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Random Blog Interlude

9.15.2010 | 4 Comments

Wanna see what happens when I come home after leaving Jenn and Luna for 19 days?

(Mind the 10 seconds of black before the video starts…)


….oh, and there’s also THIS


Aug, 26th, 2010- Day Four

9.14.2010 | 1 Comment

Shira 2 – Barranco Camp via Lava Tower

Last night was terrifying. For some reason my lungs decided that they wanted to show me what it felt like if they were to say, oh I don’t know, EXPLODE. I woke up in an absolute panic, unable to catch my breath, and feeling as though my chest were being crushed under a tremendous weight. I was in a tent by myself (Ali, Christopher and I traded off on sleeping alone each night, to the great confusion of our poor porters), and was scared absolutely stupid. I wanted to go and find Reggie or Ali, but I didn’t want them to think that I was being silly… so I stayed in my tent, propped myself up on my backpack, had a little water and tried to fall back asleep.

In the morning when I woke up, I realized that perhaps my pneumonia from earlier this year had come back to haunt me.


This should be fun to deal with at 15,000 ft, eh?

Off we go!

Let me quote you from today’s journal entry, written after the day’s hike was complete:

Worst. Day. EVAR. Holy shit. I am done. Nauseated, dizzy, exhausted… I’m a mess. As much as my mind wants me to summit, my body may not let me, and I’m ok with that. I might be disappointed, but I won’t be dead.

As you can see, this was not a fun day for me. In fact, aside from the final summit push, Day Four was my worst day, hands down. This hike was killer for me. Up, up, up, up…. then down, down, down, down. So much down that my teammates and I were getting rather cranky and we started to mutiny when our guide got all snitty when we wanted to take breaks.

We did have one AMAZING break, though – lunch at Lava Tower, which is situated at 15, 000 ft!

Needless to say, exhaustion coupled with high altitude make finding the energy to lift a forkful of spaghetti to your face, stuff it in your gob, and chew quite a challenge.  Oh, tasty, tasty exhaustion…

After our lunch, we got back on the trail and headed to Barranco Camp, which we finally reached after experiencing the World’s Longest Downhill Torture Test. But what a sight!

Seriously, that is AWESOME. A huge, sheer, WALL of awesome. Thank god we take a trail around that thing, because climbing up it would be ridiculous!!

So… Ali and I fell into our tent, swore at the video camera for a couple of minutes, (The Barranco Bitchfest), then had a quick nap. We woke up, she went to the mess tent for dinner, and I went to find a nice quiet rock to barf behind in private.

I must say this: dry heaving at high altitude is very, VERY scary. I’m not kidding! You simply can’t catch your breath, and you feel like you’re going to choke and aspirate.. actually, I’ll be honest, it’s so scary that you kind of WISH you’d choke and aspirate. Nonetheless, I felt better afterward, and went to have some pasta. Pasta cures everything. Oh pasta… I love you… what can’t you do?

And so, now onto Day Five tomorrow… we hike for about 4 hours to Karanga Hut… but gain only 158 ft. Yeah, you read that right – 158 ft.  Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Next Time: What do you mean there’s no path around the Barranco Wall?!


Aug 25th, 2010 – Day Three

9.13.2010 | 0 Comments

Shira One to Shira Two

Ahhhhh, good morning.

YIPES!  Oooof… ok, I’m getting the idea that maybe camping just isn’t for me. What do you think? Eeee… not good.

Anyway, after trudging through the blazing sun for a few hours yesterday, we all decided that the best thing to do would be to trudge through the blazing sun for a few hours today. Seems that yesterday I was fortunate enough to get myself some sun stroke, and golly, I must say, it certainly helped to keep my mood bright and chipper! The thought of marching on up to 12, 779 ft today is not really adding to the joy in my heart. Blargh. Yeah, you heard me: blargh.

Yesterday I was a bit concerned because I drank over 4 litres of water and… well… none of it came out again. So, of course I decided that must mean that I was dehydrated. So at dinner, I made sure to drink lots and lots of tea. Needless to say, after waking up 3x last night to engage in the world’s Longest Sustained Urine Expulsion contest, I haven’t had the most restful of sleeps.  Note to self: no fluids after 6pm.

