last one standing
Currently situated on the southern coast of Zanzibar. Been on the island since the 18th. Pretty nice place, waters are light blue, sun has constantly been shining, I have a sunburn, my mom and my hair is frizzen crazy, lots of sailboat fisherman, not many tourists because it is the low tourist season. We will return home in Seattle in exactly one week, holy cow!! We just arrived at our new hotel yesterday, which is called Breezes. It’s a resort and spa kind of place; they offer lots of fun activities like scuba diving, sailing, kite boarding, snorkeling, surfing and more. I’m thinking about taking a sailing class depend on the wind that just picked up today. Before arriving here we were staying at a hotel in Stone town, the main town of Zanzibar. People on the island are predominately Islam so most women are covered in Burkas and wear different cloths from head to toe. There are no indigenous Zanzibar people so the culture is very worldly mixed. The locals are quite annoying to tourists and try to get your attention for a taxi, city tour, to sell different shenanigans or even just to be creepy… Especially because it is the low season and they are low of mula. Tourism seems to be their main source of income so they bug the hell out of you to buy things. A couple days after we had been staying in Zanzibar, mom set up a town and spice tour where we went to the countryside and visited a spice farm. We were shown many spices such as cinnamon, tamarack, ginger, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, curry, lemongrass, black pepper and many fruits, even ones I have never heard of/eaten before like jack fruit and custard apple. The next day I went scuba diving and my mom went snorkeling at around 930am. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that I spotted, but I did notice a lot of dead coral L it was actually quite bare down there I though. But I am comparing that to Indonesia, so nothing compares. Prior to Zanzibar I was in Tanzania with 2 other students from KSP, Libby and Tyler. The rest of the semester had already left for the States, but we decided to stay and climb Kilimanjaro.
We left for Tanzania on May 10th, spending a total of 7 nights. 5 nights hiking then a night at the hotel before and after our climb. During the afternoon on the 10th, we arrived at our hotel in the town of Moshi. We met with a man named Castro, the manager of our backpacking company, that evening at 5 and went over the basics of the hike and he told us about renting/finding last minute equipment. The next morning we met with him again at around 9ish and met our head guide whose name is Kush, tehe. We were shown thick mattress pads we could use that the porters would carry instead of using our sleeping pads (score!). We then headed to the gear hiring shop, which was a small room with lots of classic camping/hiking gear. I just needed to hire snow pants and trekking poles, bit Libby and Tyler rented some more. After this we stopped by a small supermarket, grabbed some bottle water then headed to Machame gate. When we arrived, we waited for about a half an hour until we had to sign in with our passports then waited some more while Kush got a permit. The porters already started hiking. We began away from the gate just a little after them. It was a nice hike, a bit muddy, but it was entirely on a trail that is taken care of. It only took us like 3 hours then we arrived at our first camp, around 3,000 meters called Machame Camp. The climate was a bit damp and the trees were still thick and very green. We did however surpass the level of rainforest vegetation. Sometime after we arrived, the porters finished setting up our camp. So we ate dinner and finally went to bed. The next morning I was surprised to have the sun wake me at around 7 and it was extremely bright as I packed up my gear. We enjoyed bfast outside of the food tent, which I highly enjoyed. OH and at this time we were able to view Kilimanjaro’s peak for the first time! It was very beautiful. After breakfast we began our hiking on day 2.
Pretty straightforward hiking, nothing strenuous. It was simple for us 3 and we cruised along. Soon enough we arrived at camp #2, Shira camp, which was a very open site with small amounts of trees. It was pretty foggy, misty and quite rainy. The three of us spent most of our time in the tent from when we arrived until the sun went down. We were even served dinner in there. A whole five-course meal, it felt like they were never going to stop serving us food. I was amazed. The food was good for backpacking. Soup, fried chicken, rice, fruit and vegetables. Then of course hot drinks after. I was sure FULL. The next morning it was still kind of cloudy and moist, but the sun did clear up briefly before we began hiking. A little past half way through the hike, we ascended to about 4500 meters to a point called Lava Tower Camp where you could camp, but we did not. We were served a hot lunch here. More fried chicken, hot vegetable soup, fruit and tea and coffee afterwards. It was pouring rain and very chilly during this lunch and we barely had a cover, which was annoying. The crew just set up a cooking tent, which we went into for a little, but it was us 3 with 5 others, so not very comfortable. All together the hike continued to be pretty simple and it only took us about 4.5 hours. Didn’t feel the least bit tired afterwards. We arrived at our third camp named, Barranco Camp. The peak stood behind us, but our view was hidden. It was on and off windy and again, very cloudy so we lounged in our tent. Being wet and very cold, our sleeping bags never sounded/felt so good. The next day we casually woke up around 7ish, packed our gear, ate a huge breakfast as usual and began our trek. This trek would carry us to our tallest campsite, Barafu Camp.
