Christmas Eve 2018 – I began to seriously consider a trip to Kilimanjaro. Research is now underway! Had asked a few friends if they had any interest in such a trip. Some said they did not while others said they did but wouldn’t be able to do it in the upcoming year. Cool, sounds like I’m going solo! I think we can all agree that we find ourselves talking about going to cool and exotic places, but often keep placing those dreams on the back burner. I totally get it, yes life does get in the way. While I’m in good physical condition, I don’t want to wait for that so-called “day of retirement,” I need to take the pot off the stove and kick it into gear while I can “enjoy.” it. For a while now my mantra has been “do it and then talk about it!”
January 25, 2019 – Narrowed all my Kili guide companies to that of http://kili-bomaadventures.com based on Five Star Trip Advisor ratings, reviews and price was the bonus to seal the deal! From this point until September 9, communication with Jumanne and any questions I had about the trip were answered in a flash! Trip deposit sent.
February 4, 2019 – Delta flight secured!
July 2019 – Immunizations underway!
DAY 1 – “A LOOONG WAY TO GET THERE!”
Wow, time to go!! A VERY surreal feeling! Mostly because I’m doing this adventure solo, but realizing I’ll probably meet a lot of great travelers along the way.
Ok, time to get to my gate now!. Delta is ready when I am (unlike American Airlines)! Boarding commenced at 4:45pm, I believe with a departure of like 5:30pm. As soon as I sat down at my window seat, a super nice lady from Dallas named Candy sat next to me. She is traveling to Kilimanjaro area as well but just for a safari which includes a hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti in which Beth and I will hopefully explore that soon. She’s rendezvousing with an LA friend of hers in Amsterdam. For the next 5 of an 8.5 hour leg to Amsterdam, we had a very pleasant conversation.
DAY 2 – “STILL.. not there yet.”
At approximately 8am, we land in Amsterdam.
Layover time – 2.5 hours. For the most part, I just hung out at the KLM gate waiting for a 10:30am departure to Kilimanjaro. Besides taking turns with Candy to watch each others luggage, we roamed around the airport and checked everything out. There wasn’t anything much more to do other than I grabbed some coffee at a nearby kiosk and a visit to the mens room, which ended up being really strange! So while you’re in there doing your business either in the toilet or urinal, the cleaning ladies are in there at the same time keeping the place clean. You pee, they clean…weird!!
9:55am and its time to board! Turns out, most of the people now flying to Kilimanjaro are doing a safari and not a climb. I did learn later that 50,000 tourists visit Kilimanjaro each generating about 2.5 billion in revenue. I was happy to help out!
On board now, Candy isn’t sitting with me. I really enjoyed her company! Oh well, close to 9 hours in the air this time…more movies and lots of naps! Our flight path covered Germany from top to bottom, Austria, Croatia, Albania, Greece, over the Mediterranean Sea and into Africa. Looking out of my window on the Port side of the KLM Airbus, I could see that Cairo was just off in the distance. Looked for Pyramids, but nothing on the visual.
7:55PM – ARRIVAL! “Damn, why didn’t I apply for the visa online like I had planned?!” 2 hour wait getting visa. Efficiency among the Custom Agents, not a strong point. Could use some help here.
Jumanee (my guide) along with his driver, met me as scheduled just outside of the airport. Now we have a 40 minute ride east to my hotel in Moshi. Jumanee made sure I was all checked in and had prearranged all the meals I would have at the hotel. Tonight its fried chicken, rice, and a salad. “Oh yeah, I’ll take one of the local brews,” which ended up being a Serengeti Lite. $2 bucks, not too bad!
Ended up getting to bed at midnight and then up at 5am because of a public prayer over some PA system. “Are you kidding me?!” This lasted 30 minutes. No warning about this, oh well…lets get use to it.😳.
Sept 11th (we will never forget!)
Day 3 – “Come on a Safari with me!”
The night before, Jumanee had asked me to be ready at 7am for transportation to Arusha (maybe an hour west of Moshi). Got up obviously at 5am for my morning prayer, packed it all up, had breakfast and enjoyed the view from my Mbugani Hotel.
