I am so excited that we made the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro; all 7 of our mighty mountain gang!
Now that we are back down the Mountain and back home in Canada and there is consistent, lovely, previously taken for granted wireless connection – I am just so excited to share the details of our day by day, mind over matter, adventure up and down the awe inspiring Kilimanjaro Mountain.
So here we go, looking back on Mount Kilimanjaro Day 1…
Date: Sept 30 2015 Wednesday
Destination: Rongai Gate to Simba Camp
Duration: 4hours walking
Elevation Gained: 638m (2,093ft)
FitBit Steps: 21,249
FitBit Calories Burnt: 3,445
At 8am our Team Kilimanjaro climbing crew showed up at the Outpost Lodge and dolled out any rental items we had arranged (hiking poles, waterproof trousers and jackets, sleeping bags, summit jacket). These were quickly added to our day packs or our duffel bags accordingly and all bags tossed up and tied down on a rack on top of our bus. Along with a whole host of other gear the crew would be carrying up the mountain to support us. We piled onto the bus ourselves – freshly showered for the last time for the next 7 days and met some of the rest of our climbing crew. Most were really friendly and all were sizing us up to see which of us had the gumption to tackle this mountain.
The bus ride left much to be desired – I think everyone but us 7 had wretched body odour (maybe it helps with altitude sickness?), we were piled tightly into too few and too small of seats and were surrounded by all kinds of gear. The luggage rack inside the bus was full of bread for our breakfasts for the next 7 days .. not that I am complaining about bread. Just an observation. ha ha
On our trip to the Rongai Gate where we would begin our 7 day adventure our bus made a few stops. Well one was merely slowing down not actually stopping for a guy on the side of the highway to toss in a pair of waterproof pants that Scott had rented but they forgot to bring to the Lodge when they picked us up originally. One was to drop off the crew to pick up their altitude medication – which oddly smelt like skunk and gave them the munchies!? Another stop was to pay our park fees and register at the main Machame Gate, and another was to get food supplies where we also go the chance to pick up some last minute items and hit our last flush toilet!
Finally after almost 4 hours on the Stinky Sweaty Bus Tour we arrived at the Rongai Gate. This was my first experience of the nausea the mountain boasts at higher altitudes – well ok this was not altitude nausea, this was plain ole car sickness but in a big style way. What a way to start my trek – and the first thing we did was eat lunch. Oh my! Some early altitude nausea training for me.
About an hour after arriving at the Rongai Gate, everyone had hit the washroom, had eaten their lunch (yummy soup and tomato sandwiches), had their gear weighed in and confirmed our 30+ crew were not carrying more than the Kilimanjaro Park Association will allow each to carry, and each of us hikers did a pre-climb weigh in, we were off on our way!
I can be honest and tell you there were some nerves when starting out. I had a moment of ‘holy crap, once I start there is no getting out of this except on my own two feet‘ and then I had a moment of ‘squeee how exciting is this, I have had this on my to-do list for ages and its here, really here and I have my husband, family and friends with me on this journey‘ and then I had ‘ok get on with it and start walking girl‘. Not sure if that was in my head or maybe said by one of my fellow trekkers or maybe our Guide Leo.
The first few kilometers of the trek were on a very dusty path through a planted forest with some small villages and homes were locals were trying their best to make a living on what looked like tough land to make anything grow from. The path was dusty enough to warrant pulling my Buff up and over my mouth and nose to avoid ‘eating’ the sandy red dust. In additional to kicking up dust ourselves, even more was created by the Porters trucking past us with backpacks and all our gear on their heads making it look easy! As a climber we are only carrying our day packs with 3 liters of water, rain gear, a few snacks and whatever else we can get in under 20lbs each. Our porters on the other hand are carrying everything else – from my face cream and baby wipes (aka mountain shower) to all of the food we will be eating and the camp chairs we will be in to eat that food.
We stopped a few kilometers in at some picnic benches for a short break. Already our Guide Leo started to remind us to drink water (They say drinking 3+ liters of water a day can help combat altitude sickness. This was music to my ears. Finally the amount of water I drink normally was celebrated and not looked at as crazy!). We had some snacks, adjusted any gear that needed a tune up, application of MORE sunscreen, Lance and Paul took a potty break (this became an every break thing for these boys the next 7 days), Lana tightened her boots (this also became a regular occurrence for Lana at every break), and we were soon on our way again.
Just before we got back to the boots, Felix the Assistant Guide showed up and we were casually informed there was not enough porters to carry all our stuff. So he had been recruiting in the nearby villages for additional porters to join the climb. They had left behind what we did not need right away at camp for the newly recruited rookies to carry up. I guess we would not be the only ones doing this climb for the first time!