It would begin to get even colder and snow will be more common. The hike was simple until the last part of is which was uphill in the freezing rain. Oh I forgot to mention we rented ponchos from our Outfitter Company, which made us super stylish. Mine was greenish turquoise with a green striped trim, I felt quite trendy in the rain. When we arrived it was very windy on top, but thankfully, the sun was actually shining. We took this time to dry out any wet clothing and covered most nearby boulders. Our tents were set up and we had a clear view of Stela Point and the sister peak, Mawenzi. It was tonight that we would be woken up around 1130, to prepare ourselves to hike to the peak. We were served dinner a bit later than each of us intended, but that seemed to be the theme of these porters and guides, being late. Africa time I guess, but on Kilimanjaro— really?? So we ended up getting like 4 hours of sleep, wonderful. When we woke up from our nap, we suited up in our warmest clothes, snow pants and warm jackets, hats, gloves, thick wool socks, balaclavas, and headlamps then began our ascent. And boy this was the toughest trek I had ever attempted. I was walking uphill as slow as a snail, I couldn’t believe how challenging it felt. I tried my dad’s tip of using the rest step by counting to six every step and locking the knee to rest. The climb felt never ending because it was dark most of the time and the shadow of the peak was unrecognizable. We were walking in snow the entire time. While climbing, Libby began to get affected by the altitude. Her stomach was constantly churning and she felt like puking. She also had a mean headache. I spotted her on her hands and knees a couple of times, gross. I luckily felt nothing from the altitude. Just that it was harder to climb uphill at such high elevation. Our guide, Kush, stupidly decided to change his hiking shoes because he said his other ones broke (but he use his originals for the hike down?) so he used these Timberland clunkers that must have belonged to one of the porters. Poor Tyler had to lend him one of his trekking poles and was helping Kush up every couple of steps. Kush’s new shoes had no traction and he was slipping and sliding like he was ice-skating. Ridiculous, why would you decide to change shoes for the summit attempt? Tyler acted as his railing and caught him every time he slipped. Kush was sort of an odd fellow, he would answer yes to every single on of our yes or no questions, but we soon learned to change the structure of our questions. He also never learned our names and called me Dada, which means sister. That pissed me off, its not like we have complicated names. Shows how much he gets close to his clients. I think he just climbs for the money, doesn’t appreciate the hiking. Anyways well we kept climbing and climbing uphill, the sun eventually rose at around 630 and the sunrise was very pretty. It was blocked by a mountaintop and sadly we weren’t going to reach the top in time for it. But about and 30 minutes later we reached the first part of our peak, Stela Point. That felt like a huuuge relief, I felt more accomplished reaching this spot than the peak because it marked the last of our strenuous uphill climb. We stayed here, took pictures for about 15 minutes, and then continued on to the peak. There was a little bit more of an uphill, but not much. I sped up my pace and just wanted to get there. There were a couple of other groups that were just leaving after reaching the top. There were also some people behind us. We finally arrived at the top by 730am. HALLELUJAH! There we were at Uhuru Peak, the top of Africa. 5,895m. How incredible. I arrived with Tyler and Kush then about 7 minutes later Libby arrives with our 2nd guide, Simon and falls onto her hands and knees to the left of the peak sign and hurls. Lovely, I thought. But I did love being at the top, it was beautiful, I could see all the glaciers surrounding the peak and even the crater in the middle. I was kind of windy and cold, but not too overbearing. We only spent about 15 minutes up there and then the group insisted we go back down. Libby was feeling really sick so all she wanted to do was go down in elevation, but we worked so incredibly hard to get up here, I didn’t like rushing back down. It was not fun. The downhill from the peak was brutal. Lots of snow and wet gravel and very steep. I liked running down in the snow, it was tiring, but enjoyable. If I fell, it didn’t matter. Tyler and I were keeping up with each other and Kush was leading us. It took us around 2 hours to walk down. This began to make my legs soar. Once we finally arrived back at Barafu camp, I took off my warm and wet clothes, then climbed into my sleeping bag. Libby eventually arrived when I was sleeping, and then we all slept for about an hour and a half. I woke up to Tyler’s voice, “uh you guys are you gonna eat lunch?” I answered yes we’re coming. I exited the tent, but Libby continued to sleep. Lunch was pancakes, soup, and tea, same old grub. After lunch we had to pack up our gear in order to begin our trek down to our last camp, Mweka camp at 3,063meters. It was hard for Libby to pack because she was so sick and weak. I felt bad that it was such a struggle, but she will soon feel better as we go down in elevation.
