Mount Kilimanjaro! Doesn’t it sound romantic? Have you seen the pictures of the glaciers at the top? Did Hemingway intrigue you when he wrote of leopards frozen in the snow? Did you see the handsome Gregory Peck in The Snows of Kilimanjaro which was based on Hemingway’s story? Kilimanjaro is sexy and mysterious and damn hard!
I travelled to Tanzania in 2015 and booked both the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek and a 5-day Safari with Thomson Safaris. I highly recommend this company for anything in Tanzania. I’m considering doing this hike again in 2019 when I’m in Africa.
I am in love with Kilimanjaro. I trained. I packed according to the list. I made it to the summit and I shed some tears! I also made new friends — with social media it is so easy to keep in touch with Penda, Greg and Maureen 🙂
I chose The Western Route because it allowed more time for acclimatization plus there was an overnight in the crater! Here is the map of the route.
I flew KLM from Edmonton to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro – about 16 hours in the air. Here I am all packed and ready to leave my house!
Arrival Into Arusha
It was dark when I arrived so I couldn’t see Kilimanjaro (aka Kili) in the distance yet, but I met the folks who would make up our groups in the airport and we were transported to KIA Lodge for the night.
In the morning we had our trek briefing where we officially met each other and our head guide, Penda. There are 2 groups with Thomson Safaris – my group was a team of 4 – Greg, Dan, Mike and myself.
Our guide, Penda Lauwo, was exemplary. Hans Meyer first summitted Kilimanjaro in 1889 — it was Penda’s grandfather who escorted him and also summitted. The math doesn’t quite sound right? Read this fascinating story about Penda’s family! Guiding Trekkers Up Kilimanjaro: A Lauwo Family Tradition
We departed KIA Lodge for Ndarakwai Ranch (4,200′) which is a private conservation area. There was a lot of local wildlife to see as we hiked through the open savannah. I got my first sighting of a giraffe! My heart was pounding – they are so beautiful!
Now you all know that I like to think of myself as a princess and I’m quite happy sitting in a spa in a fancy hotel with a glass of wine getting some sort of treatment done. Or shopping up a storm buying shoes I’ll never go anywhere to wear. I didn’t call this site Travel, Wine & Shoes for nothing.
However, I have never been happier than I was staying in some of the “tents” that I was treated to in Tanzania.
Look at the shower! It was luxurious standing there with the cool breeze!
During the night, I opened up all the window flaps so that the breeze was blowing through and I could hear all the night noises. It was like I was sleeping outside. I loved it.
This was my view from the back deck of my tent.
Ndarakwai Ranch is spectacular!
We took a guided walk on the 11,000 acre ranch focusing on large mammals. Over 350 bird species and 65 mammal species can be seen on the ranch as a direct result of the conservation work that has been going on here since 1994.
This is a giraffe bone.
The Ndarakwai Treehouse was interesting with awesome views.
We spotted Zebras, Elephants, Giraffes, Wildebeest, Antelopes and Gazelles and could see Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. This was only the tip of the iceberg compared to what I would see on Safari after the Hike.
These animals were just there — no fences or pens — just roaming free as they are intended to do. I struggle with animals in any kind of captivity since I’ve been to Tanzania. Giraffes are the most beautiful animals I’ve seen.
Trek Day 1 – Begin Trek To Forest Camp
Today we started off by weighing our duffel bags — we had a 33 lb limit. We also met our porters. My porter was Arun (Aaron) and he was amazing. We then started our trek!
Our first mountain camp was Forest Camp, located in the rainforest at 9,281 feet.
Trek Day 2 – Forest Camp To Shira 1 Camp
Today we made our way out of the forest and dense rainforest gave way to grass plains. We trekked across the Shira Plateau, seeing Uhuru Peak towering above the clouds. We camped at Shira 1 Camp at 11,499 feet.
This is Arun! He is one of the people that made my time on the mountain special. Arun was my porter and carried my orange duffel bag along with my tent. He spoiled me rotten and took excellent care of me. Each morning after breakfast, Arun would help me get my gaiters on, help me get my daypack on and hand me my poles. He would then pack up my sleeping bag pad and put in my duffel bag, take down the tent and bring everything to the next camp.
At the end of the day, I would arrive in the new camp and my tent was set up, the sleeping bag pad was set up and Arun was waiting for me. He helped me take off my daypack and gaiters. Most days about 1/2 hour or so away from camp, I would see his red fleece coming in the distance to meet me. It was a high point every time as I was usually exhausted. Arun met me on the trail and would take my daypack and carry it the rest of the way for me. He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever been blessed to meet. Hope all is well with you Arun! xoxo
The first yellow tent was where we had our meals. The second tent with the orange strips were for the porters and another one was for cooking. The third tents were our sleeping tents – I had one all to myself! The last tent was our bathroom tent – it had a Porta-Potty in it — I really appreciated this tent at all times, especially in the middle of the night when I always had to get up and go pee. Seriously, every single night — 2 or 3 times.
Here are some shots of Kili in the distance!
Trek Day 3 – Shira 1 To Shira 2 Camp
Today we explored the Shira Plateau during an acclimatization day, had breathtaking views of Mt. Meru and camped at Shira 2 Camp at 12,795 feet.
My home away from home — I had a lot of room and was very comfortable in this tent. I think everything I have is either orange or purple!
