A Travellerspoint blog

September 2009

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Dave's adventure to the roof of Africa

40 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Seven Argentinians and me at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. From left to right, top row: Raul, Mariano, Miguel, Mariela, and Gustavo. Bottom row: me, Jose Maria, Juan.

Seven Argentinians and me at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. From left to right, top row: Raul, Mariano, Miguel, Mariela, and Gustavo. Bottom row: me, Jose Maria, Juan.


I arrived in Moshi, Tanzania, to meet my guide and porters to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, rising 15,100 feet from it's base. I also met a group of eight Argentinians, all who spoke little English, that I would be hiking with for the next week. I figured it would be a good time to practice my Spanish before we head back to South America at the end of the year. I was excited for the walk, but a bit apprehensive since I heard many stories of climbing difficulties.

Our first view of the mountain through the clouds as we drove to the start of the Machame route up Kilimanjaro. Machame is one of the most popular routes, offering some of the best views. I descended a different trail called Mweka.

Our first view of the mountain through the clouds as we drove to the start of the Machame route up Kilimanjaro. Machame is one of the most popular routes, offering some of the best views. I descended a different trail called Mweka.


A Kilimanjaro flower only found on this mountain.

A Kilimanjaro flower only found on this mountain.


Our assistant guide Antile heard I was from Boston so wore an appropriate shirt for the occasion!

Our assistant guide Antile heard I was from Boston so wore an appropriate shirt for the occasion!


To break the ice with the Argentinians, I introduced myself to Gustavo. Gustavo then introduced me to another member of their group, "This is Miguel. Miguel is a gay in Argentina." I asked him to try again in Spanish and learned that Miguel is actually a professional mountain guide in Argentina. We had a good laugh when I explained what he had said! Miguel claimed it was only one time.

Miguel a.k.a. "Colorado" for his red hair and sun burnt face. He and Mariano are professional mountain guides in Cordoba, Argentina, for a company called Alto Rumbo (http://www.champaqui.com.ar).

Miguel a.k.a. "Colorado" for his red hair and sun burnt face. He and Mariano are professional mountain guides in Cordoba, Argentina, for a company called Alto Rumbo (http://www.champaqui.com.ar).


Climbing Kilimanjaro is a bonding experience. The Argentinians were a warm, wonderful and fun group to be with on the climb, which helped ease my apprehension. Elizabeth and I plan to visit them in Cordoba to do some hiking in December with their mountaineering company Alto Rumbo.

Juan "Commando", the eldest of the group (age 53) and retired special forces marine, flew the Argentinian flag during the climb. I left my American flag at home ;-)

Juan "Commando", the eldest of the group (age 53) and retired special forces marine, flew the Argentinian flag during the climb. I left my American flag at home ;-)


The group on day three.

The group on day three.


Raul was the best English speaker of the group, so I looked to him as a translator, when the Spanish talking was too rapido.

Raul was the best English speaker of the group, so I looked to him as a translator, when the Spanish talking was too rapido.


Jose Maria with Juma, our wonderful mountain guide who has been climbing Kilimanjaro for 12 years. The day after our climb finished, Juma headed up the mountain again with another group. I was exhausted, so this is an amazing feat by the guides and porters who work non-stop.

Jose Maria with Juma, our wonderful mountain guide who has been climbing Kilimanjaro for 12 years. The day after our climb finished, Juma headed up the mountain again with another group. I was exhausted, so this is an amazing feat by the guides and porters who work non-stop.


After three long days of climbing from 4000 feet up to 15,000 feet and back down to 12,000 feet to help acclimatize, we were ready to get to the summit. Our guide's instructions were 1) if you feel dizzy it's normal, look down for a minute or so, 2) if you feel like you want to vomit it's normal, force yourself to vomit and 3) if you are losing your balance it's normal, I'll give you a Red Bull and you will feel better. These instructions didn't settle our nerves much.

Hiking through the giant lobelia trees. We climbed through five different vegetation zones making for interesting flora.

Hiking through the giant lobelia trees. We climbed through five different vegetation zones making for interesting flora.


Eating dinner before summit day.

Eating dinner before summit day.


The summit day seemed like the longest day of my life. It was certainly the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. We left at 7 a.m. on day four, climbed to 15,000 feet, arriving at 3 p.m. We ate and slept for a few hours, and then left for the summit at 10:30 p.m. after forcing down some popcorn and cookies. We all felt some dizziness from the altitude and breathing got more difficult as we climbed higher. A couple people in my group also felt nauseous, but overall we were "un grupo fuerte (a strong group)." We saw several other people being rushed down the mountain with altitude sickness.

