Hiking the worlds highest free standing mountain & the highest mountain in Africa, was the most amazing experience of my life!
I opted for the Machame Route, which is also known as the ‘Whiskey Route’. It has a reputation for being a tough climb, with steeper trails, for longer distances which involves sleeping in a tent with impressive views & a variety of scenery is what caught my eye!
I wanted even more of a challenge so decided on the 6 day trek instead.
DAY 1 – MOSHI – MACHAME GATE – MACHAME CAMP
After meeting our tour CEO’s Gerald, Michael, Isaac, G-Man & the other trekkers we had our bags weighed & loaded onto the bus, it was time for us to drive from the hotel to the Machame Gate to sign in, have lunch & start our Kilimanjaro trek!
Arriving at the gate was so exciting, porters were everywhere & there was so much chaos. I’m not going to lie, I nearly cried from excitement! After signing in & eating lunch, we were ready to begin the hike from the Machame Gate (1,640m) to Machame Camp (2,850m)
The hike was so beautiful through the rainforest, it was definitely my favourite scenery of the trek! We saw monkeys & so many amazing flowers, vines & trees. It was a gradual incline hike which wasn’t too hard & was a great first day to the trek. It was nice chatting with some others in our group & starting to form friendships with the people that were soon to become our trekking family forever aka the kili fam.
We reached the Machame Camp (2,850m) & signed in, went to our tent area & met our allocated porter, Nima. He was a lovely, polite man wearing his red beanie. Nima showed us to our tent & told us that we would receive our bowl of hot water soon for ‘washy washy’. After using my baby-wipes in the hot water & having my washy washy, we went to the meal tent for our first dinner.
Let’s just say, our first dinner wasn’t the best. As we were sitting there, one of the people on the tour passed out. We were all so worried.. he went outside to get some fresh air when next minute we hear a thump & see the tent cave in at the entrance & someone on the ground, we assumed it was the same person but it turned out being different person in our group. I was petrified & the devil known as anxiety started kicking in big time, Brandon came with me for a walk in the fresh air to the bathroom to help me feel better as I could feel my chest tightening and I was nearly crying. I was having a major “what the f*ck am I doing?!” moment. People were already passing out?! I started to think we were way out of our league as Brandon & I were 2 of the ones in the group that weren’t super fit & hadn’t hardcore prepared & trained for the trek. Thankfully the two guys started feeling better & we all finished our dinner & we went off to our tents to sleep
DAY 2 – MACHAME CAMP – SHIRA 2 CAMP
The g-fighters (porters) woke us up offering us tea & coffee & bought us our hot water for washy washy. We packed our stuff, had breakfast & started the journey to Shira 2 Camp (3,810m). Everyone was feeling great & ready to hike above the clouds.
Day 2 hike was definitely the easiest, we were all in our groove after day 1 & were drinking much more water & were starting to get to know each other more making it more social & fun. We had broken through the clouds & even got our first proper up close view of Uhuru Peak!
As we were approaching Shira 2 Camp, we saw some of the g-fighters walking towards us & Nima took our day packs off us & carried them & walked with us for the next 10 minutes to camp! I was so thankful, especially because I had just started getting a little headache. We arrived at camp & were told we were going to have an introduction for everyone. I didn’t know I was about to have some of the best moments of my life. All the CEO’s & g-fighters started singing African songs & dancing. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. I was so happy that I nearly cried. (Again, yes I know. I’m a happy cry baby).
It was in this introduction that 2 g-fighters in particular stood out & had me giggling at how their personalities were shining through! Sadam & Mr Frog Voice! They were a hoot! They were our servers for breakfast & dinner, forcing us to eat massive plates of food haha. The introduction & songs were a highlight & I quickly forgot about my headache!
We had our dinner, did our oxygen & heart rate readings then went to our tents to sleep at 3,810m altitude.
DAY 3 – SHIRA 2 CAMP – LAVA TOWER – BARRANCO CAMP
We woke up to Sadam saying “Morning my brother from another mother & sister from another mister”. By this time, we had our nicknames! It really was the best way to be woken up when you’re cold, dirty & tired.
We packed our stuff, had breakfast & were ready for day 3! We would be trekking in the desert to Lava Tower (4,630m) where we would have lunch & then trek lower to Barranco Camp (3,976m) where we would be spending the night.
The trek to Lava Tower was fairly gradual but the sun was brutal. We made sure we drank a lot of water & kept applying sunscreen. We arrived at Lava Tower for lunch which was amazing, the Lava Tower was incredible! It was a little frightening walking back from the toilet (behind a rock where everyone could see my bum) when I witnessed a fully grown man vomiting all over the ground from the altitude. Once I got back to the group, one of our trekkers had to be taken down as he was struggling with a big headache, tired & couldn’t eat. I sat down & ate my food & I started feeling so thankful that I hadn’t encountered any altitude sickness yet and could enjoy my adventure.
We finished lunch & started our hike down to Barranco Camp! I started getting a bit nervous about all the rocky downhill as my knees aren’t the best and I knew I would struggle. I took it super slow and I started to get a massive pain in my shoulder/neck from my day pack which was almost unbearable, I have severe scoliosis- a curvature of the spine, which results in my shoulders being lop-sided and one shoulder unfortunately taking most of the weight from my pack. Thankfully I have a spectacular boyfriend that offered to carry my bag for me.
