Thursday, March 31, 2011

Travel Update

Once again here's your chance to catch up on some of my old posts because I will be away from my blog for about a week.  I'm leaving for Dar es Salaam bright and early tomorrow morning for a nine hour bus ride (this time I'm riding a "Luxury" bus with a/c and with paved roads all the way there), then I'll be in Bagamoyo to do some research on the Indian Ocean Slave Trade, then up along the coast to Tanga, and then back here in Arusha.

Here's some wikipedia info on Dar, Bagamoyo, and Tanga:,_Tanzania

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 5 - Summit Day

To the summit.

I'll start with how the day started.  After a long day trekking to the camp (Barafu - I think) we had an afternoon tea/chocolate/milo/nido and popcorn and nuts, then dinner, then bed round 7:30pm/8pm for an 11pm wakeup.  We had tea and cookies (glucose cookies) round 11pm and started our trek (1200m plus - from 4600m at Barafu to 5895m at Uhuru peak) at midnight so that we would get there in time for sunrise at 6am.  Yes 6 hours of walking/climbing a mountain at altitude that could kill you.

The best part of this was was that it was freezing.  It was between -10 to -15 celcius at that time of night at the top.  I was wearing four pairs of pants, thermal underwear shirt, under armour shirt, dri-fit shirt, sweater and winter coat - to bed.  I added a towel as a scarf and another pair of pants with mittens for the climb.  I'm all hyped to go and we start.  The whole thing about making it for the 6 days and to the top is pole pole - slowly.  So off me, Sasha, Felix, and our guides went (Alex and Eric) pole pole up the last leg.

If you know me, I'm a competitor.  So for that day, we saw a group of headlamps far off up the mountain.  I told our group that I want to pass them.  Eventually we did and saw another climber with his porter and passed them too.  We ended up being the first people that day to reach the summit.  Woohoo.

Now back to the climb itself.  Besides not being able to feel my feet or toes and my fingers being real cold, and a slight altitude headache and feeling the effects of not eating a real meal before the climb, up to Stella Point I was fine.

Stella point is only 120m from the summit and most of the 'climb' is just a slight incline.

So we get to Stella Point and take a break for snacks and water.  I feel a lot better with food in my stomach and start to go.  After about 20 or so metres I start to fall apart.

I mean at this point I had to keep on repeating my full name to make sure I remembered it.  Then at one point I started to get emotional like I was going to start crying.  And the worse part was when I honestly asked myself this question: "I wonder if this is what it feels like when you're dying?".  My feet were dragging, my eyes were shutting.  The altitude sickness combined with total exhaustion nearly stopped me from making it.  But I made it.  And we made it first.

Going back down was when I felt the whole brunt of altitude sickness - the headache and nausea and dizzyness - but with some food and rest and Diamox, I was fine by the end of the day.  Just tired as ass.  Not bad for a guy who never ran more than 400m to climb 5895m.

To the top

4600m high

About to get eaten by the clouds

Me and Hamsa (aka Little Chris)

Made it!

At the top - first


Sunrise at the peak

First time seeing a glacier

Almost as if you could walk on the clouds

Baadaye Kilimanjaro, Mambo Dar Es Salaam

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 4

Today was probably the most fun, but most dangerous day of our climb. We scaled a rock face that our guide Eric said that he's had many clients break their legs. I can understand why because it is very rocky, vertical, slippery and for us, icy. Even though it wasn't raining, the rain from the night before had most of the rocks frozen over.
I had fun doing the climb. It was challenging, but enjoyable. The thought that if you slip you could actually die was a big adrenaline rush for me, but I really liked it. Really liked it a lot.

Passed another rock grave. This time of a porter that died of hypothermia. I was thinking that Kilimanjaro Park should have a memorial with all the lists of porters and tourists that have died for whatever reason at their front gate for all to see. That would be nice.

That freaky looking Jurassic Park tree/plant is called a Senecio Kilimanjari


Believe it or not, we climbed both the rock face that day and then the snow covered peak the following night

So cold that my tent froze

Almost as if you're on a different planet

Climbed that

Taking a break in the sun

Man, I love those boots

Above the sky

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 3

Today started off with no rain until we had lunch, but then the rain started to pour.

