Kilimanjaro Day 9/10 – Horombo camp to Marangu gate

Sunburn on my lower lip!

I could not sleep. I had this weird tingling feeling on my lower lip. I kept on putting lip balm on it, but it just did not go away. I finally fell asleep though only to wake up later with my lower lip completely swollen. It felt like an allergic reaction, but I could not figure out what had caused. Managed to sleep until the morning somehow and remembered that Christine, on of our guides from Maximum Adventures, had some antihistamin still left so asked if she has one hoping it would help.

During breakfast I found a soul mate James who had similar issue. We came to the conclusion it was not an allergic reaction (or it kind of was…) but we had sunburn on our lip! The one day I did not have my sunhat on as it was too cold when we left and naturally that was the cause. I had sunscreen on my face but not on my lips. I kept on putting lip balm on and it helped a little during the day, but I did not look pretty as you can see! Not to mention it was rather painful.

Anyway after the nights absolutely gorgeous ”view from space” it was a bit cloudy and all we could see were the clouds beneath us although we were sort on on a cliff with perfect view down. Packed everything for the final time and had breakfast. Then one more dance and sharing of the tips. It was a special moment and we all felt a bit sad that it was coming to an end.

Downhill… a long way!

Our guide told us it’s 18 kilometers to Marangu gate so I packed enough snacks and water to last me that distance. As we were descending now I was sure our pace would be much quicker and was looking forward to going downhill finally. I have always been really fast at going downhill and even beat my husband in that although he keeps on beating me going up so I suppose we got a good combination there and room for improvement for both. So I felt good despite the sun burned lip because I thought that I can finally get some proper exercise and sweat a bit maybe. I missed exercising although it sounds funny having just climbed to the 4700+ meters, but you know what I mean. Proper sweating and getting exhausted with heart rate up, that’s what I missed.

The path was really good, wide and very busy. People were going up and coming down constantly. It was hot, sunny and our pace was a bit too slow to my liking. There was not much vegetation yet but some nice looking plants. Since the pace was a bit slow tried to entertain myself with taking photos of the plants. I have a whole album of just photos of plants and will create a gallery of them at some point. We also saw some giraffes, or that’s what we were told they were. Can you spot the yellow dots? I helped you out a bit 😉 Without anyone telling I would not had any idea what to look for they were that far. Apparently usually they don’t wander this high they said.


Through the rain forest in rain naturally

Looking at my sports watch I could already predict that no way would we be at the gate around the time they had calculated as we were not even halfway (9k’s) by the time we got to Mandara hut.

We had our second snack break there and I had already run out of my water and food by that time. I did not really want to stop but wanted to keep going so we can get ”on the ground” again. For some reason the journey seemed to last forever. It’s probably all the waiting and excitement of getting back to hotel and then home that caused it. Maybe the exhaustion of the whole climb and your body accommodating to it. There was also constant worry what we would face on the ground with covid-19 situation and what other news there is. What has happened in the world in past few days?

It started raining just before we left Mandara hut, but I didn’t bother putting full gear on yet. Then after a few kilometers it was clear it’s not going to stop so we stopped to put on full waterproof gear. I am so happy I had those all the way up zip pants as it was pouring on and off until we got to the gate and it’s so much easier to open the zippers than to take off and put on the pants all the time. Saves so much time and hassle so highly recommend getting that kind of pants for any long hikes!

Suddenly I noticed being all alone with the guide at the front and the rest of the team was nowhere in sight and could not hear them anymore either. The guide at the front kept going and going and even me being quick at descent felt like he was going a bit too fast. Then again I had no choice but to keep up with him as I had no idea how far the others were and did not fancy standing in the rain in rain forest all by myself. Since it was raining there is no photos of that part of the trail either. My camera and mobile phone would have been soaking wet if I had tried.

Everlasting trail

They say that you need to also go down moderate pace not too fast due to the altitude because you can get symptoms also coming down. I had ran out of water a long time ago already and was really thirsty. It was hot and humid and I was tired. It felt like the trail never ends. There was nowhere else to go but straight ahead because the forest was so thick grown. The only option was the trail forward and it seemed to last forever.

Taking one step at a time and getting into the routine and flow of steps and I felt like I was in another world. I just kept going and going without thinking about anything except where I will land my next step as there was quite a few roots you could trip on. At some point I felt VERY disoriented and out of place. My mind started to wander to my youth and I just kept going and going with my legs moving in the exact same pace over and over again. It was a very strange feeling!

By the time my sports watch showed 18 kilometers and the sign at a crossroad said something like 3,4 kilometers I knew that we had been told a ”white lie” so we would not feel so stressed about the distance. I suppose anything over 20k’s they thought might be too much so they said it would be a bit less. I have learned this tactic already earlier and was suspecting it already around 15 kilometers.