We started hiking downhill then our porters quickly caught up with us. They zoomed downhill, couldn’t believe it- they were practically running. I really enjoyed this hike downhill. Partly because it was downhill, but also the scenery was nice. We were walking on small streams and the vegetation was very lush and mossy. It was misty and foggy, but wasn’t raining thank god. Tyler and I walked ahead of Libby and Kush and we took off pretty much all of our layers. I was in a tshirt and long underwear bottoms with shorts. After about 4 hours of downhill scrambling with lose and broken rocks, we had finally arrived to our foggy campsite, Mweka. It was a huge campsite because in the high season there would be hundreds of tents, but now there were only around 20. We signed in as we had done at every site then entered our tents and figured out our tipping amounts for the porters and the guides. The company suggested 5 USD a day for the porters and 10 USD for the guides. So we converted that into Tanzanian shillings then planned on giving it to them at the bottom gate. For dinner we had pancakes, soup, rice and fried chicken then tea of course. We were all pooped and went straight to bed afterwards. In the morning we didn’t end up leaving until 9. We packed up our gear before bfast, ate the usual porridge, hotdogs, eggs and toast then finished the last 2 hours of the hike down. This hike was very wet and the small streams that we were walking on now turned into rivers. Lots of mud and I felt I was gonna slip and fall on my face at any step. I was relieved to finally get down to the bottom.
We were given a ride back to our hotel where we all showered and rested for a little. It felt great to be back, dry and relaxed. Libby brought her laptop so I was catching up on the internet downstairs in the lobby when a couple from Vancouver approached me. They told me they had been stocking us with the hotel employees to talk about our experiences with Kilimanjaro. So they pulled up two chairs and locked me in. I called up to Libby and Tyler for them to help me out. They interrogated us all about the littlest details like the kind of camp shoes we used. I could tell they had researched a hell of a lot more than we did. They knew all the campsite names and had the trail completely memorized. All their gear seemed new and the best of the best. But who knows how they actually hike. They were worried about being bored of each other and lonely at the dinner table because the porters and guides do leave you for yourselves at meals. Really, that was their main concern? They asked us a million other questions about the weather, clothes, walking pace, other groups, wake ups, food, water, and altitude sickness. They would have finished their hike by now, I wonder how it went—?!!
That night Libby, Tyler and went to a nice Indian restaurant for dinner, ate some great ice cream than when we arrived back at our hotel we each had a Kilimanjaro beer in the bar. The next morning we were to be picked up by a bus at 6am! We drove through the Tanzanian/Kenyan border then drove through Nairobi then finally arrived in Karen. Not much traffic at all, very nice. Libby, Tyler and I arrived in earlier than we had anticipated. We stopped by the compound one last time; picked up our phone deposits and I did some last minute emailing. I called my mom at her hotel where I was to spend the night with her because we were not allowed to sleep at the compound since the semester is ovvverrrr. When I arrived at Mackushla, the Bead and Breakfast, Millie was not there. But the hotel was VERY nice and VERY cute. I absolutely loved it. It was sort of vintage Indian, bohemian inspired. It was extremely cozy and I adored its entire set-up. I would have stayed a couple more nights there if I could. We were pretty much the only ones there. That night we had dinner served for us, I had a fish curry. The next morning we had to leave at another ungodly hour of 5 o’clock- grrrr. We also had to pack up/reorganize our belongings. When the cab arrived it was still dark and we were given an easy, no traffic ride to the airport. We then flew to Zanzibar.
It is currently cloudy here, which is a bitch. I just got a manicure and pedicure then tomorrow I am getting a massage- oh lala! While my mom gets a body wrap thing. I really hope the weather clears up this will be my last time seeing the African sunshine and I don’t want to leave it like this. Alright I need to get off this computer, my eyes are starting to hurt, but ill check back in with you guys once I return stateside!!! I have 2 more days here until I leave this continent. Africa, you’ve been awesome, but my time has come!!! Miss you all and hope to see you soon!