Bulletin Board: Planning for Kilimanjaro – Let’s Do This!
Join me in my journey over this year period as I ready myself to summit this mountain along with my friends from around the world. Click on this bulletin below to follow along month by month until we reach Africa.
Countdown to Kilimanjaro
Click on a specific month below to advance ahead in the Bulletin
Jen floated the idea of Kilimanjaro to me over a Skype call back in the Summer of 2016.
She and Jeff, both part of our Mt Fuji climbing group in 2014, had been seriously discussing the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro since returning to Australia. Actually, I recall hearing Jen and Jeff already talk about Kili as we were succeeding in reaching the summit of Mt Fuji.
Mt. Fuji, or known to some as “Fuji-san”, was a hard climb. An old Japanese proverb goes, “He who climbs Mt Fuji is a wise man. He who climbs twice is a fool.” And we thought of this saying in the back (and forefront!) of our minds as we ascended up the most challenging and least traveled route.
Why in our right minds would we want to repeat an exhausting yet rewarding feat of climbing another mountain? Kilimanjaro would be even more intense and will take 4 times longer to climb than Fuji-san.
I was bold and blind in saying yes to climbing Fuji while sitting in my apartment in Midtown, Manhattan, USA behind the comfort of my laptop. I have now said “sure, why not” again with as much boldness and blindness to this feat that is Kilimanjaro.
Like with Mt. Fuji, I have no idea what I am really getting myself into, but it sounds like fun!
Jen and Jeff are indeed serious about doing this climb. They have soft-circled a date: September/October 2017. Their idea is to bring together a group of 12 hikers and perhaps even raise some money for a charity while we are at it. Of course, our fantastic Mt Fuji group of nine of us international travelers is invited. I would not have it any other way.
So there it is: A short conversation with Jen online about Kilimanjaro. Now I have accepted an invite to join Jen’s Kilimanjaro Facebook Group – our own bulletin board. I think I am really going to go through with this idea…Now what do I do?
Well, Kilimanjaro is basically 1 year away. It feels remotely far and not real, yet it could easily creep up very quickly.
Just like training for a marathon, training for Kilimanjaro requires commitment to be able to make it to the top. If you can walk a marathon, it is just as possible to run a marathon too.
Physical stamina is important when running a marathon. Mental stamina is just as important. Mind over matter especially during the hard parts when your brain tells you to quit. That mental strength improves over time through training.
Perhaps the same is true for Kilimanjaro. Take it slowly, walk with a trusted experienced guide, and have the right preparedness. Although, none of us will really know if we will succumb to altitude sickness until we are on the trail ascending up to over 19,000 feet.
“Pole, Pole” the guides will tell you in Swahili – “Go Slowly”. The slower the better and take extended breaks to acclimatize your muscles to the lower oxygen levels. At 16,000 feet, half as much oxygen is in the atmosphere compared to at sea level. Normally, oxygen makes up 20% of the air we breathe. With strenuous climbing over a 7 or 8-day duration in exhausting, cold, and uncomfortable conditions, the struggle is real. However, depending on which route you take and how slow you go, the Kilimanjaro National Park calculates a 65% success rate across all climbers over all routes in reaching the top of Kili.
If done right, Kilimanjaro can be conquered! And I plan to try to be as prepared as possible from New York City!
Depending on the route, we can expect to walk between 23 and 56 miles (37 to 90 kilometers) and ascend 10,000 to 13,000 feet (3,000 to 4,000 meters) to reach 19,341 feet. Routes start as low as 6,000 feet (about a mile above sea level!) and as high as 9,000 feet.
As a result, we may walk up to 8 miles (13 kilometers) for about 7 hours per day.
I expect to climb an endless number of staircases and walk everywhere in all weather conditions from now on.
Kilimanjaro is the fourth most prominent peak in the world behind number 1, Everest, number 2, Aconcagua in Argentina, and number 3, Denali in Alaska. A prominent peak is measured in height from the lowest point of ascension to the top of the peak.
Kilimanjaro is also the highest freestanding mountain in the world, meaning that it is not part of any mountain range.
According to Climbing Kilimanjaro Guide, training for Kili requires aerobic training, strength training, frequent hiking, and mental stamina building.
Aerobic Training – In the 3 to 6 months leading up to Kilimanjaro, make an effort to walk 4 to 7 miles (6 to 12 kilometers) three times a week each week.
Strength Training – Strengthen your legs so you can ascend up the mountain and strengthen your core and upper body so you can carry your heavy backpack. Leg strengthening can include squats, lunges, and step aerobics and core and upper body strengthening can include sit-ups, and shoulder presses and flies.
Hike Training – Try going on simulation hikes on tough terrains outdoors in different weather conditions. Try hiking for over 5 hours with the gear and hiking shoes you intend to use. Just like running a marathon, you want the shoes you trained in with you on game day so you are comfortable when it counts.
Mental Stamina – Speaking from my time running the New York City Marathon, mental stamina is so important. If there is a will, there is a way. I really wanted to cross the finish line so that “will” got me through my hardest, painful, and most tiresome moments of the marathon – especially after hitting the “wall” at mile 20 and when I could feel my toenails about to pop off my toes (gross, I know but ask any marathoner if they lost a toenail from running – it is true!). At mile 23 and with about 3 more miles to go, I approached a hill: It felt like climbing a mountain and I was stuck in quicksand, I was that tired by then.
My body wanted every reason to stop but my mind took over in blind stubbornness. “Keep pushing. You got this.” The cheering crowd and the runners around me helped push me onward too.
