In 2015, I went to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of strangers. Here is the journal I kept, my Kilimanjournal, minus some extremely boring tidbits that I’ve removed because no one has time for that.
June 19, 2015 – Arriving in Tanzania
The road to Marangu is lined with gorgeous golden sunflowers. I know that because I just took an hour long taxi ride from the Kilimanjaro Airport to Kibo Hotel. I’ve been dreaming of this trip for two years and I can’t believe it’s finally here! It has take 36 hours to get from my New York apartment to my Marangu hotel room, and I’ve had a smile plastered on my face for every second of it. I’m in Africa!
First, I’ll climb Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro, with Intrepid. Then, I’ll go on a safari in the Serengeti and relax in Zanzibar with G Adventures. And since I learned my lesson in Nepal, I only packed what would fit a in a backpack a carry-on duffel bag. So what if bringing my long camera lens meant ditching an extra pair of pants! I had one outfit for three weeks in Nepal, and it was still an amazing trip.
I got to Marangu a day early, so I should be able to get on a proper sleep schedule before we start climbing. The hotel, which boasts the most luxurious hotel for miles, is very simple and requires a five minute warning for hot water. There are mosquito nets on the beds, which I’ve always thought looked soooo cool and these are especially cool, since they are meant to prevent malaria. Oh, the bed sheets have a sort of safari print on them and you know how much I love a theme!
Once I was settled, I tried to read a bit, but instead succumbed to a long nap. I woke up in time for dinner at 7:30 PM and made my way downstairs to dine with the one other hotel guest, who had just come down from Kili. My jet lag and his post climb exhaustion made for a very slow, uninteresting conversation. I could have fallen asleep right there at the table…maybe I did.
June 20, 2015 – Marangu
This morning I woke up to church bells ringing and motor bikes honking. My roommate, who scared the peeps out of me when she showed up around midnight, was up shortly after me, so we had breakfast together. Cathy is a lawyer from Melbourne, Australia who gets to take a lot of trekking trips because of that whole paid vacation thing that so many other countries have figured out.
It rained all morning, but stopped right after we decided to take a walk through Marangu. The main part of town consists of a handful of shops and bars, a post office, bank and an internet cafe. It’s clearly dependent on tourism, which became even more apparent when we went into one shop for water and there was only one other purchase written in the log book that day. We popped into the internet cafe to send out “I’m Alive’s” and exchanged our cash for Tanzanian Shillings. While the sky was clear, we kept walking on the main road for a while.
Once we got away from the shops, we witnessed a little more of the local culture. Women wore printed sarongs over their pants and a warm top layer that had made its way over from the States. I saw a few college sweatshirts, an Old Navy NYC fleece, and even a tacky Christmas sweater. Everyone we passed gave a smile and a hearty “Jambo,” Swahili for “hello”.
We passed an outdoor market buzzing with activity. Women shopped tables full of fruit, vegetables, piles of donated clothing from other countries, and bananas on bananas on bananas. We weaved through the tables, then back out to the road, where one of the women caught up to chat. Eva told us she has four children, three of which are attending University in Brazil and one that we met as he walked by. We asked where she was going with the hug five gallon bucket on her head, “Home, to cook for my husband,” she responded
Back at the hotel, we had lunch and met the rest of our group as well as the tour guides. During the welcome meeting, we were briefed on how to pack and what to expect during the climb. Apparently the summit is extremely cold…hopefully my hat and puffy jacket will suffice.
June 21 – Begin Climb
Those church bells started going strong oh so early this morning. They must have interrupted everyone’s sleep, because we were all downstairs for breakfast at the same time. After a hearty meal, we were instructed to meet in the lobby at 10:00 AM. Everyone was on time for roll call and once the guides were certain we had everything we needed, we boarded the bus to Kili. The drive took us through a few small towns and past children who ran alongside the bus and waved as we passed. After about twenty minutes, we were at the gates of Kilimanjaro.
Today’s hike was a steady, gradual uphill through the rainforest. The guides encouraged each of us to carry three liters of water, so the ol’ backpack was real heavy. We didn’t see many animals, but there was a curious mongoose present during our picnic lunch. We only had to walk for a few hours to make it to our first sleep spot, Mandara Huts – apparently Marangu route is the only one with huts to sleep in. but you still have to bring a sleeping bag because gross. Our group was led to the upper level of the dining hut, where we all claimed a bunk bed and sorted our belongings. There was plenty of time to relax and clean up before tea (these UK based tour groups cater to their British clientele with a daily dose of afternoon tea).
Dinner was filling, conversation was thrilling, and then it was time for bed. I put on my comfy night pants and went to the bathroom hut to brush my teeth and relieve my bladder one last time. Then, I, a complete genius, decided it was a perfect time to try out the Go Girl I purchased before I left New York. Go Girl is a funnel that allows women to pee while standing up. I don’t know why I thought it would be a simple task, but it is not. After completely soaking my comfy pants, I realized that it takes some practice to meddle with 28 years of potty habits. What a frickin’ bummer.
Continue this riveting journey with my next blog post: My Kilimanjournal – Part 2