning. About a 5 hour hike up a steady incline just like yesterday’s acclimatisation hike. Slow and steady will be the pace as Respicius said we will prepare for summit night that way. We will gain about 3k of elevation during the day today. Once we get to camp we will have lunch and then I’m allowed to nap as our wake up time is 11PM! Who knows if I’ll get any sleep as Kibo Hut is supposed to be pretty crowded. It’s getting very real now! 😬

16 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 5 It was so windy last night the back half of my tent blew up and it took me awhile to fall asleep once it was fixed. Up again at 7 - this time a bit tired because of the longer trek yesterday and the wind during the night - and after breakfast off around 8:15 for the next camp. Again pretty easy day, just less than 3 hours to Rongai 3 but on the way we got to see some bush buck in the wild. Given we got there so early we did our acclimatisation hike straight away on the path to the Outward Bound base camp. We will summit from Kibo so will go a different way tomorrow. Several of the porters had already left with water for Kibo as this is the last stop with water on our way to the summit! I haven’t really been feeling the altitude other than being a bit harder to breathe but my stomach started to feel a little off after lunch so I’ve taken some antibiotics. Now the afternoon and evening to rest, although there is just as much wind at this camp as the last!

15 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 4 (cont.) The sun was out most of the day and although it was super windy it was really warm. I stayed out of the sun though as wanted to avoid getting burnt. Tonight’s meal was OK my least fave so far - some odd stew with bananas in it. You can really see them trying to recycle all the food so nothing goes to waste which is good. It’s not particularly cold tonight but it is really windy. We are the only people at this camp and it feels a bit like we are on the face of the moon.
Kilimanjaro Day 4 (cont.) We stopped for lunch at a point overlooking endless clouds on one side and the mountain on the other. Food was once again simple and delicious. We were at our lunch point for about 45 minutes before we headed back on the trail. There was one more major climb on the journey to our camp which definitely reminded me this was a serious climb and not just a leisurely hike but we took it really slow and I wasn’t out of breath at all. No signs of altitude sickness at all today. We arrived at Porfu Camp about and hour and half later and now it’s time to rest until shower time!
Kilimanjaro Day 4 Today was a good long day of hiking. After another cold and this time windy night, we got up at 7 for breakfast and then we off to the next camp by 8. I was fully suited up this morning because of the wind. Gloves, winter hat, rain pants over my running tights and I kept them all on basically the whole way to the next camp. Although it was sunny, it was super windy and so pretty chilly. Our first big climb took 40 mins (the same hike as the acclimatisation hike from yesterday) and then we were off through a series of rolling valleys in the alpine desert. It took about 3.5 hours for us to get to our stopping point for lunch and I was playing tunes from my iPhone as motivation for our hike.

14 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 3 (cont.) So Respicius said don’t nap as he wanted me to be tired enough to have a good night sleep. The lunch helped a lot and I made a conscious decision to drink more water (and make more trips to my private toilet). The sun came back out and it got a bit warmer but it remained really windy. I stayed in the lounge tent and my tent to avoid getting sun or wind burnt and read my book. Over tea Respicius was telling me about his goal to climb all 7 summits (he has done 5). He has met so many people that are trying to support him. Once he gets his Go Fund Me up I told him I will help market his cause. Another early night as this camp is sooo cold!
Kilimanjaro Day 3 (cont.) Quick journey today. We were at the next camp (Moir Hut) in 1.5 hours after splitting off the trail from those that are headed to the Barranco wall. Nothing too strenuous but a pretty slow pace for most of the walk. We got to camp so early that Respicius suggested we just do the acclimatisation hike right away and then come back for lunch as it was only 10:30. The hike was the first tough bit of the trip. Straight up a wall face with some scrambling as well. We managed .5k in 45 minutes. But the views of the valley below were amazing. I’m starting to feel the altitude a tiny bit. Just a bit of a foggy headache on the horizon. Am hoping lunch and a nap does the trick and gets rid of it.
Kilimanjaro Day 3 Dinner last night was more soup and beef stir fry which was pretty good. My guide showed me some videos of his daughter who is the youngest person to ever summit the Umbwe route at 9 years old. Really inspiring as she was so young and it is the hardest of the routes still available. Early to bed again as once the sun goes down it gets cold and it takes a while for me to warm up in my sleeping bag. Slept through the whole night practically. Only woke up once to turn my music off at about midnight. The camps had quieted down by then so it was easy to fall back asleep without it and then woke up at 6. Another cold morning and another short day ahead of us. Less than 5k to the next camp so we aren’t heading out until around 9am. Plenty of time for it to warm up but my hands are really cold right now - good thing I brought like 3 pairs of gloves!

