Looking back at planning for the trip of a lifetime: Kilimanjaro!

FIVE years ago I climbed Kilimanjaro. FIVE YEARS! How fast time flies.

I know a lot has probably changed in terms of available gear and clothing, but I still wanted to share a blog I started writing four years ago when after a few years of trying to get pregnant, it finally happened, and my brain and focus shifted elsewhere. So much has changed from then to now, but funny enough I wear my Kili gear more now than I have in the last few years.

My reasons for using the stuff is way less exciting than it was 5 years ago, but cold covid-19 created basement offices, need Kili grade warm base layers too. And funny enough my Kilimanjaro climb has come up more this year than any other year. Just a couple of weeks ago at the dentist, I ran into a lady who saw my bumper sticker and we shared stories of our climbs and hopes that some day our daughters will want to do the climb with us.

I don’t even remember how it made its way onto my bucket list, but when I decided to tackle Kilimanjaro in 2016, it had been on my radar for quite some years. When I did finally decide to tackle it, it was quite a spur of the moment decision….After talking to my 2 friends who had recently summited, I started researching companies. Not only did I want an affordable company. I also decided I preferred to support a local climbing company and I needed their dates to match up perfectly with Pablo’s work trip.

Popote Africa ended up being the company of choice and I am very happy I went with them (and so glad that they’re still around in 2021!) The owner, Sabino, was fantastic. My guide, Imran, was absolutely amazing, as was the rest of our crew. And oh what a crew we had! While I ended up being in a group with just 1 other person, we had a crew of 9 people who supported us on our trip.

It wasn’t quite glamping, but it was as close to it as you can get on a mountain!

Seriously! Your tent was put up and taken down for you every day. You were brought hot water for cleaning every morning and night. Hot tea was also brought to your tent in the morning and the tiny 2 dining tent served as a space to grab breakfast, a late afternoon snack and dinner. We even had our very own portable toilet! And every single one of the crew members was fabulous!

When going up Kili you have multiple options. I opted for the Machame route, which is one of the more popular routes and takes 6-7 days. Wanting time to acclimate to what would be brand-new to me elevation, I opted for the 7-day route. On this route you basically spend 6 days summiting and t1 day going back down

I think the next time I do it (yes, I hope there’s a next time) I may take the Lemoshi or Rongai route, but for now I’ll say, I highly recommend Machame.

Planning for the trip was easier than I thought. I was able to borrow stuff from a friend, and Popote had some items available as well. I basically followed Popote’s Packing List and tried to imagine what each day might look like. The biggest thing to remember is that you’ll be visiting every elevation, ecosystem and temperature on the planet, so plan for layers! You also want your base layer to consist of items that dry quickly, because you will be reusing items and sweating during the day, so you want stuff to dry quickly (I’ll save my story of how badly my gear and I smelled post-trip, for another day).

I laid my clothes out in my tent every day either drying or as I planned the layers needed every day.

My 5 favorite items and absolute must-haves for the trip were:

  1. Insulated 3L Camelbak bladder. You definitely want the drink tube insulated. For the bladder, if you have space insulate it too, otherwise just wrap it in one of your layers or a scarf in your daypack.
  2. PStyle (and a plastic water bottle), so that you can pee anywhere and specifically into a water bottle at night without having to leave your tent. I did a lot of research and the PStyle was the winner because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require any toilet paper.
  3.  3-in-1 Jacket. I got the North Face 3-in-1 Alkani, which they don’t have anymore, but there are tons of similar items. The things I looked for were a nice warm inner lining, breathability (it has zippers that you can open for air circulation), waterproof, and pockets.
  4. Daypack – The one I got, Bago Hiking Backpacks, is out of stock, but I liked it because it was affordable, it had a built-in rain cover, space for the Camelbak bladder, camera, snacks and clothing layers, it had clips at chest and hip height and it had a breathable back. It was small (30L), but that’s really all you want to be carrying when you’re hiking all day.
  5. Convertible hiking pants, like these from ExOfficio pants, but really any convertible hiking pants will do. I chose these because they were also bug repellant, which worked out well because I used the same hiking pants afterwards when on safari.

I arrived to Tanzania the day before the trip. Because I’d been in Qatar overnight, I had some time to adjust to the new time zone. Popote picked me up, I met my hiking partner and we went over some details including out packing list.

The next day we had breakfast and then off we went to the Machame gate!

Check out the details of each leg of my trip: On the way to TanzaniaPlanning for Kilimanjaro – Climbing Kilimanjaro – Kilimanjaro Summit – Safari – Zanzibar (links coming soon as I write the posts!)

Tanzania: A Trip of a Lifetime

I cannot believe this trip was over a year ago. I’ve traveled to quite a few places in my life and seen quite a few things, but Tanzania will forever remain in the top trips.

How could it not?

I climbed Kilimanjaro, I explored the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and I got to wander along the beautiful beaches in Zanzibar.

TanzaniaMontage

It all started about 3 months before the trip when my husband announced he was headed to Rwanda and Tanzania for work. I immediately decided I would be joining him too.

At this point we had been trying to get pregnant for almost 2 years and had just started doing some tests at our doctor’s office which would likely lead to assisted fertility, so we decided it would be a good time to take a break and just enjoy life.

Traveling for me is the ultimate enjoyment and I had always has my eye on both the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro, so I started to research guide companies. Since my fitness leveled had decreased since my ironman year, I wasn’t sure I could make it up Kilimanjaro, but as faith would have it (or maybe it was some Facebook algorithm), I logged onto Facebook and a picture of a college friend at the Kili summit popped up. I immediately messaged him and ended up talking to him on the phone for over an hour about his trip. My other friend who had also climbed Kili had just moved to DC, so a couple of conversations with her and I had made up my mind. This was happening!

I briefly considered also heading to Rwanda, but with an expanding business, I decided 2 weeks was the max vacation I could handle and that would be just enough to see what Tanzania had to offer.

My husband, also limited on time, decided he preferred the safari over climbing, so that was set…I’d be climbing Kilimanjaro solo (and by solo I mean with a group of sherpas, so not quite solo) and then we’d meet up and head on a safari followed by a few days on the beach.

We’d also be traveling to Africa solo, as he’d be off to Rwanda for work while I headed down to Kilimanjaro. I’m personally a fan of traveling solo, although I am always concerned about safety, so I knew I’d have to plan things out and be well-prepared.

I ended up booking my flight with Qatar Airways, because…well if you have a chance to visit an extra country, wouldn’t you? I only overnighted in Qatar and stayed in the airport, BUT Qatar Airways offers a 2-hour city tour to its passengers with a long layover, so that’s exactly what I did.QatarMontageAnd I even got in a quick swim in the Qatar Airport pool.

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Then it was off to Tanzania where I would be met by Popote Adventures, the company I chose for both my Kilimanjaro climb and our Serengeti/Ngorongoro safari. They do tours on Zanzibar too, but we decided that in Zanzibar we’d do nothing more than wander the beach.

Check out the details of each leg of my trip: On the way to TanzaniaPlanning for Kilimanjaro – Climbing Kilimanjaro – Kilimanjaro Summit – Safari – Zanzibar (links coming soon as I write the posts!)
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Snowy Bryce Canyon


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