Kilimanjaro, Tanzania Uhuru Peak (19340 ft/5895 M)
Highest point on the African continent
World Prominence Rank- 4
Octomber 9-16, 2010
Via Machame route
First day in Africa (the 9th octomber 2010)
After a demanding flight (I just loved the Indian Ocean, seen from the skies), we finally landed in Tanzania at Dar es Salaam, the House of Peace. As soon as we got off the plane we entered a different world. First of all, people were all blacks. And they were dressed in a weird way, especially women. They weren’t wearing dresses or high heels, but some beautiful clothes named khanga. Dad grabbed the first African person he met and asked him politely to accept to be part of our first snapshot in Africa. We’ll take you to Romania, in a photo, dad, told him, and he was as happy as a child could be!
I found out later that back at school one beloved teacher of mine asked “Where is Alexandra?”, and my classmates responded proudly “In Africa!” So the teacher said: “How come she dared go to Africa during school?” Well, what can I say…I will learn many more interesting things in Africa than at school, so Africa, here I cooooome!
We were welcome by Mr. Richard, the representative of the travel agency, that later led us on a tour of the city together, along with the driver Bacari. It was so amazing. I had the opportunity to dip my feet in the Indian Ocean. I noticed people were getting in the water fully dressed which intrigued me a lot, and only after I found out that they were muslims so I understood the reason. They weren’t allowed to bathe in public spaces undressed.
Then we walked to the Fish Market (Kivukoni Fish Market). Well what an amazing experience! The market is very busy especially in the morning when the fisherman bring in their catch for sale. I enjoyed the idea of walking through the market, procuring our own fish and then taking it over to the kitchen area, where locals were cooking soup in huge containers that could easily swallow 2 or 3 grown ups.
We also visited Coco Beach, named after the coconut trees on the beach, and drunk some coconut milk, which was, as a matter of fact, delicious.
We went back to the hotel after this and bought some souvenirs on our way. We were drained out but I can say it is much better in Africa than in the classroom, studying.
Second day (october 10th 2010)
I found it very interesting to fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed, which is very unusual for me. We woke up at 5:00 in the morning and after a delicious breakfast we met Mr. Richard who led us to the couch for Moshi . At 5:30 in the morning, when we arrived to the bus station, it was hot already but fortunately the bus had air conditioning. I was a little bit disappointed as I though we would travel surrounded by hens and pigs, the way I have seen in the movies, but that of course, wasn’t true, it’s just what it is wanted for us to believe. Anyway this was good because I do not think I could have traveled for a long time that way. Mr. Richard climbed in the bus with us and became all of a sudden a passenger as the doors were slammed shut and the bus set off. We had to struggle in order to convince the driver to let him out.
We finally set off. We were the only whites in the bus and dad kept telling me every 5 minuntes: “Alexutza, we are in Africa! I can’t believe it!” I think he was trying to convince himself he was not dreaming. We traveled for hours and hours across the African savanna and the sisal plantations. We took a lot of pictures and made friends with an African lady named Blondy. Everything was just so exotic looking for me. The bus stopped only once, at a restaurant where we had meat and fried potatoes. I think it was the only one around, cause all the buses stopped there.
Finally we made it to Moshi, were the agency representative was missing in action. A very kind gentleman made a phone call and in few minutes, Elias, our guide showed up together with the driver of the company. All the way to the hotel they discussed with dad in English and Italian. Daddy was charmed. At the hotel they had a beer. In the meanwhile I started exploring the surroundings.
Soon I discovered the swimming pool … Of course I took a dip, what were you thinking? After that I met a group of Irish people that were to climb Kili by taking the same route as us. They were doing this in order to raise money for a hospital in Ireland. Once back in the hotel room I wrote a bit in my diary , watched the Tv for a while, but of course I couldn’t understand anything because people weren’t talking in any languages that I knew and then went to sleep, thinking of tomorrow.
Third day in Africa (Machame Hut) (october 11th 2010)
I think I had a very good night sleep, because in the morning I felt perfectly rested. Elias came to pick us up and we set off for Machame Gat to get registered. It took us around an hour,there were a lot of tourists anxious to do the same as us, but we finally managed to do it. We were walking through the jungle and I could not believe to my eyes seeing the strange shaped trees, with vines weaved all around them. If Tarzan had showed up, we would not have been surprised.
He did not, but instead we met our first porter, Shila. After a two hours walk we reached the place where were supposed to have lunch, and where waiting for us there were a table, chairs, cutlery and plates. We even had beautiful napkins! Dad looked at me and we both burst out laughing. We were picturing in our minds our lunches in the Carpathians, taken on top of some boulder or whatever. Anyway, we had soup, sandwiches and also desert.
On the way we spotte some monkeys and birds, but few because there were too many people around for them to come out. I think of my classmates and I feel much better, because I feel free and I think this is worth it more than what I study in school. I see fantastic things, new people and mentalities.
At 6:00 p.m. we got to Machame Hut, that was crowded with people. We also met there the Irish people from the hotel and talked to them a lot.
In the evening I asked Elias to tell me a story about Kili. He said that the locals believe a god lives on top of the mountain and that if there is no rain or too many diseases that means the god is angry. He said that even nowadays, the Masaii perform human sacrifices in order to please the god. I hope this is not true. I asked him how many times he had climbed Kilimanjaro and he said that he stopped counting when he arrived at 200 times. I was amazed when I found out that he had climbed Kili at least 200 times, and that the locals think it is not a good thing because it can disturb the god. I hope, as I am the only kid on the mountain, that the god won’t get too angry this time. So for now I bid you good night because it is late and I am tired.
Forth day in Africa (Shira Camp) October the 12th 2010
The alarm went off at 6:00 am. We packed up, got dressed and got out of the tent. Mike, one of the porters welcome us with a tray full with milk, tea, hot chocolate and coffee. I think I will put on some weigh. The sun took his place above our heads and everybody was getting ready for the morning walk. So as soon as we finished our breakfast off we started walking uphill. The landscaping looked differently, much different than the one we had seen before, reminding us of the Indian village we have visited in Canada, where they were putting their dead on the tree branches. Dad was fascinated but me I was kind of afraid.
On the way I talked with a Pakistani girl living in UK that had walked the Annapurna Circuit and had visited Machu Pichu. She was very talkative. Elias talked us into going directly to Shira Camp and skip lunch, because we looked in good shape. We walked for hours, long and demanding hours, when all of a sudden I felt a raindrop on my hand. It was raining. Quickly we took our raincoats on and took shelter in a overcrowded cave. There were at least 10 men there, of course not the ones from Neardenthal, but modern ones.
After the rain stopped, we set off again towards Shira Camp. I admired a huge plant named Giant Lobelia, the Senecio Kilimanjari trees and also met some Everlasting Flowers, flowers looking like they were made out of plastic.
The Kilimanjaro Impatiens is found nowhere else in the world except the jungle floor of Kilimanjaro. My favourite was the Protea kilimandscharica.
We reached Shira by 14:00 p.m. We had lunch, took a nap and then, even thought there was a light raindrop, walked to Shira cave. Everybody on our way asked me how old I was and where I was from. Of course I mentioned Romania a lot, and Elias also told Dad that it is a privilege for him to take a kid, my age, up to Kili. It is the first time they accompany somebody of my age. They treat me very nice, I am the pet of the company. We had a nice conversation with a Canadian lady from Quebec living in Etiopia and a couple of English people.
Of, I am so sick of this porridge and soup. We get this every day, apparently because it is very nourishing. Some how I will get over this, but I do not want to hear the word porridge ever again.
Fifth day in Africa( Barranco Hut) October the 13th 2010
I can not believe how cold is in the tent. I got dressed and left the tent where I was welcome by our cook who, with a smile, said: Alex, would you like some porridge? No, not again. I hate porridge! I ate nonetheless, becaus it’s difficult to climb up a slope with an empty stomach. On the way I talked to Caithleen, a nice Irish lady that was saying: “I climbed other mountains, but this one is torture.”
She was kind of right, but “pole-pole”, our efforts were rewarded: the volcano of Kibo showed up in all his glory. We made friends with a group of Irish people: Laura and her father of 63, her husband and a couple that was to get married on top. I love mountains, but I think a bride should wear a proper wedding dress. My opinion.
As we were getting closer to Lava Tower we heard some noise. Well, a group of 30 porters were dancing and singing: “Say ye ye; ye, ye, say ye ye ye ye; Kilimanjaro, Kilimanajro, pole-pole, pole-pole”. They were celebrating their meeting, the fact they were making money, the hapiness of being together, the life. We dropped of our backpacks and joined them.Even thought it was fantastic, later I paid for this with a terrible headache.
Finally we carried on with our walk, me and my headache. Dad and Elias kept telling me to drink more water, but I just couldn’t force myself into doing it. The water had a bad taste. I know one thing, next time in Africa, I will bring water from Romania. After two hours of climbing we made it to Barranco Camp, where the tents were already waiting for us. My headache had vanished so I ate a little bit, wrote into my diary and introduced myself in the sleepingbag. I was starting to drift away when dad called and asked me to get out. I did not like it, but it was worth it. Outside, on could see the volcano and the wall illuminated, all under a carpet of bright stars and a fantastic moon.
