Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. I first witnessed the grandiose majestic-ness, soaring at 19341 feet above the clouds as I was flying in from Zanzibar. My excitement and adrenaline was building, slaying Kili was the grand finale of last three awesome months of traveling.
My tour company picked me up and we drove about an hour to Moshi town to the hotel, the Sal Salinero, where my friends from the US, Dani and Robin were already waiting for me to arrive.
Whats that? No solo-adventure travel for once? AMAZING! I met them in the hotels restaurant for a late dinner, we had some beers and caught up on life and then we all headed to our rooms to finish packing as we were departing for our climb early the next morning.
Day 1: The first day of the hike we departed at 6AM from our hotel and drove several hours to the entrance to the Machame route. Holly, a 16-year-old doing the hike with her father, puked the entire drive. The van smelt glorious and those were my last memories of civilization.
We registered at the Ranger station and then drove up even further through potato fields to where our hike would start. Our SUV broke down on the horrible road so we walked the last part to the beginning of the trail where every other tour group and their clients were amassing to start the climb.
Although we departed our hotel at 6am, we only began our hike at 3pm and hiked about 3 hours to our campsite on day one.
Day 2: I began to realize that my fantasy that climbing Kilimanjaro was greatest idea ever, was rapidly becoming delusional.
I love hiking. I love camping. I love pushing my body. But what I HATE is walking at a snail’s pace and then getting yelled at because I choose to walk next to someone instead of in front or behind them.
“Pole Pole” means “go slowly” in Swahili and I was getting quite antsy and impatient as I have never done ANYTHING at this pace in my life.
I will say that the Kilimanjaro Machame route was very beautiful:
Day 3: The situation on the mountain continues to rapidly deteriorate. I hadn’t had meat for 2 days… does no one understand that I’m the protein Queen???? and if I ever hear someone say Pole Pole again I will shove my hiking pole pole down their throat.
I should also probably mention the toilet situation and the mass quantity of people at each “camp zone” on the mountain each night. Of the six nights we stayed on Kilimanjaro, there were over 1000 people sleeping in each camping area all sharing about 10 port-a-john squat toilets, all of which have never been cleaned nor emptied as there are no roads up Kilimanjaro. Mother Nature for the win. Ladies who were real ladies, began to just squat behind rocks outside because it was cleaner than having to use the facilities.
Day 4: French Toast failure day. The food continued to get progressively worse each day of the trek so after climbing in an ascent all morning, I was DELIGHTED when we were informed that for lunch, we would be having French toast.
I’m really not a picky eater, I can force most things down my pie hole, and I REALLY love French toast, but Kilimanjaro french toast apparently is an exception. I knew it was suspicious the moment it was carried in on a silver platter with no syrup, honey or jam.
Who tempura batters french toast? Well apparently our chef did, but to make it even “more delicious” it was first soaked in oil and then tempura battered as I found out when I bit into the tempura conjoined pieces and a gush of vegetable oil poured into my mouth. Needless to say, lunch was rapidly over for me… and we continued onward.
Day 5: Where am I, Mt. Everest? The shortest “pole pole” hiking day we have but it is cold and most of us were pretty irritable by this time due to the horrible food, the pace and the altitude. I decide to be anti-social and hide out in my tent as soon as possible with my friend, old-man Kindle, and tried to escape the world although I was practically already sitting on top of it and got some good reading in.
Day 6: SUMMIT day started at 0100. It literally took us 9 hours to get to the summit and it was FREEZING. Some girls were crying that they had never been so cold in their lives and that they thought they would have to get their fingers and toes amputated from frostbite.
Some members of our group also had severe altitude sickness and were puking the entire way up, but we pushed on pole pole our way up as the slowest group on the entire mountain and there it was, the SUMMIT.
Now you think people would be courteous after spending six days together on a mountain and dealing with all the trials and tribulations of altitude sickness, bad food, etc. But I have never seen such a poor showing of mankind (1000 of them, no less) then at the summit. People budging, shoving and yelling in order to be able to take a picture… with a sign.
It was disgusting, and I was ready to go jump off the glacier.
Upon getting to camp that night, our guides handed us each bars of soap with some bowls of water to bathe.
Oh the irony, that they would carry bars of soap for each of us the last 6 days and only give it to us on our last day.
Worst. Company. Ever.
Day 7: After the hike, some ahem well-deserved celebratory champagne for completing our Kilimanjaro Machame feat and returning to Moshi town for a delightful hot shower, I was a little happier.
I had about a day to explore and unwind before my flight departed for the US from Africa so I walked into Moshi town to run some errands and do some shopping. I also checked out the Union Coffee co-op for a fantastic cuppa and then met up with the other girls for lunch at IndoItaliano restaurant in Moshi town.
Overall, am I proud that I summited Kili? Sure, as its just another life adventure notched into my belt.
Would I do it again?
Maybe when I’m 90 and “pole pole” is the only pace I know 😉
If you have any questions about Climbing Kilimanjaro Machame route, please comment or feel free to email me.