01.07.2018 Day 1 in Tanzania
No cheese at breakfast, at all (there’s no cheese in that country). We left the hotel for a visit to a Masaai (shepherds) village. A little girl was fascinated with my nails. Kids were not letting my hands go. The tribe dressed us up in their traditional clothes, involved us in their dances, thought us how to lit a fire the old school way and had us shop at their local market. It felt very commercial, but we could still see how they live and the kind of life they live. It felt like going back 1,000 years. Same feeling while passing through the villages with the car. I had again the gratitude feeling of being born in this side of the world…
02.07.2018 Day 2 in Tanzania
The start of the ascent towards the highest point in Africa. We were picked-up by a minibus together with our local crew. We had 16 people helping us carry stuff, prep food, put up our tents, serve and take care of us. Initially it was unbelievable, but soon I realized that without them and their help, I wouldn’t have probably made it to the top in such good health and humor.
We used Machame (or “whiskey”) route for the climb. I’ve heard it’s spectacular, and it was besides difficult. Either way, till the entrance gate to the park, we had a chance to take a look at some real village life, butcheries, schools, impressive size churches in contrast with extreme poverty. Lots of banana trees and maize crops. And jungle.
Machame Gate is at 1,800 m altitude, and our hike for the day lasted for 5-6 hours, till we reached Machame camp at 2,835 m. When we reached the camp, the night was settling it, it was foggy and rainy, and we were happy to enjoy the food, the briefing for the next day from our guides and the health measurements. Yes, they do some health checks every night.
03.07.2018 Day 3 in Tanzania
This was the shortest hiking day, we were able to reach Shira camp at 3,800 m (from Machame camp at 2,835 m) before lunch, therefore had time to relax, enjoy the views and even go for a short hike to Shira cave. Compared to the caves we have in Romania, that cave was a bit of a joke. The guys still did some climbing.
It was a sunny day, we left the camp amongst dances, we really observed the nature and plants, found obsidian and had a really spectacular sunset. It was the easiest day of the trip. We used it to recharge for the upcoming journey.
Dinner was good, appetite was still there, we had our briefing and medical checks before it got too cold, then hid into the tents and sleeping bags.
04.07.2018 Day 4 in Tanzania
This hiking day was long, and one of the most difficult. It took us around 7 hours, and we climbed from 3,800 m from Shira camp to 4,600 m at Lava Tower, then down again at 3,900 m at the sleeping camp at Barranco. It was hard because of the long way, but also important for acclimatization. Most of us had headaches at the end of the day, but then none for the rest of the journey. Hard as it was, it was great for getting us ready for the peak.
We had loads of sun, we left the vegetation area for the alpine desert one then back down into the valley for sleeping. The walking pace was “pole pole”, meaning very slow. They really emphasized this as important for acclimatization, and our guides were really strict about it. Still, the guys did a running competition at some point
The water we used was boiled from the rivers by our crew, and we put iodine and salts to make sure it’s safe to drink and has a good taste (for our spoiled bodies). My eyes started to be puffy, and also my appetite was gone, I started to eat very little, and mostly liquids.
In many ways, this was the most difficult day of them all. We went to bed thinking about the wall we had to climb the next day, wall that we knew was there but couldn’t see because of the fog. Trips from the tent to the toilets were beginning to be difficult in terms of breathing, and we started looking for the shortest ways
Many fun and dear memories built already…
05.07.2018 Day 5 in Tanzania
The last day before the summit night. We left Barranco camp at 3,900 m for the peak’s basecamp, Barafu, at 4,700 m. It took us around 7 hours of trekking, and the trek had 3 main climbing areas, but still it was one of the days I enjoyed the most.
