Kilimanjaro just happened to be the place where, for the first time, I felt as if I was brought out of the bubble I was living in and realised just how different and large the world was.
Just before we delve deeper into this blog post, I must warn you that a majority of this post will be mainly a photo blog post just because… this trip was taken more than 12 years ago! We’re talking about a time when smartphones didn’t exist, and I was using my digital camera to take the pictures below, printed these photos from long time ago, and then I had to scan them to my computer one by one just for this post. That said, there are aspects of the trip, the emotions I carried with me, that linger within me that I will do my best to express them in this blog.
Mount Kilimanjaro is famous for being the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. You would think that such a description was the reason why it allured me to sign up to partake in this school trip, but rather, it was my own naiveness and my own bubble that I was living in that really made me participate.
You see, I had just switched schools and I guess was consuming too much information at once at the new location. When a trip to Kilimanjaro was announced, I imagined in my mind to be a Cross Country race instead in Hong Kong, which having been participating in Cross Country school teams, I was like, “Yeah, sure, I could do this.” They even mandated that there would be two extra-curricular sessions per week a month before setting off to raise our fitness levels.
It wasn’t until my parents had to make the payment (I think around USD 2,000?) and that I had to take injections for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B that I realised I was going to Africa. Yeah it was pretty late in the game. With that realisation, I started having to purchase hiking gear such as hiking sticks, hats, boots, coats, large backpacks etc. Everything you imagine you would need for a hike this extreme.
For most people, Kilimanjaro might seem daunting; if I had to do it today, it may be for me as well. That said, being a young boy with an active lifestyle with tons of exercises, I felt extremely fit, strong and healthy to conquer anything, and didn’t think much of Kilimanjaro at all.
I believe I went during October / November. For packing, you will need to pack enough to cover all types of weather (I experienced extreme heat, hail, snow, mist etc.) but light enough to be able to move around. For us back then, we fortunately had extremely experienced porters to help us move our backpack, although we ourselves carried a small backpack with the essentials like water, sun tan lotion, mosquito repellent etc.
When we arrived at Tanzania, I was surprised by how small the airport was. All the trips I’ve been to had a major international airport, but when we were at Tanzania, it was just one small dingy airport with one or two luggage carousels. And because we were the only group landing, our luggages were out within a couple of minutes, the fastest I had experienced getting my luggages during that time.
Afterwards, we would take a bus to our destination. It was really cool because I remembered seeing African women balancing large bags and potteries on TOP of their heads… without using their hands! In my mind, I was thinking, “How are they balancing these? Isn’t it heavy for their heads? Is it bad for their heads?”
During the nights, the sky exhibits beautiful, glimmering stars that are much more visible than any other parts of the world. For us, it took about 4 days to climb up, and two days to go back down. Each day, the walk was around 7 – 9 hours. The first two days was just continually trying to climb up. The third day was about acclimatization, where we trained ourselves to adjust to the high altitudes. And the fourth day was rising before sunset to catch the sunrise at the top of the mountain.
Stick to the end of this post as after conquering Kilimanjaro, we were treated with two days at a vastly open safari.
Like stated above, you are going to experience all four seasons in Kilimanjaro in four days – summer, spring, fall, then winter, and therefore you will see many types of animals, especially at the beginning
Hello back to you! By the way, some children will ask for donations and such. I’m going to let you use your discretion as to whether to donate or not, knowing people have different opinions on this issue.
This reminds me of Joshua Tree National Park
Not to sound mean or pompous or anything, but only a few of us continued to the rest of the journey to the top as some people were already feeling unwell. And on the way to the top, a few of those that dared go to the top did not make it to the top. What I’m trying to say is, only keep going if you feel you are OK, otherwise don’t force yourself. You’re at a top of the tallest mountain in Africa, so if you fall extremely ill, there are no established hospitals around you.
After I got to the top, I was extremely exhausted and sick. I immediately got a nasty fever, cold, felt weak, and was just in a terrible state. I brought everything I needed… except for medicine!! How silly of me. After I climbed down to the cabin, I stayed in bed and tried to rest it off. But because we were on a tight schedule, I wasn’t allowed to sleep much and had to endure a bloody terrible illness while going down.
Oh and about showering… by the time you reach almost to the top, you will be so exhausted and cold you won’t even feel like showering. It’s like hike, eat, sleep, hike, eat sleep. Plus you’re in cold weather so you won’t be sweating as much. I think I didn’t shower for 3 days while at the top, my record of not showering even to this day. You are just wayyyy too tired and sick to shower by then.
Ostriches! To see more ostriches and my first experience eating an ostrich, you can read my blog post Cape Town Gorgeous
So those are all the photos I will share for Kilimanjaro and the safari in Tanzania!
I’ve been on trips before prior to Kilimanjaro, most of them were with family, where we’ve been to Beijing, Seoul, Phuket, Bangkok etc. And these cities, while they had major international airports, they are completely different than the cities that they have evolved to today. For example, on our first trip to Seoul, we had to wake up at 5am each morning to eat… congee!!! Yes plain congee. Everywhere we went it looked extremely rural. Seoul was nowhere the thriving metropolitan it is today.
But it was Kilimanjaro which really pushed me into knowing what “travelling” is about. It doesn’t have to be a metropolitan city with the finest restaurants or with the most romantic landscapes. What a good travel destination has to be is that it has its own character, its own distinctions, that separates it from other places and makes it unique. And these travel places aren’t afraid to show their flaws, because this “rawness”, this imperfection, is what makes that travel destination such as fun place. Take for example Tanzania is really poor and it continues to be one of the poorest places I’ve traveled to even after catching the travel bug a couple years ago. Yet, it continues to be one of my fondest memories. On the other hand, a city like Singapore, despite it being a very liveable place with high quality in life and with great schools and great residential areas, is just a little too “perfect” for me. It’s so well planned that its emphasis on quality of life has overwhelmed its travel destination “feel” (oh but they have good street food regardless).
Love for any comments or questions below! I hope this is a good post on what Kilimanjaro looks like, what to expect, and how I felt during this trip. I’m sure there’s a lot of survival guides, tips and strategies crawling all over the web, but I hope my photos depict what an extraordinary adventure this place was and continues to be.