Anyway like said I had no choice but to keep up with this guy and hope that one day it will end and we will get to the gate eventually. By the time we reached Marangu gate I had walked 22,63 kilometers in 6 hours and 8 minutes with approximately 1840 meters descent. My sports watch went on power save mode so did not catch all the data like exact descent. So our 18 kilometers ended up being 4,6 kilometers longer than we were told. I was starving, thirsty and so happy to see the people greeting us and yes… to get some FOOD!

I felt so accomplished having been able to keep up with the pace of this young guide so yes I did get my ”exercise” and feeling of exhaustion!

Finally at Marangu gate!!

Everyone arrived on their own time a bit after us. Our cook had prepared lunch last time to us and we all had well deserved drinks with it. For some reason nobody wanted to touch the Snickers bars. No wonder, I had had enough of Snickers bars for years to come!

Back at the hotel

At the hotel we turned on our mobiles started getting all these messages from outer world. Naturally the connection at the hotel was not able to handle all the data coming in and out as it was not too good to start with, but managed to call my husband and kids a video call quickly. After that we all head out to our rooms, had a long waited shower and yes a nap in a comfy bed!

In the evening we had a dinner and got our certificates of participating the climb with a surprise proposal by our UK guide Michael to Christine. I don’t remember being that tired many times in and did not feel too good, mostly because I ate too much probably, so head to bed before midnight. Besides the idea of your own comfy bed was very tempting after the mattress in the tent that kept sliding downhill all the time…

I was so looking forward to going home. I had enjoyed every minute of the climb but now I could hardly wait to get home. I had no idea what kind of weather it would be, maybe finally snow? Maybe not… It was hard to think of Finnish weather after Africa they are so different. We had one more day left before going home…

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Kilimanjaro – Day 8/10 – From Kibo to Horombo camp

Leaving Kibo camp heading towards Mawenzi peak

Finally down hill, yay! I was so happy to go to bed knowing I would be ”getting out of here”. I was already feeling better, but still not good. Anything you did was an effort. Getting up and going to the toilet even! I had hard time falling asleep the night before because I had slept during the day while waiting for the others to return, but did manage to get some sleep. Like always I woke up with the sun and waited for the hot water to arrive so I can get my morning dose of Milo as I was SO hungry.

For the first time during the whole climb up I was actually hungry and it felt good.

The path seemed to last forever! Distances are all skewed on the mountain!

Everyone woke up in their due time. This morning we were leaving a bit later around 10 am so we had more time to get ready than normally. I was keen to leave. Not only because I knew we are heading down hill and it can only get easier from here, but also because I knew there are showers at Horombo. Cold showers, but showers nevertheless. I don’t care how cold it is. I’m going there!

Everlasting path…

We said our goodbyes to the moon-like Horombo camp and the snow capped tip of the volcano and started our ascent. Sun was shining from a cloudless sky and we got some nice shots towards Kibo camp with Ubuntu ”girl power” team! (See feature image above post). It was a bit chilly so I did not have my sun hat on, but just a normal hat and sunglasses. Big mistake I learned later!

The path was wide and very long across the saddle between Mawenzi (second highest peak in Kilimanjaro National Park ) and Kibo (highest peak). You could see the moon-like scenery lasting as far as your eyes can see. Then finally the vegetation begins to change and we can see a few bushes.There was clearly more traffic on this side of the mountain than the one we climbed up.

Finally some vegetation also! The path was more like highway! So many people coming and going.

Ubuntu and Ashanti

It didn’t feel like 9,5 kilometers and I had even a bit too much energy. We reached the camp by lunchtime and had the last of our greeting dance with the team. Now everyone was joining the dance again, but the feeling was sad. The time on this magical mountain was coming to an end.

On our team everyone was needed and we could not have done it without them. The cooks, porters, guides. It was a well organized and seamlessly working community and team. I have very high respect to these people who made it possible for us. It makes me sad that now their livelihood is gone with Kilimanjaro National park closed due to Covid-19. Then we did not know yet how bad it will get. Later we heard that we were among the last groups to go up. Team Ubuntu was indeed very lucky!

Whole Team Ubuntu crew. We could not have done it without any of them! Thank you Ashanti tours <3

S-h-o-w-e-r and SMS messages

And then… the long awaited shower! Ice cold, but who cares. Me and Kirsty were brave and went there and it was so good! I cannot overrate how great and refreshing it felt. Funny how little things make you so happy… And a flushing toilet. No more finding suitable bushes or rocks!

Mobile coverage also worked on and off as we were camped on this ridge so I managed to send and receive a few SMS messages. Getting messages from home made me realize how much I missed my children, husband and even the cat! Just normal life felt like luxury now and I could not wait to get home.

