Ready, Set, Worry

We have all the gear, we are sorted and packed.  Our documents are in order.  Our travel arrangements all confirmed.  Now, all that is left to do is WORRY!  Will the flights be on time, will we miss a connection, will the weather cooperate, will the bags make it there with us?

The flight to Tanzania is a 3 legged 24 hour trip.  From San Antonio we connect in Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then onto Kilimanjaro Airport.  24 hours + in an airport or on an airplane.  We depart on Friday afternoon and arrive on Saturday night.  On arrival, we stand in line for a Visa and then go thru customs, hopefully to meet our contact on the other side of the airport gate and be taken to a hotel in the town of Moshi.  Will they be there?  What if the flight is late and the Visa Office closes?  What if they won’t accept our money?

We have a full day of rest in Moshi on Sunday to recover from the flight.  We then re-pack all our gear for the climb, (they go through our stuff to determine what is fluff.  If we decide to take too much stuff we will need to hire another porter).  We also have an opportunity to shop, and experience a little local culture.  So what type of money do we use? The advice is that it best to just have US dollars, and to make sure the big bills (100s and 50s) have an issue date of 2003 or later.  Nevermind with the Tanzanian Shilling.  Plus we have learned that we need a variety of other small denominations, a few $5’s/$10’s/$20’s for easy shopping around town.  $1’s for additional tips.  They do not recommend ATM cards or Traveler checks, as they can be difficult to exchange in Moshi, and sometimes incur an extra fee. And they advised that credit cards are generally not accepted in Tanzania, except at some hotels and restaurants. If they are accepted, there’s usually steep fees added.

But, what we are most worried about is the airlines losing our bags through 3 connections and through 2 foreign airports.  The agency has advised us that our bags will be brought up to us on the mountain if they’re delayed. We were told to wear our boots and pack the essentials in a carry on bag (enough to get us by for a couple days, just in case).  If the bags don’t make it, you have the essentials and the Agency can set us up with temporary rental gear if needed.  One of our recent acquaintances who climbed in 2008 said she flew through Nairobi, but her luggage didn’t make it.  While she was able to rent gear, thankfully, her luggage was delivered to her on the road as they were in the truck heading into the park to get signed in.

A couple of other tidbits from a previous climber:

Tusker feeds you very well.  I packed 3 trail bars for each day ended up giving most of my Cliff bars to the porters as they passed us by with our stuff on their heads.  God bless them.  I also purposely left my headlamp, hiking pants and some socks for the porters to use.  Our equipment/clothing seemed to be much nicer than theirs, so a lot of people leave stuff for them. 
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  You get tired of hearing your guides tell you that throughout the day, but it really does help alleviate altitude sickness.  It’s a huge pain since you have to go to the bathroom so often.  It’s really a huge pain in the middle of the night when you have to go.  You have to unzip your sleeping bag, put on your boots/gators, unzip the tent, zip it back up, walk a few feet to the potty tent (other tour groups don’t have this – it’s basically a tiny ‘dressing room’ sized tent and you sit on a bucket with a toilet seat on top.  Try to be the first one to use it each morning or it gets pretty nasty.) Then, walk back to the tent and unzip, etc.  You’ll get used to it, but just be warned it takes a lot of energy way up there and takes a bit of time. 
I kept a journal to record my thoughts.  I’m so glad I did.  Each night after dinner I’d sit in my tent with my headlamp and write for a bit.  I don’t remember the trek being difficult, since you basically ‘walk’ not ‘climb’, but my journal did say it was one of the toughest things I’ve done.  **(We promise we will do this also)

I felt very safe with Tusker, as they checked us medically every morning and every evening in the breakfast/dinner tent.  The first night they ask you – in front of everyone else – when is the last time you peed, when was the last time you pooped, what color was it, etc.  So embarrassing the first few times, but then you just blurt out the answers since you know they are trying to take good care of you. 
The only time I felt a big light headed was the day we got up to 15,000 feet.  I had a slight headache at lunch.  When we got to camp later that afternoon, it was at a lower altitude and I was fine.  Expect to feel light headed and a bit dizzy when you summit.  As you know, you can only stay up there for a few minutes, so have your cameras and smiles ready.
 Well, it has been nice to chat with someone who has made a very similar trek.  She did advise that she was cold, but never at night when she was sleeping in her comfy bag and tent.  
I did finally find a little bit of stats on the climb:

Most of the days are from 5-8 hours of hiking.  except for summit day which is long and strenuous.  We hike a total of 32.2 miles up and 17.2 miles down (yes, we take a different route down)  We average about 5 miles/day on the way up and 8 miles a day on the way down.  

Day 1 is a drive out to the gates of the park, signing in, and then a 2.5 mile trek to the first camp.
Day 2 is 5.2 miles, and 2,000 ft elevation gain
Day 3 and 4 are about 6.2 miles and 2,000 elevation gain, but we trek high and then camp at a lower elevation
Day 5 is 4.1 miles, and back up that 2,000 ft we were at yesterday
Day 6 is 3.4 miles and all up hill 2,000 ft to the rocky craggy slopes.  We are now at 14,950
Day 8 is 4.5 miles up 4,000 ft to the summit.  Then its back down a half mile to camp
Day 9 is 10.5 miles downhill – about 8,000 ft downhill
Day 10 is 6.2 miles and 5,000 ft down to the park gates.
Total is just under 50 miles

 OK – Enough for this post.  I added a picture of Kerry’s babies who were often our hiking partners.  That is Shamus, Tucker, and Helen standing in front of Kerry.  My little Bailey had a play date and couldn’t make it this morning.Image

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