LAX September 9, 2017
It's GO DAY for Kili! Long flight ahead, 9 hours to Amsterdam and slept very little last night in anticipation. Excited.
Sunday September 10, 2017
In Amsterdam. Amazing, modern, HUGE airport. Didn't sleep a wink on the plane. Found Josh at the gate and it is so, so great to see him!
Amsterdam to Arusha Tanzania. Another 8 hour flight and again no sleep. Absolutely exhausted but so excited. Time change means I'm sure I skipped a night anyway.
Arrived at the airport...and NO BAGS! My bags didn't make the transfer from Amsterdam.
Same clothes now for 3 days. Hopefully it'll get here by tomorrow. Not panicking, we have two nights here at Itikoni Camp. Just incredible. Big canvas tents, solar shower, chemical toilets, comfy beds. Colder than i thought here at 6200'. Crashed at 11:30pm, woke at 4.
We have eight people on the climb. Jared, cute 26 yr old kid from Manhattan; Richard, long winded and super fit 64 yr old from Jersey; Scott and Jeff from Madison, WI, late 50s; and Joseph and Stephanie from South Carolina, 37 and 42, who've never slept in a tent before. Everyone else has significant hiking experience and trained for the climb in a similar way as I did.
Already we are bonding. We had our climb briefing, excited and nervous. The food is incredible here...fresh everything, the service fabulous. So much for roughing it. That starts tomorrow. Went on a hike...colobus monkeys in the trees, stepping over water buffalo dung, hornbills in the trees looking like flying penguins. It's gorgeous here. They surprised us with lunch in a meadow next to a waterfall. Wow..pop up dining tent, real plates, silverware, wine glasses...way out here they served us eggplant parmigian, just one of at least 6 dishes! Hiked back, couldn't keep my eyes open and slept for an hour. Time for the sunset hike. Stopped at the top of a hill to view Kilimanjaro just over a ridge and just then a giraffe came up from the other side. Moment of a lifetime, wow! Cue The Circle of Life!
We turn back and cooks had set up appetizers and wine for us. Wow, I can't believe this. Mountain Madness is going all out.
Then dinner. I can't eat this much. Bbq...lamb, pork, beef, veggies, chicken, homemade bread, potatoes, salad. Who can eat this much?
Now sitting and waiting and hoping my bags made it on tonight's flight.
At midnight they arrived. Phew. But Jeff's bag did not 🙁 Repacked and ready to go.
Tuesday, September 9
9,000 feet. Easy hike today. They make us move very slowly and drink a lot. Slept only four hours again, really tired. It was a three hour drive to the trailhead...very bumpy...but on the way we saw giraffes, zebras, maasai villages. The kids are BEAUTIFUL, they wave to us as we pass!
Cold here, and we haven't begun to feel real cold.
Wednesday, September 13
11,400', Shira Plateau. Saw a small baboon at the edge of the forest, about 5 feet from my tent. When I went to take a picture, it stood up and walked slowly until it was erect..it was hilarious; it looked like every picture of evolution you've seen. When he turned and ran away, I thought Damn! Another few steps and he would have turned into a human!
Today was 6 hours of hiking. A lot of steps and rocks. Who said this was a walk up? We went from mountain forest to above treeline. So many monkeys in the trees, very cool! Still shorts and shirts with gators during the day but jackets when we stop and cold at night.
We all rotate positions in the hiking line to have conversations and get to know each other. I'm loving all the connections...really great people on this climb. Jeff is having trouble with his Achilles and we are all worried about him.
Even up here the food is great. I have a personal porter, his name is Lawrence. He's 22, a sweet kid working to fund college studying community development.
I gave the hats to all the porters, they were so happy. Made my heart full and so proud of all the Santa Claritans who donated hats for me!
Thursday, September 14th
13,500'. We are filthy from the dry and constant dust and dirt. This is the dirtiest backpacking I have ever done. Blood blister but not bad, protecting my feet now to avoid any other problems.
This was a tough day...flat across the plateau and flat is what aggravates my hip, then boulder climbing, which was tiring. All in all I'm holding up very well and grateful for that.
All conversations stopped around 11,500' as people focused on breathing. Jeff left this morning, the ankle in too much pain. Well see him on safari, but sad to see him go. Joseph and Stephanie have been sick since day two and Jared threw up. This is when it all kicks in.
We took an acclimation hike this afternoon to nearly 14,000'.
Friday, September 15
15,000', Lava Tower Camp
Feeling well but easily winded. Very cold until the sun comes out, ice encrusts the tent. We start out wearing lots of layers, hats and gloves. Easier hike today. Jared better..i gave him some meds. Joseph is much worse. Josh and I pooled Diamoxx and I talked him into taking that and my cipro. Stephanie too. We need to help them, we're all in this together. Because I am trying to help the group I've been given the nickname Mama Simba by Boniface, who i call baby. I wear the name proudly. I dole out tums, zicam, tylenol, remind them to drink, etc. Josh and i are somehow parents on this trip, it's rather funny.
