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She's 50 -- She Climbed Kilimanjaro


Planning your trip...

Sources of information
The internet is full of great resources. Searching for information on Africa there were countless websites that showed me images of what lay ahead, sketched out possible itineraries and gave me tips about what to bring. I began my planning almost a year before my 50th birthday, which gave me time to organize the travel, get all of the inoculations that I needed, and start working out so that I might indeed make it to the summit of Kili. One of the best resources is the website. Through their free mentoring service I met women in Cairo and Nairobi that helped ease my way into Tanzania.

Picking a Tour Company
The first thing I learned in planning this trip was not to rely on travel agents when it comes to East Africa. They seemed to know a lot about the "princess cruise" variation on travel, but little about the kind of journey that I wanted to have. Neither safari nor climbing Kili is something you can really do on your own, so you have to pick a tour company that will put you into the company of people you want to spend time with. It's a pretty sure thing that no matter what company you choose you'll find kindred spirits.

Kinds of Safaris
There are different levels of safari to consider. I chose full participation camping, which meant that every day I was helping to unload the truck, pitching my own tent, sitting on backless stools and using whatever facilities were available. It also meant that some nights I lay very quietly in my tent listening to the sounds of wild animals. If you like hard work, the sound of lions circling your campsite and hyenas pacing between your tent and the next one looking for food, this is just right for you. One step up is added-comfort camping; they pitch your tent and you eat at tables but you're still right out there in the wild. You can also opt for a lodge-based trip; good-bye major discomfort but also goodbye to that feeling of being right in the midst of things.

Climbing speed
For climbing Kili there are two serious considerations in choosing your company. Pick the route that matches your climbing abilities; some involve serious technical climbing while others - - I went up the Marangu route -- are described as hard walking rather than climbing. The second thing to consider is how many days you want to take for the climb. Some companies do the full trip, up and down, in five days. Others add an additional acclimatization day at about 13,000 feet that allows your body some time to adjust to the altitude and might increase your chances of reaching the top. Knowing that I needed to take advantage of anything that might improve my climb, I opted for the six-day trip.

What to Take...

Take nothing that needs to be clean! For the safari you won't need much, but it should all be beige because that's the colour it will end up anyhow. Pants that zip into shorts are terrific. Anything that dries quickly is what you want; you'll wash by hand and hang things on clotheslines between tents (Be sure to take them down before dark or the next morning you'll see your lovely t-shirt on ababoon). Be comfortable; the days are long and the road is rough. A water purifier is a real boon; everyone on my safari took advantage of mine.

For climbing Kili you need the right clothing or you won't make it to the top. Sturdy hiking boots of course. Layers of warm clothing; the temperatures will shift from really hot to unbelievably cold. As batteries burn out quickly in the cold at high altitudes, take lots. Some way to listen to music as you walk for hours and hours will help reduce the boredom; although the views are spectacular you spend most of the time simply watching your feet move. Your sleeping bag should be good to 25 below zero. You can rent things at the base of Kili; the Lekki sticks are good, everything else has been left by retreating armies after one of the World Wars but I'm not sure which one.

Another Journeywoman article about Mountain Climbing: The Air Up There - -Altitude Sickness





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