On the way up we passed a rock grave of a tourist that died four years ago of altitude sickness, which really hit home how real this climb actually is.

By blind luck I'm going up the hill with Felix and Sasha who both brought extra tablets of Diamox that's supposed to help the effects of altitude sickness.  I've been taking a pill every morning with breakfast and one every night with dinner.

But I won't lie, I'm starting to feel the effects (we went to 4640m today).  I have a headache right now, which isn't too too bad, but I have a headache.  My appetite is still good and I don't feel short of breath.  It's just the headache that I'm concerned about.  That and my right hamstring, which is killing me.  Geezeon.  Between the cold and the uphill climb, it is so sore.  I don't want to pull it or strain it any worse than it is right now.

I'm really nervous about the morning climb and then the push to the summit in the middle of the night, but I'm ready.  Perseverance and By Any Means Necessary I'm making it to the top.

That's Mt. Meru in the background

Above the clouds and above Mt. Meru

At the breakfast table with Felix.  Nice views to start your morning off, eh?

Sun was shining, but it was a cold morning

Still quasi-fresh

The Diamox Crew

Two completely different landscapes in the same photo

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 2

March 20th, 2011 - Night 1/Day 2

It is so cold and everything is wet.  I mean stuff that didn't get wet is wet because it's so damp here.  My sleeping bag is wet and luckily Felix had two and let me borrow one of his.

My hamstring is sore, but my head is better.  I need to poo but I don't want to.  Not yet.  Oie, what did I get myself into?

If I can get through the next 5 days, I know I can do anything.  Seriously.

You can do it Christopher.

I slept horribly last night because I was cold and woke up every hour having to go pee.  Geezeon.

First time camping and I'm doing it on a mountain.  Woohoo!

March 20th, 2011 - Day 2 Continued:

Today was a fun hike.  We went through raging rapids, saw a bunch of waterfalls, and literally climbed through slippery and dangerous rocks.  It was fun.

The part that wasn't fun was/is the rain.  It's miserable and literally all my stuff is wet.  Not fun at all, and man, it's a mental exercise more than anything physical.

The rain itself isn't bad, but when everything you have here is wet, including my notepad, it starts to get to you.

I'm hanging in though.  I'm gonna make it.

The sunrise view from our first campsite

It's cold up there

A porter.  You've got to imagine that these guys did the exact same climb as us, but with tables, pots, pans, tents, food, I even saw another group with a portable sitdown toilet.  Strongest people I've ever seen.

In a cave for lunch

Don't let the smile fool you, I was cold and wet

You wouldn't think you were on the same planet from seeing some of the landscapes on the mountain

Still quasi-fresh and clean

It's like trying to dry your clothes in a fridge

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 1

I'll let the journal I kept while going up Kilimanjaro and the photos do the talking for the next series of blog posts.

Kilimanjaro Climb - Day 1

So my day started around 6am after a horrible and restless sleep the night before.  I was anxious and nervous for the day's climb.

Shannon (she did a day trek - 3 to 4 hours up and down) and I got packed up around 7:45am for an hour and a bit drive to Kilimanjaro from Arusha.

After registration and both my debit and VISA card not working - eventually the VISA did - to pay for my park fees (630USD) we started climbing for about 4 hours starting at 11am.  With lunch breaks and everything we got settled into camp at 4pm.

The first leg was through a rainforest, literally a rainforest with waterfall and dense foliage.  And lo and behold it rained.  And rained some more and rained even harder.  By time we got above the clouds - the camp is at about 3500m high, we were past the rain, but everything is wet and damp.

I have a bit of a headache, but I can tolerate it.  Just hope it doesn't get worse.

I'm climbing with Felix and Sasha (two cool folks from Australia) and a crew of 10 who have got to be the strongest people in the world carrying all the stuff.  Impressive.

Everything I needed for my Kill-A-Man-Jaro adventure

We took the Machame route up

The rainforest

Still fresh and clean at this point

That's a waterfall in the background

Left to right: Felix, Me, and Alex (one of our guides)

Nice view

My home for 6 days and 5 nights.  It really did end up feeling like my home by the end of the trip.

