A 3.45am alarm, 4am taxi to Heathrow, 6.30am departure and 9+ hours of flying time probably isn’t the ideal preparation for one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever undertaken.
However I was greeted with the warmest welcome at Kilimanjaro airport by the G Adventure’s representative and taken to my hotel. There I had a quick chat about the following day’s plans, the kit I needed and wanted to borrow, before meeting my room mate for the week, Katie. Luckily we hit it off, sharing our nerves, the need for a toilet instead of long drop, and fear of altitude sickness.
What felt like a few short hours later we were standing under the Machame Gate, ready to set off on our quest for the summit.
The Machame Route is a 6 or 7 day trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro, it’s one of the steepest routes but has a high success rate (94%) and is one of the most scenic. It allows you to acclimatise to the high altitude by ‘walking high, sleeping low’ on a few of the days, increasing your chances of making it to the top.
Our route started easily enough, walking along the well marked pathway through the lower rainforest slopes. Our group, having only met a few hours earlier, were already chatting away like old friends, a tone that only continued and strengthened throughout our trip.
We’d been given cute packed lunches that we enjoyed during a rest break, including jam sandwiches, boiled eggs, chicken drumsticks, muffins and crisps – the start of a very carb heavy week of meals.
Our overnight bags, tents etc were taken to camp each day for us, all we needed to carry was our day packs with snacks, 3L water, spare kit and suncream. I cannot thank the porters enough for taking our stuff (and making it up and down the mountain far quicker than we could ever dream!)
After 5+ hours, we reached our first camp, Machame camp, greeted by the G Fighters (our porters, chefs and guides) singing and dancing, plus hot chocolates, popcorn and hot water for ‘washy washy’ – amazing to wash our faces and hands properly. I brought my Liz Earle face wash and moisturiser as one of my little luxuries on the mountain!
Upon arriving at camp I had needed to use the loo, and as our portable toilet wasn’t set up yet, I had to use the long drop. After that horrifying experience it became clear that the $50 I spent for my part in the portable toilet tent was possibly the best money I have EVER spent, it was a game changer.
The temperature really dropped during dinner, and I was pleased to have followed Laura’s advice to bring a metal bottle to use as a hot water bottle. I was toasty warm inside my sleeping bag – although the two middle of the night loo breaks weren’t ideal.
Days on the mountain typically started at 6.30am with hot drinks brought to our tent by Lamic, honestly some of the best coffee ever, despite the powdered milk (it must be the setting!), then at 7am we’d get a bowl of warm water to wash. Breakfast was 7.30am with porridge, pancakes, eggs and toast all on offer, and the aim was to leave camp by 8am.
We were a little slow off the mark on day two, not quite used to our routine yet. The 5ish hour walk to Shira Cave Camp. The terrain was totally different to the first day, this was far steeper, causing us to zig zag slowly – Pole Pole – up the mountain. We only covered about 5K in total, which might give you an indication of the incline we were tackling.
The views though, wow. They were spectacular.
I think I’ve just found reception for the first time in the above photo!
Arriving at camp in time for a hot lunch, and a nap (yes, a scheduled nap, loved it) before a quick tour of some nearby caves. These caves used to be utilised by porters, chefs and guides on the mountain to sleep in before the park made sure that the tour companies provided accommodation for all of their staff.
As we got higher, we could definitely feel the air was cooler (Ok, freezing) in the evenings – I ended up wearing my pjs under my trousers, fleece, gilet and wooly hat for dinner. Our daily soup starters definitely helped to keep us warm, as did multiple hot chocolates before bed.