YES – WE DID IT!!!
Last week, on the night of the 19th of February, 6 of my Accenture colleagues and myself managed to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, world’s tallest stand-alone mountain. Reaching Uhuru Peak at 5895 meters was an insane challenge and a great adventure! Here a report of my two week trip to Tanzania.
On Saturday morning 8th of February I took off for Nairobi, Kenya. Upon arrival, I found some ATM’s from which you can take Kenian shilling and then exchange them for US Dollars. Money is such a hassle in Africa, ATM’s are often out of order and getting out large amounts is super hard :). I arrived late at night and stayed at Nairobi Stopover House. They came pick me up from the airport and I got transferred to the hostel. Next morning, I took the Riverside shuttle, which leaves right across the road of the guesthouse, to Arusha, Tanzania. The guesthouse booked the bus for me and they even made sure I got on the right bus. I met some nice people on the bus, everyone was on the way to either safari or Kilimanjaro :). I got my visas for Kenya and Tanzania in advance, which saved me a lot of waiting. It is however not mandatory to have your visa already, and everyone got theirs without any issue. Make sure you bring the right amount of cash 🙂
I arrived in Arusha early afternoon and stayed at Arusha Backpackers. Lovely 8$ a night hostel, hot showers, working wifi (!!!) – just great. Within 5 minutes of a large supermarket and several ATM’s. The hostel has a great rooftop terrace at which you can relax and have some drinks. The restaurant also serves pretty decent food.
I spent the day relaxing at the hostel, trying to manage to get all my money for paying the rest of the safari (you’ll have a HUGE package of Tanzanian shilling before you manage to exchange) and had the best Indian food in my life at Big Bite Indian restaurant in Arusha.
Next day, Monday 10th of Feb, I was picked up by safari company African Scenic Safaris. The guide/driver and the cook were perfectly in time and I joined three Canadian girls for the trip. We just had the most amazing 4 days, visiting Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. Our guide was amazing, we called him eagle-eye because he spotted animals where no one else could! The cook was great as well, they fed us very very well! We stayed in tents at basic campsites, but there were seated toilets (in comparison to squats) everywhere and there was light for a while. The tents and matresses were comfortable. All in all a great trip!
Right after the Safari, I got dropped off at the KIA lodge, where I met the rest of the group. Ashley (Singapore), Will (Singapore), Nancy (Singapore), Gretchen (USA), Andrew (USA) and Susanne (Germany) were all more than ready for this adventure! After a great night of sleep, very comfy beds and a nice shower we took off next morning to visit a VSO project. All together, we raised over 20.000 UK Pound for VSO! VSO sends professional volunteers to projects to equip people with skills so they can better their own situation. In this case, we visted a teacher’s college which was part of a nation-wide program to improve the education teachers get. There was a focus on teaching methods and teaching in English. The feedback we got on the program was very good and we were straight away convinced that we had been raising for a cause that is spending its money wisely.
Next day it was ready to start the trip! After stuffing ourselves at breakfast (we need the energy!!) the van came pick us up for a 2 hour drive to the gate. Personally, I couldn’t stop smiling 🙂 This was the moment we had been living towards for 6 months. Preparing, shopping, working out (sometimes..) and being super anxious that your socks are not warm enough and if you have enough socks or facial wipes.. the moment was here and no way back!! We met all the porters that were going to carry our luggage and in no-time we were ready to go! The first day of hiking went through the forest and was a very pleasant walk. 1 team leader and 3 guides were with us, telling us to slow down “pole pole” all the time.
Late afternoon, we arrived at our first camp. All tents were ready set up for us and afternoon tea with popcorn was waiting. We had a chef with the group and he prepared the most awesome food for us every night.
