So you want to climb the Roof of Africa…
This is the true story of how a group of six extremely unprepared wanafunzi (students) managed to *spoiler alert* summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.
A step-by-step guide
- Go to a full moon party on a sandbank off the coast of Stone Town, Zanzibar the night before you are supposed to head to Moshi. Trust me, you’ll feel great the next morning!
- Actually wake up on time to catch your 7:00am ferry
- Realize that you still need to pack before you leave for the ferry terminal
- Get to the ferry in just enough time, thankful you bought your ticket yesterday
- After arriving in Dar es Salaam, talk your way into reducing the cost of a taxi to 20,000/= (Tanzanian shillings) to the bus station, arguing that it’s only a few miles away and that you could walk there
- Ride in the taxi for a half hour, realize you could NOT have walked there
- Arrive at the “bus terminal”, a sandlot with a bunch of buses and find one that is heading to Moshi, Tanzania
- Realize the bus you will be on for the next 12 hours has no bathroom and no air conditioning
- Listen to 12 hours of loud Tanzanian music videos and violent movies
- Text the Kilimanjaro climbing company you are trekking with that you will arrive in Moshi within the next hour
- Get a text back telling you that you weren’t supposed to go to Moshi, the office is in Arusha
- Thank your respective god that your bus is also going to Arusha
- Arrive in Arusha at 11pm and meet a guy with a sign and a bus with your name on it
- Get chipsy mayai (fries and eggs) at the one restaurant in Arusha since you haven’t eaten all day. Apparently, it’s “the place to be!”
- Pass out upon arriving at the company’s office, luckily they have some beds you can sleep on for free!
- Wake up the next day, hang out at the office, then grab a daladala (public transport) to a local rental place because you have no hiking gear. You’ve been living in Zanzibar for four months, what use would you have for warm clothes?
- Realize that Arusha is a lot colder than Zanzibar and that you are extremely unprepared for this climb since you are cold before you even start
- Head back to the office for lunch, accidentally eat all the food that was prepared for the whole staff because you thought it was just for the six of you. Zanzibari portions all around!
- Notice a large group of people outside the office
- Ask who they are
- Be told that those 21 people are your porters up the mountain. They’re going to carry all of your stuff. Why 21 porters are needed is still a mystery to me.
- Next day: leave at 8am to head to Kilimanjaro National Park. It takes over three hours since you need to stop and let all the porters grab breakfast
- Arrive at the mountain, woo! All the stress is over with!
- Haha, NOPE.
- Be told that your residence permits aren’t valid in the park since they’re stamped into your passport and you could easily forge a stamp (okay?). You owe at least another $1300 in park fees
- Argue with park employees for an hour about how you ARE a resident
- Call your study abroad program’s academic director (who is supposed to be free of you by now – the program ended days ago) and ask for a HUGE favor – to have a different copy of your residence permit sent to Kilimanjaro. Now.
- She tells you that today is a public holiday and that the immigration office that has the permits is closed
- Luckily, the park will let you start the climb, and informs you that you need to be willing to pay that extra money when you get back down the mountain if your permit doesn’t come through
- Start the climb, three hours later than scheduled
- Make it through a beautiful forest hike and emerge at the first hut of your stay: Mandara
- Sign in with your name and occupation…
- Pass out on your bed still kinda stressing over the last few days, but no worry, you’re on the mountain now, everything else can wait for five days!
- Wake up early the next morning (Day 2 of the climb) for tea and to start hiking. You come out of the forest and into smaller shrubbery, but still very green. The second hut, and your home for the next two days: Horombo
- Wake up even earlier the next morning (Day 3) to watch the sun rise while sitting above the clouds. Absolutely breathtaking!
- Take a small hike, but ascend 1,000 feet, to Zebra Rock to help with acclimatization. Come back to Horombo for the night to watch the sunset, equally as breathtaking
- Start hiking early (Day 4) to reach Kibo Hut by the early afternoon. Not as homey as the other two huts, but you’re not allowed to stay the night there. Unpack your sleeping bag and try to get as much rest as possible before wake up at 11:30pm.
- Yeah, PM
- Have a very light “breakfast” and don all the clothes you brought, including your “If you can’t climb it, drink it” Kilimanjaro beer shirt
- Start your summit attempt at 12:30am, totally in the dark
- Cry a little bit at how beautiful the stars are up this high (about 16,000 feet above sea level, take that Colorado!)
- Are told that the hike to the summit will take 4-5 hours
- Take 8 hours to reach the summit, barely breathing
- Get severe altitude sickness (headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness), but stay up there long enough for the whole group to take a picture
- Congratulate yourself because YOU JUST CLIMBED MT. KILIMANJARO, ONE OF THE SEVEN SUMMITS AND THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN AFRICA.
- Go get a Kilimanjaro beer to celebrate.
And have your residence permits work, so you didn’t have to pay more
Asante sana kwa kusoma!
Kim, DUSA Blogger