7:00am – Jumanee knocking at my door… “Jambo, time to go!” We arrive in Arusha at 8am at the Safari Bistro (staging area for this particular Safari company) until a small group of tourists arrive that will be joining me (I wasn’t sure if anyone would be joining me or not), So I just hung out for another 30 minutes, bought a round of coffee for the owner of the Safari Co, Jumanee & myself. Hmmm, seems like someone shoulda bought coffee for me…oh well.
8:30am – I climbed aboard the Toyota Landcrusier and immediately greeted by an early 30’s something gal (introduced her name as Yoda) from Barcelona, Spain who obviously appears to have a major hangover and is slouched all over her seat. In the back of the vehicle, there’s Maria & Jonas (late 20’s couple from Stuttgart, Germany who happen to be on their honeymoon AND just came down from Kili yesterday. Jonas unfortunately is still suffering from altitude sickness. He said he had to really push himself to summit, but now paying the consequences. Sitting directly behind me is another young couple (approx same ages as Jonas and Maria) from Naples, Italy. So off we go for about a 2 hour drive to Tarangire National Park.
During the drive over, I see lots of interesting people/farmers, kids of all ages heading their goats and or cattle from one area to another for grazing. I’m telling you, some of these kids couldn’t have been any older than 4 years old! Amazing that they needed no adult supervision for these daily chores. How they kept these herds under control (crossing the highway many times over), was beyond me!
Two hours later we arrive at our 1st park called Tarangire National Park. Supposedly the Sissy Flies are really bad! We are highly encouraged by our driver to douce ourselves big time! When they bite, they REALLY bite! A few times during this safari, Yoda would SCREAM (a little over-reacting if you ask me) indicating a bite. Maybe like Horse Flies here. We wait for a few more minutes for our park permit and begin the 1st of a 2 day safari right at 12:00pm.
NOW, it gets exciting! Today we view the Ostrich, Mongoose, Elephants, Leopard (although he was hiding pretty good), Umba (hog), Giraffe, Baboon, Impala, Blackface Monkey, Secretary Bird, Zebra, Wildebeest and Water Buck.
After about 4 hours of cruising and living the safari dream, we drove back about 1/2 way to Arusha to spend the night at “Kilimanjaro Campsite.” In my opinion, these tents get a 3.5 star rating! Furnished with cots and plush blankets! Thought I would be sleeping on the ground and who knows what might be lurking around in the middle of the night! This compound was completely secure with a perimeter wall. I was pleasantly surprised!
After we cleaned up, we enjoyed a 5 course dinner with my group. Interestingly enough, popcorn is always served beforehand as an appetizer. After dinner and a couple of local beers, I was ready for bed! Long day bouncing around in the Toyota. Just before heading off for my tent, I was intercepted by a dude who said he was doing an acrobatic show, I said, “I’m sorry to miss, I’m tired and need to go to bed.” I think he understood.
DAY 4 – “NGORONGORO CRATER DAY!”
Woke up around 6am, took a shower and met the group for breakfast around 7am. I believe the plan was to leave around 8am to get to the crater early enough so that the lions would still be pretty active before succumbing to the heat and just lay around. Well, things don’t always turn out as planned. Unfortunately, there seems to be a conflict with the Italian couple and their guide contractor not paying the Safari guide the full payment. After much discussion between those parties affected, I said to their guide, “Give them your cell phone for collateral, when we come back you guys can figure it out!” Surprisingly, he agreed and we’re on our way! 1 hour delay from seeing early big cat morning activity. Animals we encountered…Cap buffalo, Eland, Gazelle, Umbas, Baboon, Lions, Hyena, Ostrich, and a Jackal, There are a few Rhinos here but off taking naps somewhere in the forest of the crater.
FUN FACTS– 2000 ft from crater floor to the rim. 16km wide. 155 square miles. 6th largest caldera in world. Oh yeah, hilarious thing happened during 1/2 way through this safari. Yoda’s name is actually “Laura!” After discovering this, we all laughed so hard (especially her!) for about 10 minutes!
Safari’s are over for now. Time to get back to Moshi. I have 6 huge days in front of me starting tomorrow. The goal: Climb the highest free standing mountain on earth.