Eight out of nine of us from our group (unfortunately, one stayed back with altitude sickness) reached the Uhuru peak summit at 19,340 feet just after sunrise on day five around 7 a.m. Everyone was emotional at the top. We all felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and the view was amazing! I also felt very lucky to have experienced this with new Argentinian friends.

Sunrise as we climbed to the summit.

Sunrise as we climbed to the summit.


Kilimanjaro's disappearing glacier with Mount Meru in the background.

Kilimanjaro's disappearing glacier with Mount Meru in the background.


I made it! I'm at the summit with Juan beside me kissing the sign post in relief.

I made it! I'm at the summit with Juan beside me kissing the sign post in relief.


After the summit we made a long descent all the way back down to 12,000 feet, making for 20 hours of climbing and descending in a row. We danced and sang the Kilimanjaro song with the porters in celebration.

After the summit we made a long descent all the way back down to 12,000 feet, making for 20 hours of climbing and descending in a row. We danced and sang the Kilimanjaro song with the porters in celebration.


- Dave

PS. For those of you considering to climb Kilimanjaro let me know. I'd be happy to share my research on routes and guides. I had a great experience with Juma and his crew.

Note: Miguel did a great job capturing the entire climb. You can see his photos at Expedicion al Kilimanjaro

Posted by daveliz 00:39 Archived in Tanzania Comments (4)

Tanzania: Serengeti safaris to Zanzibar spice

Plus, a peak at Kenya

71 °F

Dave and I traveled through most of Africa in a large overland truck. The distance between stops was great, so we weren't able to spend as much time as we would have liked getting to know locals. This portion of our trip was more about seeing the landscape and wildlife.

Elephants wander in the wild of the Serengeti, Tanzania.

Elephants wander in the wild of the Serengeti, Tanzania.


We got sore tushes on this truck, but the views were great!

We got sore tushes on this truck, but the views were great!


TANZANIA definitely seems modern by Malawi standards. Although some people are struggling, there seems to be more evidence of positive employment and education. Tanzanians are very clever, and the country certainly knows how to profit from tourists. Home to Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti, the Tanzanian government charges astronomical fees to visit, climb and explore both, but we felt it was worth it.

It should also be noted that the northern part of the country is mostly Muslim. We were there during Ramadan, a time when most of the population observed fasts for a better part of the day and closed up shops for prayer time. People also dressed a lot more conservative than in other African nations.

DAR ES SALAAM, arabic meaning abode for peace, is the largest city in Tanzania, but it is not the capital. Unlike its name, the city is extremely busy with businesses lining every space of street and traffic is horrendous. This may explain why the majority of Tanzania's population are farmers living in rural areas.

DAR ES SALAAM, arabic meaning abode for peace, is the largest city in Tanzania, but it is not the capital. Unlike its name, the city is extremely busy with businesses lining every space of street and traffic is horrendous. This may explain why the majority of Tanzania's population are farmers living in rural areas.


IMG_4960-25.jpg

ZANZIBAR is an island off the coast of Tanzania popular for its beaches and spices.

Stone Town is the main area of Zanzibar. It is a maze of narrow roads with shops and homes at every turn.

Stone Town is the main area of Zanzibar. It is a maze of narrow roads with shops and homes at every turn.


The architecture is beautifully old in Stone Town.

The architecture is beautifully old in Stone Town.


IMG_4979-31.jpg

Business is slow during Ramadan.

Business is slow during Ramadan.


Zanzibar shops sell traditional wood crafts and lots of wild fabrics.

Zanzibar shops sell traditional wood crafts and lots of wild fabrics.


At night people enjoy freshly cooked fish and other local treats in the town square.

At night people enjoy freshly cooked fish and other local treats in the town square.


Stone Town was the center of the slave trade in the 1800s. This is a monument so locals never forget.

Stone Town was the center of the slave trade in the 1800s. This is a monument so locals never forget.


Spice plantations are everywhere on the island, growing everything from cocoa, vanilla, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, jackfruit, passion fruit and lemon grass.

Spice plantations are everywhere on the island, growing everything from cocoa, vanilla, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, jackfruit, passion fruit and lemon grass.


A worker climbs up a coconut tree to get the goods.

