Day 1: Dublin to Tanzania (Sat Oct 6th)
Departure was a 7pm flight from Dublin. It would take just under 8 hrs to reach Addis Ababa airport with approximately a 5 hrs layover, that would be followed by a second flight to Kilimanjaro Airport.
We arranged to meet with the group at approx. 4.30pm at the terminal in Dublin before the flight to get sorted with tickets and meet everyone. I left Limerick around mid-day and stopped for a coffee at Kildare village before getting to the airport, and parked in the long term car park (book online in advance and it’s fairly reasonable). Quick shuttle bus journey to the terminal then.
Ethiopian Airlines were great – very friendly, great service, food was pretty good and each seat has a separate display on the seat in front where you can watch movies. I watched Deadpool 2 and The Town on the way over, in-between napping and dozing off. Moving through the airport was also pretty fluid.
Day 2: Arrive in Tanzania (Sun Oct 7th)
As I mentioned above, there was a 5.5 hr stopover in Addis Ababa which is not the most well-equipped airport in the world and is very busy. There are numerous full body loungers around the terminal and if you were lucky enough to get one, then you could get a few hrs kip.
We went for a coffee or three. Service is so laid back, it’s very easy going and you wouldn’t want to be in a rush for drink or food. Coffee was about 4$ and a draft beer was about 6$. There were several duty-free shops on the main strip and nothing very cheap, not a million miles away price wise from Ireland. We then took the flight from Addis and arrived after lunchtime in Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. The time difference is 2 hours ahead of Irish time so jet lag is not really an issue.
You had to have the form filled in already for Visa control (it costs 50$). We managed to get ahead in the line as a group, but it was still pretty slow. They take a picture that gets place on a blank page of your passport and they also take your finger prints. Again, the process is very laid back and easy going and everyone is very friendly.
Then it’s a couple of hrs bus drive to Arusha and the Outpost Lodge. Everyone was nodding off on the bus. We stopped at a shop on the way for a pee break and to go to the shop. Diamox and its inherent diuretic effects were most definitely working. I started taking it Oct 7th and was pissing like a proverbial racehorse until I stopped taking it post summit day. I can only describe taking it is like having a kidney infection for a week, regular urge to pee.
We got to our rooms, which were equivalent to a 3* star in Ireland – twin room, mosquito net around both beds, it was clean and roomy. I grabbed a shower and met for dinner with the group around 6.30pm.
The menu in the outpost has lots of variety, but I decided to play it safe and go with a pizza and water without any alcohol. Other guys got a mix of different types of food, ranging from schnitzel to steak, and it all looked excellent. I didn’t have time to use swimming pool, but it looked inviting.
Two guys from the group had birthdays on Oct 5th and 6th respectively, and Earth’s Edge had organised a birthday cake for them which was a nice touch. We sang happy birthday and ate cake. It was a thoughtful gesture and put everyone in good form for the journey that lay ahead.
NB: Remember to use mosquito repellent at the very start from Kilimanjaro airport and for first couple of days – I didn’t get bitten once thank god but some of the guys did.
Day 3: Go from Arusha (Outpost Lodge) to Machame Gate (Mon Oct 8th)
We took the drive to Machame gate, stopping on the way at a local shop and pharmacy. I needed a Vicks inhaler and some tissue paper as I didn’t bring any.
Machame gate was very cool, starting elevation is about 1800 metres (I remember thinking this is the highest I’ve ever been at as Carrauntoohil is only just over 1,000 metres, so that was a cool start point). You enter though large gates and see lots of other similar minded people about to undertake the Kili use a different main guide for each day of the trek.Place was buzzing, very multicultural, I loved it! There are several people outside the gate looking to sell you their wares, but they are not allowed inside the gates.
We had to sign in officially to the mountain (similarly we had to sign out when the trek was over at Mweka Gate). They also had a packed lunch ready and waiting for us – really nice spread almost like a school lunch with banana, biscuits, chocolate bar, queen cake, BBQ chicken (I think it was chicken, very dry and like beef jerky in texture but got used to the taste and for a finish really liked it).
Starting the trek
We kicked off about 1.30pm, met our guides, they introduced themselves and we set off. Format would be to use a different main guide for each day of the trek.
“Innocent” took us as our first guide, we trekked through the lush rainforest at a slow rate. In fairness, excitement was building. This was the start!
We left at approx. 1.30pm and arrived at Machame camp at approx. 6.20pm. Weather was great on the trek, stopped for plenty of pee breaks and some snacks (remembering to always use hand sanitizer post going to loo). I did note that it gets bright and dark in morning and evening very quickly in general on Kilimanjaro, not so much as gradual as it does in Ireland.
When we arrived in camp, the tents were setup already and the number you were assigned is the number tent that you keep for the duration of the hike. Myself and Eoin were number 12.
Dinner and Sleep
- Popcorn – salty popcorn was excellent
2. To drink you could have coffee/tea/water/hot coco
3. Zucchini and cucumber soup with bread
4. Spuds/beef stew (they call it beef sauce), spinach and coleslaw
5. Fruit – melon
It’s funny as all food groups ultimately end up on the same plate, and after a couple of days this became the norm. After dinner we went to bed (fairly early 8.30pm) .
It was my first time in a tent/sleeping bag so it was a bit mad experience wise. No electricity so you make do with the head torch light and it was snug for a 3 person tent, found the first night difficult to sleep on the mountain. I got up for a couple of pee’s during the night and the sky was so clear and the stars were so bright. I remember thinking this is F&*king surreal.
