It all started as a pipe dream. I was on a camping trip near Red Feathers Lake in 2003, shortly after climbing Longs Peak, my first 14er. I was talking with my friend Martinez about my recent venture, and she discussed how she wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. Through listening to her talk of this mountain, I determined it would be a great long term goal, something that'd likely never come to fruition, but a long-term goal, nonetheless.
In 2007 I began grad school towards my Masters in Computer Science at Regis University. I thought to the future and how I would reward myself once I obtained my degree. As a brainstorm with no plan, no hiking partner, no timeline, and no education, I decided I'd reward myself with a trip to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. Fast forward to May 2009, when I finished my grad school classes. I still had a thesis to complete, but I began to think this pipe dream known as Kilimanjaro would never come to be, I still had nobody to climb with and really didn't want to take a trip of this magnitude alone.
Then along came late-2009/early-2010. My buddy Zak calls me up and says he and some friends are climbing Kilimanjaro in September, do I want to join? Absolutely I want to join!! Finally, someone had "pushed" me to complete this goal. Samantha and I jumped in with both feet to this idea. Tentative things started being tossed around: who is going, what dates, what guide, safari & Zanzibar conversations. But then a major, yet amazingly awesome thing happened. Zak's wife, my lifelong friend from Iowa who, although I don't see all that often, is someone I consider one of my closest friends I will ever have, found out she was pregnant. Her due date would be very near this trip's timeline. Zak and his friends had to postpone the trip to next year. Normally this wouldn't be a huge deal, but Samantha is doing a fellowship in Boston next year, and after that, who knows. Her vacation basically won't allow for a trip next year, and furthermore, it is difficult for her to get multiple consecutive weeks off work; it so happens that she could do the final week of September and the first week of October. With regrets and sadness of not being able to join Zak and his friends, Samantha and I decided to move forward with our plans.
We knew several people who have been on this or similar ventures, and we talked to them all. Some friends of Samantha's from med school, Aubrey and Jen, Katie from our kickball team - people everywhere had been on this trip. We synthesized their input with online trip reports and reviews and decided to use Zara Adventures to complete a 6 day trek to Uhuru Peak via the Machame route. We opted out of the additional acclimatization day. We would arrive on a Saturday, complete the 6 day trek, complete a 3 day safari (Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park), and finish off the trip with 4 days in Zanzibar (1 in Stone Town, 3 on the beaches of Nungwi).
We were in physical shape. Our summer consisted of eight 14er summits, including a single-day ascent of Snowmass Mountain and a combo of Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn. In all, this summer's training consisted of 8 summits, 31,250 feet of elevation gain, and 86.75 miles hiked. Couple this with 800ish miles on the bike, and countless other running & cardio days, and the expectation for Kilimanjaro to be physically draining was all but diminished.
In early August we mailed our passports to the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington D.C. Roughtly 2 weeks later, our travel visas arrived. We got lots of drugs. A mandatory Yellow Fever vaccination at Walgreens for $110. A 2-dose Hepatitis A vaccine (non-required, but recommended) from Kaiser. Additional recommended shots/drugs included: Polio booster shot, Malarone prescription (Malaria preventative drug), Diamox for altitude sickness prevention, and Ciprofloxacin, which is an extremely powerful antibiotic for use in case Pepto or Immodium is just not strong enough, if you catch my drift. With regards to what we brought with us, we basically followed this list to a T:
In addition, we brought additional things for our use that were recommended by others. A discussion of these things can be found here: http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=26777 .... highlights of this list included: ear plugs, camelbak insulation, needle/thread (for gear or blisters), deck of cards, pen/paper, wet wipes, book, face wipes, extra camera batteries. We didn't forget anything and were pleased with everything we brought.
We also did our best to bring gear we could give away after the trip, as well as several things we wouldn't use on the trek to donate. Our stash of give-aways included: roughly 20 baseball caps (10 of which were brand new, donated by the Kansas City Royals), about 6 pairs of wool socks, 1 pair Merrell hiking boots, 2 pairs running shoes, 5-8 winter beanies, 2 pairs gloves, old Bolder Boulder tech shirts, Smith sunglasses, 15 toothbrushes donated by my dentist, old jackets and base layers, several water bottles donated to Samantha from the Children's Hospital, among other things we gave away after the trek. (Pencils and bracelets for kids, several Iowa State University t-shirts).
