On September 3, my dad, brother and I set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I had every intention of putting together a video. But who am I kidding? I don’t have time for that! So this written synopsis will have to do.
We began planning the trip almost a year and a half ago. When my brother first asked me, I was like “what!?” I had never even considered climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I had no idea what was in store for us as we headed out to Africa. What we ended up experiencing was an adventure of a lifetime!
We all gathered in Houston, Texas so that we could fly together. We flew Lufthansa Airlines, which was a great experience. We decided to fly into Nairobi, Kenya, which saved us about $1,000 per ticket. All of our flights were on time, and though we were flying coach, they really took care of us.
With Nairobi being our destination into Africa, it did cause us to have to do a few extra things (an extra visa, the yellow fever vaccine and a shuttle fee to carry us from Kenya to Nairobi). However, the extras didn’t out weigh the savings as well as the experience of seeing Africa. It was worth it!
The shuttle we used was Marangu Shuttles. Our driver, Dismas, was professional and nice. We talked with him almost the entire way to Arusha, Tanzania, which made the almost 6 hour ride go by really fast. He provided much insight into Kenyan and Tanzanian culture.
On the route from Nairobi to Arusha, we passed through several small towns and villages. We saw Masaai along the way. Some of them were herding their cattle, goats and sheep. It was very interesting seeing their traditional clothing and jewelry.
There were several police checkpoints along the way and it was always a toss up if we would have to stop. It seemed to depend on what mood the police officers were in. When we were pulled over, Dismas handled the situations with such grace and soon we were on our way.
The border crossing at Namanga was very interesting. If we hadn’t had Dismas with us, we probably would still be trying to figure out how to cross the border. Unfortunately I do not have any photos, as they were not permitted, but know it was very interesting and a bit chaotic all at once.
If you ever traverse A 104 from Nairobi to Arusha, I’d highly recommend you have someone along that knows what they’re doing!
Once we arrived in Arusha, Dismas brought us to our lodge, at which we stayed for 2 nights in preparation for climbing the mountain. The name of the lodge was Moivaro Coffee Lodge. The staff were excellent and very courteous. The food was amazing, as well as the rooms. Well, at least until the army of black ants showed up in our bathroom. But that wasn’t that big of a deal.
And you better believe I tried the coffee. It was superb.
On the day prior to beginning the climb, we were able to take a tour of Moivaro, a local village. Daniel, our tour guide, took us by various banana trees (there were some for cooking and some for eating), a coffee bean farm, through the streets of the village and finally we ended up at a local bar that served Banana Beer and Banana Wine. Those drinks were a local delicacy. We opted out on trying them, as we didn’t know how our stomachs would handle them and we didn’t want to take any chances with the climb starting the next day.
At one point on our tour through Moivaro, we came across a group of children playing futbol. Their ball consisted of rolled up grocery bags, with thick twine twisted around. While this was no soccer ball, it did the job for them and they didn’t seem to know the difference. They were having a blast. It actually made me a bit jealous of the simplicity of their life.
As we were walking past them, they called out in Swahili “White people — take a picture with us and show us!” We of course couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the Swahili word for “cheese” so I just made goofy noises, which inspired some big smiles and deep laughter.
The Climb Begins
The 3 of us were part of a larger group of hikers. There were 14 of us in all. A handful of the group was from the Netherlands, a couple from India, a gal from Canada and the rest of us from the U.S. It was a great group of people. It was fun getting to know them all over the next 8 days on the mountain.
We drove from our lodge in Arusha to the Lemosho Gate. Lemosho was the name of the route we took up the mountain. There are several different options and we chose one that allowed for much time to acclimatize, as well as one that promised a lot of scenery.
As we set out, we met our porters and guides, which were part of African Walking Company. All in all, there were 60 people that assisted our group of 14. These people were amazing. Each of them carried approximately 20 kg (44 lbs) of equipment and bags up the mountain. And each day they passed us on the way so that once we got to camp, everything was already set up and ready for us.
Our guides’ names were Abraham (the chief guide), Innocent, Lucy, Frank, Stratton, Tosha and Angela. And Godlisten, a.k.a. the Doctor, was our cook.
