Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! By Akky Mansikka
Oooh the anticipation...... there was the training started months in advance.... skiing in the Banff area to get used to altitude, hiking the Bruce Trail, yoga, and walking up and down hills every day for a couple of hours with a weighted backpack.
I met the group I would be traveling with, on the morning of June 24th at Heathrow Airport in London, to start the journey to the mountain. We arrived late at night in Nairobi, Kenya, and spent one night in luxury at the Nairobi Hilton. The next morning, we flew in a Dash 8 to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Enroute we caught a glimpse of the mighty mountainís snow-capped peak poking through the cloud layer. On the way to our hotel, near Arusha, the imposing wall of mountain in front of us disappeared in the clouds. What a frightening sight when I thought "that is where we are going?!" It looked so formidable. But in the fields were sunflowers that my tent mate, Yasmin, felt were greeting and welcoming us - that was a good sign!
We spent two nights at the hotel on the side of the mountain to acclimatize and sort through our equipment, then off we went to the north side of the mountain. We would start on the Kenya side and finish on the south side in Tanzania near our hotel. After watching the kitchen staff pack the food and equipment and the porters weigh in their loads, off we set with our group of 37 people. First through corn fields, then rain forest where we spotted black and white monkeys with bushy tails ...stopping for the night in low bushy vegetation. Our tents were cozy, the food was good, and company was great.
The next morning as the shrubs got lower, we had terrific views of Kilimanjaro ahead of us as we hiked higher and higher. We camped at Second Cave at 3550 meters. After a breakfast of porridge and a fried egg on toast, we set off for Mawenzi Tarn, an elephant watering hole, which sits below the multiple summits of Mawenzi Peak. We passed the upper limits of vegetation and the landscape looked desolate and desert like. We spent two nights there at 4300 meters.
Next we crossed the saddle between Mawenzi and Kilimanjaro to Kibo Hut at 4750 meters. This is higher than any planes I have flown - we are doing the trip without oxygen. What would my flight instructor say!
We had one rest day there before starting out on the ascent to the summit the following night. We started at one in the morning with our headlamps on. It was spectacular watching the trail of lights winding up the side of the mountain. The rising dawn over Mawenzi was beyond words, as was reaching Gilmanís Peak on the edge of Kibo Crater, at 5685 meters. There were tears, hugs, awe and wonder as we looked around the snow-capped top and glaciers. We had arrived!!
You can see our adventure, struggles and climb in a documentary by Valerie Pringle who was also on the trip (and made it to the top).
After returning from the climb, Yasmin, I and the group worked on an HIV shelter and resource center for women in a rural part of Tanzania.
Then we went on Safari in the Serengeti where besides seeing many animals, we visited a traditional Masai village. We learned so much about life elsewhere, life in general, where humans fit into the scheme of things and ourselves. The experience was unforgettable.
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