Afternoon hike another 500' up. Climb high, sleep low, and we were seriously winded. Short hike tomorrow because we need to acclimatize.
After dinner we invited Little Man and another porter to the dining tent to play cards. What a highlight of the trip, to spend time with these hard working young men. They were a hit! They told us that people from other nationalities don't assimilate but Americans, even if they've never met, become friends in two days. They love Americans and it's a dream of theirs to visit the US.
I am having a ball with Josh..so much laughing every day. This is surely the most amazing experience of my life.
Saturday, September 16
16,000', Arrow Glacier Camp.
Very short hike today but very slow going. Some bouldering which is hard at this elevation.
I still feel great, so does Josh. Joseph not doing well, his wife barely hanging in there today. Love Jared, he's my son while I'm in Africa. And Scott, sweetest man ever. I am having the time of my life.
Ben said, "Take each day for today. Think about this day and getting through it without worrying about tomorrow. You'll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. "
Ben told us we wake at 4 tomorrow for the toughest day. Facing the western breach. He told us to wear all we've got and be ready. We are all nervous. We'll top out at 18,700!
Though fitful, I slept from 9 to 4:30 last night and grateful for it.
Sunday, September 17
18,700', Summit Crater Camp.
That was the toughest day hiking I have ever had. Ever. Not only was the climb hard...hand over hand, lots of scree, few stops...the elevation made it incredibly difficult.
It was a vomitfest. Joseph and Stephanie, Jared, Scott, Richard. Only Josh and i are healthy. It was gorgeous, though. Scott was thrilled, "Most gorgeous place I ever took a dump." We have all gotten to know each other very intimately, obviously 🙂 We all sleep so close to each other...a week in and we know how we sleep, the noises we make, the burps, farts, sighs and yawns. Hard not to be close after that!
Everyone doubted themselves a little bit today. Boniface asked if I wanted help at one point. I said no. I want to make this on my own. I have incredible appreciation for Adnan and TJ right now and how they've prepared me to be right here at this moment.
Hail storm at night. Very, very cold. We wake up with ice on the tent every day. Sun out, hot in tent, sun in, freezing. Absolutely freezing. Truly exhausted. Summit day tomorrow. Our personal porters bring us tea in the morning, help us get ready, bring us a bowl of warm washing water in camp. We feel like infants, we can barely move.
I have slight nausea and a little headache but nothing i cant deal with. Still having a ball, what a dream. I am sitting in the tent and i can hear everyone sighing and yawning. Their bodies trying to get air.
Napped an hour, took excedrin migraine and tums and feel better. Every movement exhausting. Jared feeling better and hes the only one who had an appetite at lunch. Turned out to be quite ironic.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Woke at 3:45 am and started for the summit at 5. Easy for me but very very cold...freezing. 600' of elevation gain and I was feeling great. Poor Jared woke up in the middle of the night to vomit. He threw up every few steps all the way to the summit. Josh and I very worried about him.
We arrived at the summit as the sun was rising. Gorgeous, stunning. Boniface was our leader and i was right behind him, feeling strong, and we did a happy dance when we hit the summit. How much fun is THAT at 19,341'? Then the throngs of climbers came and it was a mad rush to get pics. 15 minutes and down we went. 6 hrs and 9,000' feet down. Raced with Josh and Boniface skiing scree for 30 minutes and I will pay for that tomorrow. What a blast of a day. I DID IT!
I saw at least 4 sick people being taken down by porters.
Arrived at last camp and everyone is wiped out. Another 4 hours down tomorrow and it'll be shower time. The group has asked Josh and i to speak on behalf of all to the porters (62 of them here) in the morning. I am honored.
Tuesday, September 19th
I spoke to the group this morning with as heartfelt a speech as ive ever given. I feel so strongly about the porters and the job they've done, the group and especially OUR GUIDES BEN (BABAMANDA), BONIFACE (BABY), GRANOLA, IMMANUEL. Bcause of them, we felt safe and supported.
Trail's end. Body kills. Josh and i linked arms and literally skipped the last 50 feet to do it in style!! Lunch at the bottom and a champagne toast! On to Moivaro Lodge, showers and we all wish we had a scale to step on to see how much weight we lost the last 3 days, wow. We will surely put it all back on over the next four days on safari.
Josh and I were given a king size bed with flower petals, it was hilarious. As he said, we'd be farther apart than in the tent! Had to close the windows, the maid said, so the monkeys won't come in!
We all shared a wonderful dinner and drinks, had a ball being with each other and feeling accomplished! WE ARE A TEAM.
Tomorrow is an early start to Ngorongoro conservation area and crater, I can't wait.
I appreciate everyone's help in getting me here, it was a team effort. They say that climbing Kili is a life changer. I'd have to agree.