Tag Archives: Karibu

Voyage to Z

Ah, Zanzibar! Just the name of it alone sounds like paradise.

Zanzibar.

Yes I’ll be going there. But before I dive into that awesome chapter, I still gotta get off this damn mountain!

After about ten minutes at the summit, I put back on my gear and made my way back down the path I just came on. It was extremely liberating to know that I wouldn’t have to ascend any further, just mostly descend. I still felt like crap and I still had a hard time catching my breath. I passed my group and made it back to Stella Point with relative ease. However I had zero energy left.

I didn’t realize just how steep we came up. I thought going down would be a piece of chocolate cake, but it was tiresome. Kili’s last resort to try and bring me down. The gravel going down was so loose that with each step I would sink into the mountain. I was exhausted and after three hours, finally stumbled down to Barafu Camp, the site where we stayed right before Summit Day. Three hours! That’s how battered and beaten I was. I told Nderingo that I needed to sleep for at least an hour or two before I hike any further. My body couldn’t go any further. I wasn’t the only one who needed to rest. Everyone else in my group slept as well.

I only slept for about an hour and a half but it was all I needed to regain my strength. I was rejuvenated and anxious to get off this mountain. I walked with another member of my team who suffered more than I did at the summit. After walking for a bit, I became so antsy to get off Kili that I ran full speed down the mountain. I leaped over mud-pits, hopped from rock to rock, and sprinted as if I was running for my life. I found it quite fun. It felt good to feel normal again. The lower I descended in elevation, the better my head felt. It was easier to breathe. Eventually I made it to the bottom of Kili. We all made it down one way or another. I was done with this mountain.

The entire team. The porters, the cook, the guides, and LX6!
My mountain family minus Allison, who is on her way down right now!

On the way back home to Arusha, we could see Kilimanjaro behind us in the horizon. I didn’t have the same awe-inspiring feeling when I used to see this picture. Before it was “Wow, that looks so amazing!” Now it’s “Screw you Kilimanjaro…”. We all pretty much had the same thoughts :).

I haven’t showered in about a week. I was the dirtiest I have ever been. My beard was bushes and my hair was matted to my head. I immediately darted to the shower and watched all the black goo come off my entire body. I gave myself a haircut and shaved off my beard. I looked like a new man! No time to rest though, because I had to pack my bags again. Myself and a few others would be leaving Arusha tomorrow morning and going to spend a week on the tropical island of Zanzibar! I considered it to be my reward for conquering Kilimanjaro. I have been looking forward to this for months!

Katie, Tanner, Lana, and myself took an eleven hour shuttle in the morning from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam, one of the major cities in Tanzania. Later on we would eventually reunite with Nick and join up with Lana’s hometown friend Ben (Vancouver, Canada). We opted to take a shuttle and then a ferry to Z because it was much cheaper than flying. The big drawback is that it takes a day in a half to get there rather than just an hour by flight. We finally made it to Dar and booked a hotel in the city. The next morning we took a two hour ferry across the Indian Ocean to Z. Out of all the things that make me motion sick, boats are the biggest culprit. I took three motion pills before hand and it knocked me out! I managed to make myself cozy in the aisle of the upper-deck in the ferry. It was a rocky start but I got through it.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on that ferry…ugh…

Finally, after a day and a half of traveling through the country and in the ocean, we docked in Stone Town, one of the main hubs of the island.

Stone Town

Stone Town had a completely different feel from any place I’ve been in Tanzania. I felt like I was in the middle east. Everything about this fabled town had an arabic vibe to it. Such a nice change of scenery. Another thing, it’s Ramadan here. It’s a muslim holiday that lasts a few weeks (I think) where muslims can’t eat or drink anything as long as it’s daylight outside. Because of this, a lot of restaurants were closed but we managed to find a few that stayed open along the beaches. We had to be careful not to drink our water bottles in the middle of town, out of respect for the locals here.

All tatted up for Z!

After a few hours of exploring the city, we took a taxi to Nungwi beach, the setting of my holiday for the next week here on this dream island. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Z ๐Ÿ™‚
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The Conquest of Kilimanjaro

“Do you think I’m alright to climb Kilimanjaro?”

The doctor didn’t answer me immediately. He instead checked my heart rate and prescribed me with a bunch of meds. “If you take these, you should be okay by then” he said. It was friday, which meant I needed these drugs to work by Sunday in order to be in good shape for the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. What a long shot!

I rarely ever take any pills or medications back at home. If I have a headache, I refuse to take an aspirin; I just sleep it off. If I have a cold, I just let my body build up the proper immunity. What the doctor here in Arusha prescribed me with is just insane! Just look at it all…

For real?????