I finally finished my Master's Thesis in mid-August, so this would officially count as my reward to myself for completing grad school. (actually got notice while in Tanzania that the thesis was officially published)
So we were prepared. We booked our flights well in Advance. (Note: If you want prices for any of these things, I'll be happy to provide them to you on a case-by-case basis, but I feel it's best to not include them within the TR for privacy reasons.) We decided upon Air Ethiopia for our flight directly to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) near Moshi, Tanzania. The only issue here is that they only fly via Washington D.C. I used my Rapids Rewards points that I am able to stock up on since I put everything on my Southwest credit card, and got a free flight round-trip from Denver to Washington D.C. From there we booked Air Ethiopia from D.C. to Kili (DC to Rome for a gas stop, don't get off plane. Rome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Switch Planes. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya. Stay on plane. Nairobi to Kilimanjaro). Everything was booked, good to go.
Thursday, September 23, 2010.
Bags were packed.
I left work around 3:00pm and was giddy. I drove to Samantha's place and our buddy Malcolm picked us up to drive us to the airport. We arrived at the airport and went to the bar where my buddy Brian works and promptly had a beer and shot of Southern Comfort to get myself a bit relaxed for the flight. I'm not scared of flying in any way; nonetheless I strongly, strongly prefer to take my mind off it a bit if I can as I can get a bit claustrophobic ... especially if my seat is not an aisle seat. We hopped on the plane and enjoyed our eventless flight to our Nation's capital. Well, I guess not completely uneventful - the band L.A. Guns was on the flight with us. Basically it's the original member of Gun's and Roses with a few guys who look identical to him. Once in DC, we collected our bags, and headed to the Springhill Suites via the hotel's free airport shuttle. If you have the option, stay at this hotel. I got it for $39 on Priceline. It was a 2-room suite with free airport shuttles, free internet, and one of the best hotel breakfasts I've ever had. On top of that, the bed was outstanding. Our final bed.
Friday, September 24, 2010.
We woke at 6:30am, promptly dressed and repacked our packs. We wanted to wear & carry on the irreplaceable things in case we had luggage issues. My attire included hiking socks, hiking boots, hiking pants, t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, and my Budweiser trucker hat. In my carry-on luggage, I included my favorite article of clothing I own: my Burton AK LZ 600-fill down Gore-Tex snowboarding coat (God bless Brociety.com!), fleece pants, liner gloves, snowboarding mittens, camera, extra batteries, all papers/plane tickets/confirmations/vaccines, iPod, cell phones, wallet, all chargers.
Our Air Ehtiopia flight was scheduled to leave at 10:05. We left at 11:40. This immediately worried us as we have only 2 extra hours in Addis Ababa to change plans and we are already 1:40 late. This would prove to worry us a bit; not so much that we may miss our flight, but if we got there in the knick of time, our bags may not make it with us on our plane change. The Air Ehtiopia representative assured us they would hold the flight for us, we had our doubts. About an hour after we got on the plane, we got airplane meal #1. Chicken/Rice/Roll/Salad/Cheesecake. This went will with my complimentary Carlsberg beer, which I drank along with a tomato juice and cup of hot tea. Meal #2 came after a short nap: Turkey meat, cheese, roll, bowtie pasta, chocolate German cake, tea, and a Heineken (also free of charge).
Saturday, September 25, 2010.
We arrived in Rome about an hour late, waited on the plane as they refueled and added some passengers, and took off about 1:30 later. Soon hereafter was breakfast. Omelette, tomato & mushrooms (the mushrooms being the first thing I didn't eat, I simply don't understand who on Earth can eat those disgusting fungi), french roll, bun w/ jam. I had hot tea, not sure why I didn't have another beer, they were free, after all. The entertainment for the flight was unimpressive. The movies we could watch were: The Spy Who Loved Me (007), Robin Hood, The Rebound. Grrr. I watched part of The Spy Who Loved Me, but I've already seen it like 15 times. We did crossword puzzles and I listened to Dark Side of the Moon about 18 times.
At 10:00am we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:05. Shit. PLEASE don't lose our bags! And I REALLY have to pee!
We got off the plane, no customs or passport control. We were kind of hoping to get an Ethiopia passport stamp, but we were denied. We did not need to get our bags. We hopped on a bus to the terminal. The airport is ok, pretty nice for what we expected to be in Ethiopia. Samantha commented after we got off the bus, "Kinda funny how everyone on the flight is European or African yet they are all speaking English." True. We saw a group of U.S. Air Force jets parked next to our plane. The weather was overcast & humid, but not uncomfortably hot. To our luck, the plane was held for us. We got on it and hoped our bags would arrive in Kili with us. We stopped for 30 minutes in Nairobi. We couldn't go in the airport, but they did let us go outside the plane, so I snapped a picture of me outside just so I can technically say I've been to Kenya.