Before that we still had one very long day and 18 kilometers ahead of us (well that’s what the guide said), to get to Marangu gate out of Kilimanjaro National Park. After nice shower and hot meal we were all again pretty tired as the day had been again long with 9,5 kilometers down hill. Took a nap, read a book. Somehow the afternoon passed by and it was dinner time again. After dinner I finally watched a movie I had downloaded on my mobile. Until now I had not felt like watching anything, but now I felt better and didn’t think I could anyway fall asleep anytime soon, so watching a movie would be a good pass of time.

View from ”space”

When we got to camp (3733 meters altitude) there was quite a few clouds so you could not really see where you were at, but at night when I woke up to go to the toilet the sky was clear and you could see the lights of all the roads, cities and towns below. We were still so high that it felt like you were watching the earth from space. It was so breathtakingly beautiful that I could not go back to sleep, but had to just sit there and keep staring at it for a while with tears flowing thinking about all the lives of the people there how they do not know that I am here staring down at their city from above wondering what they are doing. Thinking how there is so much life on Earth, how these little specs of light indicate where humans wander.

I think it was a bit of unburdening the stress of the journey both physically and mentally as well as missing home. In a way the mountain was both frightening and mesmerizing at the same time. You respect it, wonder it and admire it’s beauty, but still feel like we are here just to visit, this is not our place, we are just passing through.

Finally went back to my tent to sleep being grateful that I had seen that view all alone in the middle of the night. In the morning the clouds were back and we could not see downhill clearly anymore.

Unfortunately I could not sleep too well due to strange feeling on my lower lip which just seemed to get worse and worse… To be continued 😀

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Kilimanjaro – Day 7/10 – Base camp day

I woke up around 3 am to send the rest of the Team Ubuntu on their way to reach for the top. I was feeling better myself but still knew that this day was out of reach for me. Wanted to though wake up to see the rest of the team off so we had breakfast and everyone got into their summit gear as it was the coldest night so far a few degrees below zero probably. I felt excited for them but also a bit worried how everything will go as I knew it was going to be a very tough day for them.

After the team head out towards the summit in pitch dark I went back to my tent and fell asleep again. I slept until around 6:30 am when the porters started to wake up and the sun began to shine so bright I could not sleep anymore. Since there is no shade it is really hot by the time it is shining directly to your tent!

The cook made me second breakfast so another bowl of oatmeal, my favourite, and a bit of coffee. After we ate the porters asked if I want to come with them a bit higher towards the summit to look at the views. I thought why not, I would not climb hundreds of meters just a bit higher, take a few photos and come back. Turned my sports watch on to monitor myself and altitude and off we went. Pole, pole, slowly, slowly!

My summit

Around 46 meters ascent and 700 meters I started feeling weird. My ear drums began to feel like they are about to burst, after that I started to feel dizzy and I felt like my orientation was getting a bit strange. I was afraid I might faint and fall over so said to the guide that I think this is my top, I will just sit here, take a few photos, wait for this to pass and walk back down.

It was such a scary feeling that I had no desire to pursue any further. I had found my summit (4785 meters) and got affirmation that I had made the right decision the day before deciding not to try and to reach the summit. Maybe, just maybe this was the thing my gut feeling was pounding in my head the other day. I would not have made it very far anyway!

View down to camp from ”my summit” 4785 meters! YAY!!! What a view above the clouds <3 Kibo huts in the middle where the path leads.

Relax and enjoy the views

So I went back to my tent and lied down a bit. I felt better fairly quickly and began to read a book. Having read the book a while I thought I would take a short walk up a cliff next to camp and took a photo down to our camp and towards the Kibo camp huts. Just climbing up there was an endeavours and felt exhausting, but the views were nice. I enjoyed just being there and looking at the view wondering how did I get here? And then wow, I’m here, I really made it all the way here.

After that relief that the ”worst” was over for me. No more headaches and tomorrow we would be heading down back to normal every day life with comfortable bed, toilet and hot shower, nice! (little did we know then… Covid-19 was lurking just around the corner and our lives would never be the same).

Sudden storm

It was completely still. Not a breath of wind and so hot that you could not be inside your tent, but we had to stay in the big mess tent. So I read for a while on my tablet and this tiny mouse kept me company coming and going from the tent getting food from the floor. I also talked to quite many of the porters as they came and went asking me how I am doing about their lives and how many children they had and so on.

It was nice to learn about their lives and family. Especially this talk with one young porter about 24 years paused me for a while. We spoke about domestic animals, then pets and I mentioned that we do not have any other animals, just a pet cat, to which he responded with a question ”But where do you get your milk then?”, realizing he meant that if we do not have cow, where does the milk come from.

I explained to him that we live in a city and we are not allowed to have any other animals so we buy milk from the shop. Such different worlds we live in, I actually envy his uncomplicated world. No office work, no huge traffic jams and concrete jungle around you going to work every day, only nature. Then nature showed it’s might and the weather turned nasty. We could feel the wind picking up and see the clouds moving in on our camp so I had to go to my tent and close all the zippers before it would pour in.

