When I went for my internship in Malawi, 7 years ago, I told myself: One day I will climb the highest mountain of Africa and guess what? In September 2016 I did it! A lot of people are asking me lately how did I do it, if I had a lot of physical practice and if I needed special preparation for all this? I can say for sure that you cannot go unprepared but do not be scared, it is not only physical training. A very big part of it is pure mental strength. This is how my preparation went.
First I booked my tickets for Africa and searched for an organization to climb this fantastic, gigantic mountain: The Kilimanjaro (now also called the “Kili” by myself). I flew with Turkish airlines (which was a pleasant and amazing company!) from Athens through Istanbul. I booked my tickets end of June to leave in September (yes I know, it was a last minute decision). Surprisingly the tickets were cheap, so I jumped on the occasion and went for it.
Finding a good company to climb with (no, you can not climb this mountain on your own) was not the easiest job because there are tons of them. The trick is to find that one that pays their employees as it should, because this is often neglected, and one that just seems honest. I was lucky enough to be able to climb with Nyange adventures. Their slogan was: come as client and leave as a friend. This is totally true. I felt amazingly at home with all these people. I even felt so good that I did all my other activities with them.
The preparation of the trip was pretty hectic. As a last minute person you are kind of prepared for such kind of things. As far as the vaccinations is concerned, I needed Yellow fever and Typhoid. I was scared that it would be too late but luckily not. It is the first thing I arranged. Tanzania is also a country where there is a danger for malaria. For this I did a lot of research and finally I chose to take the medication; malarone. I had no side effects with these pills (the previous time I was in Africa one of my friends took lariam and had hallucinations, I really wanted to avoid this part of course). And last but not least they scared me on every website with altitude sickness. It is a fact that when you go above 3000m you can get sick easily. That’s why I took Diamox. It makes your blood transport more oxygen which helps to breath easier in high altitude (my fingers were crossed in the hope that it would work).
Clothing was one of my biggest fears. I was scared to be too hot, too cold, not comfortable enough, to have pain or to be soaked because I didn’t have good enough hiking boots. So, I went on my biggest hiking-boots-hunt ever (at least that is what I thought in the beginning). It quickly was reduced to only 2 choices. Because guess what: finding winter hiking boots in summer in Athens is not the cleverest idea ever. But blessed as I was, I found my perfect pair of Salomon (Authentic ltr gtx ® w) on sale! Walked them in (only 2 times) while walking in Athens and felt no slice of pain. Hooray, I was saved!
The rest came smoothly. Got my backpack (Osprey Stratos 36), thermal clothes, a good old-fashioned k-way (like we call them in Belgium) and lots of other warm and comfy clothes. Probably too much but I felt more and more ready for the adventure. In the meanwhile I kept my physical condition under control. Went for a couple of joggings but didn’t want to injure myself so I was very careful. I didn’t do any extra training but I guessed that any little bit would help.
The day of departure arrived and the nerves accompanied it. Two days before departure I started taking my malarone and felt the beginning of a new adventure starting. I felt prepared and unprepared at the same time: Nervous I had forgotten many things but at the same time I knew everything would be okay. I had never been as prepared for a travel as this one. Got up early in the morning and off I went…
(To be continued)