We arrived at Kilimanjaro on-time, our bags were all there, we got our passports stamped. We met Purde from Zara, she was holding a sign that read "Mark". Well, I guess Mark is close to Mack, we'll assume that's us. We felt cool that we weren't in the line of everybody to get a visa as we had ours already, but this turned to be a moot point as several others on our shuttle had to get them, so we had to wait anyways. We were supposed to stay at the Springlands Hotel this night, but Purde told us they had electric issues and we would instead be staying at the Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel (http://www.kilimanjarocranehotels.com/) in Moshi instead. We hopped on the shuttle and got to the Crane in about an hour. We had a briefing immediately with a guide when we got to the hotel, but it was nothing we really needed to know other than "be outside around 9am tomorrow". We repacked our bags, as one was going to the Springlands hotel... filled our camels (you need your own water for day 1) with bottled water purchased for 2000 shillings (roughly $1.50) for 1.5 liters at the hotel... had dinner and a beer... and went to bed.
Sunday, September 26, 2010.
The alarm went off at 7am. Breakfast at the hotel was free and consisted of watermelon, a mini-banana, juice, toast, scrambled eggs, and sausage. When our ride came, we were informed our guide would be Benjamin. We met Benjamin and he said we'd be joining with Stephen and Gia from South Africa; we would climb with their guide, Athumani, for the first day and he would meet up with us at camp that night. This never happened and it was the last we saw of Benjamin; we stuck with the Athumani's group the entire week.
Here comes problem #1!! I board the bus and Samantha points out that my backpack is leaking. Upon investigation .... shit .... my tube had pulled from my camel bladder and 3 liters of water had spilled into my pack. 2 waterproof jackets, a long-sleeved tech shirt, and notepad = soaked. My water supply = gone. I drained the pack and luckily my waterproof goods were dry as can be. Kudos to Go-Lite and Stoic!! The only issue was my tech shirt being wet, but I had another and could dry it at night. The bus stopped at a pharmacy, so I re-attached the tube to the bladder, bought more water and refilled the camel. When we got to the Machame gate.... shit .... did it again. Stupid tube leaked 3 more liters into my backpack. No more water for me. This time I hadn't put my waterproof things away properly and they got drenched on the ~inside~, so they were now soaking wet. So my 2 "waterproof" coats and tech shirt are drenched and I have no water for day 1. Terrific. I was absolutely pissed off. Had this bladder for like 8 years with no problems, and the second I get to Kilimanjaro it breaks. I axed the idea of using it at all in favor of my nalgenes.
We had a boxed lunch at the gate. Mystery meat sandwich, bread, orange, hard boiled egg, egg-roll type thing, and mango juice. We watched the porters balancing out all their weight evenly and headed up the trail.
These porters are flat-out amazing. They blanace 40-50lbs on their heads, carry huge backpacks, carry radios or sing (one was listening to Dr. Dre as he passed us), and they go twice as fast as the hikers. I am just beyond impressed with how good of shape they are in.
The hike was pretty straightforward and uneventful today. It took us 4 or 5 I hours, it was 18km (11ish miles) and roughly 1500 meters (4900 feet) of elevation gain. You go through the forest, the trail is good, but nothing too exciting. We got to camp, registered at the hut, had hot tea with popcorn and chocolate crackers waiting for us (which made Samantha VERY happy!), and we quickly realized how quickly the temperature drops. We found out, once at camp, that we had a private toilet, although none of us requested it or paid for it. The origin of this occurrence is still a mystery, but we were very happy to have this available to us! At camp we also noticed that Athuman has the same coat as Samantha!! He says, "Some guy gave to me, says it's very good coat!" Correct - your $500 ArcTeryx coat is definitely nice!!!
Swahili terms learned today:
Pole Pole (Pole-ay pole-ay): Slowly, slowly
Jambo: What's up?
Poa Kichizi Kama ndizi = Cool, crazy like a banana (off the wall response to make people laugh when they ask you "Jambo?"
Hakuna Matada: Everything's alright
Lala Salama: Sweet dreams
I hung my wet clothes from the cord of our private toilet to try and dry them:
We hopped into the tent, doubled-up our sleeping mats (the Zara provided one along with our thermarests), and I slept better than I ever have while camping before. Woke maybe once through the night.
Monday, September 27, 2010.
We were awoken at 7am by Dominik. He brought to our tent warm water for washing and hot tea for drinking. We got dressed and went to the mess tent for breakfast, which consisted of porridge, tea, toast, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, sausage, and papaya. We were impressed and ate everything. We gave Dominik our water bottles (and camels for the others!) for the day and he filled them with water they boiled last night. We added iodine tablets to the water just to make sure. The water looks and tastes like shit after using iodine, so I had brought 20 or 30 propel flavor packets, we used them all week. They improved the color and made our water taste more than delicious!