So off we go to Shira Two camp. Because of the incredible amount of dust (and subsequently the beginning of the ‘you have GOT to see this!’ nose blowing game), I decided to cover my face as much as I could so as to avoid inhaling a dust lunch.

I started the day off as Lil’ Ms. Grumpy Pants because I wasn’t looking forward to a repeat of yesterday’s slog. However, the hike today was really great! Not a whole lot of altitude gain, but the scenery was incredible.

Totally like nothing I’d ever seen before, that’s for sure! All Space Age-y, and weird planted…

Totally alien! Cool, eh?  So, after only a few hours, we reached Shira Two camp – it was AWESOME. It was the first ‘above-the-clouds’ camp we hit. It was so incredibly beautiful… no photos can do it justice, but we tried!

Such a strange landscape! Rocky, stubby-trees, gray, bleak… but it was so beautiful. Really, I highly recommend that you go hike Mt. Kilimanjaro just so you can see Shira Two camp. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, we arrived, set up camp, had some lunch, then had a nice long rest. We did a short ‘acclimatization hike’ (about an hour), then settled down to dinner before settling into bed. All in all it was a day that I really enjoyed, and probably the day of the hike that I liked best.  See?  Happy happy!

With this day done, in the bag, over with, finished, complete… let’s see what Ali and I had to say about it…

Team Lug Nut at Shira Two

Next time: Lunch at 15,000 ft!


Random Photo Blog! YAY!

9.12.2010 | 0 Comments

I was going to do a nice fat blog post for you today, but I got a little tied down and couldn’t get to the computer until now… so, I thought I’d toss up some photos for now.    🙂

First things first, I wanted to make sure that you all knew that I kept a journal of my adventure. I wrote in it a lot. Mostly so that I could remember what actually happened, as opposed to stuff I may have just made up in my head.

Second, you all should know that Ali is a nut.

Oh, and here’s the baggage check-in at the Dar es Salaam domestic airport terminal (we were flying to Kilimanjaro International Airport). We walked to the desk, got a hand-written check-in, and put our bags on the floor. They were then put on a little cart. The cart was then wheeled to a bus. We then walked to the same bus. Baggage and people were dumped unceremoniously on the bus. Bus then raced down the tarmac and chased the plane that was already in mid-taxi. Plane stops, baggage and people were dumped unceremoniously on the plane. Take off. I love Africa.

I’m not sure this is quite as funny as I found it to be at high altitude.

Camping isn’t funny at ANY altitude.

Hooks in an abandoned boat on the beach in Kendwa, Zanzibar.

Maasai man walking on the beach in Zanzibar.

Power line set-up in Stonetown, Zanzibar.

Typical Stonetown building. I loved Stonetown, and I’d love to go back again soon.

Kendwa beach, Zanzibar!

Ahhhhhhh, yes. Life is rough in Zanzibar…

Next time: Day Three – from Shira 1 to Shira 2!


Aug 24, 2010 – Day Two

9.11.2010 | 2 Comments

Mkubwa Forest Camp to Shira One

My first thought when I awoke this morning was, “I cannot believe that people willfully go camping“. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you people?! It was a relief to get out of that tent and onto the trail! Or so I thought…

Today we hiked to Shira One camp. It was a long day and our first real experience with extended bouts of mondo uphill hiking. It started out beautifully as we wandered through the last bit of rainforest, then came out of the trees and looked into a mountainous landscape of dried grasses and crunchy, stubby green trees.

The hard part, though, was that when you looked around, you would catch glimpses of wee tiny, tiny bugs scaling up long, steep paths ahead of you. But they weren’t bugs, they were our porters, and they were walking where we were heading. I saw a lot of this:

If you look reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally closely you can see tiny white spots on the photo. That’s where we’re going. Up there. All day. I think that spending all day watching people hike the trail ahead is the outdoorsy equivalent to walking that last hallway toward the electric chair. “Daunted girl hiking!”

Anyway, it was HOT today. VERY hot. There wasn’t much in the way of shade, so the sun just beat down on you and (I believe) made a faint ‘wom-wom-wom’ sound like some sort of Star Trek heat laser… gun… thingy. Whatever! It was hot, ok?

