Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Article from Euphoria Travel Magazine

Double challenge on the “Kili”


An engagement or honeymoon on the roof of Africa

Travelling to Tanzania, the biggest country in Eastern Africa, and climbing the 5,895 meter Kilimanjaro, or “Kili” as known by those who are friendly with it, is in itself a huge challenge that some hundred people of all ages - mostly between 25 and 35 – come from all over the world to take on.
Among these are couples that have decided to spend their honeymoon or get engaged at the summit, in an act of taking up a second gauntlet that may either be auspicious or ominous depending on the success or failure of the climb.  Brave, aren’t they? But certainly, it promises to be memorable.
Those who “have made it” and have reached the Uhuru summit are a part of the approximately 70% who do. Those who can’t make it are mostly victims of altitude sickness. One must remember that the Kili is not an easy summit to climb.  One has to love walking and be capable of walking at least 5 hours a day, during at least 5 days, on paths that are actually not too steep.  What you need above all is determination, a heart in excellent condition and lungs of steel (no play on words there!).

From + 30 Celsius to – 10 C
As one might guess, in this type of romantic trip, a comfortable quilt and daytime frolicking must be forgotten… sleeping in a tent, getting up very early and going to bed early is more like it! 
One must also be ready to experience all states of slumber and energy. Climbers leave the plain at a humid + 30 Celsius and end up at the sign post at the top for a photograph in – 10 Celsius, after having walked on all sorts of surfaces, including desert, mud under giant trees, ice and even sometimes after braving a snow storm.  Of course, nothing prevents us from bringing a bottle of champagne to enjoy at the summit. However, since alcohol exacerbates altitude sickness, it should be avoided in the first 24 hours at a higher altitude.

Companions mean no privacy

The expedition can be done in private or in small groups of 12 maximum.  Zaratours attempts to form similar age groups or groups of people sharing the same interests.  As a result, groups of singles or families or couples can be organized.
However, it is out of question to leave without companions.  A guide, 3 porters for each climber and one cook are all vital.
Hats off to all of them, they truly have a difficult task:  carrying all the material necessary to eat, to sleep, even tables and chairs. In order to keep the mountain intact, there is no permanent encampment on the Kili.
This in itself justifies the importance of selecting a tour operator who pays the porters without taking any commission or putting pressure on clients to leave high tips for them.
Zaratours is one of the tour operators who created a not-for-profit organization to protect the porters of Tanzania and to help them complete an education program. They also promote another, more tangible, action consisting of encouraging everyone who would like to donate warm clothes (used or new), to do so easily at no cost.  Through its offices in Toronto, Canada, Zaratours gathers the clothes and takes on the task of shipping them to Tanzania. All you have to do is get them to Toronto!

Before and after
 
The lodging package includes a hotel before and after the expedition.  The Springlands Hotel, owned by Zaratours, is located close to the mountain.  The hotel is very comfortable, clean with efficient and personalized services: all clients are there for the Kili.  Smiling personnel are always on top of your needs and the food is excellent.  Information sessions are given the day before departure on the great adventure. 

How to get ready for the Kili

The only way to avoid altitude sickness is to take prescription pills 48 hours prior to getting there.  Too many people start taking the pills only once on site, which causes uneasiness and discomfort even on the first day of the ascent, so be aware.
It is also recommended to choose the longest route, which should facilitate a gradual acclimatization.  That expedition could take 7, 8 or even 9 days, but with a greater chance of success.

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