Storm clouds moving in from the side of the mountain

Managed to get to my tent before it started pouring and this time it was not rain, but hail. Closed all the zippers which I had just opened a bit earlier to get the air flowing as it was badly heated sauna. The storm did not last too long, but I can imagine the rest of the team being hit by this at the summit hoping they were not hit too bad as the hail would hurt!

Team Ubuntu arriving one, by one

It was about lunch time when we got info that Rob would be coming down soon. He was feeling bad having diarrhoea and temperature already before left and had decided to go as far as Gilmann’s point and then turn back. Our guide Mike came back already earlier to keep me company and be the ”base camp” guy with the satellite phone. So me and Mike climbed up to greet him and he was not feeling too good. His calves were killing him of all the up and down and probably due to loosing fluids earlier. I gave him some Magnesium and he managed to take a bit to drink, but head pretty much straight to bed which was definitely a good choice after that endeavour.

The rest of the team came back before dark and I kept looking at the hill side them coming down like little ants. It’s strange how distances here are completely scewed. It looks like they are just around that rock but they are still kilometer away…

Rest of Team Ubuntu approaching like ants in a queue still so far away although it looks close.

Everyone arrived back safe reaching the own summit Uhuru Peak. Some in better, some in worse condition, but walking on their own feet. They were so tired both physically and mentally that I felt a bit guilty that I had been enjoying the sunshine and reading a book all day talking to our porters.

I tried to help them the best I could as I had energy and they didn’t. Food, drink, CO2 monitoring. All good, three with a little low measurements. Me and Mike kept track on how they were doing and I was so proud of them. I truly think the team is amazing and we all did such a great job in helping each other to reach our dreams and goals.

It was clear it was going to be an early night for them all so after dinner everyone pretty much crashed to their tents (some had already slept a while before dinner!) . We were going to be begin our descent the next day around 10 am with destination Horombo camp. Rumour says they have ”normal” toilets and running (cold) water = shower! No wonder the power women of Team Ubuntu were VERY eager to get there as we were running out of wet wipes and Kibo camp is a dry camp so there is no rivers around but all water is carried there (hence conserve it the best you can = no washing).

Read my book again for a while as I was not that tired having taken two naps during the day already. Eventually I fell asleep. Luckily it was not as cold as it was the night before, but still had to have a hat on when sleeping!

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Kilimanjaro – Day 6/10 – Third cave to Kibo (base) camp

I woke up feeling OK, but not good. I could feel the headache in the back of my head a bit distant though and I felt a bit dizzy. I was hoping the headache would have been completely gone by the morning, like all the mornings before, but since that was not the case I knew it was going to be a tough day and I might not be going to the summit. So I changed my mental goal to Kibo for now. I thought if I can just get to Kibo camp I am happy and I have reached my target.

First few hours were still OK. I was managing my headache, drinking ridiculously a lot of water, breathing my lungs as full every time as I can and taking one step at a time. Still it was not enough. I felt worse by the step and looking at the scenery I started to ask myself questions like ”What are we doing here?”, ”What am I doing here?”. There is nothing here, no plants, no birds, no animals, NOTHING. Not even bloody rocks big enough to go pee behind!

We should not be here. This is not for humans. This is like walking on the moon…
Hah! A rock for an Alfresco visit spotted!

I could sense everyone was more quiet. It was getting harder and we were climbing higher all the time. Every single step you had to concentrate on breathing and speed being as steady as possible. There was no talking, just breathing, walking and a lot of time to think about things. Like for example if you will continue to the summit or stay at the base camp. Before we reached the next camp I had made up mine or rather the answer was given to me.

We had a break around 2 hour mark which was midway (about 2,5 kilometers) and the kitchen crew had bought some coffee, tea, cake and biscuits to us which was a really nice surprise. I put my legs up against a small rock as I felt like blood was not circulating after so many days on my feet. Fluids were gathering to my body as rings on my finger were not moving which is always a good indication of that. I felt a bit better during the break and confident that I can get to Kibo although the headache was there all the time, but still not so bad that I had to take any medicin. We were at about 4300 meters now.

No plants, no animals apart from Team Ubuntu

400 meters ascent sound like nothing especially if you have been to Norway for example where most mountains next to fjords are higher than that and you take an evening walk up them and back in less than few hours. Here in high altitude it’s not the same. You don’t rush up. This is not a high heart rate exercise. As a matter of fact on the way up my heart rate average was 115 which equals to normal walk and my max is 198-199 so there is quite a lot to go before I would be at max level.

Still I felt exhausted, tired and I could hardly keep going. I tried to keep the heart rate as steady as possible too all the time. By the time we got to about 600 meters before Kibo camp I felt the headache getting worse. I was prepared it would probably get so bad at some point that I would need to take Ibuprofen, so took half a tablet. I don’t really use Ibuprofen so usually small amount is enough. I felt like everyone was rushing a bit to get to camp and my head just kept pounding.

About 100 meters before camp I felt so sick and like I would throw up soon. My head was pounding so hard and felt so heavy that I went straight to my tent to lie down. I could not do anything I felt so bad so I just sat there and thought about how I feel now and how hard the day had been. I weighed the options of maybe going up as I would probably again feel better after a bit of sleep and staying still.

I thought I don’t want to go up there. I thought I have come all the way here, so I should go up there. I thought I am giving up not going up there. Would the others be disappointed if I didn’t go up there? I thought maybe I will be the only not going up. Will I be the only one giving up?

I thought about my children and how I missed them. I thought about my husband and how I just wanted to be close to him and talk to him. I thought about what would happen if I would take a bit more Ibuprofen, ignore the pain and just keep going. I thought about ignoring the pain, being stubborn, keeping on going and ending to hospital. Then I thought about my children again.

I cried, I cried a lot. So much I don’t remember the last time I have cried so much. Then I thought I don’t want to go up there. I felt I don’t want to go up there. I have never had such a strong gut feeling in my life and it told me not to go up there. So I decided I should listen to it and that I am not going to the summit.

I probably could have tried, I probably would have felt better later on and with Ibuprofen kept going, but I had found my answer. Then I went to the mess tent to have lunch and told everyone. Next day it turned out to be a wise decision.

The tent fabric was frozen stiff

I could not eat anything during lunch though I felt so bad, but had a mug of Milo anyway. We measured our HR and CO2 levels. My CO2 had dropped to 75% from the mornings 93% and my heart rate was higher again around 96. Just the CO2 level drop was clear enough hint that I should not go so went back to tent to sleep. I think that just the fact that the decision had been made eased my mind and I knew the stressing, pain, anxiety and wondering will I get there was over.

I knew I don’t have to worry anymore, I didn’t have to have the strength to carry on anymore so I can now relax and just stay here. Stay alive for one more day here at 4700 meters and then we can go down and home. Just one more day and during the day I will hopefully acclimatize and feel better by the morning.

After the nap I felt better and managed to eat some dinner. Had to take the other half of the ibuprofen also. Pretty soon after dinner everyone head to bed as all others were heading to summit at 4 am and some were not feeling too good either, but good enough to go. As I suspected I was the only one not going, but was already OK with my decision. I knew it was the right one. Besides I wanted to wake up also to see them off.

Team Ubuntu was really strong. The only thing bothering really was the tummy aches and the runs. Other than that CO2 was great and they felt good. I was happy that I was the only one feeling so bad. They were all good to go to the summit and I did not want to miss them going.

It was already really cold, below zero degrees maybe -2 or -3, but there was no snow at base camp. Our tents were frozen stiff because of some cold rain earlier and for the first time I had to have a bit more clothes on when sleeping.

I was relieved that the decision had been made and eager to see the others off and welcome them back the next day. Fell asleep in those thoughts looking forward to the next day at 4700 meters thinking, wow, am I really here?

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Training – W8/2020 Summit day and downhill

Second week was more trekking again up and down. We reached the highest altitude to everyone and also went almost 2000 meters down to get off the mountain. This last week was physically very demanding due to the altitude sickness symptoms, but also going downhill was in a way hard because we were going faster and it was completely different kind of movement again.

The last day was ridiculously long trek as we were told it would be 18 kilometers but it ended up being 22,63 kilometers downhill partly in rain, but we all got down, no injuries or bad aches/bruises/blisters.

To fourth camp (Kibo base camp) 6th day

  • Distance 9,57 kilometers
  • Average bpm 87 so getting higher all the time
  • From 3962 meters to 4711 meters, altitude gain 668
  • Speed 1,3km/h
Acclimatization walk

Not done at all. Everyone was getting ready for the summit.

Summit day (Kibo base camp) 7th day

I did not attempt to go to the summit. More about the reasons on my Kilimanjaro daily recap blog posts under section Kilimanjaro/Trekking in the coming days.

I did go for a walk in the morning when everyone else had left for the summit and walked 42 m higher up to 4785 which was my top. So approximately Mont Blanc ”top of Europe” so to speak 😉

To fifth camp, downhill (Horombo) 8th day

  • Distance 9,57 kilometers
  • Average HR 84 so a bit lower but still high
  • From 4697 meters to 3733 meters down hill, descent 925 meters
  • Speed 3,3 km/h

To Marangu gate, downhill, last day 9th day

  • Distance 22,63 kilometers
  • Average HR 80 which is probably still high due to the massive trek down
  • From 3733 meters to 2750 meters, descent 983 meters
  • Speed 3,7 km/h, max speed was 7,2 km/h
  • 6 hours and 8 minutes downhill! Harder than you would think!

