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My recipe for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

– Equal parts self-confidence, stupity, and faith

– 825 mg Diamox

– Several cups of hot sugar water

Mix all ingredients in large bucket, drink down quickly before it freezes, and save the bucket for the inevitable vomiting and/or diarrhea that will occur.

(Thanks to the above, I successfully reached Uhuru Peak at approx. 7:20 AM on July 29th. More details to follow…)


Warming up the legs in Machame Village

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Yesterday my friend Lisa and I went up to Machame Village and hiked around in the hills for about 5 hours. The day trip was arranged for me by KPAP, and when we got to the village we were met by Frederick, one of the porters on the Machame route up Kili. Our plan for the day was to hike from the village up to Machame Gate, back down to the village for lunch at Frederick’s house, and then hike around the village for a while before catching the dalla dalla (a minivan bus) back into Moshi. Most villagers here walk everywhere, and each village seems to have hundreds of kilometers of footpaths. On the way up to the gate we hiked through acres and acres of gardens growing beans, sweet potatoes, corn, cabbage, and who knows what else. Growing among the gardens were thousands of banana trees, coffee plants, and avacado trees. The hills around Kilimanjaro a full of little rivers and streams that run off the mountain, and the soil is very rich and dense. Things seem to grow like crazy here.

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Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Seems like I can’t sit still even if I try. I’ve got some down time in Moshi until my Kilimanjaro climb, and again before I leave on my overland trip to Capetown. Even though the beard is coming along nicely, it doesn’t require a lot of effort on my part, and I’ve done enough sightseeing tours for the time being. So I’ve decided to put my time to good use and volunteer with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. The main focus of the project is to improve the working conditions of the porters working on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro requires that you hire a licensed quide, and these guides hire porters to carry the equipment and gear needed on the trip. This also includes carrying the gear for the climbers as well. As a climber on Kili, all I will carry is a daypack with enough water, food, and clothing for that day’s hiking. The porters carry all the rest of my gear and clothing. They also carry the food, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bags, etc. A typical climb up Kili has 3 crew members for every one climber, and a climb up Kili now resembles a catered camping trip more that a week of backcountry mountaineering. But the climb is not an easy one, so I don’t really mind paying a crew to take the load off my back and contribute to the local economy at the same time.

Unfortunately, many of the porters working on Kili carry excessively heavy loads, get paid low wages, and don’t have the proper clothing and equipment. This is where the Porter’s Assistance Project comes in. They advocate on behalf of the porters to educate the public about proper wages and working conditions, they provide clothing and gear to porters working on the mountain, and in the low season they teach English and first-aid classes to the porters. They are a great organization, and a partner of the International Mountain Explorer’s Connection with branches in Africa, Nepal, and Peru.

My work with the Kilimanjaro Porter’s Assistance Project (KPAP) will involve helping them compile and analyze some survey data they have collected from both porters and climbers, and also helping with outreach by talking to other tourists and climbers and telling them about KPAP. Yesterday I got to go up to Marangu Gate with Zamoyoni, one of the staff members at KPAP. Marangu gate is the starting point for many of the climbs. I got to observe a couple of groups setting off on their trek, saw some porters in action, and also listened in while Zamo talked to many of the porters and distributed surveys to them. Since my knowledge of Swahili is limited to only about a half dozen words, I couldn’t understand anything that was being said, but it was a neat experience anyway.

Next week I’m going to do a day trip with one of the porters where we’ll do some light hiking around the base of Kili, and then join him in his village for lunch. It should be fun, and I’ll get to see some of what village life is like. The rest of my climbing group should all arrive next weekend, and we’ll set of on Monday the 24th for our clilmb. We’ll be on the mountain for 7 days, and if all goes well we’ll attempt the summit on the morning of the 29th.

In Africa!

Monday, July 10th, 2006

I’m in Africa! Getting here from Bangkok turned out to be quite an ordeal, but I finally arrived in Moshi, Tanzania on Saturday afternoon after two full days of travel. My adventure started in Bangkok when about 10 hours before my flight I got an email from Ethiopian Airlines saying that although I had a confirmed booking, they had had problems with their online booking system and couldn’t guarantee my fare and that my credit card had not been billed. So there I was, booked on a flight later that night, and I had no idea how much it was going to cost me. I was a little nervous, to say the least, but after looking up the fares online, I decided that the most they could charge me based on the current fares was another $50 or so. I decided to take my chances.

That night, I arrived at the airport at about 10:00 PM, four hours before my flight was to depart. I went to find the Ethiopian Airlines office, and surprisingly enough they were still open. They pulled up my booking and the fare was only $37 more than my original fare. I said that would be fine (not like I really had any other choice by that time) and they issued me a ticket. I thought all was good until it was time to pay for the ticket and they told me they couldn’t take a credit card and that I had to pay cash since they didn’t have a machine to run the card through. I asked them where I was supposed to get 25,000 Baht (~$650) at 10:00 at night, and they said there were banks up stairs in the terminal. So upstairs I went again, trying to find a bank that would give me that amount of cash off of my Visa card. I finally found one that would, but their limit was 15,000 Baht, so then I went looking for another bank to get the remaining money. Luckily, I was able to get another 10,000 from the ATM machine, so I went back downstairs with the cash, got my ticket and was on my way.

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What, No Fireworks?

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

For what has got to be the first time in my life, I went through the entire 4th of July holiday without seeing a single firework or hearing any firecrackers go off. No baseball either, or apple pie, and I certainly didn’t see any Chevys driving around. Little wonder though, as Thailand doesn’t have much reason to celbrate a purely American holiday. I have to admit, I feel a little homesick. I rather like stuffing myself on hot dogs and blowing up explosives. I did call up Jason, hoping to hear about some big blowout bar-be-que or at least that they were at the baseball game but apparently not much was happening at home either. Turns out they were watching soccer, with isn’t exactly America’s pastime, but at least they were bar-be-quing up a big hunk of meat. 🙂

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