Thirdeyemom

En route to the Roof of Africa

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

I woke up Sunday morning with a jolt of anticipation. Today was the day we were leaving for Kilimanjaro. Months of preparing and years of dreaming about it, I was finally on my way. It felt surreal.

Since the beginning of mankind, men and women alike have challenged themselves by climbing mountains. Scaling all of the seven summits – the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents –  was first achieved by the late American climber Richard Bass in the spring of 1985.  Kilimanjaro, the fourth highest peak among the seven summits, soaring at 19,340 feet (5,895 m) and one of the world’s highest freestanding mountains, has long been one of the most popular climbs given its relative ease of climbing (no technical climbing ability is necessary) and beauty.  Located 200 miles (330 km) south of the equator in Northern Tanzania, the snow-capped volcanic dome of Kilimanjaro dominates the skyline like no other mountain on earth.

Image of the 7summits v2

Image of the 7summits v2″ by Anurag Paul. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Free Commons.

Kilimanjaro is actually not a single peak but a vast complex of cones and cores spreading over 38 miles (61 km) long by 25 miles (40 km) wide. There are three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim and is the hopeful destination of thousands of climbers every year.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

We set off for Machame Village shortly after breakfast with the van packed with our gear and a couple of our guides. Our group of nine climbers – six of us from the United States and three from Nigeria were all part of the #SolarSisterSummit in honor of Solar Sister’s five-year anniversary of providing clean energy and women’s empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our climb would be the culmination of months of fundraising and training.

Solar Sister Summit Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Our group sporting our new Solar Sister Summit t-shirts at Machame Gate

 

 

There are six main climbing routes on Kilimanjaro with the Marangu Route (also known as the “Coca-Cola Route”) being the easiest and most popular. Our group chose the longer, more scenic Machame route that can take anywhere from 6-7 days and is known as one of the most beautiful routes on the mountain, passing through five distinct ecological zones and affording dramatic views every single day of the climb. The Machame Route also has one of the highest success rates for reaching the summit since it allows proper acclimatization before the final summit push.

Image of Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes (Wikipedia)

Image of Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes (Wikipedia). Our route was the Machame colored in brown.

Our one-hour drive to the Machame Gate took us through lush green, tropical vegetation. While the others talked excitedly in back, I sat up front next to the driver to get a bird’s eye view of the passing scenery. The driver pointed out the beds of drying millet that farmers use to make “mbenge” a local beer and also showed me how they planted coffee underneath the foliage of the banana leaves to provide shade which helps the coffee grow. It was a beautiful drive and very different than I had expected. I had no idea that the Kilimanjaro region was so lush and tropical.

We arrived a little after noon to the Machame Gate where we would have a bag lunch, register with the Kilimanjaro Park Office, meet up with our porters and start our trek. As we drove inside the gates, I tried to capture on film all the local vendors hawking their wares. Tanzanian flags and other fun memorabilia for the summit were readily for sale.

Machame Gate Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Entering the chaos of Machame Gate

June marks the high season for Kilimanjaro climbs given the normally dry and warmer climate and of course summer vacation for many trekkers. We weren’t sure what kind of crowds to expect but were prepared for hundreds of fellow climbers joining us along the way. (Click on any image to enlarge size). 

Before we headed out, we met our four guides and were each given a handmade wooden plaque with the words to “The Song of Kilimanjaro” which we all learned by heart by the end of the trek.

Machame Gate Kilimanjaro Tanzania

The song proved to be words of wisdom. Here is basic meaning of the song in English:

Hello, Hello! Welcome everyone to the beautiful view of Kilimanjaro. Welcome to Kilimanjaro, no worries! Go slow, slow…no worries.

Hmmm? We would just have to see if there really were hakuna matata! No worries! 62 miles (100 km) up and 24 miles (38 km) down did not sound like no worries to me.

“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome”. – Wilma Rudolph

 

28 comments

    • Thanks Sally. Now it has been three weeks since I’ve been home and it is hard to believe I actually really did this crazy trip! 7 days in a tent, no shower and tons and tons of climbing up and down. Good to relive it here on the blog. 🙂

    • Ha Ha David! I had no idea that my elephant had a horn!!!! That is hilarious. Must be a new breed! Hope you and Neha are doing well. Will have to let you know when I’m in DC this October. Hopefully you guys will be in town.

    • Ha Ha That is true Janet. I guess I just go with the flow when I’m traveling. The leg is finally better thank goodness! It has been three weeks since I’ve been home and it took that much time to mend. Lots of icing and no running. Guess I’m not as young as I used to be but so relieved I’m feeling good again!

    • Thanks Debbie! Lots to share. The leg was swollen and huge but at least I could walk. I seriously couldn’t walk for a few hours after the injury. It was so sore. I had to deal with it swelling the entire trip but other than that it did not hurt until the hike down. I could hardly walk when I got back to the hotel and it has been three weeks since I’ve been home and finally today I was able to take a walk pain free! My knee and quad ended up becoming inflamed because of the injury. It was a mess but I am so happy to have completed a walk around the lake today pain free! I’m on the mend now!

    • Darn good question LuAnn! It really depends on your overall athletic ability I think. I’ve been active all my life and have done these kinds of long distance hikes before with not that much training. For this, I just did my normal running 5 miles three times a week, walking, biking and inline skating. I did a few four hour walks but they were flat. Some people do stair masters or other hikes but I really believe that if you are in moderately good shape anyone can do it. The altitude can be hard but with seven days most people can do it and just go immediately down on summit day if they are not feeling well. It is a very doable climb which is why it is so popular.

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