Go to Another Vacation
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania - January 2005
Amsterdam to Tanzania
Arusha National Park
Kili: Hike Out
Arusha National Park
Mount Meru Game Lodge
Selecting a Tour Company
Day 1: To Machame
Day 2: To Shira
Day 3: To Baranco
Day 4: To Karanga
Day 5: To Barafu
Day 6: Summit
Day 6: To Mweka
Day 7: Final Descent
The Kilimanjaro Song
Flowers of Kilimanjaro
We flew on KLM to Amsterdam because it is the only airline that flies direct from Europe into Kilimanjaro International Airport. Other airlines seemed to go though Nairobi, Kenya instead. Ours looked quicker. The plane for the second leg must be the biggest piece of junk launched into the air since Sputnik. On landing it was slow down, speed up, slow down, speed up, things are banging and whirring and churning, and BAM, we are on the ground. Welcome to either Heaven or Africa. We pinched ourselves and seemed to be among the living. Africa it was!
We were collected by Moses after baggage claim. He would be our guide for the next 9 days. Our group of 5 gathered and after introductions we went outside to pile into the jeep, guarded by a man with a huge gun. Protection from elephants? I did not ask.
The jeep ride was short and we arrived at the Mount Meru Game Lodge where they offered us refreshments while our luggage was unloaded. We gathered in a beautiful sitting room nearing midnight and talked about the next day. Basically, be ready to go by a certain time, we will be going to the Arusha National Park for a short hike.
The lodge treated with excellent potato leek soup before bed. They took our requests for wake up time and coffee or tea in the morning before breakfast. It was wonderful!
About 5 am the ruckus started. Bang bang bang rumble rumble. Think what hail sounds like on a tin roof. Now equate that to monkeys jumping out of the trees and landing on the tin roof and scampering around. Then the birds started up. Good Morning from the game lodge.
Tea arrived and we sat on our porch and watched the zebras come up for water, and birds take flight from their nocturnal perches. It was really quite amazing.
Breakfast was nice, and the hotel owner had previously flown to Nairobi to obtain peanut butter for us. I think that pretty much sums up how far the staff would go to help us enjoy our stay. We had our lunches boxed up so we could take them on our trip to the park.
We met up with the family we had not met yet - the "Fox family" as Moses referred to them. We also got to meet "the doctor", again Moses' title for one of our co-tavelers, who had a delayed flight and did not arrive until the morning. We are really glad that we met him on this trip. Nice guy with a constant sense of good humor, which is really needed on a trip where you sleep in a tent and poo in the woods for a week.
We all boarded the jeeps to head for Arusha National Park. Actually we all waited on the jeeps for 20 minutes while Kira and Diala got ready and then decided to join us.
After our visit and hike at the park (and satellite phone calls by Kira and Diala to home), we gathered for a debriefing on the climb that would begin the next morning. They brought out the checklist of items we would need to have. Now oddly, if you did not have something on the list, was there anything you could actually do about it at this point? Funniest item on the list: umbrella.
So part way thought the orientation, Diala mentions she has an 'appointment' at 6:30 and needs to finish up so she can make that appointment. to this day we still wonder what kind of appointment she could have possibly had in the middle of nowhere, but we never actually asked to find out. We suspect she planned to call home. We mention this as it kind of points out how diverse in personality everyone on the trip actually was.
The day finally arrived. After awaking to the monkeys on the roof episode and the flight of the million birds, we had a peaceful breakfast then said our good byes to the zebras and climbed aboard the jeeps.
We 'paired' up with Kathy as she was alone, had missed the December flight due to a cancelled flight and had finally made it to Africa so our hearts went out to her, but as it ended up she was really fun to be with and down to earth. Another person on the trip we are grateful to have met.
We finally arrived at the gate to Kilimanjaro. Of course it took us another hour to get ready to start walking, and then the first part of the walk is the emergency road, but eventually we made it to the trail. Finally!
Soon after lunch Cori's stomach started bothering her so Remid, the super hero guide, strapped her daypack on to his pack and kept going. By the end of the day Cori quit twice but kept going because she did not know what else to do.
Hiking Machame to Shira was perhaps the most unique landscape compared to past experiences. The heather in the form of trees draped in moss was incredible and hard to leave behind. Especially when we arrived at the campsite. Crowded and not private at all.
Again, Cori's tummy was dodgy and so she quit the hike but kept going because she did not know what else to do and again, Remid was carrying her daypack.
The hike to Baranco was a rockier landscape, but would still make a good backdrop for an episode of Star Trek. It as at this point that we started to feel the altitude. Jumping up and running over to the tent caused us to catch our breath.
We discover our altimeter does not go higher than 15,000 ft. Oops. I think I recall buying it and saying when on earth would we ever go higher? We now have an answer.
Cori's tummy continues to ruin the day, and Bill starts getting blurry vision. Several of the women on the trip also have blurred vision, and one also has the evil stomach as well. As in projectile vomiting. We can no longer drink water without getting sick. For some, constipation turns to diarrhea. Happy campers.
Good news: antibiotics help the dodgy tummy. Bad news: Bill's eyesight gets worse, but the other women's vision clears up. Clear enough to see more vomiting. Happy campers. Bill hopes his vision will likewise clear up soon.
Cori considers not quitting and going home because tonight is the party at Karanga.
Somewhere between quitting and not quitting is Barafu. we are tricked by a short hike followed by three meals that leads into what might be one of the longest days of our life. At least the vomiting has stopped. Bill's vision: not great. We figure it can't be the altitude as we have been this high before. Must be exhaustion.
Bill waits until the sun rises the next morning and he is at about 19,000 ft before he announces he has double vision and will probably have a hard time descending. We tape up one side of his glasses and he hikes back with "the doctor" who at 67 is thrilled with his accomplishment of hiking from the base to the crater rim, but ready to hike down.
OK, Cori decides not to quit and hikes out. Bill, continued double vision, seems to have all other systems in check. Nothing indicating any altitude sickness, just the double vision.
Forever and a day, we begin the travels by shopping in the airport and then boarding KLM's tribute to Sputnik. The Amsterdam airport first aid station cannot help Bill, but they do provide the world's largest eye patch which makes Bill look like he took a hiking pole though the eye, and is quite fetching under his glasses.
To put closure to the vision issues, we wanted to note this here so that if this happens to someone else, you will know what it is. It's called "6th nerve palsey": The sixth cerebral nerve did not get enough oxygen and is like a little micro vascular stroke. A doctor documented two cases of this occuring in the Himalayas at about the same altitude. In these three cases, it was the left eye, and the eye returns to normal after a few months. In all three cases the people were young and healthy and showed no traditional signs of high altitude sickness. That was a reassuring diagnosis after being treated for cerebral edema for a week (which Bill did not have).
So in the end it was a happy ending, but we are in agreement that the next vacation would be at sea level.