8:30 was our start time. This trail is steep, and extremely dusty. Porters were everywhere and we had to "pull over" every couple of minutes to let them by. Still very impressed by their amazing head balancing acts!
Dust. Dust. Dust. Steep. Steep. Steep. Pole Pole. At 11:30 we stopped for lunch, which was a peanut butter sandwich, indian chicken wing, mango juice, banana, orange, muffin, and hard boiled egg. At the lunch site there were several white-necked ravens circling and waiting for discarded food, they have a very distinct "caw" and an intimidating looking beak. I asked Athumani if I should throw them my chicken bone, he said I should. I did and the birds just devoured it, the entire bone, in seconds. Athumani then throws his bone to the birds and they were now everywhere. NOW Athuman says, "We are not allowed to feed ravens. If a ranger saw us, we would be punished." Oops. Here is Athumani and myself:
Shortly after lunch we moved up to some class 2 hiking, quite fun! We started to feel the altitude now as we were around 13,000 feet. It was very foggy out. It felt like we were in a Harry Potter movie and "he who should not be named" was about to come cast a spell on us. Cool trees, cabbage plants, and chilly weather were the motif for today. No sun and still no sign of Kilimanjaro, but there's always time to pose for senior pictures!
We reached Shira camp at 1:30, which is at 3840 meters (12600 feet). The day consisted of 5 1/2 miles and roughly 2800 feet of elevation gain. Our tents were ready and hot water was ready to wash off a ton of dirt! Athumani now told us officially that Benjamin wouldn't join us, which we were fine with as we liked Athuman and were enjoying our co-hikers Gia and Stephen as well. Athuman told us we'd be joined with a new guide, Mr. Minja, tomorrow. We never laid eyes on Mr. Minja after hearing this. They told us we (Samantha and I) could break off and have our own guide if we wanted to hike alone, but as mentioned, we liked being with Stephen and Gia, so we just stayed as one big group.
Camp was eerie. Fog between tents, and people all around had clothes hanging from dead trees. I took this opportunity to hang my wet stuff from day 1 on a tree to dry. In the mess tent, we had peanuts and tea. Around 2:30, I realized that my clothes were not going to dry, as it began to rain... rain rain rain. We retreated to our tent and did some crossword puzzles, sudoku, and took a short nap. When we woke, maybe around 4pm, the rain was over and we could finally see Kilimanjaro!! While we couldn't see the summit, we could see the glacier coated mountain. We took some time to hike around camp and take lots of cool pictures of the area.
Dinner was Peking soup and pancakes. The pancakes were more like crepes. I think I was the only one in the group who didn't like them, they were flat-out disgusting mto me. We then had rice, veggies, a hot veggie sauce, beef, and tea. We retreated to bed shortly after dinner. I didn't wake the entire night, slept like a corpse. A very tired corpse. A very tired corpse on ambien. A very tired corpse on ambien who was being sung a lullaby.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010.
Woke up at 6:30 again to tea and warm water for washing, there was frost on the tent. Breakfast was eggs, toast, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot tea.
Stephen, Samantha, Athuman, Gia
I had hoped people gained at least some level of intelligence regarding football once they got out of Colorado. I was wrong. This porter is obviously a moron. Stupid donkey's.
Hiked very pole pole today and we felt we made very good time. The fog engulfed us today as we watched clouds move past us, on the same plane, at a quite rapid pace! We saw many little mouse-type creatures today.
At 11:30 we stopped at a tent for lunch. French toast, passion fruit, orange, cookies, nuts, mango juice, hot tea. Here is Samantha showing off the mess tent:
Side (see-day) joined us now as our co-guide. As we begin to ascend to Lava Tower @ 4600 meters (15,100 feet). We arrived at Lava Tower at 1:00pm and stayed there for awhile to acclimate. There were a few snow pellets and it was quite chilly. Finally the fog lifted so we could actually see the lava tower.
Samantha met a guy from France who complimented her camel tube insulation. About this time, I decided that my camel possibly leaked due to my insulation tube being too thick and pulling on it too tightly when the tube went through the access hole. Oh well, I was sharing Samantha's camel bak and drinking from my water bottles. The cool temperatures had me not drinking as much as I usually do, which is a lot (for example, I drank over 3 liters on the ascent of Pikes via Crags a few weeks ago.... that was just the way up! Samantha drank 1 liter, by comparison).
After Lava Tower, we descended quickly through a fun little area. We started to see very cool trees indigenous to only Kilimanjaro. I stopped several times to take pictures of these AWESOME Senicia trees and a couple of waterfalls. This was one of my two favorite parts of the entire hike, it was just amazingly cool. I remember Aubrey and Jen had said these trees were like "Dr. Suess trees". We concur!!