A worker climbs up a coconut tree to get the goods.


Crazy tree, Zanzibar.

Crazy tree, Zanzibar.


Life on the beach with some of our friends.

Life on the beach with some of our friends.


DSC_0018-47.jpg

Faasai are fake Maasai. They are dressed similarly to Maasai, with their wool blanket, lion sword, and staff, but they have the tell tale fancy watch, sunglasses and sandals. They wander the beaches making money for photo opportunities and "massages," an apparent cover for prostitution. More on the real Maasai people below.

Faasai are fake Maasai. They are dressed similarly to Maasai, with their wool blanket, lion sword, and staff, but they have the tell tale fancy watch, sunglasses and sandals. They wander the beaches making money for photo opportunities and "massages," an apparent cover for prostitution. More on the real Maasai people below.


Muslim women heading to fish.

Muslim women heading to fish.


Zanzibar women use an old fishing technique of slapping water with a stick while walking round and round in a circle with a net to catch the fish.

Zanzibar women use an old fishing technique of slapping water with a stick while walking round and round in a circle with a net to catch the fish.


SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK is home to the 'Big 5': lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. We saw four out of the five. Apparently there are only about 20 rhinos left in the area and on the day of our visit they decided to go on vacation. As a concilation we saw some other favorites, like the giraffe. Serengeti is a Maasai word for 'endless plain,' which makes sense since it is 14,763 square kilometers and home to thousands of plants and predators.

Sunrise in the Serengeti.

Sunrise in the Serengeti.


DSC_0132-71.jpg

DSC_0098-86.jpg

DSC_0020-73.jpg

The elusive leopard.

The elusive leopard.


African buffalo.

African buffalo.


DSC_0041-77.jpg

DSC_0060-60.jpg

DSC_0047-79.jpg

Part of Serengeti is the Ngorongoro Crater, which is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. There are a large number of animals living there because of its rich pasture and permanent water supply. Giraffes are the exception, since there aren't many tall trees at the base of the crater.

A Maasai man herds cattle on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater.

A Maasai man herds cattle on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater.


The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater region are home to the Maasai people. This tribe lives a very simple life, yet by modern standards it could be considered sexist. Read up if you are interested to learn more.

The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater region are home to the Maasai people. This tribe lives a very simple life, yet by modern standards it could be considered sexist. Read up if you are interested to learn more.


Here is our day in the crater:

Enjoying the ride on the safari truck.

Enjoying the ride on the safari truck.


Scoping for action.

Scoping for action.


A Serengeti cheetah is the fastest land animal and is even more elusive than the Leopard.

A Serengeti cheetah is the fastest land animal and is even more elusive than the Leopard.


DSC_0109-1.jpg

DSC_0134-90.jpg

We didn't see too much action on these safaris. The exception was when a few hyenas were pestering these wildebeests. They decided to herd together into a collective charge with the young ones in the middle to scare off the hyenas.

We didn't see too much action on these safaris. The exception was when a few hyenas were pestering these wildebeests. They decided to herd together into a collective charge with the young ones in the middle to scare off the hyenas.


Serengeti hyena.

Serengeti hyena.


DSC_0075-64.jpg

The warthog was definitely hit by the ugly stick.

The warthog was definitely hit by the ugly stick.


Jackal.

Jackal.


Gazelles are everywhere in the Serengeti. They fill fields as far as the eye can see.

Gazelles are everywhere in the Serengeti. They fill fields as far as the eye can see.


DSC_0069-63.jpg

DSC_0068-62.jpg

DSC_0055-81.jpg

KENYA

I left Dave in Tanzania to climb Kili and headed to Nairobi, Kenya, for two days. The city seemed strikingly modern, but I didn't explore too much because locals call Nairobi Nairobbery, so I just saw the markets and daily life from a bus, and only talked to locals at a campground. I was en route to London so perhaps didn't give it a fair shake.

Nairobi streets are lined with vendors much like the rest of Africa, but when you enter downtown it turns modern with western-like shops and malls.

Nairobi streets are lined with vendors much like the rest of Africa, but when you enter downtown it turns modern with western-like shops and malls.



Traffic into downtown Nairobi is a nightmare, but the good news is you can buy everything from bananas to steering wheels to blowup chairs right outside your window!

Traffic into downtown Nairobi is a nightmare, but the good news is you can buy everything from bananas to steering wheels to blowup chairs right outside your window!