So, after winding and wending, climbing and cresting, we finally see it; Mt. Kilimanjaro. Its taken two days of hiking to get to this point, and my god, it was incredibly beautiful. It also seemed to be about a year away! This was my first reaction to it:

That’s Kili in the background there… days away. DAYS AWAY.

Anyway, after about 5 hours of hiking we stumbled into Shira One camp, (not the prettiest campsite, but damn, what a view!)

signed the log book (that’s what’s in that green hut-lookin’ thing on the left), snarfed on some snacks to re-energize us (popcorn and cake! Best. Snacks. EVAR.), then fell into our tents to bitch about the End of Day Two. And for the first time in my life, I was grateful to see the inside of a tent.

Tomorrow: Ms. Destro VonDustenstein  gets smart…


I Coulda’ had Class… I Coulda’ been a Contendah.

9.10.2010 | 0 Comments

Day 2 – The Morning of…

About 15 seconds after my stomach woke up today, I too woke up, but in a much more frantic state. Round One of the Ultimate Title Fight between me and my sleeping bag was about to commence, and no matter how many times I punched that thing off of me, it always seemed to rebound back the next time with a feistier spirit and a stickier zipper. The sure way to guarantee that the zipper on your sleeping bag will eat fabric with every single one of its teeth, is to try and exit that nylon sausage casing in a hurry. Pulling angrily at that stupid zipper, I was sure I heard it make a distinct sound not unlike a muffled, nasal snicker.

Wrestling a sleeping bag while trying to keep quiet so as to not wake Ali, and attempting to avoid touching any surface of that condensation-rich tent was not a simple task when coupled with the fact that my stomach was a roiling intestinal surf. Finally able to bend my leg a slight crook, I kicked off the sleeping bag and searched for my boots. There is something just so unearthly obnoxious about having to jam your feet into outside-the-tent boots on a dewy, tired morning. Nonetheless, having the Pit Toilet Utopia as my destination, on stuffed the boots, and I was free and finally de-tented!

Wandering tight-legged through the bleary maze of stale, waking campers, I headed toward the “toilet” with white roll covertly stuffed up my sleeve. Yes, should anyone see me with a toilet roll it would simply be embarrassing! Here’s something I very quickly learned that frenzied morning: there is no dignity on Kili. Any sort of bathroom adventures are essentially fair game for anyone within earshot. Your only saving grace is the cover of night, if you should be so lucky as to have a 3am bowel emergency. Otherwise, you may as well strap the neon “I JUST POOPED” billboard to your toque. For those that know me well, any sort of water closet discussion is strictly forbidden. If it involves a bathroom fan and/or matches, it’s off limits in the conversation category.

I remember when I had class. When there was a part of me that was still feminine and mysterious, when I smelled of roses and kitten fur and unicorn-blessed rainbows. Those were the days before I went to Kilimanjaro. Gone was the soft, tender mystique. In its place drifted adolescent-boy fart games, and ‘you-have-GOT-to-see-this’ nose-blowing contests. The mere notion of personal privacy becomes laughable as you learn to stone-cold stare down what could once have been considered your pride.

As a woman, I am lucky enough to have some experience with bathroom stranger etiquette. Sure I can ask the lady in the next stall to pass some spare toilet tissue under the partition, but that comes with a nice, veiled anonymity. You sort of shuffle your feet to one side before you ask the next stall stranger for assistance, lest you exit the bathroom recognizable by your shoes. But on Kili, you’ve got nothing but a door-less shack, some overly-loud humming, and the fear that someone won’t hear your overly-loud humming, and walk into the door-less shack while you’re desperately breathing into a (thankfully) scented wet-nap and squatting over a (thankfully) dark hole.  There is no dignity on Kili.

Anyway, without giving any more information that I already have, let’s just say that my brief intestinal crisis was taken care of, and so I stumped back to the tent just in time for tea. Nothing to see here, everything’s fine… carry on, folks.

Let’s get hiking, shall we?


Aug 23rd, 2010 – Day One.

9.09.2010 | 2 Comments

Marangu Hotel to Londrossi Gate. Londrossi Gate to Mkubwa Forest Camp.

We arrived at Marangu Hotel last night a little later than we had anticipated, as our driver was a tad behind schedule picking us up from the airport (never underestimate the power of ‘Africa Time’). They were kind enough to save dinner for us, though, so we sat down in the dining room, ate our last satisfying supper, and read the little preparedness sheet we were given at the reception desk.

Apparently, with the route that we were taking (Lemosho, remember?), we needed to start at the Londrossi Gate, which was a FIVE HOUR drive from the hotel. From there, we start walking for a few hours until we reach first camp – Mkubwa.

Wait. Let me get this straight. We drive for five hours, and THEN we hike?!  How freaking long of a day is this going to be?!  One word: LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG.

So, we wake up this morning and I hop into the shower for what will be the final moment of cleanliness I will experience for the next eight days. I think to myself, “as soon as I turn this shower off, I start my climb“. I had to physically will myself to turn off the shower – pick up my right hand with my left one, and toss it at the faucet lever. Perhaps an ominous start?

I get dressed, lay out my gear for inspection (they don’t want you wandering up a mountain ill-prepared, you know!), pack my backpack, pack my day pack, pack my ‘stuff-I’m-leaving-at-the-hotel’ pack, and set off toward the reception area.

People are milling about, porters are packing, bags are being weighed, eggs are being packed in straw-lined coffee tins… The way it works is this; I carry my day pack which holds water, snacks, and rain gear. My personal porter (Arasmus) then carries my backpack with everything else in it (clothes, sleeping bag, etc…). Apparently he then puts HIS clothes in my backpack, too, so I have to make sure that I’m leaving room and weight to accommodate that. But wait… some strange man is going to carry my backpack? Isn’t that… kind of… gross? I mean, no offense, but I know how sweaty *I’M* going to get, and the thought of someone else’s sweaty back on my pack for eight days is a bit weird to me, so, I … wait… what’s that? They do WHAT?!

Ohhhhhhhh. Yeah, so what happens is Arasmus puts my big backpack and his gear into another bigger bag and just… well, carries it on his head. For eight days. It is my firm belief that Tanzanians defy gravity. Trust me, when I get to the day we climb the Barranco Wall, you’ll understand.

So anyway, we’re ready to go! Happy, happy team! Christopher, Steven, Amanda, your humble author, and Ali…

Don’t we look happy? Don’t we look positive? Don’t we look clean and shiny and completely oblivious? Yeaaah. Yeah, we do.

And so – we drive. We drive for 5 hours on the most back-jarring, bone-splintering, unrelentingly rough road I have ever seen. It’s so rough, in fact, that we all actually laugh continuously throughout the drive because it’s just so horrendously funny. Well, funny until a tree branch decided to jump through the window and smack Steven on the head. Mean ol’ tree branch.  Wait… I may have video of part of this ride… (not the tree attack, Steve, don’t worry)…

Yep, here we go!

I like how at the end of the video our guide Reggie says, ‘now the road gets rough’. HA!

So, after our hilariously unearthly drive (chauffered by an Evil Knievel/Mario Andretti reincarnate), we reach our destination, get out, stretch, stretch more, stretch one last time, then start walkin’. We are informed that it will take 4-5 hours to reach the camp. We wander through pretty forest, step over nasty ants (that apparently bite you in “your sacred place” according to Reggie), and fall stinking, tired, hungry and laughing into camp. Ali and I decided to do video diaries at the end of each day for you, and this is what happened after day one (warning: language not suitable for all viewers)

Mkubwa Forest Camp – Night One

And so, after dinner I went back to the tent, stuffed myself into my zippered prison of nylon and feathers, put my head on… well… nothing really, because I sure as hell didn’t have a pillow… and think one final thought before drifting off to sleep: “this is the first time I’ve been camping in six years. God help me.

Tomorrow: Day Two – To Shira One Camp!


The Kindness of (non)Strangers

9.07.2010 | 0 Comments

Now, as you all know I’ve been pretty sick for the past few days. Not sure what it was, but it seems to be subsiding now. I couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long to rid myself of this bug, but then my brother summed it up pretty well, “you were just on a freaking mountain, idiot. Your body needs to adjust to THAT before it can adjust to you being back at sea-level, you dork” (ok, so maybe I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea).