We arrived at Barranco Camp at 2:50pm. Barranco camp is at 3950 meters (13,000 feet). The day consisted of 8 miles and I have absolutely no idea how much elevation gain, so I'll just pull a number out of my ass - 4000 feet. Who knows if that's accurate at all. Barranco camp is very, very awesome. Great views of Kilimanjaro! Tea was coupled with fried potatoes, which were fantastic, also had some popcorn. A guy came to our tent with a registration book and we saw the President of Boston College was at our camp, as well as 2 doctors form St. Louis. We had yet to meet any Americans, so we walked around to try and find them, but were unsuccessful. We did, however, talk to the Australian people who were at the Crane Hotel briefing with us the other night. They were a bit distraught as one of them had to retreat today. When they were en route to Lava Tower, he was having chest pains, indications of a heart issue. He retreated to Shira Hut and was brought down from there. We are hoping he is ok, we didn't hear anything further from these people.
6:30 was dinner time. Dinner = veggie soup, hushpuppies (you know, those fried bread things like they have at Long John Silver's), mangos, macaroni pasta, cooked cabbage, and pasta sauce. Side and Athuman came to the mess tent for our nightly briefing about what we're doing tomorrow. Stephen stated he had a headache, but the guides seem to think he's ok.
We went to bed at 7:30. I broke out my silk sleeping bag liner to throw inside my 20 degree synthetic sleeping bag; I had never used this liner before and expected tomorrow to be cold, so I wanted to make sure it worked. I threw on my Air Ethiopia socks, some ski socks, fleece pants, long-sleeved cotton t-shirt, and green GoLite jacket for the night's sleep .... I was sweating bullets by midnight and stripped down. I was going to start using my iPod to help me sleep, but the battery was low and I wanted it for the summit day hike, so I put in some ear plugs and dozed off. Again, Lala Salama - slept like a corpse again. No waking all night!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010.
We woke at 6am to warm tea and water for washing. I gave Dominik (the porter who did this every morning) a Colorado Rockies hat, he seemed to like it. I have much energy and feel strong this morning, although I am hotter than hell for wearing WAY too much to bed last night. Breakfast was porridge, egg, toast, sausage, tomato, cucumber, avocodo, and tea. I think we're noticing a pattern here with regards to the breakfasts! At 7:30 we began hiking up Barranco Wall, which is nicknamed "Breakfast Wall" because you use all the energy you got from eating breakfast climbing this thing. It was intimidating to look at, but was mostly class 2. It was very fun, probably the most fun part of the hike. So basically, with the cool Senicia trees leading to Barranco Camp yesterday, and Breakfast Wall leading out of it.... this is all around the most scenic and fun part of the Machame Route. We were again amazed watching what the porters can do with their balance + speed. The Breakfast Wall was just a change of pace, climbing over rocks, looking for steps, hugging the "Kissing Rock", as you have to basically kiss it while holding it to circumvent a small drop off.
Gia going around the kissing rock:
Around 9:00 we reached the top of Barranco Wall at 4200 meters (13,800 feet).
Great views up here of Kili. A floor of clouds was below us as far as the eye can see, with only Mt. Meru rising above them. Athuman took a cigarette break, which he did frequently at all elevations. He joked that he had his cigarettes laced with Diamox, so he simply MUST keep smoking!
Did some surfing and flying in the clouds for 30 minutes or so, then headed on.
From here we went up and down a fun valley, where it got dusty. We made great time here and passed most every group on the mountain. At 11:00 we reached a VERY steep section which leads up to Karanga Camp. This is ~not~ an overnight camp for us, however, this is where you stay if you are doing the 7-day Machame Route. We simply had lunch here, which was the best lunch of the week. Fries and chili sauce was just terrific, along with chicken wings!
Gia was not feeling well at all at Karanga Camp (which is at around 13,000 feet), so she rested. This spot, also, is our last place to get water before the summit, so we filled all of our water bottles and camel bladders here (well, not MY camel bladder!). Clouds were starting to roll in, looks like we may see little more sun until it comes up tomorrow morning as we are summiting!
After lunch - pole pole! Very steep. We were hiking for 30 minutes and I turned around to see how much progress we had made since leaving Karranga Camp... it was discouraging to see we had only gone the distance of roughly a par 3. Up. Up. Up. Steep. Steep. Steep. We reached the top and then angled to the left to start heading to Barafu camp. Here is a view of Barafu camp from the trail:
This area was uneventful, we stopped once and almost all of us fell asleep at our rest stop.
