Kilimanjaro

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Background information:

Location: 03 degrees 07’S, 37 degrees 35’E in the United Republic of Tanzania

Altitude: 19,340’ (5,963 meters)

Tidbits: Highest free-standing mountain of earth

Highest point in Africa

Most expansive view on earth (you can see approximately 60,000 square-miles from the summit)

Time Zone: GMT +3 hours

Maps: The best map I found was the 1:75,000 Topographical Map of Kilimanjaro published by EWP, Mountain and Wilderness Guides, Haulfryn, Cilycwm, Llandovery, SA20 0SP, UK (tel: 01550721319). The map is printed on water-resistant, tare-resistant paper and is available in many specialty map, mountaineering, and travel stores.

To call Tanzania by phone: 011- 255 (for Moshi/Kilimanjaro area) followed by the phone number.

Practical Information:

When to go:

There are two seasons in Tanzania. Rainy and not. The "not rainy" seasons are from December through March and June through October. The December through March dates tend to be a bit warmer than their June-October counterparts.

I decided to leave for my trip on January 20, 2000.

Inoculations and Medications

You should check with you physician as to which medications and inoculations to take. Please note that some inoculations must be taken a month in advance in order to build up an effective immunity prior to your trip. Yellow Fever is prevalent and a vaccination is generally required in order to enter the country. You should make certain that you receive an World Health Organization Vaccination Card from your physician. According to international regulations, the Yellow Fever (only) inoculation must contain a certified stamp from your physician. Most travelers clinics and infectious disease specialists have this stamp; however, many general practice physicians do not have it (and some do not even know what it is). Border crossings are sometimes an iffy business, so it’s not a bad idea to follow the letter of the law and get the proper stamp so that you will not have any problem at the border.

I received a total of four inoculations this trip. The first was Hepatitis-A. This disease is rampant throughout Asia and Africa and can be passed through casual contact with food and other methods. In order to build up an effective immunity you must receive two injections, spaced six months apart. You should receive the first injection at least one month before your trip. The second inoculation I received was a tetanus and diphtheria booster. The third inoculation was for typhoid. The fourth was a Polio booster.

I decided not to receive a hepatitis-B injection, since this disease is mostly passed on by exchange of fluids, rather than casual contact. I also decided not to receive a cholera injection, since there can be adverse symptoms associated with the injection and the injection only gives partial immunity. I experienced some very minor irritation at the site of the injection for a few days, but other than that, there were no problems.

I also received prescriptions for several medications. The first was an anti-malarial medication. These are tablets that are taken once a week. The first one is taken one week before your trip. You continue taking them weekly until four weeks AFTER you leave Africa. The next drug is Cipro, which is an antibiotic that is taken for travelers diarrhea (you only take the drug after the onset of diarrhea). I also received a prescription for Diamox This drug helps with the acclimatization process. And is taken twice a day beginning three days before reaching high altitude. It is a diuretic, so you can experience tingling in your fingers and frequent urination. Since I have been to altitude before without any significant reaction, I decided to take this drug with me, but not take the pills unless I experienced high-altitude mountain sickness. I also brought Imodium and Tylenol (note that Advil, aspirin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can adversely interact with Diamox, so check with your physician.

Visas:

A visa is required in order to enter Tanzania. You can purchase a visa at the airport, but I preferred to get mine in advance. The easiest way was is call the Tanzanian Mission in New York (212-972-9160) and verify the current procedure. When I traveled, I was instructed to download a visa application at www.tanzania-online.gov.uk and then send a certified check in the amount of $45 made payable to the "Tanzania Mission" and send it to the Tanzania Mission, 205 East 42nd Street, Room 1300, NY, NY 10017. Again, you should call the Tanzania Mission first and verify that these are still the correct procedures and determine the current fee. If you are going to be landing in Nairobi, you will need a multi-entry visa from the government of Kenya .

Currency:

The official unit of currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling. It is virtually impossible to exchange currency into Shillings (and perhaps more importantly, from Shillings, back to your native currency) anywhere outside of the airport in Tanzania. Don’t bother. Everybody takes dollars. Stick with US currency and you’ll be OK. For the current exchange rate, click here: http://finance.yahoo.com/m5?a=1&s=USD&t=TZS.

