Who would have thought that at the age of 64

24 January 2023 | Peter en Tine

Our trip to Tanzania, organized by Explore Tanzania, was from 24-01 to 05-02-2023 and took us to the top of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It was a great trip with the necessary suffering. A short report.

On Tuesday 24-01, after a good flight from Amsterdam, we land 8 hours later at Kilimanjaro International Airport. After the paperwork we see David, in an Explore Tanzania shirt, who is patiently waiting for us. He brings us safely to Rivertrees Country Inn, our lodge. An oasis of peace with a warm welcome and a beautiful house that we can call ‘our house’ for a few days. After a good night’s sleep there is a breakfast with a wide choice. Wonderful to have breakfast in the open air in summer clothes. At 11.00 Paul our guide comes for the clothing check, everything is found to be okay. We immediately hit it off with each other. A little later Daniel, from the Tanzanian organization, joins us and we get a briefing about the trip that will start tomorrow. The Lemosho route is not known as the easiest, but as the most beautiful and the best in terms of acclimatization. I can’t deny that I’m a bit tense, but after Daniel’s explanation, this subsides. Tomorrow morning at 09.00 am he will pick us up together with Paul. In the afternoon we walk to Usariver, a neighboring town, to experience Tanzanian life there.

Thursday 26-01 is the day we will start. At the junction we meet the rest of the crew, including our assistant guide Ben, our stuff is packed on the roof of the bus with the rest of the luggage and we say goodbye to Daniel. When we drive we do another round of introducing because we have forgotten all the names. It’s fun on the bus. Paul points out details and then the bus slows down. We see giraffes and zebras, just outside the nature reserves in a green strip in this rural area. Great, everyone is excited. The landscape changes from green to dry and back to green. The road is excellent until we leave it 11 km before the entrance of the park and enter a bumpy path. At 2100 meters at Lemosho gate the bus stops, from here we have to walk. After a delicious hot lunch we go out. Ben first, then me, then Peter and Paul close the row. The other men are with all their gear, at their own (envious pace) to the next camp. We walk pole-pole and that’s nice because this goes well, gives confidence and doesn’t make you short of breath. The route is beautiful through wooded area, I enjoy it. When we arrive at the MTI MKubma camp (2650 mtr) a few hours later, we are warmly greeted by our crew and there is fresh popcorn and tea. After a ‘washi-washi’ bowl of warm water, which helps Peter with a fresh upper body and clean hands (I do the rest with damp cloths in the tent), there is an extensive evening meal. Paul joins in and in the meantime provides information about the next day. At 8 pm it is quiet at the camp and almost dark for everyone.

Wednesday 27-01. After an uncomfortable night (sleeping in a mummy sleeping bag is an art), a generous breakfast and not to forget a mug of tea ‘in bed’, we set off for the next camp. We walk in the same order as the day before and will continue to do so for the rest of the tour. We walk out of the rain forest and arrive at the heath. The sun is hot and the wind has free rein here. We sing to Paul because it’s his birthday. Ben’s pole-pole is a good rhythm for me and can be maintained for a long time. Occasionally we stop for a photo or to take in the surroundings. We realize that we are on a special journey. After the administration and photos at the sign of Shira 1 Camp (3610 mtr) there is another warm welcome with goodies. A freshening up is nice because the strong wind means we are covered in brown lava dust. Although I’ve felt great all day, super even now it goes wrong from one moment to the next I get a pounding headache and I get nauseous. Very normal according to Paul, everything has to do with acclimatization. Drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol. He’s right, after an hour I’m back to my old self. Watch my fluid intake better tomorrow. As soon as the sun has gone it gets very cold and the various layers of clothing don’t help either, so we go to bed early.