Day 4: Move from Machame camp to Shira camp (Tues Oct 9th)
I woke early, just before 5am to the frightening sight of Eoin opposite me in the tent washing his armpits with a scented baby wipe. This was the point at which there was no turning back, I don’t think that image will ever leave me. It’s burnt in to my brain and I may need some counselling at some point just to be able to forget and sleep again (without nightmares).
I remember waking up tired, but once I washed with the warm water basin and brushed my teeth, I felt electric. This really felt like day 1 and it was real. I could sense the other guys were the same – this was the start of something special. Daylight started after 6am, it was very quick, like a switch turning on. Birds were chirping, seemed like 100’s of them bellowing in unison. It was also at the turn of daylight that we got our first real look at the mountain – unreal! Today’s guide was Benjamin.
Everyone was chomping at the proverbial bit to get going! We had breakfast: coffee/porridge/pancakes/sausages /French toast/ mango/orange segments and some bread.
Off we went with Dusty Noses
The porters sang us off and we joined in. The buzz was amazing, it really woke everyone up and we were mad for “road”! Also, from this day on, there was a build-up of dust in your nose as the trek in general is dusty, it is a good idea to bring a nasal cleanser droplet yoke and use nightly. Also use the buff over your chin and nose can help when it gets noticeably windy/dusty.
The terrain for most of Tuesday was stoney, a little arid and not too steep. We were however on a gradual ascent from the get go, you could see you were also visibly above the clouds and it felt immense. It felt like I was perched on natures ultimate pedestal, surveying all around me in grand splendour!
I remember feeling a little tired in general, a few people were feeling altitude effects but nothing gross. Shira camp was really warm, must have been close to mid-20’s or slightly higher. There was coffee/popcorn and warm water for washing ready for us and it was gratefully received. After the popcorn, there was an option to go a hundred or so metres additionally to see where the Shira caves were and to go to another view point. About half the group wanted to go (me included) and the rest of the guys took a well-earned rest. It was a short walk from camp.
The Shira caves were used 20/30 years ago to sleep under and to cook in– the ground inside is still black with charcoal and ashen in colour. I viewed this additional short walk as an opportunity for a little extra acclimatization time at this altitude. From the top of Shira cave, you could see all the volcanic deposits from the last eruption (volcano is now dormant). I cannot do the history of this justice, so here is a very useful link if you are interested in more about the mountain.
Dinnertime was about 6pm
1. Pumpkin and Ginger soup
2. Rice and beef stew (had seconds)
5. Tomatoes – very sweet (fruit and veg in general was very sweet and plump)
6. Coffee and water
We asked for the chefs to come in after dinner, so we could thank them for what they had prepared for us. We asked their names and then we introduced ourselves individually, then we challenged the cooks to remember our names, in fairness I think they got 12/18 correct at first go – like I said they are very attentive people and very little escapes their attention!
Ok, no way to really sugar coat this next bit!
It was on this day that I experienced quite violent farting – I mean like really loud and let’s just say it didn’t smell like roses! Apparently a side affect from altitude sickness can be flatulence – details here . It got so bad, that I literally had to hang my ass out of the tent and fart in to the evening air for like an hour, it was very funny at the time, but my ass was getting cold from being half in and half out of the tent! I also think that through the process of elimination, that the hot sauce in the mess tent didn’t agree with me. It got to a stage on subsequent days when I asked someone to “pass the sauce”, then everyone in the group including the porters said “NO F*&king way” would they give it to me 😊. Luckily the ass gas effect passed. We hit the hay just after 8pm – solid tired!
Day 5: Move from Shira Camp to Barranco Camp (Wed Oct 10th)
Woke at 3am to go for a whizz, was too tired to get dressed so I nipped outside in my jocks, peeing and looking at the stars and their clarity was ridiculous. Then woke early around 5am and got up, had a bad night’s sleep in general – what with the gas and still getting used to sleeping on the ground.
Tuesday night was a bit cold, like -3 degrees but felt considerably colder. “Good Luck” popped his head in to the breakfast tent and asked how we slept, we said it was a bit cold last night, he said he didn’t sleep great either…. “it was too warm” for him, found that very funny! Good Luck is a funny guy, he has a very Irish sense of humour in my opinion.
Breakfast consisted of:
- Porridge (added peanut butter and sugar)
4. Bageer (dry deep friend donut type thingie)
The send-off by the porters dancing for us again was unreal, we all joined in. I felt great after it. I was busting moves and my hips like a man half my age. The trail once we got started was gravelly and fairly rocky. We arrived at lava tower around 2pm – today we were to get a hot lunch on arrival. We were all starving by the time we made Lava Tower, some pics below:
The hot lunch consisted of:
- Toasted tuna and peanut butter sandwich (I know, sounds rank right?? ..but actually was very tasty! – I had 2 halfs)
2. Chicken stew soup
4. Chicken and potatoe Stew
Dinner consisted of the below:
Dinner was then at 6.30pm, so after a quick wash, we had dinner. I could sense that everyone knew we were well on the way to the road to summit night and excitement was sneaking in.
3. Zuchinni soup
4. Mac and cheese pasta
5. Mixed vegetables
6. Beef mince stew
7. Oranges and melon
Went to bed after 8pm – slept a little better that night but not great!
Check out the next installments here: