Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) - August 1997

The climb and wildlife parks

Why climbing the Kilimanjaro? This is the question you ask yourself when, at 2 in the morning, you are still climbing, out of breath, feeling sick and with a persistent headache! The view from the summit is not really the good reason to do this: if you're unlucky it will be a sea of clouds but even if it's not the case, with the mist, you will not see "Out of Africa" kind of landscapes.

Why then? Well, I have to tell you that I'm neither the sporty type nor a high slopes lover. But when I reached Gilman's Point (see story) and I knew I would be able to reach the summit, I was overwhelmed by emotion and had tears in my eyes: I made it! I understood, then, the alpinist's feelings: the sheer joy of triumph, not over the mountain but over me.

If you are not obsessed with the idea of climbing the Kilimanjaro, visiting the natural parks is a good idea. Driving through them is a little bit frustrating for a hiker but it's better than a close encounter with a lion!

I was not able to dissuade you? Here is, in short, what happens day by day during the journey and some advice for those who want to do it:

Day 1

You will start from Marangu gate (6004ft) and walk to Mandara hut (8848ft). This is a very easy day. You will walk though tropical forest and will realize soon that a lot of people had the same idea than you did : counting the hikers and their porters, the Marangu route is quite crowded. If you like wild nature and loneliness, forget it! Unless your travel agency did it, bring some snacks because you'll probably have nothing to eat during the walk and sometimes not so much during the meals (or maybe am I a compulsive eater).

Day 2

You will walk from Mandara hut to Horombo hut (12205ft). An easy day again. You'll see less vegetation. Don't forget some water: if the sun shines, it's hot and the way is dusty.

Day 3

From Horombo hut to Kibo hut (15400ft). Still an easy day in a rocky landscape. This time, don't forget warm clothes: it's cold because of the altitude. There's no water at Kibo hut. The Jerry-cans that are used to bring it from Horombo hut give it a bad taste. Carrying yourself an extra bottle from Horombo is a good idea.

Night from day 3 to day 4

This time, The easy part is over ! You'll wake up before midnight (you won't be able to sleep because of altitude anyway) you'll take some tea and a biscuit (if you eat more you'll probably vomit it later) and here you go. The climb to Gilman's point lasts 5 hours and is real pain. Don't forget your flashlight (with enough batteries): it will show you where to put your feet and you will save energy. During the climb you will experience light symptoms of altitude sickness: nausea, headache, concentration problems. If you experience the heavy symptoms, your guides will make you go down quickly! If you want to rest, don't stop more than two minutes or you won't have the will to go on. OK, you're now at Gilman's point it's still dark, the wind blows the temperature is -4°F and you're not at the summit yet but don't be discouraged: it's not far away. You will now walk for an hour and a half on a steep climb to Uhuru peak (19340ft). It's during this part of the trip that the sun will set. Here it is, you can shout you can cry, you can kiss your companions you've done it! To be able to drink when you go down, you will wear your water bottle under your clothes, otherwise the water will freeze. Do the same thing for the batteries of your camera or you won't be able to take THE picture. As your IQ will dramatically decrease once at the summit, select the point and shoot mode of your camera and don't forget to remove the lens cap!

Day 4

Do you think it's over? Not at all! You still have to do in one day what you did in two days when going up, because tonight you are sleeping at Horombo hut after a 11 or 12 walk hours day. No need to say that you will sleep well.

Day 5

You go down from Horombo hut to Marangu gate where you will have a superb certificate (green if you reached Gilman's point, gold for Uhuru peak). The main satisfaction of the day is to look at the people coming up. They're still fresh and don't know what's next! Besides the usual tip for the porters, don't forget to bring used clothes in good condition, they are appreciated.

After this ascent, it would be a pity not to visit the nearby natural parks. Manyara, Ngorongoro, the Serengeti, Tarangere are a must-see for wildlife lovers.

Photo gallery


You will see below the trek map and its situation in the country.

trek map

Collection Microsoft® Encarta® 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. Tous droits réservés.

trek map

Collection Microsoft® Encarta® 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. Tous droits réservés.

trek map

Collection Microsoft® Encarta® 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. Tous droits réservés.