Unless you’re asking for a death wish, don’t be a passenger at night time on the roads of Tanzania. Absolutely INSANE drivers!! Actually saw a passenger (most likely tourist were on board) van that took a bad roll, motorcycles coming at you head on to turn in front of you, cars driving with out lights way past dusk. Most cars and cycles don’t have working tail lights. Whats bizarre, no one gets mad at each other for driving like this. It’s their “normal.”
A few Swahili words I picked up along the way: Poli– Slowly, Poa-fine, Santi– thank you, Jambo– hello, Jamba– fart and Sour-ok.
DAY 5- My first Kili climb, Jumanne’s 200th!
After a long terrifying night of driving back to Moshi, I think I may have finally fallen asleep around 2:30am. I’m sure anxiety got the best of me! Thanks to my ever so popular public PA prayer, up again at 5am. Most likely the best sleep I’ll see in the next week. Tossed and turned until about 7:30 and got up. Jumanne arrived to check on me (no advance notice, last time I checked, he was picking me up at 10am.) at 8. Grabbed some breakfast, went down stairs to the nearest currency exchange office to get money for tips.
Like clock work, Jumanee met me at 10am outside the hotel (elevation 2900 feet). Roughly a 45 minute drive to the Kili gate at an elevation of about 5900 feet. Several hikers were also staged here. Met some ladies from Las Vegas, Chong from San Francisco and Mom and her 28 year old Army Vet who were from Colorado (really nice mom & son but sure liked to talk a lot!). Permits took about another hour, so Jumanee had given me a box lunch to knock down. “Watch out for the monkeys!” They will surely steal your food if you’re not looking!
1 hour and 45 minutes later…permits in hand! Ready as I’ll ever be!
3 hours and 45 minutes later, both knees started to ache. Hopefully, just need to work out the kinks getting used to new terrain. Lock in every step and I should be fine. Colourbas Monkeys and Tree Hyrax (never heard of these before) were a couple of critters along the way to our first camp called Machame Camp. Leap frogged with the mom and her son and Chong.
5 hour hike to Machame camp Elevation- 9,301feet. Dinner- popcorn, chicken & zucchini soup. Vitals = Oximeter 97, pulse 68. For the rest of the trip, oximeters read like 78 at my lowest and pulse was 41 (not sure if that reading was correct). Talked to Chong a little and he was getting winded pretty bad. D Word already starting for him. He’s questioning Diamox (preventative altitude sickness medicine). My guide said not to bother with it. Later, I would question that.
DAY 6 – It’s not about to get real, it is REAL!
My team always gives me sooo much food! Couldn’t eat it all and ended up giving it back to the team to finish off. Maybe they plan it that way, but it also makes me feel guilty by not eating it all. From this point on, I say, “give me half of what you would give me.” Today’s hike was a shorty but more technical. 3.4 mile. Elevation at Shira cave camp 12,303 feet. Ascent 3,020 feet, 6 hour hike.
Made it! Only 2
<<<keep getting higher and higher (approx 11,000 feet) way above the clouds!
DAY 7- The Longest day is ahead of us. Good news, 3 camp days left!
Depart camp at 8:20am. Nice breeze on the back made it nice for cooling off (w). Met up with Chong. He’s having a tough time breathing and constant diarrhea. I’m still really surprised that he’s like the Energizer bunny! Jumanne and I stopped at the Lava Tower camp for lunch at 15,091feet.
Getting cool, time to throw on my wind pants and puffy. Descent to 12,926 feet to Baranco Camp.
Total hike time 6 hours, 34 minutes. 6.84 miles. Decent from Lava Tower down to 12,000 and some change. Had pizza that looked like a weird hamburger but still good and couldn’t eat what they wanted me to. Also had potato soup. Tea and coffee every morning and night. Porridge and omelette for breakfast. In bed at 7:35pm. Starting our climb at 7:20 in the morning!
DAY 8 – On our way to Base Camp!
Depart Baranco at 7:40. Diarrhea starting to kick in. Up and over Baranco 1,017 foot wall. One hour 45 minute climb. Crossed Karanga Valley. At least 2×700 feet of dusty climbing. Throughout this whole day, because of this type of terrain, I swear it seemed like we were traversing across the moon! Stopped for a hot lunch 4 hours and 15 minutes later (13,123ft) Cucumber soup, fried chicken, french fries, purple cabbage, and salad made up of cucumbers, peppers and dressing.
