We did not book the Kilimanjaro trekking before we arrived in Tanzania. We wanted to see what the weather would be like and of course get the best possible offer. Then actually the hotel connected us with Joseph, who gave us a great explanation about the different routes and possibilities. We had a good feeling and decided to go ahead with Joseph and the team. Turned out to be a GREAT decision. Not only did we get the best crew we could wish for, we also got a very good price. Not a bad decision at all to book here, and not book with an agency beforehand.
DAY 1: Machame Gate to Machame Camp (2835m)
This morning at 08:00 we were picked up from the hotel, we bought some nuts and dates and were good to go. Our guide Nestor was super happy to go up the mountain again, because he hasn’t been there since March. There are really almost no tourists around.. which also showed when we arrive at the entry gate of the Machame track. Besides us, there was only one other small group of French people.
Before we could start the hike to the first camp (11km and 1100hm – up to 3000 meter height) our porters had to weigh their packs, as there are heavy restrictions in place on maximum weight. Also everything we bring up the mountain is counted: toilet paper rolls, packages of rice, sugar, butter, coffee. As nothing can be left on the mountain and all trash needs to be carried down again.
Honestly not sure what our expectation was exactly, but really had mixed feelings about the guys carrying up 20kg of luggage on their head or shoulders + their backpack with clothing and personal camping gear. In my mind they would have a backpack with 20kg max, shows how I live within my own small frame of reference.
One hand it is great that so many porters can join us on this trip, as it means work & money. On the other hand they should not have to carry up full bottles of ketchup and chili sauce. Or even a table. As we all can go without it as well. Franklin carried one of the bags for a while & I also tried for a couple meters. Heavy and even harder to balance! And some of the guys can do this without hands!
Our guide told us that he was 32 when he first went up the Kilimanjaro. This was many years ago. During this time, the porters had to stay outside, it was too cold to sleep and the bags were around 40kg. Many porters died on the mountain until the government put the regulations in place.
The walk up to the first camp was fairly easy. We took it slow and it took us around 3 hours including some short breaks. When we arrived at Machame camp, we were the first ones to arrive, even before the porters. Crazy to see how big this camp place is. Different experience now with only us and around 12 other hikers + crew.
The dinner the chef prepared was amazing! Seriously what you could expect in a restaurant. Gabriel took perfect care of us & after dinner we did a quick health check and briefing of the next day. Sitting in the tent in the evening we heard the monkeys. How cool is that!!!!
Early bed time & alarm at 07:00.
DAY 2: Machame Camp – Shira Caves (3750m)
We had a really good night of sleep. Once we closed our eyes we were gone. We both woke up around 0:30 and went outside for a pee. The sky was super clear and covered with bright stars. An incredible view.
We woke up again around 06:00 and went outside to watch the sunrise. We had quite a clear view of mount Meru and when the clouds disappeared we could also see Uhuru Peak. The top of the mountain we would reach in 4 days.
Breakfast was served with so much care and attention it is really hearty warming. And after some washing and packing we were good to go. Today I decided that I would carry my own larger backpack as the crew already has enough to carry. We were the last of the three groups to leave, but catched up again already after a few hundred meters.
The hike today was a bit more technical & slightly steeper, but still very easy going. We could feel that we were at higher altitude as our heart rates were still low, but not as low as they would have been back home in Switzerland (between 105-120). We were advised by the guide to drink a lot of water, really a minimum of 3 liters per day. As this helps your body with getting enough oxygen at the higher altitude. But because of this we really have the pee every half an hour almost.
When looking down we had an amazing view of the clouds and the mountain above it. It reminded me a lot of Mount Taranaki, where my parents & brother with family live in New Zealand.
We were again the first to reach the camp, right behind our crew. The tent was already set-up. We had a huge lunch (carrot soup, pasta and fruits) and afterwards a couple of hours to relax in the tent. When we arrived at the camp the weather had changed and we had a bit of rain.