Saturday 28-01. It’s been a cold night. The tent is frozen stiff, so going to the toilet requires some self-conquest. As a gift you will get to see a beautiful starry sky. We set off at 08:00. I feel great again. Today we walk through the Shira valley with a beautiful view of the Kibo. During a break we chat with other hikers, a mixed group of all nationalities, but what is striking is that our age is underrepresented. Our crew passes by in tufts and now that I know their names I can also greet them with this. It produces a broad smile and often a ‘boxing’. Upon arrival at Shira Camp 2 (3850 mtr) there is another delicious hot lunch for us. This time with, among other things, fries, delicious. We try to send an app to those who stay at home, but unfortunately; no connection. However, a welcome song is sung for us in Swahili by the crew and we cannot stay behind and so we sing “We are almost there” to the great hilarity of the men. We walk around the camp and enjoy the views until the fog obscures our view. After dinner, we start recording the saturation, heart rate and some questions related to complaints of altitude sickness. Everything is good.

Sunday 29-01. Today will be a tough day because via Lava Tower (4600 mtr) to Baranco camp (3900 mtr). We have breakfast outside because it is warmer than in the tent. The air is noticeably thinner because with the slightest extra effort we become short of breath, but the checks are good and so we set off again in good spirits. The sun is lovely but is soon dispelled by fog. In the distance below is the camp we came from, in front of us the desert of stones and some sparse plants. We are progressing slowly but steadily. After hours of walking we arrive at the top of Lava Tower. ‘Our’ dining tent is there and there is nice hot soup. Outside the tent you can blow your clothes off, but in the tent you can enjoy yourself. Peter is overcome with emotion and even sheds a tear. Very normal according to Paul, because of the height. He also gets some headaches so a paracetamol is in place. Both complaints disappear and we continue. The descent starts spectacularly between huge boulders. Ben points out where to put my feet and my indispensable poles are fine. After a while, Paul points to the next camp in the distance. Before we get there we have to go all the way down, across a river and up again. The path to the valley shows a beautiful nature with waterfalls, but also provides the necessary scrambling parties. And then suddenly there are David and Steven, two of our porters. It has just started to rain but they come to take over our daypacks. Pleasantly surprised and secretly happy because back up it makes a difference that I have an empty back. Once on top of the camp and after the administration, the photos with everyone and stripped of my wet stuff, I am satisfied. It’s been a long day but I’m certainly not exhausted.

Monday 30-01. Today the Barranco Wall. It is an impressive wall (almost 300 meters) that we look at. I have to say I was a bit tense. Like most other hikers, we left after breakfast. Looking back, I thought it was a great sight all those ‘dolls’ that seemed to be glued to that wall. Passing is difficult so the porters also have to walk the same route and that means waiting for each other every now and then. Thanks to the tranquility of our guides, the good directions and the knowledge that this route would not be done if it is life-threatening, we reach the top. I am not a hero and feel proud that I have successfully completed this journey. This was also a challenge for Peter, who is a kind of mountain goat, so high fives follow upstairs. The relief gives way to new efforts because the climbing and scrambling continues all day. My legs are getting heavy. Descending is also difficult due to the many loose gravel. We also walk through a part where there was a forest fire in November `22. You still smell it. Nature is beautiful but I can’t enjoy it because I’m dead tired. Steven pops up again to carry my backpack upstairs, wonderful. The climb to the top is steep, climbing and scrambling it is. I’ve never been so tired. And to think that the porters have already been up here with all the stuff and then have to go down again to get water from the river. This is the last time this is possible. Karanga Camp is located at 3995 mtr. Higher there is no more water. Hats off. Fortunately there is Felix with soup, fries and raw vegetables.