With good training, confidence ensues. A push to keep going comes from deep within in your haze of exhaustion. It will be worth it, right?
I imagine our group on the mountain will be great motivators for each other, forming a strong bond during the experience. Who knows? Maybe we will even sing one of Issac’s mountain songs to get us through the challenge.
This month, I started to train for this walk up Kili. I am walking everywhere in New York City. No taxis or mass transit for me, just my own two feet and some flat shoes. In one weekend I walked nearly 11 miles basically to Chinatown and back to my apartment in Midtown and again from Union Square to my apartment.
The following day, I walked all the way to the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem (to watch the first US Presidential debates hosted by my friend, Keli Goff) bringing my three-day walking total to 15 miles. I think that’s good training despite living in a flat city?
And I have started to run a bit here and there. I ran across the Queensboro Bridge for the first time in a while. This bridge provides a good workout for running up hills and over the East River. It has a long ascent from the river’s edge and the street to the peak of the bridge. Reaching the end of the bridge at the Queens side, I turn around to run the other way back over the peak. This run gets the heart beating and strengthens the legs. Month 2 is now logged into the bulletin!
I do not belong to a gym.
My strength training workout right now is walking on an incline on my treadmill and doing my P90X3 workout videos in my apartment. Tony Horton will get me through this feat!
I share my strength training exercises at the risk of it sounding like an infomercial…But I have started up again my P90X3 at home exercise routine.
I dedicate 30 minutes a day 6 days a week doing my P90X3 videos. In addition, I am a layering of cardio activity like walking and running. I will do this exercise plan for four 3-month sessions until I leave for Africa.
When I climbed Mt Fuji in 2014, I could not understand why a gal who lives in New York City was able to climb the mountain without training for it. Then I realized the P90X3 workouts helped me tremendously and were responsible for my success. So I am thinking that P90X3 will have to be my base workout for Kilimanjaro.
My P90X3 routines consist of jump training, squat and lunge workouts, planks, push-ups, free weight lifting, cardio workouts, and core strengthening with pilates and advanced yoga poses.
So far I have gotten though a month of P90X3 workouts! I am finding my lung capacity is deeper and my whole body is stronger. I see some abs starting to peek through too!
New bulletin update. I am so happy. I look back at the month of November and realize how much progress I have made in just two short months.
One weekend I decided to go for a run over the Queensboro Bridge but found that the NYPD had closed the running path due to a sporadic protest on the bridge about the US Presidential election outcome. Yah I protested too along 5th Avenue in NYC earlier in the week – twice actually, but that is another discussion for another day.
Instead of running the bridge, I changed my plan to running in Central Park. Since I stopped training for the New York City Marathon many moons ago, I have not run in Central Park at the high frequency I used to. I miss those training days sometimes.
So I ran past Park Avenue, the Apple Store, and the Plaza Hotel to the entrance to Central Park. Ah, my first hill of many in Central Park just at the beginning of my run.
I decided to run the main loop around Central Park, passing the horse drawn carriages and through a 60K run that was going on at the same time. Those runners nearing their finish line looked exhausted – 60 kilometers is over 37 miles or a just about a marathon and a half. Running alongside these runners made me push myself. Seeing their fatigue in their run, I thought about how I tired I may feel when I climb Kilimanjaro. Mental stamina is so important. Let do this!
I kept running and running through the park, pushing myself up the long inclines and breathing deeply from my belly. I let the strength of my legs do the work and told myself to forget about running at my fast pace. Go Slow. “Pole, Pole” as the guides will tell me in Swahili on the mountain.
To my surprise, I completed a long loop around Central Park, along the reservoir and passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dakota apartment buildings on the west side, along the Great Lawn and the views of the tall, city skyscrapers.
Then I found the energy to run the mile back to my apartment. Actually, I ran just about 8 miles that day! I expected to struggle through the 3-mile run over the Queensboro Bridge. However, to my surprise I easily ran 2.5 times more that day.
For the first time in a long time, I was so proud of myself and of my commitment to push through to achieve a goal. Yay me.
Later in the month, I walked over 4 miles from City Hall downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to my apartment in Midtown.
— Embolden Adventures (@EmboldenAdventr) November 21, 2016
Dennis gave me his Army rucksack and filled it with scuba diving weights unbeknownst to me. No wonder why my backpack was so heavy – 30lbs heavy!
It was a cold, crisp, sunny fall day with a few strong gusts of wind. It felt good to be outside in the fresh air deep into the wilderness.
We set off to climb up the ridge, a hike that would take us about 4 hours and maybe 6 miles of hiking. We pushed up the steep inclines in the woods through the trees and the leaves and the granite boulders.
I stopped to feel the large rocks in the woods. Rocks give me comfort. They drain negative energies from my body and deposit them into the earth. They calm me.
The mountains and the volcanoes, like Kilimanjaro, provide the same healing effects. Spiritual energy can be felt in the mountains. There is just something about the mountains. In the case with Kilimanjaro, the local Masai people consider it to be the “House of God.”
During our hike, I was finding my breathing was labored. As a result, I was taking fast, repetitive, and shallow breaths out of the mouth. While I was catching my breath, my friend offered some tips to keep in mind on the mountain. That is where Dennis offered some tips for the Kilimanjaro bulletin.
In the woods, Dennis demonstrated a few tips for me to keep in mind while hiking Kili.
Proper Breathing Technique
- Breathe in slowly through the nose taking deep breaths from the belly button
- Calm the breath and expand the lungs
- Exhale out the mouth with short, quick breaths
This type of breathing will deliver more oxygen to the muscles, a very important technique when we start climbing into the higher elevations.
