Advantages Amazing scenery, friendly people
Disadvantages Harder than expected, expensive park fees, altitude sickness on summit night :(
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
I attempted to climb Kilimanjaro in February of 2006. I didn't make it to the top due to a combination of altitude sickness and generally feeling bad, but it was the most amazing experience of my life so far.Getting there
I travelled with a UK based company - the Adventure Company who specialise in trekking and walking holidays and booked to go on the Machame route, which supposedly gave a better chance of acclimatisation and hence the summit. The flights were from Heathrow to Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro International Airport and they were fine. On the approach to Kilimanjaro airport you pass close to another 5000m+ mountain, Mount Meru and the view was amazing, but the associated thermals can make for an uncomfortable landing if, like me you are not keen on turbulence.The trek
Kilimanjaro itself is split into several zones - there is the tropical rainforest zone, the temperate zone, the alpine zone and others and the demarcation between these can be quite startling, from tropical rainforest to arctic tundra in two days. Kilimanjaro is also a dormant volcano so the soil is very fertile and promotes abundant plant growth at the lower altitudes.On the third day we camped at a camp known as the "Barranco camp". This is below a rock face known as the Barranco wall, which we were ascending the next day. I had very little sleep that night because to all intents and purposes it looked vertical and at a height of 600m it is not the kind of place you wish to fall off! When we started however it soon became apparent that it was not vertical and was indeed quite easy apart from a couple of scrambly sections.
After the Barranco wall the remainder of the trek to high camp (Barafu) is fairly straightforward, save for a soul (and knee) destroying 400m descent into a valley only to come back up the other side again. High camp is like the moon with volcanic boulders and slate everywhere. It is not a comfortable place to spend any time, so luckily enough you don't! The views of Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi (another peak on Kili) are awe inspiring.You will normally arrive at Barafu about 4 and then after a meal you will attempt to have a few hours sleep before being awoken for the summit attempt, starting at about 1. Everyone starts at around the same time and if you look back you can see a line of head torches below you, stretching for miles, which is amazing. My story unfortunately ends here because after 3 or 4 hours of feeling more and more ill I had to turn back. Apparently the summit is a pretty grim place that no one will want to spend too much time on though!
The Tanzanian people are the loveliest people you are ever likely to meet, but unfortunately begging is endemic in the villages below the slopes of Kili. They are not too pushy though and if you say no then they will generally leave you alone. A lot of them sell carvings and some of them are excellent quality and bartering is great fun.Based on my experience the food on a Kili trek is quite nice - a lot of carbohydrates, eggs, pulses etc and it does get a bit boring, but when you are at high camp it is amazing you even get that. I never want to eat Millet porridge again though
The park fees for Kilimanjaro are very expensive $580 for our trip, but if it goes towards the conservation of the mountain then it is a small price to pay. The cynic in me can't help but wonder how much actually goes on conservation though.The toilets at every stage are vile (a pit dug in the ground with a hut round it for privacy). My two top tips are 1) hold your breath for as long as possible, 2) don't ever let your curiosity get the better of you and look down the hole (crawly things!)
I have based this review on the route I did and the company I travelled through, but I would recommend that any reasonably fir person try Kili at least once in their lifetime - it really is an experience never to forget.
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