I spent the end of February and first week of March in the beautiful country of Tanzania. I had a couple of requests to create a blog about my trip here. Starting from safaris, climbing Africa’s highest mountain, experiences with tortoises, spending a night in a tented camp to time in the spice garden. I’m going to run through it all in this ultimate guide. The main objective for my Tanzania trip happened to be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro which was one of the best experiences of my life.
I started this trip to Tanzania on 20th February and moved around in 19 days. This was a longer trip than usual due to expedition along with the site seeing. So without further adieu, I’m going to talk about every unique experience I’ve had a chance with this vacation.
Kilimanjaro was one of the biggest goals I was looking forward to achieving this year. My year started with this very objective and my hours of training followed this idea. I was training every day for about 2 hours and spent that time on a stationery bike, stepper and inclined treadmill. This whole experience felt extremely new, because guess what, never have I spent 2 hours in the gym consecutively for so long.
When the time arrived, I got ready to pack all my gear for this much awaited expedition. As I have mentioned on my previous blog, I planned to do this climb with my father and husband. After many good hours of flights, I reached Tanzania after 25 years. I spent the first few years of my life in that beautiful country and I was so happy to be back. The first night was all about resting and briefing for the next day which happened to be day 1 of Kilimanjaro. During the briefing with our guide, we were told to follow five very important rules of climbing the mountain. The five rules were : eating, resting, drinking, pole pole, and communication. Pole Pole in Swahili (local language) translates to slowly slowly. So we were bent upon following these rules all through this climb.
Sadly enough, the night before the climb, I didn’t get much sleep that night, three hours at most. So I didn’t wake up feeling super fresh, but it was important for us to stick to the plan for the expedition. When we got to the base of Kilimanjaro, I was super excited looking at the porters, fellow climbers and guides. We had a quick bite and stared climbing and climbed for about 8 hours. The first day was quite long and I was more tired than usual given the no sleep background. The last two hours of the climb, I was thinking to myself ” oh my god, when are we going to reach camp 1?”
We finally made it to first camp and I was exhausted, and communicated with my guide that I am not feeling that wonderful about this. His advice was every day on the mountain is completely different from the other. He asked me to get a good night’s sleep and wake up and see how we feel. The whole crew we had on the climb, made the difference to me. They used to call me “Dada” in Swahili which translates to “sister”.
The next day I was feeling great and it was a shorter 5 hour climb. However, there is a twist in the story, since there was something that was bothering me since day one, It was, my migraines which I was feeling from the first day of this climb. The migraines made it very difficult for me to be able to climb without that debilitating headache. The first and second day were fine because the medication was working. However, as and when we kept getting higher up in the mountain the medication went from less effective to not effective at all. Here is a video of us climbing up the Barranco wall.
The fourth day was about 10 hours of climbing up to a camp known as Lava Tower. For me, this was the most physically challenging days I have ever encountered. The difficult part for me was not that I was tired or out of breath, it was the migraines which at this point were giving me hazy vision and pulsating headaches. And at this point at 4600m approximately, everyone feels a bitt of the altitude hitting them as well. I think what I experienced up there was Double Trouble. I got to that camp, crying with my body totally giving up since I wasn’t able to really see clearly. But,
I MADE IT!
It is one of the days in my life that I look back at and think, I am so proud of myself. I realized that day how the mind could be your biggest friend or biggest enemy and it is so strong. The only reason I made it up there was my mind and not my body. Climbing this huge elevation in one day was for the sake of acclimatization and sleeping at a lower altitude. When I got to the next camp, there was no way to move down from that point and I needed to climb up to the higher camp. So I got there since I truly wanted my husband to be able to fly off the summit and my father to summit. Despite being in that discomfort I got to the highest camp and decided to not try to summit since that was a 16 hour long climb and I was not happy taking 5 medicines a day.