13 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 2 (cont.) More great food. Lunch was some veggie fritters, salami, bread and tomato sauce. Even super simple stuff can taste awesome - it also helps that he is loading everything with garlic which I love. Took a 30 minute nap after we ate and then we did another quick hour long hike further up the trail for a bit more acclimatisation before hearing back down to camp for the night. I was told I had to make my own baby mountain so that when I come back or my friends come back then can add to it. So far so good with the altitude. We go slow on the steeper bits and then otherwise go at a normal pace. Never really out of breath which is great. I’m going to shower if you can believe it and then it’s time for more rest and dinner ahead of tomorrow.
Kilimanjaro Day 2 (cont.) The waiter came at 7am to deliver hot tea and a bowl for washing which was a nice way to wake up. I dressed in some warmer leggings and a tank, long sleeve and my fleece for breakfast. The food here is pretty delicious. Eggs and fruit and banana bread to eat along with more tea. And then we were off by 8am with 10k to trek today. The first K was slow going (like 45mins) because it was uphill and rocky terrain and I think the guide was trying to figure out what I could handle. After that we really picked up the pace and made it to our next camp in around 3 hours. The views are stunning! We had clear views of the peak the whole morning and then as we neared camp we saw Mt. Meru in Kenya above the cloud line as well. I was welcomed at camp with the big song and dance routine again which I love. The team here are so friendly! They are now setting up for lunch while the other camps start trickling in.
Kilimanjaro Day 2 OK it’s cold here. I went to bed at about 7PM after another great meal. Garlic bread, yummy veggie soup and some pasta and salad and some chocolate dessert. It took awhile to fall asleep because all the other camps including my own were still bustling but it was getting dark and cold after dinner so I thought it best to try to start sleeping early now to practice for summit night. It took an hour or so to get myself warm in my sleeping bag but once I did it was totally fine. It was just my face that kept me up! I woke up again at around midnight and was fighting the urge to use my outdoor bathroom but finally got up around 1am to see more stars than I have maybe ever seen in my life. Back to bed to toss and turn for a bit but then finally get up as the camp started to rise at 6am to frost on the ground and Kibo peak in all its glory!

12 August 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 1 (cont.) We arrived at Londorossi Gate at about 10:30 where the group of porters had already weighed in our gear and allocated. The travel agent grossly underestimated the number as it is 21 porters going up with me, plus a cook, a waiter, a personal porter to carry my day pack and 2 guides!! It literally takes a village to get an over privileged white woman up a mountain! After signing in and completing some paperwork we drove another 30 minutes to the Morum trailhead where we stopped for lunch before starting the actual hike. A little bit of the glacier was finally visible as we sat and enjoyed a lunch of chicken, quiche and some salad. They even brought instant coffee and tea! We then set off after lunch over the Shira Plateau for Shira Camp 1.
Kilimanjaro Day 1 (cont.) It was a short day on the trail - only about an hour. The guides left the lunch site and sprinted ahead with packs on their heads off to the first camp while Arun, Respicius, and my personal porter (whose name escapes me at the minute) walked behind at a very slow pace. Most of the trail was flat with a few places where we had to cross tiny ravines. My breathing was OK other than on those few steep hill climbs where I was a little out of breath. We arrived at Shira Camp 1 around 3PM and it was already partly set up. Apparently I have a shower here 😱 my own sleeping tent, a mess tent, a lounge tent and a bathroom. I mean I should be embarrassed if I don’t get up the mountain with all this luxury!
Kilimanjaro Day 1 After a nice 5 course dinner last night I headed to bed about 10 for what I hoped we be another restful sleep. Unfortunately the hotel is right near the local mosque and what should have been a 6am wake up from my alarm actually started at 5am with periodic calls to prayer and singing from a loud speaker that sounded like it was right next to my room. Machweo was nice enough for a stop over but that mosque is a killer for the relaxation vibes. I took what would be my last shower for a week 😬 and then repacked my gear and met my guide at reception. Apparently there are even more porters going with us but will confirm final numbers at the gate so I need the office to give me more cash - ugh. My guide Respicius has been doing this for over 20 years and has taken people up in their 80s and as young as 9! Now headed off to the gate to check in and start the short first day.

11 August 2018

Machweo Wellness Retreat This is more like it. Landed in Tanzania to overcast weather on a prop plane from Nairobi. Immigration much smoother given I already had the visa. First one through the line, bags all off the plane (minus the one that never made it to Africa) and straight to my driver. Drive to the hotel was about an hour over a dual carriageway through farmland. Lots of very dry looking corn - wonder if there is a drought here. Drove past a US EX-IM branch office, the cynic in my wondering if Monsanto is in some partnership with the farmers here and that’s why there is an EX-IM branch (maybe it was due to watching The Constant Gardner shortly before leaving that I jumped to an African conspiracy theory). Arrived at the hotel and was so exhausted even the front desk attendant commented on how tired I looked. After a 3 hour nap, I had a late lunch of delicious steak salad and then got a massage. Am fully relaxed now and maybe even ready for the hike 😬
Ugh. Long day and night. The Gwendolyn Christie sighting was the highlight because they lost my bag with my sleeping bag and it took nearly 2 hours to get my transit visa at the border. I was the last person out of the airport! Then I got to the hotel and had to wait for my room and by the time I fell asleep it was 1:30. Back to the airport at 6 to queue for 2 more hours in various lines before I finally get to my gate. 😩. So tired! Next time need a fixer in Kenya.

10 August 2018

OH MY GOD! Gwendolyn Christie, the one and only, Brianne of Tarth from Game of Thrones is in the upper deck on my flight! Already best vacay ever!