Thursday, February 21, 2013

Honeymoon Adventures: Climbing Kilimanjaro

I'm back!
2 + weeks in Tanzania and I loved every second of it (with the exception of the morning of the very last day, for reasons which will be explained later - but basically I ate something bad I think).

While we were just under the equator on the other side of the world, we climbed a mountain and we went on a safari that took us to 3 amazing places.

I'm going to relive it all on my blog for my own enjoyment but also hopefully for yours.
Since there's a LOT of information, I'm going to post about one day each day, especially for the climb. The safari might be summed up in one post with a lot of pictures.
Without any further ado - let's begin!

We left for the airport on Feb 1st for our 6 ish hour flight to Amsterdam. We flew KLM and, with the exception of them not having any other options other than nuts for snacks, I was impressed with their service.
We arrived in AMS and had a few hours to kill so we grabbed a coffee and a breakfast at one of the sit down places in the airport. We watched planes land and reload, and then finally it was time for us to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
We landed late at night and took a shuttle into Moshi where our hotel was. The drive was about 45 mins and it was too dark to really see much but I spent the whole drive staring excitedly out of the window.
We were in Africa!
Our hotel was lovely - tons of gardens, a pool, patios for sitting - but our room left a bit to be desired. Much different from what you would expect in a North American hotel, or even in a resort type hotel. No phone, no tv, just two single beds with mosquito netting and a bathroom. We tried to sleep in one bed the first night with somewhat successful results (likely due to not sleeping much on the flights in) but eventually gave up and slept in seperate beds.
Great start to our honeymoon!
After a day of leisure spent poolside sampling the various Tanzanian beers, we met up with our climb group and went over the important details.  
We spent the evening getting to know the other 6 people we'd be climbing with and I can honestly say I really like every single one of them. Since we've been home we've been messaging each other and I hope we all manage to keep in touch.

Here's the view of the top of Kilimanjaro from our hotel, Springlands:

We took the Machame route up to the summit. Known as the "whiskey route", it's considered to be one of the harder routes, but also one of the more scenic and it also boasts a higher success rate than most of the others.

Here's the route and breakdown:

The rest will be taken directly from the journal I kept:

Tues Feb 5th.
Machame Camp (3000 m)

We made it through day one! I'm writing in a tent (in my sleeping bag) at 3000 m above sea level. Our group is amazing. We're all about the same age and get along really well. We all had dinner and drinks last night.
This morning we got up at 6 for breakfast and to check out, then hopped on a bus at around 9 am to get to the gate for the Machame route. We have 3 guides, Haji, Nuru, and Norbert, all wonderful. We had to wait around for a bit before we got going but we started our trek finally around noon. 5 hours later (walking uphill and often up steep hills) we arrived at camp #1. It was hot hot hot until we got into the rainforest zone and then we had lots of shade to keep us cool. I still sweat like crazy. We stopped a few times along the way and the last break before reaching camp saved my life. We had just finished climbing a steep slope for about 30 minutes and I wasn't sure how much longer I could go on for. But we all made it. We started out at 1800 m and ascended 1200 m and walked a total of 12 km today. The 2 in our group not taking diamox had some headaches but no one else is feeling the effects of the altitude. We had popcorn and tea, and dinner was cucumber soup, beer battered fish, potatoes, cabbage, and a vegetable stew sort of thing. It was really good. We sat around for a bit, admired the clear sky and all its stars and then said our goodnights. We're up at 6 am tomorrow and we set off on another 5 ish hour hike to Shira camp around 7:30 am. 10 km, apparently uphill again. But we should arrive around noon, have a hot lunch and a nap and then go for an acclimatization walk up around 3900-3950 m.
Today was tiring but felt oh so successful when we saw our camp site. It's cold out now (nothing compared to what our summit attempt will feel like) so I'm warm in my fleece and my sleeping bag.
More updates tomorrow.

The entrance gate:

Words of encouragment:

Gray eggs in our lunch box:

Walking through the rain forest:

Camp #1:

Watching the clouds roll in:

Our tents:

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