Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Kilimanjaro: Day 1 Climb to Machame Camp

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” -Barry Finlay

The first day of the climb following the Machame Route up Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy 4-6 hour walk (depending on speed) ascending through lush tropical rainforest filled with Podocarpus trees, vine-like lianas, tree ferns and nettles. The trail is well-maintained yet can be muddy given the high levels of rain this part of the mountain receives. The thick foliage provides a verdant canopy letting in little light except tree-filtered rays of the sun. It is absolutely serene.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Our group of Solar Sisters setting off from the Machame Gate.

The weather was absolutely perfect. It was no too hot or too cold and it wasn’t raining which is always a relief. Until you are above the clouds, it can pour down rain making the journey up to Machame Camp a slippery, muddy, uncomfortable mess. Thankfully, we never experienced any bad weather the entire week of our climb which was rather remarkable and very fortunate. You never know what kind of extreme weather you may find on Kilimanjaro and just the week before the summit was unbearably windy and cold. The general rule of thumb is to always be prepared for everything and dress in layers.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Caroline giving me a smile

We left along with several other large groups of climbers and their teams. Our group of nine climbers had four guides, and about 25 others as our support staff, all local Tanzanians who were being paid as either porters, cooks or waiters. Since the entire Machame Route is camping only, everything we needed for the entire week had to be carried which required a large support team. Tents for us as well as the support staff, a cooking tent, a “kitchen” tent, two “toilet” tents and all our food and cooking supplies had to be carried up and down Kilimanjaro.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Porters heading up to the first camp

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Solar Sister Summit Kilimanjaro Tanzania

En route to the Roof of Africa

“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

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Mount Kilimanaro Moshi Tanzania

A Hike through the Rice Paddies of Moshi

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

I rose Saturday morning feeling surprisingly refreshed despite the weary night sleep. Our hotel room was on the first floor next to some loud female cats in heat and finally around three am I had to shut the window to get rid of the noise and awful stink. I fell in and out of a fitful, jet lagged sleep for the next several hours lying like a princess under my white canopy bed net.

The sounds of Africa woke me up as the neighboring community outside our hotel compound walls arose. Cars honking, kids playing, birds singing and motorbikes buzzing. All the sounds of life told me that it was time to get out of bed.

Springlands hotel Moshi

Workers unloading the daily supplies of fresh produce for the Springlands hotel.

We had nothing planned that day except our gear check and meeting on the details of our hike. I knew I couldn’t spend another entire day behind the walls of our hotel. I needed to get out and explore. I spoke with the friendly hotel staff and planned two outings for the day. A visit to a nearby orphanage supported by the charity of the hotel and a tour of the rice paddy fields outside the hotel.

For the rice paddies, I hired a local guide named Kebello and set off on a land tour through the rice paddies behind the hotel and into the rich, thicket forest harboring three different kinds of monkeys. Before I laced up my shoes, I knew it was going to be an adventure.

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Mount Kilimanjaro

The first day: Arrival in Moshi

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

I began my long journey to Africa on a special day – July 8th, 2015 – my 15-year wedding anniversary. No wise wife purposely chooses to plan a two-week trip sans kids and husband on their wedding anniversary. But I had no choice. It would take me almost 24 hours to get to Tanzania and I needed to arrive in time to get over jet lag and prepare for the big climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tearfully I said goodbye to my children and husband, feeling that bittersweet emotion mixed between excitement and guilt that I always feel when leaving my family to fly half way around the world. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it never is easy and I’m always a nervous, anxiety-ridden wreck before I leave on a big trip. Perhaps it is the micro-manager in me that always feels a sense of deep anxiety with leaving my organized, scheduled family life behind. Yet my bags were packed albeit five minutes before the taxi showed up outside my door, the meals were prepared and awaiting frozen inside the depths of the freezer and the endless pages of typed out notes with schedules, idiosyncrasies and miscellaneous tidbits on the daily care of the kids were left out in two copies for each one of my babysitters. I took deep breath, let out a sigh of relief and boarded the plane. A glass of wine was in order followed by another one as I settled into my seat.

There is something grand about traveling overseas, across continents and oceans. A deep, grateful wisp of anticipation, excitement and adventure always sets deep within my veins. Fortunately I have traveled all of my life and instead of diminishing, my love of wanderlust never seems to fade. Instead, it grows stronger like a huge oak tree firmly rooted into the ground and expanding upon each bit of sunlight and drop of rain.

Sunset over Africa

Sunset over Africa

Every time I get in the air, I turn on the flight tracker and watch in amazement the places we pass, soaring through the sky to the next adventure. This time it would be Tanzania, not a new continent for me but a new place. The first stop was in Amsterdam where I would had a couple of hours layover before boarding my next nine-hour flight directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport, located about an hour’s drive from Moshi where I’d be staying for the next couple of days.

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On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Mount Kilimanjaro

I did it! I made it all the way up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro during seven grueling days and nights climbing, sleeping and living on this majestic mountain. The experience was surreal. I have so many stories to share about this amazing journey and the friends I met along the way. But for now I need to get home and rest.

On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

I will leave you with this short video of our second night on Kilimanjaro, a view of sunset from outside my tent. It felt like we were floating high above the earth and clouds. If there is a heaven, I believe I saw it.

Stay tuned….

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

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On the Way to the #SolarSisterSummit

It always amazes me how incredibly fast time goes. It felt like just yesterday when I signed up to join Solar Sister in a quest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this July in honor of their five-year anniversary of providing light, hope, and opportunity to over 1,000+ Solar Sister Entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa. Now there are only six weeks left until I am on the way to Tanzania and I have much training and fundraising left to do.

I must admit that I am already tired out with all the training and it is only the tip of the iceberg. The hike will be 50 miles and almost 20,000 feet so I have much work to do. I have been trying to exercise every day and increase my miles on foot. I’ve walked three lakes, hiked regional and state parks, run up hills and have also been biking. I’m tired but whenever I get drained I realize that I am on my way to achieving my goal both physically and financially.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN

On my way around one of many urban lakes in Minneapolis.

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#SolarSisterSummit: Why I’m climbing the highest mountain in Africa this July

Have you ever had a dream for so long that it never stopped bugging you until you decided to just do it? For me, it has always been Kilimanjaro. I have wanted to climb this epic mountain for over 15 years since my father did it in October 1999 before my wedding. There really has not been any dream or travel goal that I have had for that long.

Like most dreams, there have been many obstacles and road blocks along the way. The first big one was timing. There was no way I could go climb Kilimanjaro when I was in the midst of wedding planning, and honestly at that time I had never ever even considered climbing a mountain before. I had hiked all my life but had never climbed a mountain. My dad was always the mountain climber in the family, the one who took these amazing trips and challenged himself to new heights. Not me. Yet still his 1999 trip started a fire inside my wanderlust soul.

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