Mt. Kilimanjaro: the tallest mountain in Africa and guess what we were doing today? We were going to climb it. Now I don’t mean actually climb it to the peak, but to the first hut. The mountain is around 20,000 feet tall and Mandara Hut, which is where we went, has an altitude of 9,000 feet. Basically we climbed half the height of the mountain!
We should start from the beginning. It was a two and a half hour car ride to the mountain and we had to sit and wait for all of our permits to be ready so we didn’t start climbing until 11:30am. We had started in a huge group, but with different paces, everyone spread out and walked in smaller groups. They had told us that the climb up will take about three hours. I had no idea what to expect with this climb. I had thought it wouldn’t be so bad because we are only going to the first hut and it would be beautiful seeing the mountain. Well, was I wrong. I did not do my research or I was just ignorant to think the climb would be easy. There was a set path to follow and we had multiple guides. The trees and the jungle around us was absolutely gorgeous but we couldn’t actually see the mountain we were climbing. The trees were unlike anything I have ever seen. There were some that twisted and bent and some had leaves that looked furry and hung down like garland. Completely breathtaking – but this is when you have the time to look up from the path. The path was full of stones and wood and tons of steps. These steps ranged from 2-3 inches in height up to about a foot. I know, its a mountain we are climbing but they definitely got old after a while. We made it to the hut in about 2 hours and 50 minutes. They had little cabins there – I am assuming for people staying the night to continue the climb later on. However, we still could not see the mountain we had just climbed from this area! Our guide told us that there was a place about fifteen minutes away where we could see the peak. We just hiked this mountain though and we were hungry! We ate our packed lunch and a few of us headed on up to the Maundi Crater Rim, so more treacherous stairs! However, when we got there, the clouds were in the perfect position to see the peak and the ice and snow covering the top and it was wonderful. The view was perfect and I can’t even describe the feeling, because even though the hike was difficult, it was worth it. That does not mean I have a need to go back and do it again though. I think a one time climb of Mt Kilimanjaro is enough for me.
The way down was a lot easier than the way up but it was still a little slow with all the rocks and wood and stairs. My knees were not enjoying it. When we finally got down, I didn’t feel terrible, I actually felt good! Well, getting off the bus after a two and a half hour ride back to our hotel made me realize how sore I really am. My legs are feeling pretty stiff and achy but that’s alright. I think the most difficult part of this trip will be to explain to people how it was or answer questions, not just about the climb today but everything. What we are all experiencing here is so different and life changing and I can’t possibly make others, who haven’t experienced it, understand. The pictures don’t even do justice, but I will try my best to explain how this trip changed my life.