Fantastic, but I am getting cold and sleepy, so good night, tomorrow is a tough day.
Sixth day in Africa (Barranco Wall & Barafu Camp) October the 14th 2010
To my great surprise, I woke up headacheless. I was feeling so well, and the view was fantastic. The great wall of Barranco stood up in front of me and behind it, Kibo, enveloped in snow.
Soon we started climbing The Wall. Pretty tough, but I liked it. We met a group of 20 Americans that asked me where I was from and how old I was. At hearing my answer they burst out in applause. I thanked them and carried on walking, my cheek in fire.
After 1 hour climb we stopped for a break. We were now on top of the wall, where we could see people walking in rows like ants.
After a 10 minutes break, we began climbing downhill. Tens of porters were climbing without stopping at all, because they had to arrive in camp and prepare dinner, before the tourists arrived.
Far away, on could see Karanga Hut. We had to cross 2 more hills and valleys. It didn’t seem so far away, but when we arrived on top of the first hill, Karanga Hut seemed very far away. Weird, isn’t it?
We finally passed Karanga Valley where a little stream was flowing by and we began climbing the second hill.
It was 1 o’clock already so we stopped for lunch. Because it was cold outside, we decided to eat in the tent. After lunch, we set off again and met that Irish group that was gathering founds for the children’s hospital. They told us that one of their teammates was taken to the hospital this morning because he felt sick and his body temperature was low.
Time passed faster when I was chatting with someone, and the road seemed a lot easier, so I just kept on talking.
Finally, after three hours of climbing, we arrived to Barafu Camp. While we were having dinner, Elias proposed to set off for the peak tomorrow morning, instead of walking during the night, because it won’t be so cold, and we also could admire the view. So we decided to go for the peak in the morning. I hope the god of mountains will accept us, we tried hard not to get him mad.
Seventh day in Africa (Uhuru Peak) October the 15th 2010
I did it! We summited it! I managed, we managed to climb the highest peak of Africa! We set off at 6 a.m. We walked very slowly, “pole-pole” as they say, because of the altitude. The climb can be divided into two, the first ascent to the rim and then the traverse around the rim to Uhuru Peak. We saw the sun that was soaring above the white clouds and when the fog disappeared we could see Mawenzi, a very good looking mountain.
The road seemed to get longer and longer, and the peak seemed far away. We were walking slowly, breathing deep at every step, and frequently we saw people climbing downhill with big smiles on their faces. I knew they got to the top, so I congratulated them and hoped I will get there too. Dad told me not to think about how long the road is, just put a leg in front of the other and carry on. And that was what I did.
Here we are! We arrived at 5800 meters, at Stella Point, where from we could see the glacier and the crater. We met there Gabriel, a guy that lives in Chicago and summited already five summits from the Seven Summits Circuit. Wow!!! What surprised me was the fact that he asked one of the porters a cigarette and gave him twenty dollars. Lots of money for something that does you no good. Dad told him that for 20 bucks for a cigarette, he would have climbed downhill and bring back a full box. From Stella Point we climbed on for 30 minutes and arrived on the peak.
I am the highest girl on the African continent, above me, there are only clouds. And God that helped us get here. Me and baba muzungu (that means white father in Swahili language) made it to the top. I am so proud of us! We took lots of pictures with me holding the Romanian flag and the coat of arms of my city. The view can be incredible, with the lunar landscape of the crater itself to one side, the dramatic glaciers and far reaching views over the plains of Africa.
Elias, Mike, Goti, me and …dad also who was dancing and recording in the same time sang and danced the Kilimanjaro victory song. I asked dad to film me while I was thanking God and the people that sponsored me and I dedicated this success to my mom, my best friend and my grandparents. On the top we arrived at 1 o’clock which was very good because we had lots of time to climb downhill. An hour later, we bid goodbye to the highest peak of Africa and set off towards camp. A long, steep downhill climb was awaiting but we were so happy, that we didn’t even notice how fast we arrived to the camp. In 3 hours we arrived to the tent and I finally grabbed a bite. I was starving. We chatted for a while and then I went to bed, dog tired. I am so happy we made it to the top, and I am so proud of me and of dad, who, of course, always supported me.
