On August 7th, team members from across North America united at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi, Tanzania. Betsy Northam and her sister Rachel flew in fresh and rested from 5 days on Zanzibar Island. The others arrived via bus ride across the Kenya/Tanzania border. The Kilimanjaro climbing team consisted of Betsy Northam of San Diego, Amber Sidhu of San Diego, Kelly Dunfee of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and SMI guide April Mayhew. During the climb, Betsy’s sister Rachel Mueller would provide base camp support from her poolside office at the Springlands Hotel.
August 8: After a celebratory dinner and a well-earned night’s sleep, we stretched our legs during a morning walk through the local villages and jungles of Moshi. The terrain navigated around small neighboring farms, then broke away into a dramatic landscape of manicured rice fields with a peripheral background of untamed jungle.
Walking with balance along the narrow rims of the fields can be tricky. Many large wild birds use the rice fields as a food source. In addition to grand views, our trek was graced by many friendly greetings from village children and rice fieldworkers.
August 9-10. Our first two days on Kilimanjaro were spent navigating the jungles and ridges of the Umbwe route. Through light showers and mist, the glaciers of Kilimanjaro would occasionally appear – an inspirational beacon that fueled our progress. In good time we arrived at Barranco Camp (12,926’/3940m), what would be our base camp for two nights.
August 11. The small storm blew through sometime during the night, lightly dusting the the benches of the mountain. We enjoyed morning tea and coffee underneath a looming Kilimanjaro, our first view of the mountain uninterrupted by clouds or weather. After breakfast of porridge, fruit, toast and eggs, we walked up to Lava Tower (15,190’/4630m) our high point of the day and Betsy’s personal record. A hot lunch welcomed us back at camp, and the remainder of the day was spent relaxing, writing, reading, stretching, and napping.
August 12. Soon after packing up camp, our team deftly scaled our high point of Barranco Wall then made our way along the south circuit path to Karanga Valley, and up to Karanga Camp (12,893’/3930m). After cleaning up, we were treated to a hot lunch of fries, chicken, vegetable slaw, sliced fresh watermelon and oranges, and pineapple juice. The sun broke up a lower cloud layer, which allowed stunning views of Mt. Meru and villages surrounding the base of Kilimanjaro.
August 13. We broke camp and made good time moving to our high camp, Barafu (115,091’/4600m). After a hot lunch, we prepared for tonight’s summit bid. Many international climbers were staged here and the camp buzzed with excitement.
August 14. We headed off into the night, a stream of headlamps breaking up the blackness, a small but very strong climbing team! We passed many parties on the way as we hiked underneath a brilliant starry sky. At 5:45AM our team reached Uhuru Peak (19,340’/5895m), the summit of Kilimanjaro! After arriving back at Barafu Camp, we enjoyed a hot breakfast before packing up camp and descending down into the oxygen-rich jungle to Mweka Camp (10,170’/3100m).
August 15. In the morning, the local staff that supported our climb sang farewell to the team. After many hugs, we separated and made our way down to Mweka Gate, where our transport waited to return us to Moshi for an afternoon of well-deserved R & R!
The entire photo gallery from our climb of Kilimanjaro can be found here:
The following days, Amber, Rachel, Betsy and April went on Safari while Kelly remained in Moshi donating her time at two local children’s homes. Her presence was missed on safari!
Over the course of five days the team visited Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and the great Serengeti Plains. In addition to seeing a wide range of exotic wildlife our safaris are also a rich cultural experience. We spent some time a local orphanage near that has become a traditional stop on our trips. We also visited a local Masai Village where we were treated to traditional Masai dancing ceremonies, saw the mud huts they live in, and we were given the opportunity to purchase jewelry items.
Wildlife was prevalent throughout our safari. Below are a few pictures. The entire photo gallery can be found here:
Great job April and team. Looks like all of you had a wonderful time. Africa gets in your blood and heart and keeps pulling at you to return. I hope to visit again sometime.