We arrived at Barafu camp around 3:00 I think, if memory serves me right. No more private toilet as there is no water here, but the outhouses were IMPECCABLE. Seriously, by far the nicest and most clean, and smell-free outhouse I've ever been in. I am not joking or being sarcastic. We took pictures as we were so impressed, not to mention the fact that the outhouses give you the feel of being on the edge of a cliff!
Dinner was at 6:00pm. Past & Sauce. We are getting extremely sick of the pasta sauce night after night. Zuccini soup & bread. EVERY soup we had on this trip was welcomed with open arms, all of it was terrific. None of us had much of an appetitie. At 6:30, Side and Athumani came to the mess tent to give us our briefing. We were all quite nervous. They said we will wake at 11:00pm to pack bags, 11:30 = cookies & tea. midnight, leave for the summit. Stephen said he wasn't feeling well, and after listening to Side and Athuman go back and forth in Swahili, we were intimidated and thinking they were worried. We were all just very nervous.
Went to bed at 7:00pm. Popped in the ear plugs. Put on 2 pairs of socks, my snowboarding base layer (top & bottom), fleece pants, softshell jacket, adn slept with my sleeping bag liner. I also put tomorrow's clothes in my sleeping bag with me to keep them warm. I never once got cold, so basically, I am going to endorse my 10-year-old, improperly stored (kept full-time in it's stuff sack), synthetic, 20 degree sleeping bag. It was perfectly fine for this trip as I never once got cold. However, this was the first night of the trip I didn't sleep well, I was just too nervous. Samantha didn't sleep well either.
Thursday September 30, 2010.
Well, ok, it's technically still Wednesday here, but it's 11:00pm, you get the picture. The wind is howling and it is cold outside. Samantha and my stomachs are both in knots from nervousness. We are discouraged for some reason, but are sure we'll summit. We slowly get dressed as we sip hot water brought to us by Dominik. By the way, Dominik slept in our tent after we left for security reasons, to make sure nobody messed with our bags. Fine by us! We finished getting dressed and headed to the mess tent. Clothing today for me: Sock liners, smart wool snowboard socks, under armour tights, rei fleece pants, hiking pants, underarmour cold gear shirt, t-shirt, go-lite softshell, burton down snowboarding jacket, windbreaker glove liners, columbia gloves, burton snowboard mittens, neckie, beanie.
Clothing today for Samantha: liner socks, wool hiking socks, smartwool base layer, fleece-lined ski pants, 2 base layer shirts, fleece hard shell arcteryx ski jacket, 800-fill down jacket, barclava, hat, ski goggles. Yes, Samantha gets cold easily
The guides had told us it's easier to cool off than to warm up, so if you've got it - wear it. We did, perhaps it was overkill, but I was never uncomfortably cold, in fact, I unzipped my jackets shortly after we left camp. I put on the "pumped-up mix" on the ipod and loaded up the headlamp with fresh AAA's. Along with Side and Athumani, we had an "assistant guide" - Paul. Paul was a porter who basically was just going up with us today. None of our guides carried backpacks today in case we needed help going up. This will be a long day, going up 4500ish feet, and going back down 10,000 feet.
We started hiking at 12:15am up steep/rocky class-2 switchbacks. I am mentally EXHAUSTED and could fall asleep even if you threw baseballs repetitively at my face. Stephen is also feeling like garbage. We hiked for awhile and Stephen and Athuman split off from the group as they couldn't keep our pace and they had to keep stopping frequently. After we parted ways, my stomach started giving me issues to the point where I asked Side & the group to stop as I went behind a rock and took care of some unsightly business. I got back to the group and said, "Pretty sure I can run up this mountain now." I felt fantastic. I also got word that Stephen and Athuman passed us while I was away. I felt great, and I attribute this to my music, where I was getting motivation from Slipknot and Silverchair.
Slipknot's "Scream" blasted in my ears: "All our lives, everything we've sacrificed was pain. Everything! Everything is possible to me. Why not fight! Found everything I had to take away. Save your life!! Save it all and make a better way!"