The first challenge was the Barranco wall. In the morning’s clear sky, we could see this wall in all its splendor. Without snow, it had some Game of Thrones majesty and scariness. Still, I think it was the part of the whole trip I enjoyed the most. It was so fun climbing up, and the view at the top was so rewarding
The journey continued then quite plain, till we reached a valley we had to go down then climb again up to our lunch camp, Karanga. We had french fries for lunch and I actually managed to eat some. Shortly after, we resumed the day with the last, and most difficult uphill part of the day towards the Barafu camp.
We had an early dinner, some sun, the most exciting brief, the medical checks and we went to “bed” knowing we’ll wake up in the middle of the night to start the ascent towards the highest peak in Africa. Needless to say, I barely slept those hours
06.07.2018 Day 6 in Tanzania
The longest, most spectacular day of them all. And the hardest in many ways. It was the summit day
We woke up around 12 to have a bite, dress up really well (I’ve started with 4 layers, one of them being the ski jacket) and started the climb around 1:15, in the middle of the night. The moon was up and bright, the stars were fully visible in all their splendor. We could see the line of lights going up towards the peak. Many others were already way ahead into the climb. Wasn’t very motivating to see how high up they are and what lays ahead of you
The thing I’ll never forget was the cold. I was never so cold my entire life. Every time we stopped for some water (or ice) or just to catch up on our breath, I started to shiver uncontrollably. I ended up having 6 layers of clothes (borrowing around), and I still couldn’t fully feel my arms. It was freezing, especially during 3 and 6 in the morning. Once the sun appeared, things got much better.
Each one of us had a “personal” help. My guide was such a humored guy, it really made me feel more comfortable. Before Stella Point he even pulled me a little. I never felt so happy to reach Stella Point, and then the actual peak. There was so much snow, and sun, and beautiful people. We reached the summit at 7:30, and the feeling was so overwhelming I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe I made it. I know I couldn’t have made it without all the dear people that stood by me and took so good care of me.
I believe this is what I’m dependent on. Huge effort, amazing reward, close people and bounds to last a lifetime. That’s what mountains mean to me, and that’s why I keep coming back.
Lots of pictures, hugs, some food, happy people and smiles. Then we went down to the camp, had an hour of rest, and went even further down, to sleep at Millenium camp on Mweka route. I was already nostalgic.
07.07.2018 Day 7 in Tanzania
And the last one on the mountain. We descended from Millenium camp at 3950 m to the Mweka gate at 1,600. Roughly 5 hours, then we were picked up by the bus and our crew.
We went to celebrate in a really fancy restaurant I was amazed at how the toilet looked like (pretty average but after a while with shitty ones, felt like heaven). Lots of souvenirs to buy, banana stew and sparkling wine We celebrated with our crew.
In the evening, we went for a really local restaurant (our guide took us there to be safe as well), where for the first time in days I ate, considerably some grilled pork and bananas Anyways, we did feel like drawing all the attention on us in those areas very weird.
At the exit from the park, we got a diploma. I’ve realised this mountain was quite challenging for me, and still, I managed to get to the top, in good shape and humor, despite the little suffering. This wouldn’t have been possible, I’m sure, without the crew but mostly without Radu, our guide. He’s more than a guide to me, he’s a trusted friend. He told me all the way that I can make it, and hold my back on the night of the ascent (also borrowed the 6th jacket). I ended up not even thinking that I cannot make it. Grateful for all these people life puts my way. With him I feel I can even conquer Everest
08.07.2018 Day 8 in Tanzania, and last one
After a good night’s sleep in a real bed, we packed and got ready to say goodbye.
We went to do a bit a shopping, then see a waterfall somewhere on the countryside before heading off to the airport for the long journey home.
It was a short trip, but intense in many ways, and beautiful. Africa won my heart though, and I’m sure I’ll go back there to explore it even more.
Turns out both my trips with Extreme Expeditions (in Everest Basecamp last year and Kilimanjaro now) were lucky and great. Good planning, very good local connections, flexibility and trust. People are asking me what’s next I don’t know yet, but it needs to be in Extreme Expedition’s portfolio for sure. Thank you guys!