We eat soooo much on this trip, I think we both are gaining weight. But the crew is keeping a very close eye and is making sure that we eat more than enough. As our bodies will need the energy in the next days.
To be honest, the first two days were extremely easy for us.. so let’s see what the next days will bring. We still have in our mind that we are trained triathletes and that 8-12 hm hikes are more of a warm-up or cool-down. But we have respect for the mountain & are waiting to see how the altitude will impact us over the next days.
Today we sleep at 3850 meters. The highest I have ever been standing on soil.
Multiple times today I thought that this is one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I never had the desire to hike up this mountain, and had 0 expectations. But it is so special to be surrounded by nature, to be with my lovy & to be on to road with a crew of guys that is happy to be here & are clearly good friends of each other. So far I can 100% recommend it & is 100% worth the money.
Around 16:00 we walked up to Shira II for some extra acclimatising. This camp is 100 meters higher than Shira Caves. Shira Caves is called this way because of the small caves which are close to the camp ground. Many years ago the porters would sleep in the caves. They would collect fire wood to make some heat & all sleep seated around the fire, with just a blanket, not a warm sleeping bag. This is where many of the porters and guides died. How is it possible that tourists accepted that.
DAY 3: Shira Caves – Baranco Camp (3900m)
This day already started at 01:00
It was more difficult for both of us to sleep & we have to go to the toilet all the time. Drinking a lot of water helps with the acclimatization, but also has a very annoying side. Did not want to get out of bed, so ended up being awake all the time. We got up around 06:00 and the view was spectacular. Probably it will even be a lot better on a clear day, clouds have been surrounding us for the last 48 hours. We have been told by one of the Swiss guys in the other camp that you can have the most amazing sunset from this camp, he has already been up 13 times.
Franklin had stomach pains during the night and I felt that it was harder to breath. Started to slightly panic, not knowing how it would be 2000 meters higher. During breakfast I felt a lot better again, but Franklin felt like he ate something bad and was weak. That in combination with a medium night of sleep, was not a recipe for success.
We started our hike up to Lava Tower, which is at 4600 meters altitude. Franklin was feeling very very weak and we slowed down the pace, as advised. Heart rate was still perfectly low, but the stomach pain was almost unbearable. However he pushed through and already felt better when reaching the highest point of the day. We had planned to spend 15-30 minutes at this high altitude, but it was cold and raining a bit. So we decided with the guides to head down right away.
The views walking down to Baranco camp we super nice! Even with the rainy and foggy weather. This down hill is a bit more technical and walking sticks are advised. We went down again to 3900 meters, so our bodies can hopefully adapt a bit better to the height.
When we arrived at the camp the tent was already set-up and lunch was ready: Chipsi Mayai!! Heaven! Luckily Franklin also had appetite. It started raining quite hard and we had to dig some trenches around the tent to make sure we kept it dry. The tent of the porters however, was FULL with water in no time, so they had to move.
Franklin went to sleep and is snoring already, hope he feels better when he wakes up for dinner and that the sun is out.
Tomorrow we have planned to skip the Karanga Camp and walk straight to the base camp: Barafu Camp.
But if Franklin does not feel well, we will either add one night in Karanga or go down back to Moshi?
In the video below you can see how the journey continued.. or you can of course keep reading!
DAY 4: Baranco Camp – Barafu Camp (3983m)
Yesterday, after Franklin had nice afternoon power-nap, all the Chipsi Mayai came out way faster than it came in. Carlo, the Swiss man we met on the mountain gave us some medication and Franklin tried to sleep more. Which luckily was successful. After a very good night of sleep we both felt fresh again & were ready for a new day, a bit less pole pole.
