Its been a while since I have been wanting to visit Africa and also climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Climbing is really not the right way to describe the Kilimanjaro adventure. Its more of a walk, though by no means an easy one. Or so I have read and been told. In a few months I will find out. Why? Well I am planning to go there this year. As I plan, prepare, and climb I will write about the experience. It takes a bit to plan your climb.
Route: First of all there are various routes up Kilimanjaro. Use Google and you will find plenty of information on this. I am not going to get into details over the different routes. I am choosing the Rongai route. Its one of the two routes (the other being the Marangu route) that does not require you to deal with the Barranco wall. The Barranco wall can pose a bit (not significant from what I hear) of a problem with people who have a fear of heights. Apparently I have developed one (subject for another blog post). So I picked the Rongai route. Pretty simple huh?
Operator: There are many operators that can take you up the mountain. I am certain that like in any other business there are good ones and bad ones. I currently looking at Team Kilimanjaro. I read good reviews on them and they have been extremely helpful and responsive to all my queries and I have been sending them at least one email a week for the past 10 weeks. If nothing else, they appear to patient. They seem to be in the middle of the road when it comes to cost. I have seen some that are cheaper and some that cost more.
Equipment: This is a big cost and I believe an area that one should not be cheap. As someone who does a lot of hiking and backpacking I know that good equipment is critical for having a good experience. Your climb should be a challenge but fun. If you want to be tortured go to the middle east, china, or go screw with the CIA. Kilimanjaro is just an adventure :-). Team Kilimanjaro provides a good list of equipment you will need. Several other web sites have very similar lists. So I will go with Team Kili’s list.
I will add a table of the exact brand of what I own or purchase for this trip here. Since I am also very interested in photography and I plan to do a safari while in Africa I am breaking my kit list into two categories of climbing and photography.
Look here for updates on the climb and photography kit. For photography related information you may also want to see this thread: http://www.juzaforum.com/forum-en/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=20183&start=0&hilit=kilimanjaro
Training: While Kilimanjaro requires no technical mountaineering skills it should be noted that it is 5,895 meters high (19,341 ft for those who can’t multiply by 10). At these altitudes you are in a region with very low oxygen levels. This therefore makes the simple task of walking quite difficult. So being in good physical shape is probably a good idea. I, however, am not much of a runner. So running 5 to 10 km 3 times a week is out of the question for me. So far I have been going for long walks, short runs, and been doing the insanity workout videos (yep! I am a sucker for the those infomercials). If I make it to the top of Africa in good shape I will let you know.
Medical: Its a good idea to go see your doctor before the trip. Based on my doctors recommendation and the CDC and The Kenyan and Tanzanian government rules I will be taking and/or carrying the following:
- Malaria pills
- DTAP shot
- Yellow Fever Shot
- In addition I will also be carrying Immodium, Advil (Ibuprofen), and Acetominophen (Tylenol).
Getting There: Planning my trip to Kenya/Tanzania is so far one of my biggest challenges Flights to Nairobi are not cheap. Specially not over the summer months. Mostly because in the summer:
- Americans are going to Europe on vacation. This pushes up airline costs. Most flights to Nairobi go through Europe.
- Europeans and Americans are going to Kenya/Tanzania on vacation to see the great wildebeest and zebra migration.
So if you are a budget traveler you may be in for a surprise. So plan ahead and avoid peak seasons. As for getting a visa, here are some tips.
Staying There: Obviously during the climb you will be camping in tents or staying in huts depending on the route you take. But when you get to Africa (depends on whether you fly to Tanzania or to Kenya) you may end up needing to spend a night or two in a city like Nairobi. As a stranger in such cities we tend to find what we classify as safe accommodations which in simpler terms implies expensive hotels. Now let me tell you this. I am amazed, shocked as to how expensive hotels and for that matter everything else is in Kenya and other African countries. This is going to be my first trip. Once I have scouted around maybe I will learn to find cheaper places to stay. Hotels in Nairobi during peak season are in the $200 plus a night and if you have kids, expect to pay more. I have been to many parts of the world and have never had to pay so much. Maybe when it comes to Nairobi, the internet is a not a good place to search. I did find one place. The wildebeest camp in Nairobi. Its a tented campsite and is very reasonable with regards to cost. I have yet to stay there (since I have yet to make this trip) but if I do end up staying there I will provide feedback on it.
Safari: You are not going to go all the way to Africa and then not go on a safari. For most people, myself included, a trip to Africa is expensive and will perhaps not be repeated too often. So yes, you might be going there to climb Mt Kilimanjaro but you should take advantage and visit places like the Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Masai Mara, etc. But now that I am suggesting that you go for a safari or two, let me warn you. At least based on what you will find on the web, a safari can be incredibly expensive. During peak season you can end up paying a mind boggling $1,000 a day and that’s at the low end, so called budget safaris. I don’t care what kind of luxuries they throw at you, this is absolutely insane. I am told there are cheaper options but none that I could find online. Perhaps after my first trip I will learn more about local conditions and places to stay etc. But as a first time visitor it seems like a trip to Africa is one very expensive endeavor.
I will provide updates as I gather more information and plan my trip. Of course more will follow after my trip.
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