Improving Mental Stamina
Dennis told me that we control our body through our breathing. Our minds should always be in control, never our bodies.
He also said that Army Rangers are taught to “Embrace the Suck.” Know that things will get very hard sometimes. To be able to get through any challenge, and perhaps scary experience, Dennis said to:
- First recognize that it is difficult
- Next be comfortable with the difficulty
- And finally watch how the difficult experience subsides
Be aware of yourself in that moment, and embrace it as it happens. Respect that it is hard. Remind yourself calmly and confidently that you will get through it. Don’t forget to breathe!
Walking Up a Hill with a Heavy Backpack
- Use the full, foundational strength of your legs to push yourself up the hill as if you are rising from a lunge
- Make your steps deliberate, solid, and strong
- Rely on your center of gravity located at your core
- Do not lead up the hill with your shoulders and upper back or you risk straining yourself
- Cinch your backpack straps so that the backpack is tight and flush to your back
Walking Down a Hill with a Heavy Backpack
- Walk downhill in a switchback pattern as if you were downhill skiing. Place your feet perpendicular to the direction of the hill
- Do not walk downhill directly because you may lose your footing and tumble forward
- Again, make your steps deliberate, solid, and strong
- Loosen your backpack straps so your backpack lowers towards your core. It keeps you balanced and makes you less top-heavy
When Packing Your Backpack
- Be sure to pack the heavier items on the bottom and the lighter items on the top so that the backpack balances with your center of gravity at your core
If the heavier items are in the top of the backpack and you bend over, you could get knocked off balance and perhaps fall down the hill. This idea is key when climbing Kilimanjaro.
…and lastly, Always Stay Hydrated!
Dennis continues to do his training drills for his Army preparations. He invited me to continue hiking with him in Ringwood, especially during the winter months. Who knows, maybe he will join us on the hike up Kilimanjaro!
It is December and here is the newest update to the Kilimanjaro Bulletin.
I found my Kilimanjaro theme song this month! Bibi Tanga and the Selenites – Be Africa (the Populette Remix). Have a listen here.
I am going to groove to the African house music beat as I prepare for the climb. Hopefully I can listen to this song anytime climbing the mountain – that is if my battery survives. I need to figure out how to preserve battery power of all of my electronics: iPhone, iPod, cameras, video recorders! Perhaps a solar power charger? Eight fully-charged external battery packs? The mountain most definitely will not have electrical outlets. I wonder if they can withstand 8 days of hiking in the cold elements. How have other hikers done it?
In December, I continued with my P90X3 training. Well…after mid-December, I have fallen two weeks behind on my P90x3 schedule due to laziness and a broken toe.
I think I may have fractured my pinky toe while in the Cayman Islands in December. Read about my Cayman Island destination secret here.
After watching the morning sunrise over the beach, I slipped on the wet tile patio. My left foot launched forward. In desperate effort to stop my forward momentum, my right pinky toe clipped the edge of the patio. Then the pain ensured.
It felt like acid was poured on my toe. My toe was bleeding too. As a result I could not go scuba diving that morning as planned. I did manage, though, to make a few dives later in the week with minimal pain.
At the end of the trip, I hobbled along the famous Seven Mile Beach to catch the sunset. I watched the gorgeous nature show of pastel colors bursting into the sky and reflecting onto the water and sand. See the masterpiece?
I think the beachgoers had a chuckle at my expense as I limped along the sand with my bum toe. Even now after about a month, my toe is hurting. But I have resumed my P90X lunges and jumps to a certain extent. The good news is that I am walking without much of a limp (in my awesome suede wedge boots).
Before this toe mishap, my training walks in New York City were going well. I was walking 2 hours a day in total, crosstown from the East River to the West Side and back.
One weekend my friend Steve and I embarked on an urban hike through the city. It turned out to be a randomly fun day where I logged about 9.5 miles of walking.
Early that Saturday morning, I walked from my apartment to where Steve lives in the West Village. That pre-adventure took me about an hour and a half to walk nearly 4 miles. I wore a heavy backpack and, hilariously, my camelbak water pack. Yes a camelbak filled with water for New York City.
I arrived to Steve’s apartment. He called down to me on the sidewalk from his fire escape saying he would be right there.
Our adventure began by first stopping to eat. We got a typical New York breakfast: Coffee and bagel with tofu cream cheese. Then we ventured towards the trendy Meatpacking District.
Steve realized he was cold on that brisk yet sunny late fall day. So on our urban hike, we went urban shopping at the urban Patagonia store on 14th Street. He was trying on hiking clothes. And I was touring the store wearing my camelback to see what I may need for my actual Kilimanjaro adventure.
Steve decided to buy a light hoodie shirt and proceeded to wear it out of the store.
We continue onward!
From the Meatpacking area and under the Highline, we headed as westward as possible to the Hudson River’s edge. Then we headed uptown, passing Chelsea Piers and along the Westside Highway. The tall, shiny buildings of Gotham City make their presence known.
Once we neared the Intrepid aircraft carrier and museum, Steve suggested we head to the carwash across the street. This place was no ordinary carwash, but an artisan donut shop run by the finest hipsters north of Williamsburg Brooklyn. Called Underwest, it has been crowned one of the best donut shops in all of New York City.
We enter past the soapy wash pads and to the mini donut shop. They make your donut order right there. Check out these delicious examples of banana milk, pumpkin ginger, and maple waffle.
Steve and I got a few to try while we watched the cars get washed. We were two for two in eating food with holes that day.
Our next random stop was to the hospital!
