“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Elliot
Kilimanjaro is a place where ordinary people come to do something extraordinary, to leave their daily lives and challenge themselves to reach a place between heaven and earth – a magical place in the Africa of adventurers dreams. Kili is one great landmark of beauty and mystery in the heart of Africa, it looms above the clouds as the solitary giant known as the largest freestanding mountain on earth. It is a mountain of strange wonders, a place created in fire and crowned by ice, it is a source of ancient fascination, a snow-capped volcano at the equator.
Conquering Kilimanjaro’s summit is the most rewarding experience any traveller to Africa can accomplish. It’s vividly memorable and it reveals at its finest that in life, it really is about the journey.
In reality about 50,000 travellers attempt to climb Kilimanjaro annually and yet about half of them make it to the summit. With the help of trekking guides and especially porters who are used to carrying luggage and equipment to and from the mountain’s summit, your ability to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit is made a lot more possible. On most days, the porters take the lead in trekking and arrive ahead at your next camp site in order to prepare the camp for your stay and dining. It doesn’t take much to realise that it takes a village to conquer Kilimanjaro.
The guide is the expert, listening to him allows hikers to avoid getting sick, recovering well. He will point out what you will need to eat or avoid for your body to best adjust well at different altitudes. The guide watches carefully and points out nitty-gritties that will without a doubt enable hikers to reach the top of the mountain successfully, after all, most of the guides have each summited Kilimanjaro over a couple of hundred times and they understand what it takes. In instances of unexpected situations such as dehydration or altitude sickness, they know how to handle the different situations in the best way and help hikers recover for continuation on their hike.
Breathing differently is necessary when you are climbing at altitudes of 4,000 metres, you have to learn how to breathe differently, your guide will remind you on how to do it; it’s a deep breathing technique that you have to use every hour during the day. Using a pulse oximeter on your fingers at camp to measure your heart rate and the oxygen in your blood will allow you to see how this breathing method helps.
The glacier-capped summit becomes clearer as each day passes but so does the trek uphill become challenging; often avoiding rocks large and small, sometimes scrambling along rock walls. Keeping your eyes on the prize for a moment, in this case the summit seems like a far-flung destination but what’s most important is to keep your head down, take the next step and hike on.
Embrace the shower-free escape, yes trekking Kilimanjaro comes with its challenges and one of them is the very limited supply of water. So, come prepared for a week-long liberation from your everyday bathing and beauty essentials.
Together with your fellow hikers, you will have ample time to discuss over meals and share stories during the day without the distraction of cell service since there is none for the most part. You will be happy for the weeklong off switch from technology with time. Finding ways to keep your spirit high and your attention off the steep climb ahead will be needful along the hike uphill. Telling jokes and laughing at those that come from your fellow hikers will keep you going forward with ease.
“Pole pole” literally going slow is the mantra to go by for climbing Kilimanjaro and acclimatizing in between. Climbing too fast will more than likely not get you to the summit since your breathing will be uncontrolled, and you might panic and before long you are exhausted by all means. This phrase is especially useful on summit night when you have to get up at 10 p.m. to get your gear ready to hike. You begin the trek to the peak at around 11:30 p.m. and as the air grows increasingly thin and the temperature plummets during the steep climb, you will keep hearing the whispers from your guide and porters, “pole pole.”
Finally, you get to the summit and you are finally reminded of why you had come all this way. For some, it’s about Africa and attempting an out of your comfort zone challenge. For others, conquering Kilimanjaro is about bragging rights. You hike hours every day but the goal of reaching the summit drives hikers. Seeing the famed wooden peak sign and getting a photo or snapping a selfie and soaking it all in allows you to realize that you’ve summited the mighty Kilimanjaro!