Silverchair's "Learn to Hate" blasted in my ears: "Take the time! Take the time!! It's all uphill - you've got to CLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Pole, Pole. I was doing fine with the temperature, I was content. I noticed, however, that Paul was simply wearing socks on his hands with the fingers cut out. It was probably around 0 degrees out or something and he had basically no gloves. I stripped one of my glove layers off and offered to him, he declined. Athuman said with a laugh, "He's fine." I did not understand how he could be fine, but at least I tried (I gave him the gloves later that day and told him to keep them). We were informed that the final hour up to Stella Point is the "hardest part of the day" Steep scree. One step up, half a step back. I didn't find the scree to be as bad as I was expecting, I mean, I was thinking it'd be like the descent from Bross, only going up. It wasn't that bad as far as being loose, but it was definitely steep and the oxygen was in short supply. We stopped to catch our breath several times. Side offered to take my backpack as I was tired (mentally), and I declined. He tried again 10 minutes later. Another 10 minutes later, he walked up to me and said, "Give me your pack." I just looked at him as he reached for it and simply took it from me. He didn't allow me to keep it. He and Paul had already taken Stephen and Gia's packs, and about 10 minutes after mine, they forced Samantha's from her. I felt a bit of a moral loss not carrying my pack, but must admit it was extremely nice to not carry it. I didn't have a camel bladder (all week!) so was fine not drinking much water. Once we reached the final hour to Stella Point, Athuman and Stephen again hung back slowly as they were taking frequent stopping breaks. The sun started to show it's intentions of rising in the East and the sky turned bright red, just beautiful!! Steep, loose, dirty.
At 6:00 we reached Stella Point, where the wind really kicked in.
Side tells us "45 easy minutes to Uhuru". Here is where we got bad news, Side tells us that Athuman will not be bringing Stephen to Uhuru Peak. His health is questionable and once they reach Stella Point, they will be turning around. This depressed all of us as he had been our hiking partner for 5 days and we REALLY wanted all of us to reach the top together.
Gia was feeling weak, so Side hung back with her and told Samantha and I to head up to Uhuru with Paul. While not steep, this last "45 easy minutes" was challenging, we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. The sun was now up and it was cold, but not freezing. Maybe 20-30 degrees and windy. Paul still wearing no gloves, which was just odd as he looked freezing but didn't want my gloves.
Around 6:50, Samantha and I reached the summit with Paul. Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi!!
Lots of people were in line to take pictures, we got in line, but also saw Side and Gia fast approaching. Also, I realized Side had my backpack, which has my Cy the Cyclone and some other things to take pictures with, so we waited for them. Getting our pictures taken was irritating to say the least. It was such a mess of a "line" (if you can even call it that) and everyone just forces their way to the sign. We were there at least 20 minutes before we even got in line, and people who had JUST arrived at Uhuru were forcing their way past us to get their pictures taken. Samantha and I took pictures of each other, than took some from the side with our various items we wanted pictures with. We hugged Gia and Side and offered each other congrats. Side wants to get pictures taken and get Gia down ASAP as she isn't feeling well.
We took pictures with her, and then, off in the distance, we saw a wonderful sight!! Stephen and Athuman were coming!! Stephen was going to make it to the top! We rejoiced, congratulated Stephen, and got the funk off the summit and back to Stella Point rather quickly.
Once here, it was time to strip layers as it was just downright warm with all these layers on. I donated my old Smith Voodoo shades to Athuman for the descent, and told him if he liked them he could have them. He did, and he did. I got my backpack back from Side and put clothes in it, and he let me take it down myself. And now we headed down from Stella Point. I cannot emphasize this enough - it is time to get dirty. DUST!!! DIRT!!! If you do this hike, for the love of God, please bring something to cover your nose and your mouth (and eye protection!). I had a bandana over my mouth & nose and was still coughing up dirt the next two days. We basically skied down the scree, uneventful descent, got to camp around 10:00am.
Back at Barafu, Dominik had chilled orange drink waiting for us, which was delicious... actually, it was more than delicious. It was spectacular. He dusted off our shoes for us and I was too tired to even go into my tent, so I just laid down on the rocks and rested. Athuman tells us we get an hour to sleep and repack our bags, then lunch, then 3 hours to camp tonight. Our tent was probably 80+ degrees inside, it was just hot. With no problem, I fell asleep for 45 minutes. I woke and Samantha said I needed to repack. I was now a stubborn 2-year-old. "I don't wanna. I wanna stay here. I don't care about my pack. Screw this." I just threw stuff into a bag with no regard for what I had in what pack, and no knowledge of what I was all carrying down with me. My backpack probably weighed 30lbs but I didn't care, I'd rather carry that heavy thing than go through the burden of reorganizing my bag when I could fall asleep immediately. Lunch consisted of fruit & potato stew. I ate hardly anything. No appetite, although I must say the stew did taste great. All I wanted was the evening's campsite and a beer that we were told was sold at said camp.