We walked uptown and over towards 9th Avenue to Mount Sinai West Hospital to visit our friend Jaime. She had just given birth that week, so we stopped by to see her and her new son. Steve brought donuts!
Having now hiked 7 miles, I enjoyed the little bit of rest.
We bid adieu to Jaime soon after. Then Steve wanted to get a Greek gyro at the restaurant on the corner. I walked with Steve and his gyro to the Columbus Circle subway station where we concluded our urban hike.
From Columbus Circle, I walked one mile back toward my apartment. I headed along Central Park South, past the tourists, the horse-drawn carriages, and the fancy hotels decorated for the holidays. Urban hike complete.
January 2017 🍾🎊
Happy New Year from the rooftop of NYC! New year, new update for this Kilimanjaro Bulletin! Now it is 2017 – The year of Kilimanjaro. Yikes! Am I really going to climb this mountain? I guess so. This New York City gal is walking everywhere around the city lately.
I did slow down my P90X training considerably, however. My sporadic training is due to my broken toe😢, my trip to the Cayman Islands, and my recent trip to the United Kingdom that included a visit to the mysterious, ancient Stonehenge.
At Stonehenge, the wind blew consistently and the air was frigid. I tried taking photos using my iPhone camera, but I learned quickly that the cold drained my battery. Even with 40% of battery power, the phone shut down rapidly. Only after warming it up in my coat pocket, I could turn it on to take a few additional photos.
Exposed again to the wind and cold, the phone quickly shut down a second time. I was frustrated to say the least. But, I realize now that taking my iPhone up Kilimanjaro over an 8-day hike will be futile. This exercise has got me thinking what I will need to do with electronics. Lots of solar and wind chargers like this one perhaps? And I will have to keep those electronics close to my body shielded from the cold.
The night before Stonehenge and after shopping in my favorite area, Camden Market, my London friends, Liza and Michaela, and I had dinner and drinks in the Mayfair area. Michaela is a New York City transplant and friend who told me that night she hiked Kilimanjaro! She said it was a bit of a last minute trip for her. With her experience skiing in the Alps, she felt prepared for the cold and the mountain itself. However, after reaching 16,000 feet in elevation, the doctor in her tour group determined she was suffering the effects of altitude sickness. One of these side effects is the inability to concentrate. He asked her a bunch of logic questions such as reciting the alphabet backwards. Ways to help prevent altitude sickness include getting sleep, not pushing oneself in a strenuous way, staying hydrated, and taking altitude sickness medication, Diamox.
While Michaela believes she was fine, the doctor determined she was unfit to make the hike to the summit. The hike is straight up along the glacier to the top of Uhuru at 19,341 feet high for a total of 16 to 20 hours in duration. Starting around midnight, the hike is timed just right to reach the top during in the sunlight. The group can stay only for 30 minutes at the summit because of the lack of oxygen. Also, hikers need enough time to reach camp at the lower altitude before the sun sets.
Later in my United Kingdom trip, I headed to Edinburgh Scotland. There I reserved some time in our extended weekend to climb Arthur’s Seat. Having not expected to hike on this trip, I managed to climb it in flimsy canvas sneakers and thin leggings – not really adequate preparation for mountain climbing but I made it work! Arthur’s Seat is the tallest point in Edinburgh, standing nearly 1000 feet high. It is part of a dormant volcano and is at the near edge of the North Sea coastline. Some speculate that Arthur’s Seat could be the location of legendary King Arthur’s Camelot.
The path to the top zig zagged up the rocky terrain. I could feel my breathing labored as I pushed up the way. I remembered what my Army Ranger friend said back in November during our hike. “Take deep breaths in through your nose. Breathe out of your mouth in short, quick exhalations.” This technique regulates the breathing and allows for more oxygen to reach the muscles.
During this hike, I imagined myself on Kilimanjaro. I can climb this mountain. It will not be easy, but I can do it. I want to do it! I want to be challenged, and I know can meet this challenge.
Reaching a plateau in the path, I could feel the strength of the wind from the ocean. This wind never let up, and it was cold. The terrain of low growing green grass showed its ruggedness from enduring this wind. I continued up the ragged, volcanic rock to the top-most point. From here I could see the panoramic view of the ancient town of Edinburgh and the ocean. Three and four hundred year old buildings down below stood uniform in their grey stone color, showing their resilience to the test of time and the elements.
Here at the top of Arthur’s Seat, I held my hands outstretched trying to resist the strength of the wind. I looked towards the ocean, imagining myself as an old, seafaring Scotsman on a boat out to sea. They must have had a hard life. The North Sea is an unforgiving ocean with dangerous winds and treacherous sea swells.
Finally, I decided to head back down, but I took the wrong path! At one point, I was off the trail, jumping down boulders and slipping. Eventually I returned to my starting point and found my friend Liza who was taking a stroll at lower elevation. We continued to walk for about another hour into the center of town. Then we did a walking tour of Edinburgh in the daylight followed by a walking ghost tour at night. It was Friday the 13th on a full moon by the way! What a day of walking for me, the entire day in fact, but well worth it. That day was about “killing two birds with one stone” – Training for Kilimanjaro and touring Edinburgh.
Well, the countdown clock is up on this Bulletin. We now have 6 months to go until we fly to Africa in early September 2017. This trip is getting closer and closer!
I continue to train by P90X3 and running. Testing my commute to Penn Station, I ran 2.5 miles to a train platform and returned through Times Square.