For obvious reasons there was no other exercise that week since I was back home on Friday afternoon. I was eager to get back to normal training routines and go for a basic run as soon as possible though.

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Kilimanjaro – Day 5/10 – Second cave to Third cave camp

We woke up a bit later about 30 minutes, but I was already up with the birds like usual. Sun was rising and it’s beams were hitting the snowy summit creating a postcard view which me and Rolf from Switzerland stared at for a while and took photos. We tended to be the first ones to wake up each morning with the birds. I liked to be up before the hassle and fall asleep after everything is quiet. I suppose it’s my way to unwind and relax after being social for the day and allows me to listen to my own thoughts for a while.

Post card view of kili at 6 am just after sunrise

This morning though I woke up early also because I was so hungry. A few days of walking uphill and the bigger calorie consumption it is starting to catch up on my body. In the morning they had always hot water in the mess tent so went there to get some Milo so I would last until breakfast.

It’s the same routine every morning it seems. Camp life has it’s own schedule which was getting more familiar to everyone. The chef and his assistant(s) wake up a bit earlier to boil water and cook food just before the sunrise around 6:30-7am. Breakfast has been good so far with oat meal, toast, pancakes, fruits plus sausages, jams, honey and such with coffee, tea and Milo. I usually took oatmeal, coffee and toast or pancakes. Toast with honey, jam or peanut butter and pancakes with honey and lemon juice.

Our destination already closer but still so far…

After breakfast we headed uphill again and everyone stopped on the way at the spot where we knew there was mobile coverage for a while to message home and check messages back. It was a cloudless sunny day so it was hot although it was not more than 12 to 15 degrees at daytime. Cold breeze helped a little bit but the trek still it felt like it was a really long way although it was only 3,73 kilometers and ascent 380 meters from around 3483 meters to 3948 meters.

I probably should have drunken more water again as the headache started again after few hours of walk. By the time we got close to Third cave and to our snack break spot I also started getting a bit of nausea, but forced a Snickers bar and some peanuts down my throat. Snickers bars have become my new best friend along with everything else high carbohydrate. Apparently at high altitude it’s better to eat high carbohydrate food and keep protein to minimum as it helps with acclimatization and creation of red blood cells.

Next to our campsite was this huge floodplain

After we got to Third cave camp I slept for a a while and we got some lunch. Nausea had passed also so decided to go for the acclimatization walk after all, just a short walk up the hill again. It had been really misty since we got there and we were among the clouds which kept sweeping the plain, The plain on the side of which our campsite was looked like a floodplain for rainy season or when the snow melts down they would create a river rushing down from the top. We had not really seen the views until then, but suddenly the mist disappeared presenting another postcard image view of the Uhuru peak in snowy white sunset.

Uhuru Peak appeared after the mist vanished with the sun setting behind it
Photo towards our camp from acclimatization walk altitude 4000 meters

It looks a lot closer now, but still 1800 meters in altitude away our camp being at 3800 meters and the walk took us to about 4000 meters. Never been that high in my life without an airplane so good on me for making it this far!

After the walk high altitude symptoms started to kick in again more and I did not feel like eating at all and the headache came and went. Nausea was definitely worse than the headache though. Managed still to eat a bit of soup, pasta and mangoes. After dinner the usual coffee and tea to get the fluids out of my body and more water to acclimatize and heaps of ”Alfresco” visit. It was getting a bit harder to find ”good spots” as there were hardly any plants and fewer rocks. I did not really like the portable toilet for number one anyway…

Going any higher felt a bit daunting to be honest as I was struggling so much with nausea and the headache coming and going. My head felt really heavy and the headache was mainly in my neck. Typical high altitude symptoms I was told. I had not taken any medication because I wanted to know when I start to feel bad. I needed to know what my body is telling me so decided not to take anything unless I have to and so far the headache tended to go away when we got to camp and stayed still and by the morning it had always been gone. So I was hoping that this would be the case this time too and fell asleep in those thoughts trying not to slide downhill on my mattress all the time.

The next day we would be heading to Kibo base camp at 4700 meters which would be our home for the next few nights before going back down.

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Kilimanjaro – Day 4/10 – Simba camp to Second cave camp

Welcome to my ”hotel room”

We all had our own private ”hotel rooms”. My tent number was 9. I slept otherwise well but had to wake up a few times to go to the ”bush” because I had been drinking so much water due to being dehydrated the previous day. Guideline was to drink as much water as you can to get rid of the altitude sickness symptoms so I was just doing as I was told.

I didn’t really mind waking up and going out since it was not too cold yet and when everyone is sleeping it’s s peaceful and quiet. Most nights the sky was clear so you could see every single star shining bright. It was so beautiful that I wanted to just lay down on the ground and keep staring up. Living in the city you seldom see that view of the sky so every time I ”had to go” at night I didn’t really mind and stayed for a while to stare at the stars.

