It took over six months since booking our flights from London to Moshi, of planning, buying all the things we would need for six days of trekking. Every other day I would remember something and make another Amazon order online. From little things to brown bags (plastic bags are not allowed on the mountain), to knee support for downhill climbs.
For the last day, walking 8 hours downhill, knee support and walking poles should be used. I not-so-cleverly packed my knee braces in my bigger backpack, which was carried by the porters so I’ve come back to our hotel in Moshi with a very painful left knee, deflated feeling of not being able to make it up to the summit of 5685m from Kibo Hut (base camp of 4720m), after sleeping in freezing temperatures in tents and walking an average of 4-6 hours a day in high altitude, with no shower and using a shared portable toilet inside a tent. Basically, feeling rough and tired and not fully accomplished. The immediate thought is one of not being rewarded for all the effort and inconvenience I’ve been through.
There were several good things about the journey up the mountain. Most days involved walking above the clouds, which is absolutely beautiful. Also the chef ‘Steve’ arranged by the tour company made us very carb-heavy, homemade hot food two to three times a day for the energy we needed to walk every day. Waking up every morning to clouds and beautiful sunrises and just the absolute basics amongst nature (and some very large ravens that look like a cross between an inflated crow and an eagle).
back to basics
We got hot water in a plastic bowl every morning and evening, to brush our teeth and wash our faces. We started to appreciate that one bowl of hot water so much more than we ever would have, especially after freezing our faces off at night in the tent. Especially when we think of how much water we use (and waste) back home, when using taps, having a shower or bath and when we last appreciated how luxurious that is. Don’t get me started on swimming pools.
what did i wear?
The highest number of layers I have worn was four base layers and my down jacket, trekking pants, gloves, balaclava inside my sleeping bag at the base camp. Ps. a hot water bottle and a sip of vodka really helped deal with sleeping at night easier (although maybe not wise for those who want to reach the summit). I even wore certain items of clothing for six days... my personal best (or worst!).
how did i look?
In terms of how I looked, the first day was a bit of a struggle as I have my normal make up routine which went out the window on day 2. With no mirror and no technology except our cameras, we were reminded how we really look. Our bare natural faces became more acceptable to us. There was a point though, when our faces were all slightly puffy from the altitude, which we found quite funny. My hair was beyond hope and frizzy so one of my friends platted it for me, which made it acceptable for photographic memories of the trip.
did it rain?
We got really good weather, with no rain and mud and the best thing is that there were no insects due to the high altitude. But.... not everyone is that lucky, so best to be prepared.
what did we talk about?
The main conversation for each day was:
• Being bloated (like you’ve never been before, thanks to the altitude)
• Summit night (D-day i.e. day of walking from base camp to the peak)
• How many hours of walking we will be doing on the following day
Overall, the four of us (me and three of my best friends) had a memorable trip up and down the mountain, we started to warm to the local porters, guides, chef and even the man who cleaned and carried our portable toilet. His nickname was: ‘Helicopter man’. These guys carried our luggage and tents up for five days and tucked us into bed nice and early (at 8pm!!) and tried to make conversation in broken English. They practically dressed us for the summit night with the gear, from gaters (I didn't even know what these things are) to gloves and headlamps. It took 13 porters, two chefs and three guides for the four of us to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. That in itself shows that this is no easy climb.
back to ground level
When we got back to ground level at the Kilimanjaro National Park gates and drove back to our hotel in Moshi, we saw the mountain from a distance standing independently in all its glory. It made me realise just what I tried to climb. Two of my friends made it to the first peak at summit, so for them it was even more mesmerising that they were up there (and even got a certificate from the Tanzanian government!).
For anyone wishing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, my humble advice would be to enjoy the journey up the mountain, be mentally prepared for anything, listen to your body and how it reacts to the altitude and be positive. I’m not sure I was carved out for several days of camping, but it’s certainly an experience worth having once... and then returning to civilisation and usual comforts feels even better. Certainly appreciated a nice shower!