In closing, you can't go to Africa without spotting President Obama. He is everywhere; on shirts, scarves, buses and signs. Like us, the locals have high hopes for him.

Obama store in Tanzania.

Obama store in Tanzania.


Hakuna Matata,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 13:07 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Malawi post Madonna

a culture growing too dependent on foreigners

sunny 70 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.


One fifth of Malawi's landscape is made up of Lake Malawi, which is 500 kilometers long. Locals call it “the Lake of Stars.”  It is the third largest lake in Africa and has more fish species than any other lake in the world with around 600 different species.

One fifth of Malawi's landscape is made up of Lake Malawi, which is 500 kilometers long. Locals call it “the Lake of Stars.” It is the third largest lake in Africa and has more fish species than any other lake in the world with around 600 different species.


MALAWI is a country I had never heard of until Madonna adopted a child from there, and I gather I was not alone, as tourism has become popular in the last few years. To understand Malawi's culture you have to understand the impact AIDS and malaria has had on the country. In the 90's, more than 80% of the adult population was wiped out from the two diseases, resulting in a nation full of orphans. (Our information is from our tour guide, so many not be completely statistically accurate.)

Children often care for younger siblings.

Children often care for younger siblings.


Since many children grow up without parental role models, social skills and maturity levels are lower than what one would expect of a person the same age in another country. Education is free, but not mandatory. We visited one school that was rundown with rooms consisting of little more than a chalk board. We learned one teacher is responsible for roughly 150 students. As a result, work skills necessary to operate much of Malawi's industry, government and education system are also lagging behind.

In Malawi kids just want to hold your hand or touch you. The kids would claim you as their own and push others away from stealing you. We were told that their elders tell them that foreigners are wealthy and it might rub off on them.

In Malawi kids just want to hold your hand or touch you. The kids would claim you as their own and push others away from stealing you. We were told that their elders tell them that foreigners are wealthy and it might rub off on them.


Malawi children embrace their local dance.

Malawi children embrace their local dance.


We visited Chitimba and Kande Beach where we took a village tour. Unfortunately, it was less about educating us about daily life and traditions, and more about asking us for money. The culture of begging is exhausting in Africa. After talking to many locals and volunteer workers from western organizations, including the Peace Corps, we strongly believe in sustainable tourism and charity services that help enable people to help themselves.

IMG_4883-14.jpg

Giving money, especially to children, simply makes the problem worse by creating more dependence.

It is common to see kids selling food on the street, even during a typical school day, to help their family earn some money.

It is common to see kids selling food on the street, even during a typical school day, to help their family earn some money.


Instead, donations or loans put directly towards education, health care and business makes money go much further. Dave is a fan of Kiva, www.kiva.org. It is also valuable for people with labor and domestic skills to donate their services to teach others. This would empower people in places likes Malawi villages to provide for themselves, their families and community.

Workers at a maize plant make food for people in the village. Maize is a main stay of most meals. It is thick and starchy, often served like mashed potatoes or porridge.

Workers at a maize plant make food for people in the village. Maize is a main stay of most meals. It is thick and starchy, often served like mashed potatoes or porridge.


In the last decade, the Malawi government has provided more funding and education to eradicate the problems of AIDS and malaria. However, most locals still prefer to visit a witch doctor before going to a hospital if they have health concerns. Plus, the hospital we visited was bare bones, with little technology and only one nurse on site. People have to travel nearly two hours to the big city to see a medical doctor.

A few other notes on Malawi:
Locals love a good board game, and they are experts at making wood crafts and games.

A common Malawi board game, Boa.

A common Malawi board game, Boa.


They love music.

Dave tries his hand at African drumming.

Dave tries his hand at African drumming.


And,

Did you know rubber comes from trees? Malawi is full of smelly and sticky rubber tree farms.

Did you know rubber comes from trees? Malawi is full of smelly and sticky rubber tree farms.


- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 05:26 Archived in Malawi Comments (2)

Wild Zambia

Raging rapids to roaring animals

sunny 70 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Lioness in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

Lioness in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.


Zambia is a country of pot holed dirt roads linking little villages of thatch roof mud huts. It hasn't had any major conflict and we immediately noticed the cultural contrast with South Africa. In the country's capital, Lusaka, we noticed a sense of equality among people of all races. Like most of Africa there is a lot of poverty. Most of the population lives on less than one or two dollars a day. HIV infection rates are also very high.