Thanks to our crew, we couldn’t make it without you:
Elias Daniel Shila from Manila Miko Alif Godi James Bariki Santaeli Steven
Eight day in Africa octomber the 16th 2010
This is our last day on the mountain so I have to bid goodbye to Kilimanjaro and Uhuru Peak, the peak that I climbed only yesterday. The road downhill seemed so long. I am worn out and I used most of my energy for these climbing days… Now it’s time to go downhill and I have to appeal to my inside forces to get downhill. On our way back, we spotted monkeys, Black and White Colabas Monkeys. They were so small and beautiful that we could barely see them.
Six hours later we arrived to Mweka Gate where we met Lameck, the guy that had to drive us to Arusha. We had lunch and then I had a long phone talk with my mother. When I got back dad was engaged in a hard negotiating conversation with two africans over three objects of handicraft. In the evening, by 6 o’clock we got to our guide house. Big, large house, but hemmed in by huge walls, meant to keep the intruders away. For supper we had some spaghetti and fried bananas. These people act so friendly as if they have been knowing us for years. I would like to have them in Romania as guests and show them my beautiful country.
Ninth day in Africa (the massai village) october the 17th 2010
In the morning, after a generous breakfast, we went to the souvenirs shop, where I had another life experience. For an hour, I enjoyed watching my dad haggling with a big mama. You should have seen him. It was like he was born here.
But this was just the beginning, cause after that we had the Masai village. At our request, Elias took us to a remote village, situated at the foot of Mount Meru. It was extremely interesting. Everybody was watching us, the kids were staring at us and any time dad took his camera out they were fleeing. One of them lost his pants while trying to save his ass from being photographed.
We could not understand why they were doing this, till the moment we realized they were afraid not to have their soul stolen by our snapshots. We asked Elias to tell them that we will sent the pictures back and from that moment on everybody was more than wiling to appear in our pictures Next we entered one of the huts where we were shown the “first bedroom”, “second bedroom”, “living room” and the room for the cattle and the goats. Of course the parting walls were made out of some vines, so that inside was very smelly. I could not take more than 10 minutes. Then one of the women invited us to her hut and proudly showed us the way she had decorated it with mirror breakings and photos taken from newspapers.
After visiting the village we were invited to have lunch with them. They were having a communion day, so we were invited to the party. I entered the front yard hoping that nobody will notice us which worked quite all right till dad tipped his hat and said out loud “Jambo” (good day). I though I was about to faint.
Now 50 people were staring at us…. 50. We sat at the table and, under the stares of a mass of Tanzanians, we had our first traditional lunch: all kind of banana cooking. I think for most of them we were the first white people they have ever laid eyes on. There was also this little baby girl that was fascinated by us but did not dare to come closer. One step forward, one step backward. After 10 min, she finally made up her mind and came to us. When she touched dad’s palm she looked completely amazed. Third degree encounter.
Elias come to us and said that we had to finish them off or the hosts will feel insulted, so… “keep on eating”.
After lunch we said “Thank you!” and asked how much it is going to cost us. They said it was on them, so we left. Once out on the road I see dad all of a sudden walking back through the gate, and going directly to the head of the community he gives him 20$ saying: “For the church.” They were so touched by his gesture that effectively they queued in order to shake dad’s hand. I was proud of him.
Back in Arusha we bid good bye to our tanzanian friend that we were going to see for the last time and climbed upstairs to our room.
What a room. Two large beds, wrapped in white sheets, a bathroom with running hot water. Imagine this after 7 days of sleeping in a tent. After a fantastic bath we went downstairs to have lunch or supper in the restaurant. But there were 4 of them. Finally we made our minds up for the Mediterranean one. We also considered going for a dip, but after having a large pizza, we went to sleep. We were exausted.
Tenth day in Africa(bus and plane)
Morning being 5 o’clock am. At 5:30 we were supposed to be taken by an agency employee to the bus station, but now it was almost 5:45 and our bus was setting off at 6:00. We decided to take a cab. Once in the bus we settled down when all of a sudden our Tecla burst in crying asking for pardon and mercy. She had had a big problem with her car. We told her every thing was OK but she was so shaken that she could not stop crying.
We still have 8 hours to travel in front of us. Same landscape, same restaurant, same cook we left there 10 days ago, but stii interesting things to see.
We finally reached Dar es Salaam where Richard picked us up and led us to the airport. I can not believe I am going home. I see the clouds running above me while underneath the landscape changes continually. I see Africa vanishing away together with its wonderful legend and charm, I fly above the Indian Ocean and finally the most desired Romanian land.
We are home, we made it! We held up the flag of our town and country on top of Kilimanjaro, the highest peak of Africa, and also we came back in one piece and good health.
You can watch pictures from Tanzania by clicking on Picasa and video right here: