The Final Few Days in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is officially my favourite place in the whole world!

We spent the first few days in the north of the island lounging around by the sea, paddle boarding, walking and reading. We were fortunate enough to meet a fantastic South African couple who took us on an amazing sunset snorkelling trip. We visited the turtle rescue sanctuaries and ate and drank a lot. We stayed in Langi Langi Beach which was a lovely hotel and the owner was so friendly and helpful!

Then we headed down to Stone Town and decided on our first day there that Stone Town is where we want to live. We spent our days wandering through the streets and exploring as much as we could. When we thought we had seen everything, we hired a guide to show us the rest!

I think the magic of Zanzibar is best shown through pictures so rather than bore you with a minute by minute account of what we did, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos from the trip.

Kilimanjaro Day Six – Uhuru Peak and a Whole Load of Drama

Sunrise at Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

The last 24 hours have been filled with all kinds of emotions and lots of drama. Of course, the drama was all caused by Sean but I’ll work through the day’s events in order.

Neither of us got more than an hour or so’s sleep. There was a mixture of excitement and nerves (I’ll be honest, it was mainly nerves) which made me restless. The wind howled through the campsite all night making the climb ahead of us seem more ominous.

Sofi brought us tea and biscuits at around 11.30 p.m. (this was technically last night if that makes sense) and we layered up. I had two long sleeved base layer tops, one mid-layer, two fleeces, a waterproof coat and a parka jacket on. I also had two pairs of base layer leggings, one pair of walking trousers and my waterproof trousers on top, two pairs of gloves, three pairs of socks, a buff, ear-warmers and a hat. I could barely move but at least I wasn’t cold.

With our head torches on we set off into the darkness filled with anticipation of what the next few hours held for us. Would we make it to the top? There’s not much I can write about the five hours that passed between camp and Stella Point but it was dark, cold and very windy. Our pace was slow and, at points, quite painful but we weren’t expecting this to be easy! Like the previous day, the wind meant that I couldn’t breathe without turning my back to the wind but I soon got into a rhythm and it didn’t slow us down (saying that, I think if we’d slowed down any more, we wouldn’t have actually been moving)

Glacier at Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

We plodded on at our own pace for hours and hours and hours and hours. We passed some people who were walking slower than us and we passed those who had raced past us a few minutes before and had now had to stop and rest.

It was hard work. So much harder than I had ever imagined it would be. I felt like I was going to throw up for what felt like hours (looking back, it can’t have been more than 30 minutes). Stella Point never seemed to get any closer, there were always head torches miles ahead of us, the mountainside was never ending. I stopped and cried at one point, feeling completely hopeless. Matthew gave me a hug, said that he had to get me to the top and pushed me on my way again.

Finally, we reached Stella Point just as a thin line of light was appearing over the horizon. We saw the Canadian guys there too but they were just on their way back down again. Matthew let us rest for a few minutes but not too long as it was so cold. We both had quite bad headaches at this point and Matthew said it was ok to take paracetamol so we did. Looking back now, I’m so proud that we managed to get all the way to the top with just two paracetamol tablets each.

Nearing Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

Sunrise, Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

We set off on our way again and we were slightly deterred by the fact that Uhuru Peak was still 45 minutes away – we were completely exhausted and just walking in a straight line was a huge challenge. Matthew took the camera from my backpack and started taking pictures of the sunrise, of us and the mountain – without him, we would have no photos to show that we ever made it to the top! There was no chance of me taking photos.

Getting close to Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

Walking alongside the Glacier, Kilimanjaro

We finally reached Uhuru Peak just as the sun fully came up, giving everything a lovely warm, orange glow.

We made it, Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro
We made it, Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro

We had made it.

We spent a few minutes at Uhuru Peak, took some photos and started to head back down. I was feeling a little queasy again so Elia and I walked ahead of Sean and Matthew who came down a little slower, taking photos along the way. As we started our descent from Stella Point I heard a girl scream and turned to Sean tumbling – literally head over heels – down the mountain. The girl who had seen him fall was screaming as Matthew, Elia and two other guides rushed over to him. He must have fallen about 20ft and had only been stopped by hitting a rock. He sat up before I even had the chance to register what had just happened or time to panic about how badly hurt he might be. The guides were fussing around his leg and trying to strap it up and, at first, I thought he might have broken it. It was difficult because I’d been told to stay on the path as they didn’t want me to fall too but this meant that I couldn’t hear what was going on.

Sunrise, Stella Point, Kilimanjaro

Eventually Sean stood up but fell down again almost immediately. He had hit his head on the rock and knocked himself out so he was quite unsteady on his feet. With a little help from Matthew and Elia, we started to make our way back down again but Sean remained unsteady. The descent route seemed much steeper than the ascent route and it was entirely scree covered. Even with walking poles, it was a challenge to stay on your feet. Along the way Matthew spoke to other guides about Sean’s fall and radio calls were made to camp. Before long we had our whole team of porters on the mountainside with us helping and encouraging us back down to camp. I cannot explain in words how caring and helpful they were. They made the return to camp so much more bearable. I know they see people do this climb all the time but they seemed genuinely happy that we had made it to the top.

When we reached camp we were supposed to rest for an hour or so and then head back to the next camp, but the decision was made that Sean needed to get to hospital and, as such, we had to make the two day descent in the next few hours before it went dark.

Like the ascent, there’s not much to write about the descent back down to the gate. We had to walk very quickly and it was extremely painful on my knees. We both slipped and tripped quite a lot due to being so tired. We bumped into the Canadian guys again who, through “Chinese Whispers” had heard about Sean’s fall and been told that he’d been airlifted to hospital!

We continued down until we reached the gate where our Land Rover waited for us and we were presented with our certificates. Even though we were both in pain, we were so proud and relieved to have made it up and back down! It was the best feeling in the world.

We took Sean to a hospital in Moshi where he had a check up and, luckily, was told that everything seemed fine. We were then taken back to L’Oasis where we are both spread out on a sofa in the dining room/lounge area waiting for our dinner.

It’s been one hell of a day but it’s been the day that we made it to the top of Africa’s highest peak!

Kilimanjaro Day Five – This is it!

Final camp before the summit attempt, Kilimanjaro

There’s a pattern forming in my diary – I like to start by complaining how bad my sleep was and then finish with saying how completely amazing my day was so I’m going to stick with this:

I’ll start with last night’s sleep – it was shit. Firstly, it was very, very windy which meant that it was really noisy inside the tent. Secondly, our tent, along with everyone else on the campsite, was on a slope which meant that I was constantly sliding down to the bottom of our tent and waking up pressed up against the tent door. Thirdly, it was freezing and, because it was freezing I didn’t want to get up to pee and, because I didn’t want to get up to pee I didn’t drink much and, because I didn’t drink much I woke up with a headache (and desperate for a pee regardless).

I realise that this sounds quite whiney, but it’s not. I don’t feel annoyed or frustrated by the situation. A little tired, yes, but no negative feelings about it. The reason I’ve written about it is so that anyone who might read this, who is considering climbing Kilimanjaro has a genuine, honest description of what it was like “warts and all”.

The walking today was quite easy compared to the previous days. We were one of the first groups to leave camp this morning and we walked with Elia for most of the way. The climb out of camp was steep and slow but the path flattened out to some extent. It was extremely windy on the flatter areas which weren’t at all sheltered. It was a real struggle to walk into the wind and the only way I could breathe was to turn my back to the wind and take a deep breath. Before long, we dropped down slightly and it was much less windy. It was at this point that Elia pointed out tonight’s camp to us but, like yesterday, he explained that it wasn’t as close as it looked and that we would have to climb down and back up again to reach it.

View from base camp, Kilimanjaro

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Elia made us rest for about 15-20 minutes whilst our porters caught up with us and pushed on ahead. Matthew joined us at this point and the four of us carried on towards the camp. The final climb up to camp was steep however, it wasn’t too far. As ever, I was in awe of the porters who were practically running up, carrying bags and tents etc. on their backs and heads.

We signed in and bumped into the Canadian guys again. We had a quick chat about the walk behind us and the summit ahead of us as it sank in that, in a matter of hours, we would be setting out on our summit attempt. We headed off to our tent where our porters were working hard to secure everything to the ground. It was very, very windy at this camp and, despite the sun, actually quite chilly (it’s no wonder really considering how high up we are). From where our tent is positioned we can see people doing “practice runs” up the start of the summit path but Matthew said he was happy with our progress and he would rather that we rested.

View from base camp, Kilimanjaro

It was so windy that we ate our lunch in our tent (I think there was a real risk that the mess tent was about to blow away at that point). We had a delicious potato and veg stew type of dish which really warmed me up. We spent the afternoon sorting through what we needed to wear for the summit attempt (I decided on pretty much every single item of clothing I had brought with me) and we packed what we would need into our daypacks whilst it was still light.

We had dinner very early and Matthew talked us through the plans for tonight – we are to go to bed now (it’s about 6 p.m.), we will have a wake-up call at 11 p.m, tea and biscuits at 11.30 and start walking at midnight. Matthew explained that he and Elia won’t be taking bags with them (so far they’ve carried all of their stuff for the seven days themselves) so that they will be free to help us. Juma changed the tube on my Camelbak so that I now have a thermal one on which hopefully won’t freeze.

Toilets perched on the edge of a cliff

We’ve returned to our tent and put most of our clothes on to sleep in as it’s already very cold and there’s no way I can face getting dressed at midnight when it will be even colder – this way, I’ll just need to add more layers.

We really need to try and get some rest now but I’m so excited I’m not sure I’ll be able to.

Kilimanjaro Day Four – How to Embarrass Yourself in Front of 20 Porters and Make Your Whole Team Laugh

Baranco Wall, Kilimanjaro

Today was pretty rough for me. I woke up with really bad nausea so spent about half an hour sat on a rock outside of our tent heaving. Sofi, one of our porters brought me a bowl of lemon slices and told me to eat them. Rather surprisingly, they made me feel loads better (I’ll say it again, your guide and porters know what they are doing, listen to them!) We ate breakfast outside, looking up at the wall which filled me with dread. We were running behind our planned schedule thanks to me feeling ill earlier in the morning so we were one of the last groups to leave. By the time we were ready to leave camp, the toilets which had been pristine last night were no more which resulted in more heaving from me but for a different reason to earlier! I have two questions about the toilet situation (1) How do people miss the hole? and, (2) If people do miss the hole, why do they not clean up after themselves?

Anyway, ponderous toilet questions were soon pushed to one side as we put on our backpacks and headed for the 200m wall ahead of us. We bumped into the Canadian guys again and insisted that they went on ahead of us (thank god we made that decision). The wall was really steep, with a huge drop into the valley on our right hand side. I hated every minute of it but about one-third of the way up I just completely freaked out. Matthew was asking me to climb up a huge step and then to jump from there to another rock which, in my mind, was about 50 metres away (in reality, it was probably 50cm, if that). I couldn’t do it, so thought that the logical thing to do was freeze. And when I say freeze, I mean I would not move. I wouldn’t go up, or down, or step aside to let people past which resulted in about twenty porters forming a queue behind us. To cut a long, long story about me standing in the middle of the path crying and refusing to move short, the situation was resolved by Matthew dragging me by my arms and Sean and Elia pushing me from underneath upwards, ending with me laying on the rock on my back crying and still refusing to move. I’ll say it now, this wasn’t one of the finer moments in my life so far.

Matthew then refused to let us carry on until I’d stopped shaking and my pulse had slowed down. We then moved on to the next challenge of the day, the “kissing rock”. Elia had made the executive decision that I wasn’t going to carry my own bag at this point so that made things a little easier. The “kissing rock” involves shimmying around a huge rock on a tiny ledge with your face and body pressed up against it so you don’t fall to your death! (Ok, ok, I’m being dramatic here but it’s a self preservation thing really). I have no idea why Matthew had waited for my pulse to slow down before we tackled this, surely it would have been easier to get all of the death-defying obstacles done in one hit! Anyway, we made it and I’m still alive. The rest of the wall was steep but the path worked its way back a little so you were no longer right on the edge. There were lots of false summits where we thought we were at the top but when we got there, more wall stretched out above us. This was the toughest part of climbing Kilimanjaro so far.

It took us a little over an hour to get to the top of the wall and I felt so proud of myself (tantrum aside) for overcoming my fears and conquering the wall with a little help from the main men in my life: Sean, Matthew and Elia.

We made it to the top of the wall!

The walk from the top of the wall to Karanga Camp was fairly easy and, before long, we could see the camp. That was a false hope – although the camp didn’t look too far ahead of us there was a huge valley between us and the camp that we had to walk down and climb back out of again to reach the camp. The river in the base of the valley will be our only source of water from this point on and, as we were making our way up the incredibly steep side towards camp, we saw lots of porters carrying huge canisters of water. I have no idea how they were doing that as the climb was challenging enough with just our backpacks.

Camp itself is sparse – it’s on a slope and very rocky but the views are amazing. The toilets have no doors which means that me and Sean are going in pairs so one can act as a door for the other! I realise that this is probably the least of the potential problems up here but I’m not ready to do a “Jerry” just yet. The toilet closest to our tent has the smallest hole in the ground which, judging by the amount of pee on the floor, people are finding it very difficult to aim into.