I was happy to wake up without any symptoms from the previous days headache so assumed it was caused by dehydration and not high altitude OR if it was caused by high altitude at least my body had clearly acclimatized already to this altitude (around 2645 m Simba camp).

Views towards Kenia. Climb up from Kenian side of the mountain.

We had breakfast at 7 am and left right after it as it was going to be a bit longer day today. Second leg was 6,12 kilometers and it was still hot, but getting cooler already so more familiar to me and I did not sweat that much. We started from around 2645 meters and climbed up to 3494 meters (according to my sports watch). Altitude gain was 746 meters so a lot more than the day before. Vegetation was getting a bit more scarce and low grown, but still above head level so not much views in any direction.

Again we were greeted by our crew at the Second cave camp with song and dance. We were all feeling pretty OK and didn’t have any bad symptoms. Some had a bit of head ache and mostly upset tummies. I only had a bit strange feeling in my head and could feel that we are now higher and my body was working harder again as my average HR seemed to creep up again a few notches being at 81 bpm now (normal around 60-65).

We had lunch and measured our HR and CO2 levels. Mine was up a bit from the morning understandably CO2 was 96 and HR 92. So about the same as the day before which was a good sign that my body is still adjusting well to the ”thinner air”.

Clouds subsided. What a view!

Then the clouds subsided and revealed our snow peak destination. It looked both daunting (because it is still so far away) yet majestic and respectable. No wonder Kilimanjaro plays such a big part in everyone’s life here. It’s pretty hard to ignore!

Few hours of rest and it was time for the acclimatization walk around 4 pm. I felt perfectly fine so decided to go for it and kept my feet up during the break to get the fluids flowing which was apparently a good idea since the ”bush” called me many times in the coming hours…

View down from the acclimatization walk to our camp

Acclimatization walk was 1 km from 3500 m to 3580 m up a small hill. Atop the hill we found mobile coverage so managed to send an SMS message home to say all is well hoping that I would receive a response latest by tomorrow when we will pass the same spot going up again. Got a response from hubby pretty much straight away so at least messages did go through.

After the acclimatization walk we enjoyed dinner and talked for a while. Some played cards, but generally when it gets dark there is not much to do so headed to tent early again. Tried to read a bit but to be honest was again so tired that hit the bed early. It was getting a bit chillier, but still not cold so no need to dress up too much with the warm sleeping bag I bought.

Next day we would be heading again higher up to 3800 meters so expecting it to get tougher.

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Training – W7/2020 Trekking, trekking and trekking

The amount of trekking we did was admirable and not just in kilometers but in altitude. I was surprised how much more calories you consume going uphill than what you would on flat ground. Probably altitude gain has something to do with it also as at least my heart rate started to increase the higher we went.

In general we left from higher than I have ever been without a lift. I have been once in 2500 with a ski lift in Chamonix, France and once with a gondola at 3800 meters in the very same place for about half an hour. So this was all new to me and it was interesting to see how the altitude would affect my body.

From exercise perspective not sure to what category to put all these. My heart rate was around average 100-130 all the time (my max is 199) so definitely nowhere near ”hard exercise” and PTE around 1 to 2. Still I felt tired and definitely did not feel like going faster so assume that my body was not coping too well with the lack of oxygen.

Then again, what do I know. As I said this was my first time moving anywhere in such a high altitude!!

Anyway below a bit of recap from week 6 in figures.

To first camp (Simba) 3rd day

  • 4,59 kilometers
  • From 2300 meters to 2639 meters, ascent 304 meters
  • Speed 2km/h

To second camp (Second cave) 4th day

  • 6,12 kilometers
  • From 2645 meters to 3494 meters, ascent 746 meters
  • Speed 1,5 km/h
Acclimatization walk around 4pm
  • 1,06 kilometers
  • From 3500 meters to 3580 meters
  • Speed 1km/h

To third camp (Third cave) 5th day

  • 3,73 kilometers
  • From, 3482 to 3948 meters, ascent 380 meters
  • Speed 1,3 kilometers
Acclimatization walk
  • 1,77 kilometers
  • From 3955 meters to 4112 meters
  • Speed 1,7km/h


  • 17 kilometers
  • 11 hours
  • Calories 4131 kcal
  • From 2301 meters to 4112, ascent 1811 meters (What? Really did I do that?)
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Kilimanjaro – Day 3/10 – From Rongai gate to Simba camp

Weru Weru lodge just before we left

Woke up 7 am before the alarm. I had everything organized already so quick ”last” shower (there are no showers on the mountain except downhill at Horombo camp 5 nights and 6 days from now…) and off to breakfast.

Few photos at the lodge of everyone and their baggage and off to the bus for a three hour ride to Rongai gate which was our starting point for the journey up.

View from the bus… morning rush hour?

First I thought why would it take three hours, but seeing the condition of the roads, amount of traffic and condition of the car fleet I completely understand why it takes so long. There was so much going on, kids going to school and people walking on the roadside.