Bring lots of small US$ bills ($1’s and $5’s). If you haven’t been warned already "There is no change in Tanzania". A $20 bill is a small fortune and, in most cases, you will not be able to get change. If you do get change, it will be in Tanzanian Shillings. Stick with US currency.

Also, it is common practice to add a 5% - 15% surcharge for using a credit card. If you use travelers checks, a fee of approximately $15 is added per transaction. The vendors are just passing down the fees that the bank charges them. Using travelers checks can get pricey. It’s also inconvenient since the vendors will insist that you write your full name, home address, and password number on EACH travelers check.

For my trip, I decided to pay for the hotel room (only) using travelers checks. Everything else was paid in cash. Other than tips, this did not amount to a great deal of money.

Electricity:

Just be happy if you can get it.

Children:

It was interesting to note that there were no children on the plane. None. Also, I didn’t see a single child at the hotel or the safari. Under Tanzanian park rules, a child must be at least 10 years old to ascend Kilimanjaro above 3,000 meters.

Route Selection:

There are several wonderful routes up the mountain. I selected the Machame route. This route winds it’s way up the mountain…

Hotel and Climb Reservation:

There are several reliable companies in both the US and Tanzania that can arrange your hotel and climb. The truth is that the vast majority of the US companies end up booking the climb with the local Tanzanian hotels, mark up the price by 300% to 800%, and end up selling you the same package. If you make a little extra effort, you can save a LOT of money by booking your climb and hotel DIRECTLY with a firm in Tanzania.

I booked my trip with Keys Hotels Limited, a small family-run hotel located in Moshi. They had top-notch accommodations including private baths, air conditioning, hot water, a swimming pool, and numerous western luxuries (in-room bar, TV, etc.). The hotel will also make your climb arrangements and take care of EVERYTHING from the minute you land at the airport until the moment you depart. Try to book both the climb and hotel with the same firm…you’ll end up saving a LOT of money and there are less hassles since the guides are more carefully selected since the hotel’s reputation depends on them. The Keys Hotel offered both climb and safaris at very reasonable rates. I did not have enough time for a safari, so I ended up booking the climb through them. They offered both 6 and 7 days climbs on the Machame route (as well as other routes). The 7th day gives you an extra day to acclimatize and visit Arrow Glacier. I selected the 6 day climb.

I paid $850 for a comprehensive package. The package included a hotel room on the day of arrival and day before departure, transfers to and from the airport, park fees and rescue insurance (which totals about $400 of the $850 charge), all meals at both the hotel and during the climb, porters, cook, guide, and tent. You can’t go wrong for this kind of money! US firms were offering identical packages for $2,000 - $4,000. The keys hotel can be contacted at +255-55-52250. They also have a web-site at http://www.btinternet.com/~keys.hotel. The general procedure is that you call them and tell them the dates and options you would like for your trip. They will quote a price and request a small deposit ($100 in my case as a single traveler) to be sent (either a wire or a bank/cashier’s check) by special carrier (DHL, etc.). The balance can be paid upon arrival by either credit card, travelers check, or cash. Most hotels cannot accept credit card deposits over the phone due to problems that they experience in Tanzania with fraudulent transactions. To get the deposit check to Tanzania, I got a bank check from my local bank. There was no fee for this service, however, some banks charge a dollar or two. I then sent it at the US Post Office by International Express Mail. The cost for this service was about $20 (private carriers wanted between $60 and $100). It arrived in three business days. It was a little extra work to book directly, but definitely worth it.

Packing List:

Dress around the hotel is very informal. It is hot and humid, so shorts and short-sleeve shirts are in order. The hotel will provide group camping gear (tents, sleeping mats, cookware, plates, utensils, etc.). You will need a good sleeping bag (I recommend a bag rated at 20 degrees). You’ll probably want to use your own sleeping pad.