It's difficult for us to imagine living in one of these mud huts.

It's difficult for us to imagine living in one of these mud huts.


LIVINGSTONE - We started our journey through Zambia in Livingstone on the crocodile and hippo filled banks of the Zambezi River. Livingstone is also home to Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls is stunningly beautiful. It's the largest falls in the world at 5,600 feet wide and 360 feet high.

Victoria Falls is stunningly beautiful. It's the largest falls in the world at 5,600 feet wide and 360 feet high.


The indigenous people call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).

The indigenous people call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).


We got our adrenaline flowing by jumping into a raft at the base of the falls.

IMG_9459-1.jpg

It's one of the most challenging rafting trips in the world as there are several level five rapids (as well as one level six that we got out and walked around). On these rapids there was a 50/50 chance that we'd flip over. Thankfully, out of four rafts we were the only lucky ones that stayed upright!

It's one of the most challenging rafting trips in the world as there are several level five rapids (as well as one level six that we got out and walked around). On these rapids there was a 50/50 chance that we'd flip over. Thankfully, out of four rafts we were the only lucky ones that stayed upright!


Notice the faceless orange helmet two from the back. Underneath is Elizabeth. She stayed in this position and missed most of the rapids. Apparently she mistook the "get down" command from the guide to mean there are snipers on the shoreline that you need to hide from.

Notice the faceless orange helmet two from the back. Underneath is Elizabeth. She stayed in this position and missed most of the rapids. Apparently she mistook the "get down" command from the guide to mean there are snipers on the shoreline that you need to hide from.


CHIPATA - On our way to South Luangwa National Park we stopped at the border town of Chipata, where we shopped at a local market with lots of friendly vendors.

large_IMG_4804-96.jpg

large_IMG_4757-90.jpg

large_IMG_4792-94.jpg

large_IMG_4798-95.jpg

At one of our lunch stops on the road I struck up a little football challenge. I wasn't much of a match for this little Zambian!

At one of our lunch stops on the road I struck up a little football challenge. I wasn't much of a match for this little Zambian!


SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK - We then headed for the remote South Luangwa National Park. The owner of the campground welcomed us by explaining that we were in a zoo and living inside the cage with the animals. We were warned not to wear bright colors. You don't want to startle one of the elephants, hippos or giraffes that might greet you at any time of day.

As you can imagine, several people in our group (ELIZABETH) were a bit nervous about this. Luckily our cloths are far from bright anymore. Never-the-less, we enjoyed the beautiful campground. We spent our free time relaxing while watching crocodiles, hippos, zebras, buffalo and impalas across the river that separated the campground from the national park.

On our first morning we were awoken by our guide's call, "Breakfast is ready! Be careful of the elephant!" The day before an elephant had actually gotten stuck in the campground swimming pool and destroyed a water pump.

On our first morning we were awoken by our guide's call, "Breakfast is ready! Be careful of the elephant!" The day before an elephant had actually gotten stuck in the campground swimming pool and destroyed a water pump.


The elephants then crossed the river treating us to a beautiful sunrise vista.

The elephants then crossed the river treating us to a beautiful sunrise vista.


Monkeys were all over camp. It was a struggle to keep these little guys from stealing our food! One got away with a bottle of garlic, but dropped it out of a tree once they realized the meal would make them an outcast.

Monkeys were all over camp. It was a struggle to keep these little guys from stealing our food! One got away with a bottle of garlic, but dropped it out of a tree once they realized the meal would make them an outcast.


Thankfully, on our first game drive, we realized the carnivorous animals aren't really interested in humans.

These lionesses could have easily jumped into our doorless and windowless truck and eaten a few people, but they didn't want us.

These lionesses could have easily jumped into our doorless and windowless truck and eaten a few people, but they didn't want us.


large_6DSC_0081-110.jpg

large_DSC_0023-99.jpg

large_DSC_0042-102.jpg

large_DSC_0045-104.jpg

large_DSC_0132-115.jpg

large_6DSC_0063-108.jpg

large_1DSC_0059-107.jpg

We went on a night time game drive too, to see some nocturnal animals on the move.

large_1DSC_0122-114.jpg

large_DSC_0172-118.jpg

large_DSC_0195-119.jpg

We're now en route to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro (which I'm going to attempt to climb.) We just wrapped up more than a week in Malawi and relaxing in Zanzibar, Tanzania. More on those adventures soon!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 03:59 Archived in Zambia Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]