This was our first ever visit to Africa, and we’ve got to say it was absolutely amazing! The Tanzanians are incredibly friendly and laid back people. Tanzania as a whole is known to be one of the safer countries in Africa and from our experience this was the case. There wasn’t any time during our 3 week trip where we felt unsafe or threatened but in saying that, we weren’t comfortable enough to have money in our pockets or wear any jewellery.
Now the main purpose of our trip was to climb Mt Kilimanjaro; Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain. It’s only in the last couple of years that Jason and I have started really enjoying hiking. I think our Poon Hill hike in Nepal was what started it off, and ever since we’ve actually managed to do it on a regular basis. So enough of all that, how was the climb? Well..
A few things to know:
– we carried small day packs
– a porter carried our luggage (one large rucksack in between the both of us)
– a team of 9 guys were involved in our tour (guide, assistant guide, chef and porters)
– we slept in wooden cabins which had four single beds
– we didn’t shower the entire time (waaaaayy too cold) so instead had a daily wash with warm water provided for us every morning and evening
– all our meals were freshly prepare each day by our chef Chidi
– we went with Hidden Valley Safaris which was booked through http://www.climbingkilimanjaro.com
1/7/15 DAY 1 – MARANGU GATE (1980m) to MANDARA HUT (2700m) – 8KM, 5 HOURS
I was glad to know that the first day was a relatively easy one. Our guide Omari and assistant guide Bacali made sure we were always walking ‘pole pole’ (slowly, slowly) which is super important as we were already starting out at quite an altitude and walking at this pace meant we were more likely to acclimatize. It was a nice steady uphill walk through the beautiful rainforest and the pace meant we didn’t have do stop.
2/7/15 DAY 2 – MANDARA HUT (2700m) to HOROMBO HUT (3720m) – 11KM, 5.5 HOURS
This day was tougher, walking through Moorland surrounded by predominantly shrubs and quite warm weather which did make us a little more tired that usual. Overall it was a much steeper walk and longer than the previous day with a horrendous 45 minute steep ascent to get to our lunch stop. Just as we finished lunch we were hit by rain, but luckily had all our wet weather gear in preparation and actually welcomed the cool change. It was probably another 2 hours to the camp site, at which point our legs had turned into jelly, but we were happy that we didn’t need a rest break along the way.
3/7/15 DAY 3 – HOROMBO HUT (3720m) to ZEBRA ROCK (4000m) back to HOROMBO HUT for acclimatization – 5.25KM, 3 HOURS
Many people decided to skip this acclimatisation day but I’m glad we didn’t as we hadn’t been in high altitudes before, we thought we’d rather be safe than sorry. Just did a tiny hike to a giant rock know as the Zebra Rock due to the natural black and white streaks in it which resemble the zebra pattern.
4/7/15 DAY 4 – HOROMBO HUT (3720m) to KIBO HUT (4700m), 9KM, 5 HOURS
For me, this was the toughest walk, I think more mental than anything. It was essentially a long stretch of just desert with what seemed to be no end in sight. There was a steady incline throughout the walk but it was a combination of the fierce headwind and the blistering sun that were really testing us. I almost collapsed by the time we reached the lunch stop, but was revitalised by a boiled egg and a fried chicken breast.
5/7/15 DAY 5 – KIBO HUT (4700m) to UHURU PEAK SUMMIT (5895m) back down to HOROMBO HUT (3720m), 6KM to Summit (8 hours), 6KM to Kibo Hut (3 hours), 9KM down to Horombo (3 hours)
The day we’d been waiting for for so long had finally arrived. Nervous? Hell yes! The evening before we headed for bed at 7pm, woke up at 11:30pm to eat a few biscuits and have tea and set off to the summit by midnight. It was pitch black so we all had our head torches on (which we were slightly nervous would turn off as we’d forgotten to bring extra batteries). It was a super slow pace from the beginning which I was grateful for, as the combination of hunger, altitude and sleep deprivation meant that I was in no state to power walk. There were probably another 50 people attempting the summit the same night as us which was great as everyone is so encouraging and excited.
Slowly, slowly we made our way halfway to Gilman’s Point which was actually not too bad as the ground was fairly solid. Unfortunately after a few hours in we hit stone scree, which is pretty much loose rocks. This made it very difficult to get our footing, especially when we couldn’t really see where we were going. This went on for another few hours followed by half an hour of having to climb on large rocks which looked easy at the time but was challenging more so because we were getting more and more breathless with the altitude. Once we finally reached the point we had 5 minutes for photos and a quick cup of warm ginger tea. We got going pretty quickly after that just because we’d get too cold standing in one place. Everyone had told us ‘once you get to Gilman’s Point, its easy from there’, they totally lied. We were expecting a totally flat path ahead of us but instead were confronted by more steep inclines which didn’t look too long, but again the breathlessness made each step more and more difficult.
By the time we could see the signs at the peak, the sun had risen and we had an incredible view of the glaciers whilst we were above the clouds. It was an absolutely spectacular site and we were really blessed with incredible weather. With only a few steps to go, I wanted to cry, not because I was so exhausted but because I was just so proud that we did it and till this stay I can’t believe we did! Its the most incredible feeling when you’re standing on top of Africa, the adrenaline s pumping and there is just this huge sense of exhilaration.
We took our time getting down, but when we got to loose stones I was really slow because I was scared of falling. So my two guides grabbed me by each arm and literally dragged by down the mountain for 30 mins to save time. I was shitting myself, but it did save us quite a few hours! When we arrived back at the camp we were greeted by the rest of the team who gave us hugs and high 5’s. After lunch we quickly got up again and walked by to Horombo where we couldn’t wait to just collapse into the beds and sleep.
6/7/15 DAY 6 – HOROMBO HUT (3720m) to MARANGU GATE (1980m) – 19KM, 6 HOURS
We still couldn’t believe we did it! So woke up with huge smiles on our faces and were up and ready for the day. It was the final day and it was all downhill. It was a long day. Whilst downhill sounds easy, its not. My right knee became more and more painful throughout the day despite it being taped and its simply due to the increased pressure on the joints with downhill walking. We walked the first half relatively quickly but as I got more and more sore I did have to slow down quite a bit but eventually we made it. The site of the gate was amazing to see and I couldn’t have been happier to get back to our hotel just to have a shower for the first time in a week!
This experience was absolutely incredible, certainly one of our favourite moments from our travels thus far. We’d like to thank Omari and the team from Hidden Valley Safaris (www.climbingkilmanjaro.com) who supported us the whole way and made us believe from the get go that we could do it.
We’d highly recommend that anyone who is considering taking on Kili just to do it! Its something you won’t regret!
Ann & Jason xo