Up and down several times through the Valley now. “Where’s the end of the trail?”
Sleep deprivation is starting to take its toll on me.
YES!!!! Made it to Base Camp!! Elevation 15,331 feet. 800 feet higher than my personal best! (Mt. Whitney).
The last night before (if all goes well) we summit. Today’s hike: 8 hours and 15 minutes. Feeling slightly nauseous but no headache. 2,405 feet of gain, 6.52 miles. Three of the peaks that make up Killamanjaro mountains are Kibo (highest peak), Mawenzi, and Shira Peaks.
Lights out at 7pm, and alarm set at 11pm to begin the climb at midnight.
DAY 9- Ready or not…here we go!
Alarm goes off at 11:00pm. No sleep at all, maybe 30 minutes.
Started off very weak because of the no sleep. About halfway into the climb, became nauseous and threw up, complimented by the D Word. Jumanne kept pressing me to keep climbing, I on the other hand, was ready to throw in the towel at about 16,500 feet. I made it to one of the 3 Summit Points along the crater rim at 18,885 feet. This point is called Stella. Uhuru is the highest point on the rim (another 400 feet and change higher & a 45 minute continued hike). The lowest point is Gilmans Point, but only by like 300 feet. I had all I wanted that day and week, gave it my all (mentally and physically) and felt that the smartest thing for me was to get back down and quick! 11.6 round-trip mileage,
Another guide was checking on me and asking me questions that might have shown signs of altitude sickness. I thunk I answered rite😜 (above). Made it to Stella. This pic above tells the fatigue and sickness story in a nutshell.
Because of my altitude sickness condition (or possibly combined with food poisoning the more I think about it), it was very painful getting back to camp. All I wanted to do is stop and sleep on boulder after boulder. Napped for about 2 hours back at Barafu Camp. Packed up and descend to 12,959 feet at High Camp. Every 2-3 hours awoke had to pee and do the D Word. Less than 3 minutes to make it to “the hole!”
DAY 10- Long awaited day is here.
Woke up at 6:30am, Jumanee checking on me. Came back from washroom and enjoyed watching the porters singing and dancing. These people are so happy, I got really emotional just thinking about it. Left camp and stopped 2.5 miles later for the D Word again!
Nice to see the lush tropical rain forest again! No more Moon!!6.2 miles to the gate to go! Also found out that Chong made it up about 300 meters after Barafu and turned around. Made it to the gate, had a cold Safari Lager and a Coke! Fantastic and brought me back to life! Total miles hiked/climbed this week 45.7, averaging 7.6 mi per day.
The team had a nice hot meal waiting for me at the gate. When trying to express my gratitude and how much I lOVED those guys for who they are and how happy they ALWAYS are, my emotions got the best of me! We Americans (depending on how you look at this) can certainly learn more from them than they can from us. The Simple Life is very “SPECIAL.” The people here are greater than Kili!
DAY 11- Time to go home.
The night before, I dropped off some clothes to get cleaned. Awakened by the public PA prayer…again! Thanking our God, that this is the last day for that wake up call! I’m waiting on the clothes to be delivered. Delivered…nice! I had enough time to get back up to the restaurant at the top level of the hotel to enjoy one more breakfast. While I was waiting on my food to arrive, I walked outside to respectfully say my goodbyes to Mount Kilimanjaro. Two older guys, meaning a few years older than me (guessing range from 62-72), began asking me questions if I was doing the climb. After I said I had finished up yesterday, they were like wow. Later in our conversation I learned that they were climbing Mt Meru (Kili’s younger brother) first and then both of them would attempt Kilimanjaro afterwards. my internal thoughts were like, “that’s impressive! I could definitely see the benefit of acclimatization but not sure if the older guy based on me profiling him, had the endurance required. I will never know. Now shopping and coffee with Jumanee. Later that afternoon I was surprised with what Jumanee had lined up, bbq goat with the team!
Transportation happened like clockwork. Left for airport at 6pm. Taken to airport, arrive at 7pm for 9 departure. Ran into Candy and her friend again at the airport.
Time to go home! This journey was unlike anything I’ve ever done and very special! I hope you get the opportunity to visit Africa if you haven’t done so.
I did it and now I’ve concluded writing about it!