Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the fourth highest of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains of each continent where Antarctica is included, and the American continent divided into North and South).
The estimated time to reach the peak and return, for most people, is between five and eight days.
By the age of 25, I had never camped or mountaineered in a remotely serious way. That is why when my boyfriend told me that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was one of the things I had to do before I died, I quickly agreed to accompany him, having no idea what was ahead of me.
We went with Materia Tours, the company run by Ambrose, an extraordinary Tanzanian who offers good prices and even better service. We opted for the Mach Amer trail – seven days of travel. The Materia Tours team handled the essentials, but here are some tips that escaped them and what you should know according to Climbing Kilimanjaro.
Bring your own toilet paper. Wrap one or two plastic rollers to keep them dry and store them in your backpack – they will not serve much in the camp, tidy up in the tent, during a nine-hour walk!
The next council made me want to laugh when they gave it to me, but it turned out to be money well-spent: giving $160 for a health tent. Mounted just a few feet from the sleeping tents, this little tent will save you from the queue to go to the bathroom or you must walk tens of meters in the middle of the night to the nearest latrine.
It is imperative that you stay hydrated. Very hydrated. After the first day, all your drinking water will come from the courses you are going to pass through. This water should be purified with an iodine tablet. Not really a fan of iodine, I was very grateful to have been reminded of bringing a pack of Nun hydration tablets. Try some brands and flavors before the trip to find out which ones you like best (my favorites are red fruit lemonade). Although I could not confirm that they gave me more energy, the pleasant taste was a great incentive to keep me hydrated.
This is a little personal, and it depends on the preferences of each person. After reviewing our itinerary, I put some things in the backpack that I used as a form of entertainment at the end of the day: a small diary, a deck of cards, a watercolor kit and my camera with a 50 mm lens. But the truth is that after each day, we never had much spare time to use these things. The hikes were made without haste, and we usually only arrived at camp at five in the afternoon, where hot tea and a snack waited for us. Later, we had dinner, we talked a little with our guides, and by eight o’clock, because of the altitude, most nights, we were already sleeping. I did not use watercolors or letters at all.
We took a pack of hand warmers that were not used in the traditional way. Since I ended up taking pictures essentially with my mobile phone, the hand warmer helped us save some battery. Keep the phone in the same pocket as the hand warmer in order to keep the battery warm between photos.
A Night at the Top of the Mountain
Breathe, hydrate, and literally take one step at a time. We returned from the summit; we arrived at the camp in the afternoon, ate, prepared the sleeping bags and went to sleep as soon as possible. We woke up at eleven at night. We drank tea, we added some layers to our sleeping bags (I slept with six layers on top and five on the bottom). With flashlights on our heads, we began a long night’s walk toward a ridge we could not see. A few small points of light ahead of us seemed to be miles away, but we kept our heads down, and we continued to take one step at a time. Looking up too much will hurt his neck and make the trip seem endless. We set foot on the summit – the highest point in Africa – as soon as the sun broke and lit the immense landscape in front of us.
Take care of yourself
Enjoy a good shower, wash your hair twice, and get a well-deserved nap. You have achieved an incredible feat, so reward your aching body with a safari or a beach weekend in Zanzibar.