Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 5895 meters. Trekking up Kilimanjaro is an amazing experience and there are six official trekking routes. Maria decided to climb this mountain and even though she wasn't very fit or had any experience with high altitudes she managed to trek her way to the top.
"In April this year a friend and I decided that we wanted to go to Tanzania in July. In May I started thinking: 'Oh well, I might as well try this Kilimanjaro thing since we are going anyway.'"
"We booked a trek up the Machame route lasting 8 days. Since I am about as fit as an 85 year old I decided to start running minimum 3 times a week. Of course that never happened, so when we sat at the group meeting the day before departure, I started to feel a little tingle in my stomach thinking: 'What have I gotten myself into, I will never make this!'"
"First night we stayed at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi, where you can also rent equipment and clothes for the trek up Kilimanjaro. The standard of the clothes varies, but the sleeping bags that we rented were clean and perfectly fine."
We were a group of 11 people between the age of 27 and 45, mixed boys and girls. We had a guide with us, 2 assisting guides, a cook and a team of porters. As a general rule each hiker will be accompanied by 2 porters. This means that when about 15,000 people vsiti Kilimanjaro each year the trail can be a bit crowded during peak season. This was one of the reasons why we decided to take Machame route instead of the more popular Marangu route up Kilimanjaro.
The actual hike lasted six days and we walked for about 5-8 hours every day. We hiked in a slow paste and because of this I think this trip is suitable for almost everyone in every age group.
One great thing about the trek up Kilimanjaro is that the surroundings change every day so you do not spend 6 days looking at the same scenery. On the first day it was very green, lush and humid. After that the terrain turned more rocky and bare and it got a little colder each day.
When we arrived to our camps in the evening our tents were already set up and we had some time for washing up and relaxing before dinner. 'Washing up' meant getting a small bowl of water which should be shared with your 'room mate' so you had to organize your use of water.
"In the evenings the group mingled in the dinner tent and played games, but as the nights got colder, everyone went to bed quite early. The nights were lighted by the most amazing star lit sky I have ever seen."
The summit day is by far the hardest day. You start by walking for about 8 hours and once you start feeling the high altitude you will get quickly exhausted. I was afraid of getting altitude sickness and not being able to reach the summit so I was taking Diamox pills to avoid it. Except for two of the guys everyone in our group was taking Diamox, but I can't say how much it was really working. None of us had any of the severe symptoms, but people where starting to lose their appetite, having problems sleeping and getting bad headaches.
Once we reached the camp we had dinner. Around 7 PM everyone went to their tents to get some sleep before hiking the last bit up to the summit which took about 8 hours. It was really hard to fall asleep as most of us could feel the symptoms from the high altitude. The guides woke us up at 11 PM and by then it was absolutely freezing and extremely dark. We had some tea and biscuits and then we started hiking, heading to reach Stella Point for Sunrise. I was wearing a lot of clothes in layers to avoid the cold and it was freezing every time I had to take my gloves of. I have to be honest and say that the next few hours was some of the hardest I have ever been through in my life. The combination of the cold, high altitude, lack of sleep and the fact that I had already been walking for 8 hours that day made me fatigued. We had small breaks on the way and the guides had brought tea with lots of sugar which was a lifesaver. On the last bit there were 5 guides with the group and they kept checking up on everyone to see if they were okay. But I was never thinking about stopping and turning around. Now that I made it this far I was going to make it all the way to the top.
Our group stayed together all the way to Stella Point, but normally the guides split up the group since some will be able to walk in a faster paste than others. It was amazing to see the sunrise at Stella Point, but there was still about an hour left of walking before we hit the summit. At that point I was completely worn out and had a minimum of energy left. I remember that I really wanted to take some pictures because the view was amazing but my camera was in my backpack and the thought of having to find my camera and take it out of my backpack was just too much. I think the guides had seen this before because one of them came over and asked if he should get my camera and take some pictures…
A few of the group members started to throw up but we all made it the top and that was just amazing! Everyone was happy and taking thousands of pictures in front of the sign…Yeahhh we made it!!
We only stayed at the top for about 30 minutes and then we started to hike back down again. This takes about 3 hours and it is very hard. The guides even had to half carry a few from the group. Once we were back at the camp I was so tired that I could hardly stand up. We only got to sleep for about 2 hours and then we had to hike for another 4 hours to get to the next camp were we stayed overnight. No need to say that everyone went to bed really early that night and no one had trouble sleeping.
The last day we only walked for about two hours and then a bus picked us up and drove us back to the hotel where I had a long needed and well deserved shower.
It was one of the best trips I have ever been on and I would recommend everyone to do it. The guides were amazing and did a super professional job all the way through. The food was surprisingly good and everyone did their best to make this a memorable trip and they for sure succeeded!
If you liked Maria's story - Why don't you go for it yourself?