I first read a book titled ‘100 Great Wonders of the World’ at the age of 12. Imagine, some of the most awe-inspiring places in the world depicted at every turn of a page. The chapter had turned from Asia to Africa’s wonders and on page 135, there it was. Up until now, I had only dreamt about it; a snow-capped volcano looming over the semi-desert of Northern Tanzania. At 5,895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa with a distinctive profile. What are the odds of me trekking a mountain of such scale? Perhaps one day I would be able to see it from the plains of Tanzania.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”saint Augustine of hippo, theologian and philosopher
The Call Of Mount Kilimanjaro
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”Neale Donald WALSCH, AMERICAN AUTHOR
Let’s face it, we are all guilty of cocooning ourselves in our own comfort zones, so much so that it begins to reflect in the way we travel. Having it easy and convenient all the way became a norm and even the slightest derail would spell catastrophe. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? For me, the call of Kilimanjaro came at the right moment in my life. At a time where my travels had reached a plateau, I decided to step out of my own comfort zone and take a leap into what will be an unforgettable journey.
Preparing For Mount Kilimanjaro
By no means was it an easy feat. It wasn’t just the scale but the sheer altitude of Kilimanjaro. Standing at 5,895 metres, where our oxygen saturation drops to 65% to 70% and coupled with a rapid heart rate, it is easy to be hit by acute mountain sickness (AMS). How can you possibly train to overcome such challenges? Just two years ago, I started off with zero mountain training, so I had to train with increased frequency and intensity.
Although Kilimanjaro is one of the top seven summits of the world, there are no technical skills involved. The challenge is mainly the long distance (62 kilometres in total) and significant elevation gain each day (800 to 1,000 metres per day). The hills of Malaysia became my training ground. Almost every month, my family and friends would arrange hikes and runs across different states and countries, increasing the difficulty level each time. The gym became a second home on most weekends as a means to strengthen core muscles and cardio. As the time drew nigh, I had already climbed the highest and second highest peaks in Malaysia but I was still nowhere near Kilimanjaro’s towering altitude.
How To Pack For Mount Kilimanjaro
Getting the packing right for this arduous journey was extremely vital. There was no room for skimping on quality gear and it was definitely worth the investment. Here are the things that kept me comfortable throughout the trek:
1. Layer Up
Kilimanjaro’s weather can be temperamental and extreme. From freezing cold to sweltering heat and even heavy downpours, all within a matter of minutes. My attire had to suit every scenario. Here is the list of apparels that I needed for my trek:
- Long sleeve base/thermal layer
- Fleece jacket
- 1 down jacket, goose/duck feather
- Knit hat
- 1 waterproof windbreaker
- 3 hiking shirts, dry fit, moisture-wicking fabric
- Sport leggings
- 1 pair of thermal leggings
- 1 pair of hiking pants
- Waterproof summit pants with fleece lining
- 3 pairs of thick woolly socks
- 2 bandanas
- Disposable underwear
These will make or break the entire hiking experience. If you don’t have a pair of comfortable, waterproof with proper insulation shoes, chances are you will have to abort your journey at the very beginning of the trek. Go for the high cut that wraps above the ankle for support and to prevent sprains.
I needed 3 sets of gloves; summit gloves, hiking gloves and light fleece gloves. Except for the summit night, the other two will be sufficient throughout the trek. The summit gloves with waterproof and thermal features are a must.
1. Hiking Gear
My gear will be the backbone of the whole experience, so it was important for me to get it right on the first go. Again, here is the list of items that you need to pack for the trip:
- The North Face waterproof 40-litre duffel bag (can be shared by two individual) – the bulk of the items are to be packed into the duffel bag and given to the porter
- 20-litre backpack – pack only essentials that are needed for a day hike into the daypack, i.e. water, jacket, raincoat, medicine and snacks
- 2 walking poles
- Headlamp and spare batteries
- Hiking sunglasses (polarised)
- Garmin watch (optional)
- 2-litre hydration bladder
- Thermos for summit day
- 1-litre water bottle for summit day
- Sleeping bag for subzero temperature
- Emergency blanket
- Ziploc bags
- Power bank
- Charging cables
- Camera, spare batteries and memory cards
- Pocket knife
Bear in mind that the hike is seven days long with no shower and limited bag space. Under such situations, packing the necessary toiletries is absolutely crucial to maintain some degree of hygiene. Here are the things needed for one whole week:
- Travel size toothpaste
- Facial wash
- SPF 30 or above sunblock
- Wet wipes (lots of it!!)
- Body lotion
- Sanitary pads
- Alcohol rub sanitiser
- Face towel
3. Food And Medication
Whilst meals and basic first aid kit are provided throughout the trek, I always prefer to carry my own in my day pack. Here is the list of food items and medication I could never part with:
- Chocolate bars
- Mixed nuts
- Milo packets
- Pain relieving spray
- Anti-diarrhoea tablets
- Topical antibiotics
Yellow Fever Vaccine And Diamox For Mount Kilimanjaro
Indeed, Yellow fever is endemic in Africa but you’d be surprised that Tanzania is not listed under the countries with increased risk of transmission. So do we actually need to fork out MYR 400 for this vaccine? Depending on your flight itinerary, prolonged transits in other risk prone countries i.e. Kenya warrants vaccination, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Here is the full guideline on Yellow fever vaccination in Malaysia.
Another burning concern is the role of Diamox in preventing altitude sickness. While there are many discrepancies regarding its efficacy, Diamox can somewhat prevent altitude sickness but not entirely. That being said, it is NOT a substitute for proper acclimatisation and high altitude training, so decide wisely before relying solely on it.
And So It Begins…
Now that I am prepared and my bags are packed, all that was left is to board my flight from Malaysia to Tanzania. At the airport, I met Shariman, the man behind NEX Adventure, a company that is responsible for organising unforgettable treks around the world and Azimah, an avid adventurer with an unyielding passion for the mountains. I stepped into the aeroplane with much anxiety and excitement. After all, it is not everyday that you get the opportunity to scale the highest peak in Africa. I wondered what awaited me on the other side…
Special credits to Impatiens Tours & Safaris and NEX Adventure for organising this amazing hike. For more information and early bird discounts visit their official website and Facebook page. Follow Impatiens Tours and Nex Adventure on Facebook for special promotions and discounts.