The route from Baranco to Karanga camp is again a bit more technical. Climbing up and down some big rocks, really wonder how the porters can keep the balance which such heavy bags. For this day we decided not to sleep at the Karanga camp, but to walk straight to the base camp – Barafu. If Franklin would have felt the same as on day 3, we would have never made it today. At Barafu camp is no river or stream, which means that the porters have to carry the water up all the way from Karanga. So they distribute the luggage again half way through the day & two guys carry up 20 liters of water.
When we arrived at Barafu, finally the sky was clear and we had spaghetti overlooking the most amazing sunset. We had our camp at the lower part of Barafu, which meant we were all alone with our crew.
Early bed today, because we will wake up at 00:15 to start our last little trip to Uhuru Peak.
DAY 5: Barafu Camp – Uhuru Peak (5895m)
Franklin slept like a baby & really had the feeling I slept for 10 minutes max. It was so extremely cold, and was too excited. Around 00:15 we got out of our sleeping bags & dressed with 5 layers. I was so excited to start walking, so I would finally warm-up again.
Gabriel brought us breakfast at 00:20 – pancakes and eggs – and we started walking together with Nestor and James around 01:00. The rest of the group enjoyed some more well deserved sleep & Gabriel slept in our tent to make sure all the stuff was safe.
Far in the distance we could already see lights going up the mountain. And when you looked up.. stars.. an endless amount of stars!
There was no wind & it was warm. Great feeling! We both put off a few layers and kept walking, slowly. We passed most people at some point & the higher we got, the colder it was. I think I was too late to put back on my extra layers, because I did not really get warm again. Franklin was walking with the sticks as he had some stomach pains again, and I had my hands in my pockets. My fingers were freezing. We kept passing the other people, but we were still going so slow. So close to Stella Point we told Nestor that we wanted to speed up, to finally warm up a bit.
The sun started rising & the view was simply breathtaking. The sky was clear and turning red and yellow. From here we thought it would be close to Uhuru Peak, but we had to manoeuvre through the temporary snow pillars. Those were beautiful but made the last meters difficult. I wanted to take pictures and videos so bad, but my middle fingers were not moving and felt like stone under my gloves. Also I felt like I was sleeping, walking and having the best time of my life at the same time. Very strange feeling to say the least.
When we reaches the peak, the sun was rising and it would get a bit warmer soon. We took pictures and I started crying because I honestly thought I would lose my middle fingers. Such a cry baby, but I just wanted to keep my fingers very badly. Crying was over very soon and we started the descent.
The way down was warm.. such a good feeling. And also quite intense. In the video you can see the great views we had. When we arrived back at our camp, we high-fived the crew & slept for one hour. After this we continued our descent to the Mweka Hut (Lower Camp) for the final night of sleep on the mountain.
DAY 6: Mweka Hut – Moshi
Ready for the last walk on the Kili. Probably I was the only one who was a bit sad. The group was happy to go home & have a real shower again. We decided to leave early, so we could arrive at the gate the same time as the porters, so we could have a proper goodbye.
I believe the walk normally takes around 4 hours, but we made it down in less than 2. You have to go quite high speed to keep up with the Tanzanians.
At the gate we had the whole group together & we gave everyone our tip. Which is something that is expected & also really shows the appreciation you have for the hard work the guys put in. We were very happy that we negotiated a lower price with the agency, so we could actually give the money to the guys who did the hard work on the mountain. Such a great group of people!
One of my ex-colleagues from the Netherlands also advised us to bring extra gear which we could give away at the end of the hike. So we brought one suitcase full of clothing & also left our hiking shoes, jackets, fleece sweaters, hiking socks etc. behind. Nestor came up with the idea to make 10 packages & do a lottery, so everyone would get something equal. This was actually quite fun & turned out good.
During the bus ride home, the whole group was finally singing. On the mountain this is not allowed at the moment because of C. Everyone can sleep in the same tent, but singing.. if you do that you lose your license. Good to see that governments around the whole world have the same strange logics. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun in the bus, took some last pictures at the hotel and said goodbye. But hopefully it is not a goodbye, but a see you soon..