Sky's the Limit? I Was Above It

Just letting everyone know that I made it to the top and back safely.  I kept a journal while I was on the mountain, so I'll be posting a day by day report with pics shortly.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

On Saturday I will start my climb up the highest freestanding mountain in the world and tallest in Africa at 5,895 metres, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Six days and 5 nights of the ultimate hill workout.

Have I ever climbed a mountain before?  Nope.  Did I want to a week ago?  Nope.  Have I been training for this my whole life?  Nope.  Am I glad I bought a pair of 15,000TSH hiking boots?  You better believe it.

I'm taking the Machame Route with Arunga Expeditition & Safaris Ltd. ( and here's the itinerary:

Day 1 (March 19th): Arusha - Machame Gate - Machame Camp:

After breakfast leave the lodge/hotel drive for 1 hour to Machame gate.  Finish the formalities and start the hiking through the rain forest to Machame camp (3000m) in about 6 hours and overnight.

Day 2: Machame Camp - Shira Camp:

Breakfast.  The hike begins through the forest, crosstie valley along the steep bridge going into the rock ridges and through heather.  The route turns west into a river gorge, reaching Shire camp (3800m) in about 6 hours.  All meals and overnight.

Day 3: Shira Camp - Baranco Camp:

Breakfast.  Continue with the hiking east towards Kibo passing the junction, then east towards the Lava Tower.  Shortly after this you climb down to Baranco Camp (3940m) in 4-5 hours.  All meals and overnight.

Day 4: Baranco Camp - Barafu Camp:

Breakfast.  Continue with the hiking through the steep rocky Baranco walls, then up and down until you come to Karanga valley.  Then to Barafu camp (4600m) in about 6-7 hours.  All meals and overnight.

Day 5: Barafu Camp - Uhuru Peak - Mweka Camp:

Very early breakfast, then start for the summit at 1:00am first to Stella point and then to Uhuru peak (5895m).  It is recommended to take a few minutes for photos and then descend to Mweka camp for dinner and overnight.

Day 6: Mweka Camp - Mweka Gate - Moshi/Arusha:

Breakfast then descend down to Mweka gate for 3-4 hours.  Collect your diploma if you make it to the summit then transfer back to Arusha in 2 hours or Moshi in 30 minutes.

The stories that I will have from this climb will definitely not be as cut and dry and straightforward as that itinerary.  I'm planning on taking some notes while I'm up there and posting the censored versions here on my blog.  And plenty of photos too.

I'll be MIA for about a week, so here's your chance to catch up on old blog posts that you may have missed since the beginning of January.

Baadaye for now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Would You Do?

Have you ever thought that doing what's good for you may not necessarily be the right thing to do, or most useful, or most beneficial to society or even those that could really use your help?

Say you were given the opportunity to take up a position in a "Third World" or developing country that offered you a lifestyle that you could only dream about at home.  First class and first rate living.

You know you're exploiting a corrupt system, but you don't care.  It's all about you and what this opportunity can do for you now and for your future.

On the other hand, why would you perpetuate an unequal system that benefits the few "haves" and continues to marginalize the many "have nots"?  And why not use your talents, gifts, knowledge, and privilege to help others and not just yourself?

Don't look at this as a hypothetical scenario - we all face this situation and others just like it all the time.

What would you do?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goats, Cars, Children, and Fanta

Here are a few candid pictures of my life here in Arusha.  I'm no GQ model and I do a lot of random things out here. 

Me and my new pet baby goat.  I like goats.

Life inside a former volcano

Where's Christopher?  Taxi driver got stuck in the rocks that make up the road right infront of Sakina Camp.  From pushing cars out of snow, to pushing cars out of rocks.

Hey World Vision!  Do you see flies on any of these poor destitute African children's faces?  Make note of the kids wearing hoodies and jackets.

Once you get past my mug shot and rogue lock, you'll realize that Mountain Dew has gone by the wayside in Arusha.  It's now all about Fanta Passion