The first couple mornings, there was tea delivered to my tent. That’s the best way to start the day — on a mountain, still waking up and having hot tea brought to you. The first time I spilled a bit on the floor of the tent. I cleaned that up myself and covered up the fact that I’m a klutz. The next morning I tried to be careful and was still in my sleeping bag with the tea. I ended up spilling it all in my sleeping bag and the guys had to dry it out on the rocks. After that, there was no more tea in my tent.
I also had one of those female pee funnels — I practiced at home and they’re really easy to use. Men seriously have no idea how good they have it! I was afraid to use it in the middle of the night in the dark in my tent though. You just need to read the previous paragraph to understand why.
Trek Day 4 – Shira 2 To Lava Tower Camp
Today we climbed to an extraordinary rock formation called Lava Tower and set up camp there at 15,213 feet. Lava Tower is one of Kilimanjaro’s most famous volcanic formations.
Trek Day 5 – Lava Tower To Karanga Camp
Today we descended into the Great Barranco Valley and scrambled the 800 foot high Barranco Wall. I struggled and it was a challenge for me! My upper body strength is severely lacking and Penda hauled me up a few sections on the wall. We spent the night in Karanga Camp at 13,231 feet.
I had my orange puffy on!
I didn’t get a lot of food pictures — I was well fed though by Moses! Here’s grilled cheese, homemade french fries and banana bread. Seriously, I was in food heaven on the mountain.
Trek Day 6 – Karanga To Barafu Camp
We hiked up to Barafu Camp at 15,331 feet. The temperature started to drop and the landscape looks like the moon.
So happy for my toilet tent!!
Trek Day 7 – Barafu To Summit
Omg today was one of the hardest days of my life – and one of the best! We entered the Arctic Zone today and headed for Kilimanjaro’s glaciers and Uhuru Peak (the summit at 19,341 feet).
The 4000 feet to the summit was very difficult. I struggled to not cry when I finally got to the crater rim and the Stella Point sign. I chatted with a couple who were on their way down — they were also from St. Albert — such a small world.
In 2014, a close friend of mine from Houston, Anne, passed away from cancer. She was the kindest person — always a role model and an inspiration for me. We talked about everything. I had lost another close friend in 2004, Lisa, to cancer as well. We worked together at Suncor in Fort McMurray. People sometimes tell me that I’m very strong, but I’m not. I struggle with loss and folks don’t see all the tears you shed sometimes.
Anne and I both loved trekking and planned to go hiking in Bhutan together. I was hoping she would also come and do Kili with me. In a sense, I brought her with me to Kili and will have her with me when I go to Bhutan. I did cry at the summit — it’s an emotional experience and overwhelming.
We spent the night in Crater Camp in the Reusch Crater at 18,802 feet. If you look really close in the lower right hand side, you can see the tents from our camp. Sadly, the glaciers have receded a lot on Kilimanjaro.
It was cold in the crater. I found it hard to breathe as we moved around doing camp things and walking over to the glaciers and back. I slept with my water bottles filled with hot water in my sleeping bag and in my clothes. I had a lot of layers on too! Of course I had to get up and go pee — I felt like I ran a marathon. It took so much effort to get up out of my sleeping bag, get out of the tent and stand up, walk a few feet to the toilet tent, literally freeze my butt as I peed, walk back to my tent, get in the tent and crawl into my sleeping bag. I was breathing hard to catch my breath. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything though. Incredible, extraordinary and inspirational!
Trek Day 8 – Crater Camp To Mweka Millennium Camp
Well … going down was harder than going up on the legs and knees. We had a celebratory breakfast and started going down to Mweka Millennium Camp at 12,500 feet. It was a long day!
Trek Day 9 – Celebration and Shower!
We descended the remaining distance and my legs and knees were even more sore today! Wow — you really don’t use those muscles a lot.
Isn’t Kili beautiful? My last views of her.
Penda and I were the last ones down. He took my camera and got a lot of pictures of me!
I always feel bad when I see this picture – here is Arun coming behind me with my stuff. The canvas bag contains my tent and my orange duffel bag. He was amazing!
We arrived and checked in! The porters were all cleaned up! I got my certificate from Penda and then I only wanted one thing … a Kilimanjaro Beer!
It was time to say good-bye! I was now off to the Mount Meru Game Lodge to shower and begin the safari! I was filthy dirty and smelled — I’m not sure what all went down the drain, but that shower was amazing!
Mount Meru Game Lodge is a refuge for injured or orphaned animals. Depending on their condition, every effort is made to reintroduce them back into the wild. We were lucky enough to hear monkeys chattering in the trees in the evening and scampering over the roof in the morning. One monkey stole a breakfast bun in the morning – it was very funny watching him run away with it and enjoy it while perched on the roof!
Next Up – 5 Day Safari!
- Thomson Treks
- The Western Approach
- Mount Kilimanjaro
- The Snows of Kilimanjaro
- KIA Lodge
- Ndarakwai Ranch
- Mount Meru Game Lodge
- Guiding Trekkers Up Kilimanjaro: A Lauwo Family Tradition
Jackie is “Mom” to one amazing son, an IT professional and an obsessed traveller. She spends her time reading, golfing at Ladies League and implementing software projects. Jackie has travelled to all 7 continents and 93 countries and is always planning the next destination and adventure!