Tuesday 31-01 and Wednesday 01-02. To Barafu Camp (4673 mtr). Today starts with a short walk (4 km) normally an egg, but here it takes us 4 hours. Fatigue is starting to take its toll. I can cry and so I do, it’s a relief. I’ve already overcome a lot on this journey that I find difficult/difficult/scary and there will be something more today. Descend a piece over a kind of slate where sticks have no added value. Paul tells me sternly that I just have to walk because I can’t slip with these shoes. It works wonderfully but many thanks to the guides who help me. Only a single blade of grass grows in this world. Yesterday I thought I was tired but now, pff. It is the camp for the climb to the top. The tents are between the rocks of the desolate landscape and I think it should look like this on the moon. Very impressive. We get lunch, are obliged to rest, then again a light evening meal with mandatory rest. We even manage to get some sleep despite the tension. It has been agreed that we will start walking at 11:00 PM. Most leave at midnight, but according to Paul there are a few bottlenecks on the route and it is not wise to walk there because of the cold. The first hour is climbing and scrambling, often on all fours, I can’t get into a rhythm like that. There is no talking because all breath is needed. We are progressing very slowly. Despite taking all of Paul’s advice; water bottle upside down, blowing air into camelbag drinking tube, everything is frozen stiff in no time. After 1 hour we pass Kosovo Camp (4876 mtr). The first group leaves just before us. They run just a little faster and so we don’t hook up. Paul takes over my backpack and that immediately relieves me. My breathing is fast and with all those clothes on I move less smoothly. Around 01:00 it gets colder and the wind starts to blow harder. Peter is also panting and we stop regularly to catch our breath. We walk Pole-Pole-Pole. Short stops are allowed but not too long due to cooling of the muscles. The sky is beautiful with a real Milky Way along with rising moon. A ribbon of lights begins to form from below. I would like to take a picture of this but have no idea how to do that. My fingers get frozen despite gloves and mittens. Peter indicates that he thinks we won’t make it, but Paul replies that you don’t do this trip to try, but to do! So we go ahead and suffer incredibly. A few times I get nauseous. Very normal according to Paul, disappears on its own and yes it does. Around 06:00 the light starts to glow, I still see lights above me so that means I’m not there yet and then, I can hardly believe it, I’m on top of Stella Point (5756 mtr). On top of the crater rim of Kilimanjaro. We congratulate and be congratulated. It’s 07:00 and it took us 8:00. We did it! Exhausted but satisfied, so we’re not going to do Uhuru Peak. We still have to go back to the camp and then on to Millennium camp. The guides also think it is a wise decision. We take pictures and enjoy the view, the depth and the success achieved, but we blow out of our clothes so after half an hour we take the descent. A steep lava grit slope. Your feet keep slipping. On the way we see a few young men being helped down. At a good pace they descend between two guides, their legs wobbly. At 11.00 am we are back at the camp and we are welcomed with congratulations and singing. It makes me emotional. After a light lunch and a nap we have to continue to 3790 mtr. When we get there and I take off my shoes I see two blue toenails from bumping my big toes against the front of my shoes. It’s painful and I can’t make a hole in the nail to relieve myself. That is biting. We are happy to have another night at ‘De Berg’. We call it rehab, including cold night.

Thursday 02-02. After breakfast there is singing for us again and so we sing again. Now ‘And we’re not going home yet’. There is dancing, I thank all the men with a personal word and Peter gives the tip money to Paul and his map of Kilimanjaro, in honor of Paul`s birthday. Then it’s time for the final descent. The pain in my big toes makes me walk even slower than before. The path is rocky and we start without vegetation because of the forest fire that has also wreaked havoc here, but slowly but surely it becomes greener and then we walk again in the rainforest. The monkeys, birds, flowers and medicinal plants are pointed out and explained to us by Ben and Paul. On the last stretch we are passed by an ambulance transporting an unfortunate runner. We get rain and thunderstorms over us but eventually we arrive at Mweka gate at 1640 mtr and the end point of our Kilimanjaro trip. It’s done! Photos, congratulations and the latest administration for arranging the certificate. It is wonderful to have a real toilet that is fixed to the floor and therefore does not wobble. Due to internet failure, the certificates cannot be issued now, so it is decided that Ben will wait for this and we will go to Moshi with the crew. The route is beautiful and the people very colorful. The mood in the bus is elated. We sing, laugh and enjoy. Then there is the time to say goodbye. We will miss these men. We have a drink, eat a snack and wait for Ben to come with the certificates. The last pictures are taken and then we take the bus back to Rivertrees Country Inn. Exhausted but satisfied we dive into bed after a bath/shower. Two more days in this paradise to recover and realize that we REALLY did it, climbed Kilimanjaro. Who would have thought that at the age of 64.

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