Also, not realizing it could very well be a training exercise, I walked a mile to Bottomless Closet. Bottomless Closet is a non-profit in New York City, helping disadvantaged women to transition from unemployment and public assistance to jobs through workforce preparation. I walked this path in high heels carrying two heavy, cumbersome bags of donations. Stubborn me refused to take a taxi or public transit. So I walked in my uncomfortable shoes, working a sweat and trying to keep tough. It could be like hiking the mountain path – walking through discomfort with an end goal in mind.
And that path we will take is looking to be the Lemosho route. The Lemosho route is the most scenic route of the 5 paths to choose. This path starts in the African rainforest at 7800 feet, or about a mile and a half, in elevation. Then the path winds through savannah grasslands, volcanic terrain, semi-desert and alpine desert areas, and finally to the arctic climate. We can expect to walk 30 miles (50 kilometers) up the mountain and 14 miles (22 kilometers) down the mountain. Over 8 days, will walk between 32 and 41 hours to the summit and another 7 to 10 hours back. We will sleep on the mountain for 7 consecutive nights.
Our hiking group of travel friends is together on a private Facebook page. We are coming to Africa from all over the world including Australia, New York, California, Germany, Spain, India, and Brasil.
And we have been sharing helpful information to prepare for our hike. For example:
1) Where will we get our water? Our porters will boil the water to drink. Each of us gets 3 liters of drinking water per day and we carry it with us. Also, we will get a washbasin and a sponge to use for light bathing each night.
2) How much do we carry? We carry a day backpack filled with items we will need throughout the day. Daily necessities include snacks, change of clothing or layers, hiking poles, water, toilet paper, and a bag for trash. A 30 liter bag should be sufficient.
3) What will the temperatures be? It will be warm and humid at the starting point in the rainforest. When we reach 13,000 feet (4000 meters) in the alpine desert, temperatures will reach 85°F (30°C) in the day and fall below freezing at night. At the summit, temperatures fall to a frigid -5°F (-20°C) at night with a windchill factor of -40°F (also -40°C).
Our fearless leader and trip planner is Jen, the founder and CEO of YouLi, an online travel-planning platform and portal. Together and YouLi are cross promoting through our Kilimanjaro trek. I am going to buy my very own YouLi t-shirt to wear on this hiking adventure.
New month, new bulletin update. The countdown clock strikes 5 months to go.
I continue to train for this epic hike by walking everywhere in various weather conditions. One day I walked 6 miles throughout New York City in the heavy rain. That day I wore my ski jacket with a hood and left the umbrella at home. I planned to take this jacket with me to Africa.
However, I discovered that this jacket is not a good option after all. The rain soaked through the jacket, and I was chilly. I now realize that waterproof and water repellant mean different things. As a result, I am now in the market for a waterproof and a windproof jacket to take with me.
Also this month I spent time reviewing flight options to Tanzania from New York City. Our options are Qatar Airways through Doha in the Middle East, Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, and KLM/Delta through Amsterdam. Each option has a layover from New York City and then a direct flight to the Kilimanjaro town of Arusha in Tanzania. This way we will not have to lose time going through Tanzania’s major city: Dar el Salaam. The flights are more or less 20 hours in total including a 3-hour layover.
Round trip flights right now cost about $1600 to $1700. I will be using my Chase Reserve credit card points to pay for the majority of the flight. Also, I am exploring multi-destination options: Fly into Arusha and fly out of the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Additionally, we would need to book a short, local flight from Arusha to Zanzibar.
My brother Devin, his girlfriend Joanne, and I had a Skype with our friends in Australia. Here we continued to formulate the travel plan and considered some options for the non-hikers. One is exploring the city of Nairobi and then the beach town of Mombassa, both in Kenya next to Tanzania. Then possibly travel to Botswana but that country is a bit out of the way. Another is to hike up Kilimanjaro through the rainforest with us and then head back to town before nightfall. Afterwards, they would spend time in Kenya as we finish the climb.
We are thinking it will be best to arrive two days before we start our ascent up the mountain. Because of the flight schedules, we may not have a choice, however. If we leave a day later, we arrive with only a half-day of rest before we begin hiking.
Instead with our extra time, Jen tells us we could explore a coffee plantation in the mountains. Once we climbed Kilimanjaro, we would go on a safari adventure in the Serengeti at the foot of the mountain. Our non-hiking friends would meet us in Arusha and join us in this second part of the adventure. And if we can squeeze a few more days into the schedule, we would spend a few days on the beach and hopefully scuba diving in Zanzibar!
As mentioned in the March update in the bulletin, Jen is doing the heavy lifting to plan our trip. Her attention to detail is important when considering a large international travel group and many events in the schedule.
So her YouLi trip planning portal will prove useful not only to the organizer but for each traveler. The YouLi system makes trip correspondences streamlined and in real-time. This capability is better than the old way of doing things by static spreadsheets and with too many emails to track and review.
It provides a customizable, private website page of the trip for the group. This personalized website lists the itinerary, a map, a calendar and more. The layout is clean, clear, and easy to use. Anyone with access to the private website link can view the schedule and make trip payments through the portal. See a sample link here.
By April, we will be finalizing firm commitments for this trip using the YouLi platform. YouLi: You Live to Travel. Let’s get ready to rock and roll!
Ok so I am not all-talk-and-no-action in this bulletin. We are really going to Africa for real! And for free!
As of the end of April, we secured our flights. Luckily over the month, the price of our airfare fell by $300 to $1314 round-trip.
We used points from our new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to book our multi-destination flight.
At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I will share what I learned about my credit card.