It’s so much! I’m very naive when it comes to this stuff. I feel like a pill popper. Will I die from taking all of these drugs at once? I don’t even know what those yellow tablets are for. In addition to the malaria pills that I have been taking once every day, now I have to take all of these at least once or a few times per day. But I felt like I had to do whatever was necessary to feel better. With that, I made my decision that I was going to climb. So I told Lana (Vancouver, Canada), another volunteer in charge of organizing a team of trekkers, “I’m in”. I would regret it if I didn’t at least try. However, if I didn’t make it to the peak, then it would be one of my more embarrassing moments.

Preparation Day (Sunday July 15th)

For the next few blog posts, I’m going to treat my experience on Kili as sort of a rough guide for any of you readers out there in the world who are interested in summiting this gargantuan beast. I’ll share what to do and what not to do. My first-hand experience.

There are six of us making the journey to the summit: Myself, Lana, Mike, Nick (London, UK), Allison (Chicago, US) and Kang (China). We are team LX6! LX6 stands for “Lana times 6. We were picked up from Arusha and taken to Moshi in the morning.

LX6 at the hostel before the hike.

The name of the company we went with is called Karibu. They are a little cheaper than most other companies and well worth it. We went to get the necessary gear we needed. This equipment place had everything we could ever want. So if you come unprepared do not worry. Everything you need for the climb is here available to rent and is included in the lump cost. The items I had rented as recommended by our guides are :

1 large down jacket
3 pairs of thermal socks
3 pairs of thermal slacks
1 balaclava
1 head torch
1 fleece jacket
1 rain proof pants
1 pair of gloves
1 pair of gaiters
1 camel-pack
1 pair of heavy-duty pants
2 walking poles
1 water bottle

In addition to those items, I had already brought with me:

1 rain jacket
1 scarf
1 winter hat
1 pair of hiking boots
5 long and short sleeve shirts
1 cargo shorts
1 cargo pants
1 hand torch

You can rent all of those from the equipment shop as well. I used all of these items on the mountain and found that everything was absolutely necessary for the long ascent. I rented the water bottle just in case there was a hole in my camel-pack; I would have a back up. Maybe I could have done without the scarf but it was a nice touch to have. Next we hit up the local grocery to load up on snacks. I will burn a lot of calories hiking hours upon hours so it was essential that I brought plenty of snacks to replenish some energy. This is what I brought:

2 cases of Pringles
4 Snicker bars
1 bag of mini Mars Bars
2 bags of roasted cashews
1 box of chocolate cookies

Being the chocolate fiend that I am, I ate two of the Snicker bars before the hike even began :). I will tell you first hand though, pausing to eat a Snickers after hours of hiking is the best thing in the world! I never had a Snickers bar that tasted so good. I would advise against getting cashews or peanuts. They dried my mouth out and I didn’t get the glucose energy I needed from them like I got from the chocolates.

We were taken to our hostel for the night where we were given a brief lecture about important things we should know about our hike. We met our three guides there: Nderingo (the chief guide), Peter (assistant guide), and Sosteness (assistant guide). We would wake up in the morning the next day to start our ascent up the Machame Route, the second hardest ascent to the summit of Kili.

Day 1 (Monday July 16th)

At the start of the Machame Route.

The hike on the first day was through a humid, muddy jungle. Trees were draped with vines and covered with bright green moss. Flys and mosquitoes were everywhere! It was a sweat fest for sure.

I was certain I’d see Tarzan swinging around on these vines at some point.

It’s highly recommended that climbers hike very, very slowly to let their body acclimate properly to the increasing altitude. And that’s exactly what I did. I had the pace of a grandma crossing the street. The guides would shout “pole pole!” which is Swahili for “slowly slowly!” So this would be my first tip for you: Take it slow! Statistics show that young males are the least likely to summit because they go too fast. I would have been part of that statistic if I had not read about how important it is to go pole pole.

It was a bit frustrating at first going such a snail pace because I could have gone much faster. But I knew from past experience what altitude sickness felt like and I didn’t want to succumb to it again. The slower I went, the less oxygen I used which meant my body could use more oxygen to acclimate properly. On top of that, I was still sick so I didn’t want to take any chances. After about 6 hours of hiking, we made it to the site of our first campsite at the Machame Huts (9911ft). Our guides set up three tents, two trekkers per tent. The tents were very small but they did the job.

LX6! Day 1 complete

Everyday the cook in our team would make us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All hot meals! Breakfast is usually porridge or oatmeal with a rotation of juices, sausage, eggs, crepes, and fruits. Lunch and dinner is where we would get soups, chips, pastas, rice, salads, fruits, and other side options. Lana, who is vegetarian, was given specially prepared meals just for her. Much to my surprise, we were very well fed the entire time on the mountain. There was also plenty to go around. The cook did an amazing job. We even had our own personal waiter each day who brought us anything we needed. Such a nice touch :).

