From the UAE to Mount Kilimanjaro

My first high-altitude mountain and the experience that started it all. Making a girl like me from the UAE want more and attempt to do the seven summits.

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But first, here are some details about the mountain. The elevation of Kilimanjaro lies at 5,895 metres (Uhuru Peak), the route I took was Rongai route, not that scenic but read that it was a better way to acclimatize and took about 6-7 days. Not to underestimate, this is a strenuous hike and should train at least 3 months for it, depending on your fitness. The month I went on was February and it was pretty snowy and windy on the summit.

Kilimanjaro is a free-standing mountain located in Tanzania, actually it is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and it is National Park that required people to go with guides. The tour operator I went with was Marangu Hotel, apparently they paid their guides and porters a fair salary, compared to other companies where their guides and porters relied on client tips.

I trained with a group here in the UAE for months and on my own. From running, to hiking, cycling, walking up and down the slopes of ski dubai, I did everything I could think of to prepare myself physically, as well as mentally, I read everything there was to high altitude sickness and what to expect during the trail.

Once we arrived at the hotel, they conducted a gear check and gave us a briefing on what toe expect. They next day we met the guides and porters. It was a relief to know we weren’t carrying out duffel bags and tents, back then I used to carry things I know now are useless (Now that I tend to carry my own gear, I have become more skimpy)

We got into the bus that took us to the entrance of the National Park and  finally took off on the hike after they finalized our documentation. It was impressive to see how the eco-system and weather changed as we kept going up. Trees were getting smaller and smaller until there were none. And it would get colder.

We started to hear the phrase “pole pole”, something we would hear for days and remember a lifetime. A phrase which meant ‘slowly’, used to remind people to walk slower so we’d acclimatize.

Once reaching the camp grounds, our tents would be set up already by the porters, which was a relief, something I’d miss in future trips. In this trip, we even had a separate food tent, where we had a table and seats with great food to choose from including popcorn, nutella, peanut butter.  We also had a toilet tent. It was definitely a luxury trip compared to others I have been,

It was cold all the time, especially in camp. The assistant guides would get us hot tea every morning which was a delight, and even hot water to wash our faces, after a few days, it was not washing our faces as to how cold our hands would feel.

My first sign of mild high altitude sickness came from in the form a severe headache and some nausea in the last two mornings. Luckily, nor I or anyone else had anything more severe than that. As with other hikes, the summit push started at midnight, we had a few hours to nap before that. My headache was gone by then. You can barely see anything except for headlamps heading upwards, not knowing where the top of the mountain is, just keep walking and keep drinking water. We reached Gillman’s point by sunrise, it was such a relief to see the guide pull out some hot tea! A few hours more and we reached Stella’s point, there you could see other people coming from other routes. At that point, I felt like I had even more energy than ever and we pushed for final hour to Uhuru’s Peak. We took a 2 minute rest, took photos and started to head down. In a few hours, we reached our tent, barely had time to eat and started our descend down.

Reaching the exit felt like such an accomplishment. The whole trip was such an experience, I went in with strangers and came out with family! This is truly a magnificent and life-changing trip, I definitely recommend it. If you have any questions, do let me know.

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