12:30 we left Barafu for the 3 hour hike to the final camp. Very dusty. Immediately after leaving camp, we met our first American, and he happened to be from Broomfield!! In fact, he is doing a presentation of this trip at Flagship REI on October 19th. I will be going, you can view/sign up for the event here: (NOTE: this link likely will not work in a few days):
at 4:00pm we arrived at Mweka Camp. We all craved cold beer or Coke. They were sold out. Shit. You have no idea how badly that was motivating me all day, and they have none. What kind of cruel joke is that?! Dominik greeted us with not one, but two tubs of hot water for washing! I guess they know just how disgustingly dirty we were going to be. We even washed our feet! Dinner was at 6:00, and I again ate next to nothing. I don't even remember what dinner was, but it most likely involved that same damn pasta sauce that we raved about 5 days ago but cursed now. At 7:30, Samantha and I went to the tent, repacked, and fell asleep while doing a crossword puzzle.
Friday, October 1, 2010.
6:30am. Wake to tea & washing water. We arranged several donations. Breakfast = same as always. I ate hardly any, no appetite. We gave out our donations now, which were plentiful. Chaos ensued. Porters flooded from everywhere and just started grabbing at things, it was like we were watching Supermarket Sweep (man, that was an awesome game show! what ever happened to that?). Batteries were a popular choice for the taking, along with shirts, socks, power bars, etc. Many hats. We still had 2 bags of gear at the hotel to give away, too! At 7:00am, the porters congratulate us by singing the Kilimanjaro song. Here's the video of this occasion:
At 7:30am we started down the mountain. Although it hadn't rained, the trail was extremely slippery and muddy. We went very slowly, and saw a bunch of monkeys playing in the trees. Samantha and I really wanted to go fast as we wanted to be done, so with Athuman in tow, we just decided to bolt for the bottom. Near the bottom you start walking on roads with tire-ruts several feet deep in the mud. Kids are lining the side of the trail begging for chocolate. We had toothbrushes, no chocolate... but the toothbrushes were at the hotel, so these kids didn't get anything from us. We got to the bottom around 10:30 and were just hoarded by salespeople trying to sell you anything with the word "Kilimanjaro" on it. Bandanas, hats, t-shirts, patches, paintings, stickers, etc. I asked one how much for a patch, he said $10. I laughed. He asked me how much, I said $2. He bottomed out his price at $9. I decided I didn't need a patch. Don't get me wrong, we were more than generous and happy to spend money on things, but I'm not paying $9 for a $.25 patch to some kid on the street. I'd rather buy it from someplace where I know the money will be used for something good.
Athuman congratulating Samantha:
We had to head to the ranger's station to register:
...and then to a little area where Zara reps came and made us fill out a comment sheet. There were bathrooms with soap and running water, and we quickly filled out our sheets. Side and Athuman requested we come tell the porters about the tip situation. Here is the tip situation: We are to go back to the hotel with our guides, fill out a "tip sheet", put the money in a single envelope, get a Zara rep to sign off on this, then give the money to the guides, then the guides will go back to the Zara office and give them the money. In questioning why we had to tell the porters this, we figured they'd expect it, we learned that porters are mostly outsourced the day we get there. Zara brings 4 or 5 porters with them, and they just "pick" the rest of the porters for the trip once we got to Machame Gate the first day... so those people were unaware of Zara's policy of how they get tips, so they wanted us to fill them in.
We were back at the Springlands Hotel at 12:30, where our bags were waiting for us. We got our tip sheet and Samantha, Gia, Stephen, and myself went to a room to calculate tips. Here is what we tipped out:
2 guides: $108/ea (recommended tip range was $15-20/day x 6 = $90-120
1 Asst. Guide: $66 (recommended tip range was $10-12/day, or $60-72, but he was only an assistant guide for 1 day)
1 cook: $72 (recommended range was $5-8, or $30-48)
1 toilet porter: $72 (no recommended range, but we thought he deserved more than a regular porter)
12 porters: $60/ea (recommended $6-10/day, or $36-60)
Dividing this up by 6 of us, we each paid $285 in tips. Not nearly as much as I had been expecting to pay (I had budgeted $400 for this).
We gave the guides our extra bags of gear and suggested they give Dominik first pick, as we don't think he got any of our stuff that morning. We had beers ($2/ea) with Athuman, Side (guide), and Side (cook), showered a few times, washed some clothes in the sink, repacked, and prepped for Safari and Zanzibar -- we earned it!!
I've drug this on long enough, so I won't discuss Safari and Zanzibar other than by saying it was spectacular. Feels really good to have a dream of mine for the past 7 or 8 years fulfilled. Feels great to be back in Colorado!
If you'd like to see more pictures, I have public Facebook albums of the Kilimanjaro trek, 3-day safari, and trip to Zanzibar. Since my Master's thesis was on Social Networking Internet Privacy, I feel it's only fit for me to ignore my publishing's conclusions and make 3 public photo albums available to anyone.
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