Post CFSIA: Stonetown to Kilimanjaro

So much has been crammed into the last week and a half! I’m writing this from an Internet cafe in Moshi (the Union Cafe, which is quite excellent if anyone is ever in this corner of the world and wants some relatively fast WiFi and superb cheesecake). Tomorrow my real (almost) solo adventure begins, so first let’s recap my time in Stonetown and then my climb up the world’s tallest free-standing mountain.

After saying goodbye to a couple of people at the hostel in Zanzibar, most of us crammed into a matatu and bussed back across the island to Stonetown where we stayed in a mysterious, nameless, but very comfortable hostel for two nights. Those couple of days in Stonetown were amazing. I had gelato twice, got henna done on my hand inside the Old Fort, wandered the twisting alleys full of street cats for hours under the shadow of minarets, tried Ethiopian food for the first time and loved it, and soaked in the Arabic/Indian/Swahili vibes. It was quite touristy on the main streets, but a few minutes of walking out of that area would find you less tacky merchandise, less bothersome and insistent street hawkers, and cheaper food. Stonetown is such an interesting and cosmopolitan city and I could have used a couple more days to explore it a bit more.

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Delicious iced spiced coffee at the Lazuli Cafe.

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The winding streets.

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A dhow seen from the beach.

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Ethiopian coffee at the Abyssinian Maritim Restaurant.

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One of about a billion cats we saw.

Then on the 30th we all got up at 5:30 am and walked to the ferry terminal, got on the 7 am ferry back to Dar, and then took a bus from Dar here to Moshi. We spent two nights at the Panama Hotel and began our orientation to climbing Kili: meeting our guides (including our awesome main guide Emmanuel) and the four Kenyans who climbed with us, renting gear, taking out enough money to pay our fees, etc. The morning of the 1st was when we got in a bus and were driven about an hour to the park gate and the expedition began! Here’s a rough itinerary of our hike up the Marangu Route:

Day 1: hiked 4 hours to Mandara Camp, mostly through rainforest and then temperate forest. Not too tough, we were all feeling great because it was the first day and the altitude hadn’t kicked in yet.

Day 2: hiked 6 hours to Horombo Camp. Less trees and more small scrub and open plains. A little bit more tiring, still no real altitude sickness for anyone yet. Temperature was much more chilly.

Day 3: hiked 5 hours up to Zebra Rocks and back down to Horombo; acclimatization day. I was a little bit ill that day, most likely from the altitude but possibly from the altitude sickness medication we were all taking, but it went away within several hours. A few other people had headaches and some other symptoms. Temperature was cold enough for fleeces and jackets. Amazing views of both Uhuru Peak and the smaller peak from Zebra Rocks.

Day 4: hiked 6 hours to Kibo Camp (base camp to summit) through the Saddle between the two peaks. I really felt the altitude near the end (heart beating very quickly, little bit breathless, had to go slower) and it was quite cold at Kibo, maybe around zero. We had an early dinner and slept until 11 pm when we woke up to start the summit climb… which was absolutely torturous but so worth it.

Day 5: Did the brutal summit climb from midnight until 7:30 am. We started by doing switchbacks up a steep, rocky, snowy slope in a shuffling single file line, only able to see the person ahead of us by the light of our headlamps cutting through the blowing snow. I was wearing all my layers, and I was still cold. Every step was so difficult and the hike felt like an eternity. My heart was pounding so fast I thought my chest would explode, my legs felt so weak, and I had to lean on my trekking poles every ten steps or so and take five deep breaths. We kept asking for more and more breaks and every time I sat down I would start falling asleep as soon as I caught my breath. Throughout the whole climb I could only force myself to eat one chocolate bar. Everyone was suffering and a couple of the girls were quite sick the whole way up. But we made it to Stella Point, and then Gilman’s Point, and then all but one of us made it to Uhuru Peak just as the sun was coming up and the clouds were clearing. The view of the glaciers and the plains below was incredible! After about only five minutes at the top (long enough to take a few pictures) we came back down in 3 hours to Kibo, had a one hour rest, and then hiked 3 hours back down to Horombo where we spent the night in exhausted sleep. By that point we were all feeling much better although quite tired and sore.

Day 6: Hiked about 8 hours from Horombo down to the bottom, stopping at Mandara for lunch. My muscles were like limp noodles and we were overjoyed when we got to the end, took some photos, and got on the bus back to the hotel to shower. Also, we found out later that day that we had reached our fundraising goal for our Climb for Kibale campaign! $5600 raised for the clinic in Uganda that we visited, enough to fund 18 months’ worth of supplies and salaries for clinic workers and nurses. Big thanks to all our friends and family who donated!!! It was nice to celebrate that and our successful climb at dinner that night with our certificates and wine.

All in all, my Kili experience was awe-inspiring, excruciating, beautiful, and utterly humbling. I really surprised myself with my perseverance and I’m so thankful I got to do it.

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Coming out of the rainforest into the moorland.

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Uhuru Peak seen from Horombo Camp.

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Zebra Rocks on our acclimatization day.

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Getting closer.

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In the Saddle.

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We made it!

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The hardest thing I’ve ever done.

The past couple of days have been spent here in Moshi eating good food (shoutout to the Pamoja Cafe and their veggie burgers), doing laundry, registering for courses for next year, mailing postcards and packages home, and resting up in order to continue all of our respective journeys. A couple of people left early this morning, a few more left this afternoon, and the rest of us will mostly be dispersing tomorrow. It’s really sad to say goodbye to everyone that we’ve spent so much time with but most of us will see each other again in the fall back at McGill.

My travel buddy and I will be taking the bus tomorrow from here back to Lushoto to spend some more time in the Usambaras, then to Dar es Salaam to hopefully take the train down to Zambia to see Victoria Falls! (Or as much as our bank accounts will allow us to do). After that it’s back up through Tanzania and back into Kenya to fly to Paris from Nairobi on the 26th, when our mini European adventure begins.

Exactly one month left to go in my travels… I’ll post again whenever I can find Internet!

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