It was a tough call, but I was happy and very proud on almost climbing 5000m. I don’t think I am going to forget my night alone with hurricane like winds in a tent at 5000m alone and seeing the base of my tent flying away. This was a big achievement for me and a kind I truly value because I learned such special things out there that I don’t think anything else could have taught me. I was able to develop very special relationships with our crew. I value this experience and I got off that mountain thinking about simple things like the taste of water, a comfortable bed, oxygen, heat and trees. I dedicated this climb to my husband, and it was my goal to take a photo holding a baby photo of his in my hands. Since, I made up my mind I decided to take the photo at the highest point I got to.
That was all about Kilimanjaro, however we had a lot more of our trip ahead of us. Here are some of the other stunning photos from Kilimanjaro!
I had a chance to be a part of three amazing safari’s in three of Tanzania’s best national parks. It was between Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Serengeti. In simple words, when I had a first look of Ngorongoro crater, I thought to myself this place is unreal. The kind of biodiversity you see here, is unmatchable as compared to many parts of the world. The second you drive down to the base of the crater, you get a chance to see packs of zebras, lions, elephants walking around in numbers that are unprecedented,
Since,I had so many stunning photos from the safari, I decided to post my gallery of my favorite clicks.
Our best stay was at Hotel Melia at Serengeti who were extremely hospitable to us. It had views of the entire Serengeti plains and a lovely pool overlooking that view. At Ngorongoro, we had a chance to stay at Serena Hotel which offered stunning views of the whole crater. These hotels made our stay extremely memorable and I recommend these hotels.
Staying in a tented camp was an experience I always wanted to have and I finally got a chance to do it. Staying in these camps and hearing the sounds of animals outside your tent all night long is a special experience. I remember walking into the tented camp and thinking wow, this is such a luxurious tent after Kilimanjaro. When I was in the mountain tents, there were separate dining tents, sleeping tents, toilet tents and you have to get out of that cosy sleeping bag to do any of the above. At this tented camp, I was appreciating a proper shower, a toilet, a bed and all the simplest things. And I had a good laugh thinking about how human beings adapt to pretty much anything.
One beautiful companion we had the evening we stayed at tented camp was this sunset. It was undoubtedly the most prettiest, pink sunset I had ever seen in my life. I was in complete awe of how it had all those shades of pink, baby pink, orange, purple scattered in layers. Another nice element of the tented camp was that we needed to be assisted by a hotel staff to get to the dining room which was separated from the rooms. We had o signal a torch light outside the room to call for one of the people to come get you to stay safe from wild animals.
We extended our trip a little further by visiting the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. The last time I was there was a good 25 years ago and I was super happy to be there. There were a few things we had on our itinerary but first,
This was a walking tour of Stone town emphasizing on the history of Zanzibar and the architectural influences it has had. It was a super nice experience walking through the narrow streets of stone town and looking at the Indian architecture influences on the doors.
Tortoise Island was an island commonly known as Changu Island. It is a day trip from Zanzibar and very worth the visit to meet tortoises which are a 100-160 years old. I was right in time for their feeding hour and totally enjoyed every minute of feeding them. It is a well looked after place and you get a chance to spend a lot of quality time with the animals.
Apart from the tortoises on the island, there is also an ancient prison for the slaves in the past. The doors have this rustic, but beautiful aqua blue that I could not resist admiring.
Another thing we happened to visit here in Zanzibar was a Spice Garden which was extremely engaging, This spice garden had all sorts of local plants and trees and we were taken on a complete tour. Our guide made us guess the names of the plant, herb or tree by looking or smelling the leaves and fruits, and that kept us on the hook.
Last, but not the least was visiting Dar es Salam, and finding the exact place I grew up in 25 years ago. I spent about four years of my life in Dar es salam, so it was always meaningful for me to go back there.
I was able to find my home after a lot of walking and talking to the local residents in the apartment complex. My husband was so supportive, recording the whole process of finding the home. I had a chance to meet some wonderful, kind people who took me around. I was emotional when I did find my home and to share this moment, I called my parents on a video call and they were sharing all their memories of that place.
So here it is, all my thoughts and experiences from my vacation in Tanzania!
Lots of Love,
The Road Dress Travelled x