Both our old Chase Sapphire Preferred card and our new Chase Sapphire Reserve card grant us travel points for the each dollar we spend. With Chase Sapphire Reserve, we get triple points for certain expenditures such as food and transportation. In comparison, with Chase Sapphire Preferred, we receive double points for these expenditures.
The best part it is that when I spend money abroad, the cards waive foreign transaction fees. This way I do not have to bring too much cash with me to exchange and carry when I travel. In addition, I receive more points for these travel expenditures I make.
If we used our Chase Sapphire Preferred points, we would have had to redeem approximately 131,000 points or 100 points for every $1 in airfare. Instead with Chase Sapphire Reserve, one point is worth 1.5 points, meaning 150 points for every $1 in airfare. So for approximately 87,000 points, we are flying round trip to Kilimanjaro for free.
The Sapphire Reserve card charges a $450 yearly fee but $300 of that is waived by way of travel credits. For example, when I spend money on taxis, subway MetroCards, train tickets, or gasoline, the card credits each of those expenses until I reach a 0 balance.
Also, Chase Sapphire Reserve gave me the choice to sign up for either the United States TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry for free. I chose the TSA Pre-Clear and registered that week in downtown New York City.
Instead of Global Entry, I use the free Mobile Passport app on my phone. This Mobile Passport app makes life easy, assuming you have nothing to declare. When the flight lands, I fill out the customs information into the app while we taxi on the runway. Next, I am allowed to cut the long customs lines. I show the agent the information on my phone along with my passport and continue to baggage claim. After getting my bags, I show another customs agent the information on my phone upon exiting the airport. And that’s it!
Back in early January, I attended a travel meet-up in the city, having the chance to meet other fellow world-travelers. All were very interesting, but one person in particular had a lot of helpful travel tips to share. His name is Ivan, and he is another travel blogger. Ivan focuses on airline deals and points and provides updates through his blog IvanX.
At the event, Ivan told me about Mobile Passport. Also, he told me about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. He suggested that I upgrade to Sapphire Reserve immediately as their 100,000-point offer was expiring. Now I believe the promotion is only granting 50,000 points. I was set to travel to the United Kingdom the next day, so I had only that evening to register. Because the promotion was compelling, I spent the late night hours afterward reaching out to the credit card company.
Once I received the card, I had to spend $4,000 in the first three months to get the 100,000 points. For me that was easy because I ended up charging my monthly maintenance over the next three months. I paid down this maintenance charge plus a small service fee with the cash I already had earmarked.
Then Presto! 100,000 points and a free flight to Kilimanjaro!
So to travel to Kilimanjaro, we decided to take Qatar Airways from JFK-New York City to Doha, Qatar. The flight there is 12.5 hours on a very comfortable airline similar to that of my favorite, airline, Emirates Airlines. We will layover for 2.5 hours in Doha. Then we will continue on a 6-hour flight to the Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. We arrive in Arusha the next day at 2:30pm, having traveled about 21 hours.
On the way home, we fly 6 hours from Zanzibar, Tanzania back to Doha, Qatar. Again we have about a 2-hour layover. Finally, we head back to JFK-New York City, arriving the next day in the morning.
I hope by the time we return home, we will have had time to recuperate from the strenuous mountain climb.
Speaking of strenuous…how am I doing in my training? Well, I completed three months of P90X3, but stopped doing another 3-month session. I found the exercise routine to be helpful in gaining leg and core strength and improving my cardio. However, I was getting a bit bored of its predictability and did not like feeling cooped up inside the apartment.
Instead, I have been doing yoga and biking around New York City! Did you know New York City actually has hills? Trust me, they are quite a workout especially biking up 1st or 2nd Avenues.
The city has been installing more and more dedicated, protected bike lanes along the major thoroughfares. As a result, this transformation has fostered more city bikers on the road.
All of these years, I never knew how much I would love biking around New York City. And biking in New York City is a fun idea to keep in mind when visiting as a tourist.
I have biked along the famous 5th Avenue, passing the iconic spots, and of course, the Empire State Building. I biked along the United Nations and through Times Square. Also, I biked up through Central Park as the spring cherry blossoms begin to bloom. I have seen New York on bike during the early mornings and all throughout the day, until the late evenings with views of the bright, city lights.
In just one month, I biked 41 times, for a total of 11 hours, 10 minutes and 37 seconds. I traveled a total distance of 83.3 miles, all by my pedal power. In doing so, I left a green footprint. My biking has helped save 3.5 gallons of gas and prevented the pollution of 67.7 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Also, an important benefit to my biking is the cardio workout I am getting. Biking is even making my legs stronger. Therefore, I feel good about where I am in my Kilimanjaro workouts.
In addition to purchasing an annual bike pass, I bought an electric scooter! I am using the scooter to commute back and forth to Penn Station and then to and from my office and the train station. The scooter is providing some exercise. However, I may be short-changing my Kilimanjaro workout for the sake of getting to the office on time each day. Hmm…Decisions, decisions.
Although the good news is that perhaps training for the hike may be a bit overrated. I learned that bit of advice from fellow travel blogger, Natalie Took of Natpacker.com. On her site, Nat writes about the joys of backpacking around the world in an affordable way.
Nat hiked Kilimanjaro in 2015 and then published a fairly comprehensive chronicle of her journey that chronicled her experience. I found Nat’s tips on how to prepare for Kilimanjaro to be very helpful and enjoyed reading about her journey.
So…I invited her to have a chat on this Kilimanjaro podcast!