That night we had a huge thunderstorm. The mountain got very scary 🙂 Just before getting up (6.30 am) it stopped and of the guides came wake us up with a cup of hot tea, and the “washi washi”, a bucket of warm water to wash your face and whatever else you felt like washing at that moment 🙂
The next couple of days were simply beautiful. Getting into these daily routines, getting to know each other (the benefits of only being 7!), getting LOST in the fog for 3 hours!!, getting each other through difficult times with a hug, a song from the iphone or a silly joke, it was all so worth it 🙂
After 5 days of walking, we arrived at Kibo hut at 4700 meters around lunchtime. We had some time to rest and were woken up for dinner at 5pm. A very serious briefing followed for the summit night and we were told to try to sleep again for some time. We were woken up at 10pm and we started climbing at 11pm. Mainly a psychological thing so you don’t see how steep it is, it was super hard! We were a snake of people with headlights, step by step making it to the top. We had several checkpoints of which we reached the first after some 3 hours of walking. From there on it was about 1,5 hour to the next point where we would always have a short rest, water and some food. It was already early in the morning when we reached our first peak, Gilman’s point!! We got a hot cup of tea that the guides had carried up and then.. I started crying my eyes out :). It had been such an intense night, step by step following the guides, catching your breath, not drinking too much but just enough and trying to keep your energy up. We had made it through the hardest part!!
Everyone started hugging each other, it felt like we had made it to the top already. By then it started to become light a little bit and we were urged to move on to our next goal, Uhuru Peak, 1,5 hours onwards. We were promised this was a relatively flat route and we would surely make it. With the line of FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION in my mind I kept on moving. Getting more dizzy and feeling super super tired, dragging ourselves through the snow and the icy winds, seeing people struggling all along the way we finally made it!!!
Aaaaaaaaaaand we were crying again 🙂 hugging at the top, trying to have our picture taken and then moving down as soon as possible! I kept on saying: NEVER AGAIN, NEVER AGAIN.. Crying tears of happiness and at the same time wanting to leave so bad haha! Some of us were feeling really bad, so going down as fast as we could was crucial. On the way down the sky opened up and the sun came out which made for some insane views and great pictures..
The way down was a tough one after having walked for about 10 hours in a row. We came back to camp completely exhausted, but needed to pack up, have lunch and walk another 4 hours to lower grounds! That night we went to bed super early, slept like babies and moved on downwards the next day. After a very painful, long, 8 hour walk we finally made it to the gate, where cold Kilimanjaro Beers were waiting. Victory was there!!! 🙂
A trip that had never been on my “bucket list” suddenly made it to the top, asking for all my attention and quite a big effort on the fundraising. It became a personal challenge, me proving something to my body. The definite highlight of 2013 and maybe even of all my trips, right now, 2 weeks later it finally starts to sink in what we did together. People are not made to go to altitudes like that and I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach that high again, but it was a definite test and just such a great adventure. Everyone who is in doubt, DO IT!! It will be hard but you’ll never forget it. Oh and.. really.. take warm socks! 🙂
I want to thank everyone who sponsored me and for making this amazing trip possible. I know I have been harrassing many of you, I am sure that your donation has made it to a great cause and we have repeatedly received emails from VSO encouraging us and thanking us for making the fundraising effort. If you’ll ever climb Kilimanjaro, I’ll be first in line to sponsor. I guess this is one of the most typical fundraising efforts you can ever make. Not many challenges will be as hard as this one 🙂 Also thanks everyone who borrowed me things and helped me to get the necessary equipment, couldn’t have done it without you!
I want to thank the awesome Accenture people for joining me on this trip!
- Ashley – for being the best roomie/tentmate ever!! I miss our spa moments!
- Will – for great conversation and for partying on my birthday in Arusha haha
- Nancy – for your awesome headmassage and for just being you!
- Andrew – for your broccoli smoothie!!!
- Gretchen – for the awesome way down and your great spirit
- Susanne – for being one of the coolest people I know, jumping out of planes and stuff 🙂
- Daniel – Doctor D, for just taking awesome care of us
- Justin – our teamleader, for singing, being nice and just making sure we’d all get there!
- African Walking Company – for an amazingly organized trip, really well done! And to all porters and guides!
- VSO – Caty in particular, great job in keeping us all motivated. Keep up the good work!
If you like, have a look at this short video that gives a good impression of the trip 🙂