The soil was really red, a bit like Australia, but not quite as deep red. Vegetation in general reminded me of Australia. We were after all close to the equator and in hot and humid climate.

It was also surprising how high we were to start with. Our hotel (Weru Weru lodge) was around 1000 m above sea level already and now we drove up to 2463 m to Rongai gate. There is not a single place anywhere close to where I live that would be 1000 m high let alone 2400 meters. I would need to go all the way to the Alps about 2500 kilometers away to find such heights.

In the minibus… all smiling and excited to be on our way!

Clear to say that the starting point was already high for me so felt a bit nervous on how it all would affect me.

When we arrived to the gate I was genuinely surprised at how many people there was to greet us. I thought they must be for multiple groups, but no, everyone just for us. I felt bad about other people carrying my stuff and that I was getting off too ”lightly” but it’s their job and they do it just as I do mine. But still I felt like I should have packed a little less to my duffel bag…

First leg 4,59 kilometers and 304 ascent

First part of the trek was through a rain forest going uphill the time with +30 degrees high humidity meaning I was sweating too much. I tried to drink as much as I could but since I am not used to this kind of heat it just wasn’t enough and I could feel my head starting to pound of either the lack of oxygen or just dehydration.

Still high vegetation on the first day
First trek

Tummy wasn’t feeling too well either, it’s the different bacteria in a different country. It was manageable and no need for other pills apart from natural Pre- and Probiotic which helped after a few days.

We arrived at the first camp called Simba camp around 2 pm where all our tents were already put up and ready. Our crew greeted us with song and dance to which they invited us to join. It was fun and a great way to welcome us to the camp relax the atmosphere a bit. We learned to look forward to these song and dance parties. We also learned the Kilimanjaro song pretty quick!

Food was absolutely delicious and we got to know our crew better. We took our first oxygen saturation and pulse readings and LLS score (The Lake Louise score to assess acute mountain sickness). Mine was still 96%, but pulse was a bit higher than normal (91). It did go down before the morning to min. 47 on my sports watch so wasn’t really worried. I also had a bit of headache, but now I know it was only because or dehydration and cleared off once I got some food and more water in me. I learned later to recognize the ”high altitude” headache…

Around 9:30 pm I was already knackered and it was also pitch dark. I fell asleep fairly easily with a 6:30 am wake up to head to our next camp, Second cave about 3400 m.

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Kilimanjaro – Day 2/10 – Sunshine and getting the kit ready

I slept well. Really well although it was a bit hot and humid. Temperature was around +31 degrees Celsius so about 30 more than back home. It felt like back in Australia so cozy but still it was HOT so started the morning with a few laps in the pool hoping it would wake me up and get the blood flowing. The water was too hot to wake up and pool too short to even get going … Well better than nothing!

After breakfast we enjoyed the sunshine and I tried to work on my tan. Being a fair skinned Finn who hasn’t been in this hot climate for a while (we had a bad summer last year) sunscreen was a must. Still I managed to miss a few spots and looked like a piglet here and there by the evening.

Time for some tan and D-vitamin!

After lunch I took a short nap because we all felt really tired after travelling for a day and all the excitement of whether we will make it to the connecting flight and so on. During my nap they had received information on the whereabouts of the three missing luggage and to our relief they were all on their way to Kilimanjaro International Airport and should arrive by evening!

Then before dinner we met our guides and got some last minute tips and info on our journey up and down. Nobody really knew what to ask or what to expect and was eager to just get going. I enjoyed the day since clearly the climate is different and with all the bags and hassle of travelling it was a good choice to have a day on the ground before leaving.

After dinner we all went to pack our things to three different bags; one bag to stay at the hotel reception, one to carry as day bag which contained everything you might need during the day and last bag is the duffel bag which has all other stuff you need on the mountain, but don’t necessarily need during the day.

See the destination… Red arrow!

I tried to read a book for a while before going to bed, but was pretty tired again and knowing we has a tough week of little sleep probably ahead of us went to bed early. I slept OK especially when I took the duvet cover off the blanket and used it as my blanket. In Australia I remember there were three stages in sleeping. With the blanket (and possibly extra blanket), with just duvet cover and without anything… last one being mid summer and first one mid winter.

Anyways I didn’t really expect anything or hope anything from the journey up so I wasn’t really scared or concerned about anything going up, but a bit worried that how can family contact me in case something happens back home with kids for example. We had a satellite phone with which we had agreed to give a call around 4 pm each day so our family could pass messages and we could pass messages to them if needed so that eased my mind a bit.

I was happy to get going as it has been such a long time we have been preparing for this. Fell asleep in those thoughts. Did not dream anything (strange, I usually have more vivid night time than daytime!) and woke up well rested the next morning ready to head out to the mountain peaking in the distance.

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