At this time the scenery started to change. We were in a real forest now (not planted after clear cutting), the farmland villages were no more, and we making a very slight slope upward. We would also randomly spot Colubus Monkeys in the trees – crazy, big, black and white monkeys. To me they looked like skunks with monkey bodies and really long hair. Odd creatures really but so cute!
This finally started to feel like a mountain. The air was so fresh, boots were feeling good (ok maybe not for Lana) and Paul (my brother in law) and Lance (my husband) had started what would become their 7 day trivia game. All things were up for grabs for the trivia game but it mostly centered on Seinfeld. Generally they would answer each other but once in a while between giggles at the two of them, one of us other climbers would jump in with the answer or add a trivia question of our own. The entertainment Paul and Lance provided the rest of us was priceless!
A bunch of Kili-meters later (see what I did there? oh hahaha sometimes I make myself laugh), we took another break for some more water (‘drink some water’ would become a request we would hear over and over again every day from our Guides – I loved it) and chewed on some more snacks.
We didn’t take long on our breaks. Our Guide Leo would keep a keen eye on us and if anyone looked like they were starting to chill, he would get us up and back to the boots again. Just after this break, our Guide Leo pointed out Kenya’s border and villages in the distance. The Rongai Route is the only Kilimanjaro route that starts from the North side of the mountain and for that reason gives you a glimpse of Kenya.
Just when we felt so lucky to be able to glimpse Kenya in the distance the ultimate sight came into view – we could see the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. It looked far away and it looked like the most awesome achievement we could aim for. I cannot believe I was hiking towards it. Wow! Squeeeeee
We arrived about 4 hours later at our first camp, Simba Camp.
The site of our camp was amazing! Our tents already set up, sleeping mats already inside, and our duffel bags in the front entry of our two compartment tents. Each had an enclosed front entry, and a separate enclosed bedroom. They are 3 season tents so really quite warm which became increasingly important the higher up the mountain we got. We were assigned 2 people to a tent which was perfect for us couples, worked out well for Lana who bunked with Matt for company (warmth), and for Scott who had his very own bachelor ‘apartment’.
Not too far from our tents was the massive Dining Tent where we would spend our meals (and half of our crew slept their nights), and a little bit farther away were our toilet tents. Yup toilet tents. They were basically port-a-potty shaped tents and inside was a homemade wooden box (the commode) and underneath was a bucket – conveniently in an inside pocket of the tent was a roll of toilet paper. Cute right!? While toilet tents may be a little like princess treatment they were so appreciated and necessary!
OK, yes if were wondering, a Porter was responsible for carrying the toilet gear and setting it up at each camp, and keeping it clean by dumping the contents in the long drop out outhouse toilets. We had a Porter in our crew for each of the toilet tent (so 2 peeps) and while to us this seems like a crappy position on a crew (oh my what a pun, sorry), it is in fact a high up position and receives a higher portion of the tips than the regular non-toilet carrying Porters. I can tell you, I was absolutely grateful for these guys. I think all of us were. The medication you take called Diamox to help with acclimatizing to altitude is a diuretic – so you spend a lot of time in these tents! Not joking, 3 to 4 times a night you are up and in the potty tent.
Just minutes after being shown our tents, two of what would become some of our favourite crew members Benny and Joffre showed up with bowls of warm water for us to wash the dust of the day off with and then minutes after that some hot water and the makings for whatever hot drink you could want (coffee, milo, tea, hot chocolate of 3 different kinds, and more) and told us there was popcorn and cookies in the dining tent to enjoy. They ply you with hot drinks at every turn, and they like to feed you salty snacks too – all to encourage you to drink more water. Sneaky smart!
Well then supper was served in the dining tent and wow! I assumed the meals would be like camping meals – simple and easy to make. Well surprise surprise we were going to get better food on the Mountain than sadly I make at home for Lance and I half the time, ok more than half the time. On our very first dinner we had >>>>. Wow!
By 9:00pm we were all in bed and sleeping, I think from the horrid bus ride not the 7km hike, and it was starting to get a bit chilled in the air. We made our way to our tents, did a little forest side tooth brushing and crawled into our sacks. Not before we were in awe over the night sky – no light pollution here and the stars looked like they could be plucked from the sky if you could just get a wee ladder and try. Milky Way = amazing! I have never seen stars like that. (and am now craving chocolate)
There is nothing so wonderful as a day of hiking followed by sleeping in the fresh air of a tent with your husband to make you too excited at the amazing blessing you have been provided to experience such a trek to even sleep. After some excited squeaks and our usual awesome bedtime conversation, we drifted off to sleep ready to get in what we could before our 5:30am wake up for Day 2.
(If you are enjoying yourself – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 2)