This podcast is part of the travel series on Mount Kilimanjaro. In this episode, we discuss:
- Who is Nat of Natpacker.com
- What to pack for the long adventure
- When to hike the summit
- Where to store your electronics including cameras
- Why the guides and porters are amazing
- How much to tip at the end of the adventure and so much more!
Listen to the – A Kilimanjaro Podcast, featuring Natpacker.
This month, Jen shared with us a video like this one of our Kilimanjaro tour.
The porters are singing a song and it goes like this: “Jambo, jambo bwana. Habari gani mzuri sana. Wageni, mwakari bishwa kilimanjaro hakuna matata.”
This song translates to: “Jambo (Hello) bwana (sir). How are you, very well. Tourist you are welcome Kilimanjaro no worries.”
They celebrate yet another hike well done. And well done, we hope. We are climbing the longest and most remote route of the six routes up the mountain, Lemosho Route. Jen from YouLI posted a new blog post about our upcoming trip and Lemosho.
And what she discovered is a few female porters make the trip too. I was happy to hear it, because it is still a bit rare to see. Fortunately, I think it is possible to request some female porters be part of our hike up the mountain. Jen agreed to look into this option for us. If so, I look forward to featuring them in the Embolden Adventures podcast show.
In continuing with my training, I have been biking more and more around the city. I am focusing on taking the streets and avenues with the hills. As a result, I noticed my legs are getting stronger and stronger and my cardio has improved. My breathing capacity is enlarged, and I am applying the breathing techniques my Army Ranger friend showed me.
And I walked a few miles around Washington DC this month. I made a last-minute trip to the US Capital, having been back again after nearly two decades. From the White House, to the Washington Monument, to the Lincoln Memorial and more, I walked nearly 6 miles. Read more about this mini Embolden Adventure here.
On the train to DC, unknowingly I sat next to a prince of Afghanistan! His name is Ali Seraj and he is the descendant of the last King of Afghanistan. Also, he ran for President of Afghanistan back in 2009 but pulled out of the race midway though. Hamid Karzai ended up winning the Presidency that year.
I shared with Ali some of my travel adventures including my visit to the country of Jordan and meeting my Arab twin in Abu Dhabi last year. We started the conversation as the train rolled into the Philadelphia station. I said to him that Amman Jordan was once named Philadelphia. He followed by asking if I had visited the Middle East region and the rest is history!
He has quite a traveling story himself and is about to release his biographic memoir. Prince Ali accepted my invitation to feature him on and the podcast show. Stay tuned!
As we pulled into DC’s Union Station, I ran into US Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut who was on the train too. I introduced myself and we spoke for a few minutes as we exited.
Then after returning to New York City, I made my way home to Connecticut to enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend. Near our home in Connecticut is Kettletown State Park that is adjoined to the town beach, Jackson’s Cove. There my brother and I completed a 9 mile training hike.
Read more about this area, and go on a scenic western Connecticut road trip here.
Jackson’s Cove is located on Lake Zoar and was an area we would visit in the summer as kids. I think I even learned how to swim there. Jumping off the dock at Jackson’s Cove, we tried to see how deep we could swim. “Touch the bottom!” we’d say. It was the precursor to our scuba diving adventures around the world.
I wish I could go back in time to tell my 10-year old self on that dock in Jackson’s Cove that will be on our way to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and to scuba dive off the island of Tanzania. Isn’t amazing how live can unfold? I attribute a good life well lived to travel.
And living a good life through travel is true; just ask Mr. and Mrs. Sousa. They are grandparents of our childhood best friends who shared in our Jacksons Cove summer swims while growing up.
As a kid, I remember watching Mr. and Mrs. Sousa travel all around the United States and throughout Europe. They were the first traveling adventurers I have ever known. More so, they were fantastic role models, showing us all that it is quite possible and fun to travel.
Mr. Sousa’s can-do attitude and pioneering spirit have propelled him far, leading him to live a life enriched through travel. He is an excellent example of people who make things happen. It is manifest destiny, actually.
On the latest podcast, hear Mr. Sousa reflect on his traveling adventures around the world. This year Mr. Sousa turned 90 wonderful years old “and still counting,” he says. He is happy and healthy, and he still wants to see more of the world.
And seeing more we will. Our hike through Kettletown State Park into Jackson’s Cove was great. I found it nostalgic to be back on these hiking trails. On these trails, I remember always having to be on the lookout for the tiny, camouflaged poisonous snake, the copperhead.
We did not see the copperhead, but we did see a jovial red fox in the distance.
Our hike began from our childhood home up a very tall hill located on our street.
From there, we walked to Kettletown State Park and entered into the park. From there we circled the Miller Trail into the woods. The air was humid, and the forest was alive. I enjoyed connecting back with nature as opposed to the concrete jungle I am used to in New York City.
After circling that trail, we headed towards the Pomperaug Trail on our way to Jackson’s Cove. We paralleled the Housatonic River toward our childhood beach. Up steep woody hills and past the granite rocks, we pushed ourselves.
I could feel my exhaustion in my legs, but I continued on the trail through the lush green forest and the vibrant ferns on the ground. I thought about Kilimanjaro with each step and with each crunching sound of the dried leaves on the ground.
Eventually, we saw the river through the trees. We were approaching Jackson’s Cove! At this point, we hiked 6 miles though the woods.
After completing the trail, over the streams and through the trees, we made it to the beach! I had not been back here since last summer so I took time to immerse myself in the moment.
From there, my brother and I hiked up the steep hills of the roadway on our way back home. Finally after walking nearly 9 miles, we make our way back to the house. From Oxford Connecticut to Africa, I think we are on our way to make it to the top!