The view from Karanga camp, Kilimanjaro

The view from out tent, Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

Although we arrived at camp in glorious warm sunshine, it was very, very windy. We ate lunch in the mess tent and, as we were eating, the porters were frantically running around outside to secure the tent to the ground. We had a nap in the afternoon sunshine and woke up to a spectacular sunset over the camp. Whilst we were settling down for our nap, I could hear Matthew and Elia talking to the other porters. Although I could’t understand what they were saying, the change in tone in his voice (I would guess was Matthew imitating me), followed by hysterical laughing, made it clear he was telling the porters about my freak out on the wall – I’m just glad I’ve provided them with some entertainment. We had dinner in the mess tent with Matthew who briefed us on tomorrow’s walk which is only going to be short as the summit attempt is tomorrow night.

Sunset from Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

After dinner, we wandered around the camp and, just before we went to bed, the clouds cleared and there were stunning views of the lights of Moshi far, far below us. It was beautiful but far too cold to be stood outside for long. Tonight I’ve put even more layers on but they seem to be doing the trick and I have plenty more in my bag to add if it keeps getting colder.

I can’t believe that the summit attempt is tomorrow night! It’s gone unbelievably quickly so far but we are so close to the peak of Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro Day Three – Jerry has a Poo!

Sean and myself enjoy our morning cuppa

Today was a long day but it was the best day so far. We were woken up by Sofi, one of our porters, bringing tea and coffee to our tent. The cloud had lifted and there were clear blue skies outside. The views of Mount Meru were amazing. After breakfast, we made the most of the beautiful weather and stunning backdrop to get some photos of our fantastic team all together and then set off on our longest trek yet.

Our amazing team

Me with Mount Meru behind me, Kilimanjaro

The walk up to Lava Tower was slow but the weather was good which brought us a new wave of energy and excitement. The landscape got more and more barren as we got higher until there was hardly any plant life at all. We stopped off for a rest/pee break where the path split – on one side was the path up to Lava Tower, on the other was the path that the porters took directly to camp.

Beautiful weather on day three

Sean, Matthew and me

As we set off again, heading towards Lava Tower, we passed a large group of people resting. Just above them in the rocks was a man having a poo! He was just squatting there, making no attempt at all to hide himself despite being right next to a huge rock and there being an actual, purpose built, toilet no more than 200m away from him! It was very strange and the worst part was that “Jerry” (that seemed to be what the rest of his group were calling him) was squatting facing the path so, as you walked past, there was no part of Jerry that couldn’t be seen! Anyway, Jerry didn’t seem to care and I think the other members of his group were more embarrassed than he was.

The final climb up to Lava Tower was very slow and fairly tough. I started to feel a little nauseous again but nothing too bad (it might be worth mentioning at this point that we didn’t use any medication throughout our whole trip so please don’t feel like you have to take altitude sickness medication because you don’t – just do what is right for you and be led by your body and your guide).

Matthew took some photos of us at Lava Tower and we stopped for lunch. Our lunch time loo break was “interesting” and I actually opted for a more “al fresco” pee after seeing the state of the toilets.

Sean and me, Lava Tower, Kilimanjaro

We then started our descent towards camp. We used our walking poles for the first time at this point and they helped hugely (we also hired these) as they took a lot of pressure off our knees when walking downhill. The path sloped up again before the final drop down into Baranco Camp. The last part of the descent was steep and rocky and quite tough but the nice weather and stunning scenery made it all worthwhile. Baranco Camp is much bigger than the first two as it’s where three of the other routes up Kilimanjaro join together.

Stretching out after a long trekk

Since being at camp, Sean has developed a headache but he still says it’s not bad enough to even take paracetamol. At the moment I feel fine so I think we’re doing ok. The camp itself is stunning with views down to the towns miles below us on one side and breathtaking views of the Western Breach and Arrow Glacier on the other. The Baranco Wall is right in front of our tent. I’m not going to lie, since the day we booked this trip I’ve been dreading the wall and I’m genuinely scarred about tomorrow. Every time I step out of the tent it’s there, staring me in the face.

Stunning views from Baranco Camp, Kilimanjaro

We reached camp fairly early so finally had chance to dry out our things from days one and two of the climb. We bumped into the Canadian guys too which was nice. They opted for a slightly longer trek than us but from this point on, we’ll be at the same camps each night. We had a chat with them and talked about our highlights so far which was really good for morale (it’s always good to focus on the good things but that’s easier said than done sometimes).

After dinner, we came back to the tent. It’s really quite cold tonight so I’ve had to put extra layers on. I’ve tried to read for a bit but my nerves about the climb tomorrow are making it difficult to focus. That said, I’m very tired from today’s walk so I don’t think sleeping will be a problem.