My porter’s name was Humphrey. He was a really nice guy and always greeted me warmly when we made it to the next campsite. He would meet me at the gate of the camp, take my day pack from me, lead me to my tent and then even brush the dust off my shoes and pant legs. Wow!
Each day of trekking varied. Some days we hiked for 4-5 hours, other days were much longer 9-10 hours. Summit day consisted of about 12 or so hours of hiking.
Every morning we would be woken up by a porter, typically around 6:30am or 7:00am, and they would ask if we wanted hot tea or coffee. They would also bring us a bowl of hot “washing water”. We’d pack our bags up, set them out for our porters and head off to breakfast.
They treated us like we were kings and queens!
Every morning we had a hot breakfast, which included porridge, bread with medium fat spread (a.k.a. margarine), fruit, eggs and bacon. As for lunch, some days we had a hot lunch, others we had a box lunch. And then for dinner, every night, we had a hot meal… and it was tasty!
As for the trails, they also varied by day. Some were steep, causing our calves and hamstrings to be pushed to their limits, while some of the trails were a slow, steady incline.
Some days we’d start and end at about the same altitude, having hiked higher in between the two. This was for acclimatization.
My favorite day was climbing the Barranco Wall. We put our hiking poles away, and did some actual climbing. Nothing that required ropes and such, but we were down on all fours most of the time. It was an exciting experience!
It took us 6.5 days to get to the top. Again, this was so that we’d give ourselves proper time to adjust to the altitude.
The morning (or night) of the summit was intense. We awoke at 11pm (having gone down about 7pm). I think I (maybe) got 3 hours of sleep. We had a quick snack and were on the trail by about 12:30am.
It was really cold. And for about the first 2 hours I was dizzy. I didn’t say anything to anyone because I was scared I’d be disqualified so I kept it to myself. Looking back, that was just a minor symptom and nothing would have happened had I mentioned it.
At about 3 a.m. or so the wind really picked up. That made the next few hours brutal. It got to the point where I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes, but it was going to be worth it. I had an ear bud in one ear, playing music to help pass the time, and that was definitely helpful.
I will say it felt like forever until the sun started to peek above the horizon, but when it did, it brought about some hope. As the sun began rising, we could see the curvature of the earth and the rays of the sun hitting the atmosphere. It was a sight I’ll never forget.
And once we saw the sign for Stella Point (the top of the mountain, but not the peak), I teared up. It was amazing, exciting and a bit of a relief. We had done it. The top of the peak was then just about 45 minutes away.
On top of the mountain there were still pieces of glaciers, but according to our guide, over the last 20 years or so, they have drastically shrunk. They were still a wonder to behold.
After making it to Uhuru Peak and taking in the fact that we had just climbed the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, we quickly headed back down. The guides weren’t too keen on us staying on top more than 15 minutes or so. And I quickly realized why as there were a few people from other teams that had collapsed, as well as others being rushed down the mountain.
In the end, all 14 of our team made it safely to the top!
Down the Mountain
On our journey down, we traversed an area of dense jungle. The cloud line was resting in this area (we had been way above the clouds for most of our trek) and that made it feel a bit mystical and surreal.
Once we made it down, we signed the book at the gate, had lunch and took a bus back to our lodge. I think I took 4 showers within 18 hours of having been off the mountain. With having not bathed for 8 days, it was getting to the point that I couldn’t even stand my own smell, let alone the smell of others around me. 😉
Post Trip Thoughts
This trip was amazing. I’m so glad I got to do this adventure with my dad and brother. It was fun getting to know the rest of our team, as well as getting to know the guides and porters. I would highly recommend any one looking for an adventure to Kilimanjaro to your bucket list!
African Walking Company seemed to really take care of their people, as they all seemed to enjoy being there and working. They seemed to genuinely care for us and it made the trip all the better. If you’re ever looking to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I’d recommend you book with a company that uses African Walking Company (which we booked through Peak Planet).
I will leave you with this video. It is of our porters and guides, on our last day. This was part of the tipping ceremony, where we had just announced how much each person received in tips. The porters and guides sang us a few songs. It was a great send off.
P.S. If you’re interested in more photos from my trip, please visit my photo albums on Facebook: