Friday, November 29, 2013

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

September/October 2013

After we completed the Inca Trail in 2011, we set our sights on climbing to the highest point in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro. We chose the 7 day Rongai Route and the following is a summary of our time on the mountain.

Day 1

We started at 8 am from Moshi by meeting our guide and checking our packs. We drove for about an hour to get our permits, but were delayed due to issues for about 3 hours (there were two other groups from two separate companies and we were all delayed), so we started late at the gate at 3 pm. Almost as soon as we started it started raining (a good test of our wet weather gear!), and we arrived at camp about 6:30 pm.

3 hours walking -7 km - 1950 m to 2600 m

Day 2

Day two started better, with us leaving camp about 830 am, with a clear view of the mountain (first time since we arrived in the area), reaching camp at 3:15 pm

7 hours walking - 9 km - 2600 m to 3600 m

Day 3

Today we walk to Mount Mawenzi, which is clear this morning as we start to walk around 9 am. Its a steady climb today, but a short hike in time and km.

3 hours walking -4  km - 3600 m to 4300 m

Day 4

Today is the acclimatization day. We spend the morning after breakfast walking to the base of Mount Mawenzi at 4,500 m. Here we get great views of tomorrows summit and tomorrows camp. After lunch we rest.

Day 5

Leave around 9 am for Kibo Hut, which is at the base of the Kilimanjaro summit. It looks so close but yet so far. Mostly flat walking except for the last hour after lunch. Its very busy at Kibo as this is where those doing the Marangu route also sleep (however in huts instead of tents).

4 hours of walking - 8 km - 4300 m to 4700 m

Day 6 - Summit Day

Up at 1115 pm on day 5 to start for the summit at midnight on day 6. It was a hard slog from 4700 m to 5700 m which is the first point (Gillman's), which we make by 5:30 am. Its another 1.5 hours on an easier hike to the peak, at this point the three of us in the group were feeling unwell. Hitting the peak at 7 am made you feel better for a point in time!

Walking back to the Kibo Huts was easier but still exhausting. But that's not all.....we then have another 4 hour walk (or 9 km), almost all downhill.

12 hours - 20 km - 4700 m to 5895 m to 4700 m to 3700 m

Day 7

Our last day, a relatively easy one, just a long day. The different terrains as we headed down was interesting, reaching the rain-forest by lunch to the Marangu gate. We got back to the hotel by 4 pm.


6 hours - 20 km - 3700 m to 1700 m

Its tough but worth it, Zara Tours and the guides we had Dixon and his assistant Isaya were fantastic, and I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What you need to know: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

September/October 2013

 I found information slightly easier to find than I did when we did the Inca Trail in 2011. So here's my take on whats good to know before you go...

Guides/Tour Operators
We thought about doing this with g adventures again and then found they used a local company called Zara Tours. The more research we did, the more we felt we wanted to book with a local company rather than an international company who charged more (significantly) and used a local team you may or may not have been able to research.

Zara Tours was excellent. From the endless questions that the staff answered on email before we left, to the fantastic guide, assistant guide, cook and porters on the trail. The amount of support we received during the hike, particularly on summit day was fantastic and I couldn't have asked for more. I would highly recommend them.

There are a number of different routes you can do, over different duration's. This website has pretty good explanations of the more popular routes. We choose the Rongai Route, over 7 days (one day of acclimatization). We choose this route and duration for a number of reasons. The first was its a less trafficked route so more quiet (which it was), it uses a different route up and down allowing you to see different aspects of the mountain and park and we choose the acclimatization day to give ourselves any advantage possible.

There are a lot of lists if you google Kilimanjaro pack lists. Pack as light as possible, for both you and the porters (don't give them things to carry that you won't use). At the end of the climb you will be dirty and you will smell by the end.

  • Camera
  • A good goretex jacket
  • Snacks (if needed, we didn't)
  • Hydration pouch for water (1.5L, we could have done with more)
  • Hiking poles (we rented these from Zara)
  • A cover for your pack
  • Fleece jumper
  • Gloves and beanie
  • 2-3 socks (we used these and they were fantastic)
  • Sunscreen
  • Good hiking boots with ankle support are a must (worn in)
  • 1 spare hiking pants
  • 1 spare shirt
  • Sports bra
  • Thermals (one for wearing, one for sleeping)
  • Ski pants (optional but kept us nice and warm, and would have kept us dry if needed)
  • Down jackets (a last minute purchase but worth every cent)
  • Plastic bags to keep things water proof
  • First aid kit
  • Sunhat
I wish we had neck warmers, because my nose got very cold on summit day.

We didn't do a lot of specific training for this one. We were training for a half marathon (which we ran the weekend before we left on our trip), running 50 km a week. But we did do a few 15 km hikes in the months leading up. I think general fitness helps for a significant portion of this hike, I don't know if it made summit day any easier. There is NO chance for acclimatization training in Australia, we don't have that high an altitude.

On the Trail
Your guides will tell you to go Pole Pole the whole time (except part of summit night!), which is slow slow. There is no hurry, don't over push yourself, let yourself enjoy the view, take pictures (we didn't take enough of the days prior to or of the summit).

The summit night is the most difficult, the altitude is likely to affect you in some way. Its the only time our guide "pushed" us by telling us not to give up. Don't think that starting during the day instead of at mid-night will mean your refreshed, mentally its much more difficult to see where you are going and keep climbing. Its tough but worth it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Transiting in Nairobi

September 2013

We tried to avoid travelling through Nairobi, but when our flight to Kilimanjaro through Kigali got cancelled we were left with no choice.

Nairobi is lets say an interesting airport,  and the recent fire hadn't helped things.

The issue isn't so much the age but the organisation of the "smaller" flights out of one gate.

We did manage to get the correct flight and it did leave on time so it was definitely not our worst airport experience, maybe because it was a better experience than I had been warned about.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Winston Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

September/October 2013


I booked this online purely via research on the web and we were very happy with the hotel. Based in Rosebank it was an easy train trip from the airport, all you do is buy a card, load it, tap it at the gate and go.

We stayed in the Superior room both times, but each stay a different room. I have to say the room upstairs was quieter than the one by the pool but both were nicely decorated, spacious and the showers wonderful after long days/flights.

It was based about 500 meters from the Rosebank shopping mall which made quick lunches, snacks and time wasting on our last day easy. Tashas had great coffee (as well as good looking food that we didn't get to try).

THE Restaurant is based onsite and wasn't as busy as I expected on the two nights we dined there. They include the Springbok Shank on the menu....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Johannesburg, South Africa

September and October 2013

Johannesburg was a bit of a base for us. We crossed into South Africa three times in our trip but never stayed for more than four days.

Johannesburg is a large and vibrant city, and less than 14 hours direct from Sydney (we love the direct flights!).

We stayed at three different hotels over five nights depending where we were in our trip

Winston Hotel, Rosebank
A relatively quick train ride from the airport this place is a little slice of heaven, nice and quiet but close enough to amenities

Intercontinental, OR Tambo International Airport
Great for a stopover but a little on the pricey side. The food is excellent (don't miss your flight on the breakfast buffet!)

Falstaff, Sandton
At the same price point as the Winston I wasn't overally impressed with this one, ok, but felt tired.

We mainly had evening meals in the hotels, but the food in general was fantastic in Johannesburg, perhaps the influence of so many different cultures

"Hot" Beef 

Springbok Shank

We spent a half day in Pretoria, which is about an hours drive from Johannesburg

In Johannesburg and Soweto itself we mainly concentrated on the museums

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Africa 2013

September/October 2013

While we had to cut a lot of spots from our wish list this trip, we did manage to squeeze in a lot and cover five new countries in five weeks.

Johannesburg, South Africa
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Tangerine National Park, Tanzania
Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Greater Kruger, South Africa
Marakele National Park, South Africa
Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana
Maun, Botswana
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Makgadikgadi Pans, Nata, Botswana
Chobe National Park, Botswana
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Livingstone Island and The Devil's Pool, Zambia

Friday, November 8, 2013

Snapshots from Africa

September/October 2013

Yes, our sixth continent (or part of it) down and dusted, only Antarctica to go!

So here's a snapshot via photos from our trip - full posts to come.