Anyway, seems that the only thing my body was allowing me to store in my gooey tangle of guts was fruit and the occasional vegetable.

Speaking of fruits… remember my friends Keith and Joan?

NO! NO! NO!  That is NOT what I meant! Keith and Joan are NOT fruits. (However, what they may call one another in the privacy of their own home is up to them…)

What I mean is, I had a knock on my door a few minutes ago, and when I opened it, this is what was handed to me:

Isn’t that AWESOME?! They sent me a huge fruit basket! Full of all the things that I can actually eat right now! THOSE GENIUSES!

So thank you, Keith and Joan. Thank you for the many acts of kindness you have shown me since I mentioned this journey to you, and thank you for your unending support since Day One.

With much love and a full belly,




9.06.2010 | 0 Comments

I’m going to have to admit it to you all sometime, and there’s no time like the present…

I’m going through some serious emotions right now. Culture shock, withdrawal, depression… my brother calls it the ‘Travel Hangover’, and that’s pretty damn apt.

I’m trying to keep my emotional head above (potable) water, and that means I’m taking small steps to integrate myself back into Ladner Life. I’m finding things to be very overwhelming. I went to the grocery store yesterday and had to leave because I felt this weird ‘trapped’ feeling. I went back later on when there were less people, and was able to get what I needed. Funny, I come back from a country populated with about 43,000, 000 people and yet I feel surrounded while in a Canadian grocery store with about 30 other people in it.

People say that going to Africa changes their lives. I can now understand that statement. I always thought it was a silly, emotional thing to say, but when you leave a piece of your heart with Africa, and she gives a piece of her heart to you, there’s a connection there. It’s just… different. I know that everyone reading this who has been to Africa is nodding in agreement right now.

I have edited my photos, and look forward to sharing them with you. However, I am also waiting for Ali and Christopher to return so that we can swap photos, and then I’ll have more to share.

Ali and I also did short video diaries after each day on the mountain, and I’m uploading those now. I haven’t seen them yet, so it’ll be interesting to go back in time a bit… you know, before Mt. Kilimanjaro kicked my ass! I think the diaries are fairly tame, though I do remember swearing quite profoundly in one of them.

Funny, I was prepared to climb the mountain, but not come back down.

So… I know I’m taking my sweet time with this, and I want to thank you for being so patient with me…

Or should I say asante sana.




9.05.2010 | 0 Comments

In  the early morning on August 14th, I was sitting in an airplane flying from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. I looked out my window, and I saw a mountain looming up from the Savanna, puncturing the clouds with its jagged peak. It was HUGE! ‘My god‘, I said to myself, ‘there it is! The mountain I’ve been dreaming of for months!

Frantically I unfastened my seatbelt, shoved my tray at the poor kid from Calgary that was sitting next to me, and reached up into the overhead compartment to grab my carry-on bag. It proved heavier at that moment than I remembered, and when I brought it down, I rather unfortunately planted it upon the head of an unsuspecting man who was sitting in his seat, snacking on yogurt. ‘Ooops! Sorry!‘ I shrunk, but he was not at all placated by my pathetic apology. Well… that could have been because I also slapped him in the face with the strap on my backpack as I walked away, too.  Heh. Oops.

So, with my tray stuffed in someone else’s lap, my bag having dented someone’s head, and the small plane getting smaller as the space in front of me filled with my quickly upended backpack, I finally found my camera. At the bottom of my bag. Of course. I went back to the window to take a photo, and… it was gone. the mountain was gone.  I had missed my moment!

I slumped into my seat, but a moment later the woman beside me said, “isn’t it beautiful?”, and pointed out the window.

I looked…

HOLY HANNAH! Now THAT’S a mountain!!  The one I was looking at before wasn’t Kilimanjaro at all! It was tiny compared to Kili! Snappity-snap-snap I went, and took as many photos as I could before we flew on by. There is just no way I can explain to you the majesty of this sight, and my camera too, is mute rather than muse.

But there it is.

Mt. Kilimanjaro.

All 19,340ft of her, throwing into the sky from the ocean of Africa below. In 9 days, I would begin my journey to climb her.