We finally made it to the Barranco Camp, signed in & found our tents for washy washy. It was at this camp where we could see the Barranco Wall (which we are to scramble up the next morning). It looked so steep & was a little daunting. Brandon thought the opposite, Barranco Wall was the part he was most excited for!
It was this dinner where you could tell everyone was starting to feel pretty exhausted, it was a massive day of trekking & definitely the hardest day so far! We all had dinner & went to bed to try get a lot of rest for our hike to base camp tomorrow.
DAY 4 – BARRANCO CAMP – BARAFU CAMP (BASE CAMP)
We had breakfast, had our briefing & prepared for our hike up the Barranco Wall & continue on to Barafu Camp (4,673m). One of our team had vomited during the night which was a big reminder that we were on Kilimanjaro & getting higher each night. Luckily she was okay & we started our day.
After scrambling up the wall, we were all on a high as it was actually the best part of the trek so far. It was super fun coming up the wall (even when I needed to be pulled up because I was too short). We all stopped & took some photos as the views of the wall, rocks, clouds & summit were amazing!
The rest of our day was a very uphill, downhill kind of trek which was hard on the knees, especially my bung knee but it was amazing views.
We reached Barafu Base Camp, had our dinner, did our oxygen & heart rate checks & were told to go nap for a few hours & we would be woken up at 11pm to have some tea & that we would be leaving at midnight. Brandon & I were pretty gross & decided we were too cold to washy washy tonight, so we just washed our face & changed into our summit layers and went to sleep.
As Brandon & I were in our tent about to fall asleep, we started hearing someone vomiting everywhere. We both laid there looking at each other with worried looks in our eyes. It was a massive reminder that we were on Kilimanjaro in high altitude which is very dangerous & people die trying to hike this mountain! We spoke & agreed how lucky we both were that we had only suffered from a few little headaches which were most likely from not drinking enough water anyway. We did some breathing, meditation techniques & went to sleep.
DAY 5 – BARAFU CAMP – STELLA POINT – UHURU PEAK
We were woken up by Sadam at 11pm & began to prepare for our summit attempt. I was already freezing & I was wearing:
2 pairs of thermal tights
2 thermal tops
Fleece hoodie layer
Thick rain jacket
2 pairs of socks
A tip for anyone thinking of doing Kilimanjaro – buy new snow gloves, don’t wear the ones you’ve had for 3 years of snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies that are worn out & your fingers are poking out frozen.
After only approximately 3hours sleep, we put our head lamps on, had some tea, grabbed our hiking poles & started our trek to the summit!
Look- I’m not going to lie, it obviously wasn’t a walk in the park. It was freezing. I was struggling with the cold more than the trekking. My fingers & nose felt like they were going to get frost bite & fall off. I continued to focus on my breathing & kept moving my fingers to warm them up.
Things started to get hectic as we got higher & started witnessing people collapsing, vomiting & people being rushed down on oxygen tanks! Our group started separating as some were being affected by the altitude & some were moving faster than others. Brandon & I were in the first group moving fairly quickly. There was 5 of us together & we stopped regularly to have a snack & drink water.
Another tip – try drink as much water as you can at the start because my water froze 1 hour in. Luckily for me, Brandons bladder & water bottles hadn’t frozen so we shared. Also, make sure you take snacks with you, especially if you’re like me & nothing can take your appetite away – not even 5,895m altitude.
The sun started rising & holy moly, it was absolutely breathtaking! The colours & the views were beautiful- like nothing I have ever seen before. We stopped for a break to take it in & I was pretty excited the sun was coming up because it was warming up my frozen fingers & nose!! We kept pushing on & finally reached Stella Point (5,756m). I was tired & feeling like a zombie. We sat down for a while & had some juice, then decided to continue on our summit push to reach the peak. We could see it & it seemed so close, but so far!
The walk from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak was the toughest part of the whole trek for me, I felt completely normal, just extremely tired & my body wanted to sit down & rest. The joys of altitude! We walked slowly until we FINALLY reached Uhuru Peak & I burst out crying & hugged Brandon slobbering all over his expensive down jacket.
I did it! I made it to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro! I've hiked the worlds highest free standing mountain!
I was on cloud 9 & as I was waiting for a photo in front of the sign, another couple we hiked with were getting their photo & he got down on one knee to propose & yep, there goes my water works again! I was crying like a baby! It was a beautiful proposal to witness as we had been through the entire trek all together & saw what he had been through to make it to the summit to propose! Unfortunately quickly after the proposal he was rushed down to base camp as he wasn’t dealing too well with the altitude.
We took some photos & then stood around looking at the amazing, massive glaciers! I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
I was standing on the roof of Africa at 5,895m altitude with the biggest smile on my face!
We then started our trek back down to Barafu Base Camp, by this time I was absolutely shattered. I was so tired & my knees were hurting badly coming down the rocky path. Sadam, being the amazing person that he is, stayed with me for the trek down & helped me come down safely.
We finally reached Barafu Camp & were able to have an hour nap before having to pack up, eat & head off to the next camp for the night.
We packed all our stuff & began the trek to Millenium Camp where we would stay the night before trekking the rest of the way the following morning. We reached camp & had the best nights sleep ever. The next morning we all had breakfast & swapped summit night stories & then gave our tips to our g-fighters & CEO’s, did some goodbye singing & dancing & started our final trek together to the exit gate of the park!
A big thank you to G Adventures & our CEO’s – Gerald, Michael, Isaac & G-Man for taking the best care of me whilst I was in Tanzania, I highly recommend them if you're thinking of tacking the highest mountain in Africa!