Day 2 (Tuesday July 17th)

The next day we made the ascent up to our next stop, the Shira Caves (12,595ft). The terrain was different from yesterday. It was dusty and there were small shrubs all over the place. The day was a bit cooler and there were hardly any bugs. Even though the path was considerably steeper than yesterday, I found this trail to be a bit easier and more enjoyable. I kept the “pole pole” pace going. In addition to going slow my next big tip: Drink Plenty of Water! I cannot emphasize that enough. The suggested amount of water a climber should drink each day is about four to five liters. Every few minutes I would drink a sip of water from my camel-pack. In other words, I was constantly drinking water all day long. It keeps you hydrated and is an important source of oxygen for your body. Every time I urinated (which was quite often), I made sure my pee was crystal clear.

Eventually we made it to the site of our camping grounds for the night. Although we made it to camp, our hike for the day wasn’t over. Our guides suggested that we ascend about a half hour further and then descend back down to camp. This brings me to my next tip: Climb High, Sleep Low. Basically by going up and then coming back down, you are preparing your body for what lies ahead.

Tomorrow is Day 3. Previous hikers told me that Day 3 is the day when most start to feel symptoms of altitude sickness. Better prepare myself, off to bed I go!

P.S. My coughs haven’t gone away yet. At this point, I ran out of cough syrup and I finished my antibiotics. I’m at a stale mate.

If You’re Farting Well, You’re Faring Well

Day 3 (Wednesday July 18th)

Ok, Day 3. I heard this is one of the longer days of the hike. And it is. Today looked like we were hiking on a distant rocky planet. Dull colored and strewn with boulders and a tad brisk. It was a steady hike up a long slope and down through valleys. After hours upon hours of hiking, we ultimately didn’t ascend as much as we did the previous two days.

Almost there?

Most trekkers hate this day because it is so long and dusty. It certainly was both of those. I didn’t get any symptoms of the altitude though. No headaches, no nausea. Nderingo said it was normal if I should feel these symptoms and they should disappear after descending a bit. I was completely fine. Just tired. Sleepy tired. I just wanted to find a nice boulder, sprawl out, and fall asleep next to it. I managed to sneak in a quick ten minute nap during lunch break.

Nice and cozy.

It didn’t last long. I had to continue the long hike towards the Karanga Valley Campsite(13,235ft). Before that we reached the Lava Tower(15,180ft), rested and had to descend down to Karanga. Today overall, was more about acclimating rather than ascending. We constantly went up and down and up and down. So far so good.

Day 4 (Thursday July 19th)

Today was definitely my favorite day of the hike. Why? Because the terrain today was very rocky and the path wasn’t as laid out as previous days. I find I fare better with rocky conditions. I consider myself a pretty good rock climber and loved scaling the stone walls up the mountain. It was quicker than following the narrow path which took ages. This is the only time I broke my “pole pole” rule. I was fine though. I had fun doing it. I felt like Spiderman. I don’t know why anyone else wasn’t doing it too, but climbing the walls was very exciting. Maybe a little dangerous but I knew what I was doing. The guides let me climb because they saw how comfortable I was doing that, rather than walking along the set path. Very cool!

I loved this!

There are two other useful pieces of information you should know. I completely forgot to mention that I had “anti-altitude” sickness pills with me called Diamox. Every morning during breakfast and at lunch I would take half a pill. What this does is acidifies your blood, allowing you to breath more conditionally and enters more oxygen into your bloodstream. I have no idea if it worked for me or not. I have nothing to compare it to. But it didn’t hurt to have these. They may have helped. It’s highly recommended by everyone who has been on the hike up Kili.

Another useful piece of information is to make sure you fart and burp, a lot! Passing gas and burping is a great indication that your body is acclimating properly. So don’t be afraid to let loose on the mountain. Myself and the others in my group had no shame. “Whoops sorry guys, just acclimating!” We would even applaud someone when they let out a giant fart haha! Never have we been more open about our gases, keeping count of how many times we cut the cheese. It’s something we can only do on this mountain. No shame. Just acclimating :).

Today was a lot longer than the other days but I enjoyed today the most. We finally made it to our last campsite for the ascent, the Barafu Huts(15,295ft).

Tomorrow is the big day: Summit Day! We went to bed because we had to wake up in three hours for the night crawl! Yes, just three hours of sleep. It was so cold that night too! We certainly had to sleep close to each other to stay warm. We had to wake up ate 11p.m and start the final ascent at midnight. So far all of the days have been…easier than I imagined. I felt zero symptoms whatsoever. Besides my coughing that seems to never go away, I felt great. Just sleepy. I drank plenty of water each day, took my time, ate plenty of food, and enjoyed myself. If this was any indication, I thought summit day would be a breeze as well…right?…

I could never have been more wrong in my life…