For the first three days of your climb, you’ll be wearing shorts or lightweight long pants and tee shirts. At night, you’ll want a flannel top. Bring a flashlight with extra bulbs and batteries, a water-purifier (capable of removing viruses) waterproof pants and shirt (a Gore-Tex coat can serve double-duty as a raincoat and as an outer coat for summit-day), and a good pair of sunglasses, preferably with side panels. You want flannel shirt and pants and gaiters to keep scree out of your boots. For footwear, I bought a pair of sneakers and a good pair of Gore-Tex lined boots (Saloman). I ended up wearing the sneakers around camp, and on the first and last days of the climb. The other days are very rocky and you’ll want the boots. I also highly recommend trekking poles, plus common sense items (first aid kit, bug repellant, non-cotton clothing, two roles of toilet paper, soap, toiletries, good wool socks, etc.). Bring a heavy-duty duffel bad WITH A SMALL PADLOCK to stuff everything in. The padlock serves double-duty. First, it will help prevent any probing or pilfering of your personal belongings when your porter is out of site and it provides extra security to keep your duffel’s zippers firmly secured so that it doesn’t pop-open during the nearly 100 miles of trekking that you will be doing. If the duffel is not waterproof, stuff everything in plastic trash bags within the duffel. This is critical since your supplies will get drenched if it is raining. You should also bring a small waterproof daypack…large enough to fit a jacket, an extra pair of socks, first aid kit, food, flashlight, money, raingear, water bottles, camera, etc. (and anything else you’ll want with you during the day as you climb).

Getting There:

There are two primary methods of getting to Kilimanjaro from the United States and Europe. The first is flying to Nairobi, Kenya, staying overnight, and taking a bus or shuttle across the border to Tanzania and arriving in Moshi many hours later.

Advantages:

  1. Airfares to Nairobi are competitively priced and there are several flight options from several airlines
  2. It gives you the opportunity to visit Kenya

Disadvantages:

  1. Nairobi is a dirty, crime-ridden city frequently referred to as "Nai-Robbery"
  2. You must pay for two nights additional hotel lodging (one night after arrival and one night after departure).
  3. You must take a long bus ride, with a border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania, to arrive and depart to/from Tanzania.
  4. You must purchase a "multi-visit" Kenyian visa in order to initially enter the Kenya on your flight, and then to return to the country when you come back from Tanzania.
  5. If you objective is to climb Kilimanjaro, you lose one day on arrival and one day on departure for travel between Nairobi, Kenya and Moshi, Tanzania

The other method is to fly into Kilimanjaro airport (airport code: JRO).

Advantages:

  1. There is direct service from Amsterdam on a frequent basis (the return flight makes a single stop in Dar es Salam and continues on to Amsterdam without a change of planes).
  2. You avoid one border crossing and the need to purchase a Kenyan visa.
  3. It is the most efficient (time-wise) method of arriving in the country. You can land on Monday and start your climb on Tuesday.
  4. You do not need to book extra nights at a hotel, or arrange bus-transportation.

Since I wanted to minimize time away from the office, my itinerary looked like this:

January 20th- Depart San Francisco for Amsterdam, non-stop, on KLM. Arrive the morning of the 21st. I used my frequent-flyer files for a free business-class ticket (80,000 miles). A coach ticket would have been $596.

January 21st- Overnight in Amsterdam. I stayed at the airport Sheraton. I didn’t want to have to deal with concerns about rush-hour traffic trying to catch my departing flight. The airport Sheraton is located directly in the terminal of Schiphol airport. I paid approximately 295 Guilders for the room (about $150). You can check rates at http://www.sheraton.com. I selected an "endless weekend" rate and got a free buffet breakfast included. There is a shuttle train that departs from Amsterdam every 15 minutes. Roundtrip fare is only a few dollars. So, I got in a day of sightseeing.

January 22nd- Depart in the morning on KLM for Kilimanjaro airport. This ticket was a bit pricey…almost $1,200. The 8 ½ hour flight arrives at 9:10pm. The hotel made arrangements to pick me up at the airport. Overnight at the hotel.

January 23rd-January 28th- Depart for my climb

January 28th- Return to the Keys hotel for overnight.

January 29th- Depart Kilimanjaro airport at 10:10pm for Amsterdam, via one-stop (no change of planes) in Dar es Salaam. Arrive in Amsterdam at 8:00am on January 30th.

January 30th- Check in at the airport Sheraton in the morning (I could have caught the morning flight back to San Francisco, but I wanted a day to unwind and get in a little extra sight-seeing) the rest of the day was free to explore Amsterdam.

January 31st- Return flight to San Francisco.

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