In the news this month, the country of Qatar has been basically excommunicated by its neighboring Gulf States. Qatar has been accused of fostering global terrorism and for having ties to Iran. And now, threats of escalating conflict swirl.
As a result of this spat, Qatar Airways is restricted from flying over the airspace in this region. It remains to be seen what happens in the next few months.
In September, we will be flying to Tanzania on Qatar Airways making a layover in Doha, Qatar. As far as I understand, our flights will be rerouted to bypass Saudi Arabia. This change will add extra time to our already long 21-hour trek to Africa, although I am not annoyed. Let’s see what happens. For now, I remain confident and hopeful that our trip as is remains intact.
In the meantime, we continue with our plans. I identified a few beach hotels in Zanzibar and learned about the main town, Stone Town. Also, I contacted the Spanish Dancer Dive Shop to secure a day for scuba diving. It will be humpback whale season by the time we dive there in mid-September. Fingers crossed we get to see a whale (or two) that day!
Did you know that Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the band Queen, was from Zanzibar? He is famous for singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You”. This month was my birthday! What a fun way to celebrate than with this card I received from my brother. It features a stone moai wearing shades – like the ones we saw on our Easter Island adventure here. And it plays “We Will Rock You” by Queen! I love this foreshadowing!
Also this month, I continue to train for Kili by strengthening my legs and improving my cardio and lung capacity. I am biking and doing advanced yoga as often as I can. However, I should probably be walking to work a instead of relying on my electric scooter. Just this year, my scooter has traveled nearly 500 miles on it – 500 miles that I could have walked.
And speaking of walking, I took a class to learn how to walk this month with Michael Hanko. He is an expert in the movement in the body including posture and walking techniques. Check out his website, Free Body, Free Voice.
As part of my friend’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer fundraiser, she and her group arranged a day of activities. These events included yoga, improv classes, and this walking class.
In this class, we learned the proper mechanics on how to actually walk. Our feet were designed to walk across all types of uneven terrains. Because we wear shoes, we are not using our feet to their fullest capacity. Therefore, some muscles in our feet, legs, and back are weaker than they should be.
We started the class with exercises comprised of foot stretches, flexes, and pointing. After a few rounds of foot contortions, I could feel how stiff my foot muscles were. Every so often, my foot cramped during these exercises.
Next we tried two versions of foot massagers. Rolling my foot over these balls I could feel how many touch points are on the soles of my feet. They are quite sensitive, after all.
After, we walked slowly, barefoot around the room, paying attention to our own gaits. Being mindful of your walking, you notice the fluidity of walking. Everything moves and sways: Your hips, your knees, your upper and lower legs, your arms, your back.
Next we learned about the “fish” walk. Michael asked us to imagine the way a fish swims: Side to side in an “s” motion. Then he said to imagine a fish swimming with its face toward the sky and its tailfin towards the ground. The fish would still be swimming in an “s” motion, but upright. He said that “s” motion is how we should be walking. The top of our head is the face of the fish and our tailbone is the tailfin of the fish. Our hips and spine sway side to side in that “s” motion.
Lastly, Michael observed our walking styles, as if we were walking on a fashion catwalk. He pointed out subtle things we each were doing that impact our walking. For example, he noticed one person stretching her head and neck too far forward, leading in the direction of her walk. Another tensed his upper body. And another walked too rigidly. After calling attention to these points and correcting them, we could see a difference in each person’s walking style. They relaxed. They moved with ease, and they looked natural.
Then it was my turn to walk. I asked Michael what I needed to keep in mind when hiking Kilimanjaro. He said to let my upper legs to do the work when bouldering up the mountain.
Also, I asked about the proper way to wear a backpack. Michael said for me to let my pelvis do the work when I climb the mountain with a backpack. He said our pelvis bones are shaped in such a way to carry and diffuse the load on our backs. The pelvis looks like a triangle with the top point facing downward. The other two points form our hipbones. The weight from the backpack is supported by the hipbones. Then the weight is transferred down to the bottom point of the pelvis “triangle”.
June was an eventful month in the bulletin and July will be even more eventful so stay tuned!
We are making lots of progress leading up to our big adventure into the clouds of Africa. Although, it still feels like I have so much more to do. The good news is that we are getting the important stuff done: Buying gear and boots, booking our Zanzibar trip, and making a superhero action figure.
Yes, you read that right. I made an Embolden Adventures action figure doll that looks like me. I used this MyFaceOnAFigure.com service to 3-D print my head and pop it onto a doll’s body. Introducing: Sara the Embolden Adventurer! She flies around the world with her superhero cape in an emboldened fashion.
I am following the lead of our adventure friend, Jeff. He climbed Mt Fuji with us previously and will be joining us up the mountain in Kilimanjaro. On our hike up Fuji, Jeff brought his teenage mutant ninja turtle action figure. Next, he had it pose for various shots on the mountain. I loved it so much I will do the same when we hike Kilimanjaro.
And hiking we are ready. My brother Devin has been making many long treks each weekend. So, one Saturday, he left his house at 3:00am to walk basically a marathon’s length of 26.2 miles. He crossed the border of Connecticut into New York State and back again. Subsequently, he was home in time to bring back a Starbucks coffee and a late breakfast. What a sight to see: Devin walking with his headlamp along rural roads in the backwoods of Connecticut before sunrise.
The following weekend we walked over 20 miles in New York City in what I call the Bridge-to-Bridge challenge. #BridgetoBridge. Devin and I crossed the four New York City bridges that span the East River.
We started bright and early near my apartment where the Queensboro Bridge is located. Prepared we were with our camelbacks and trail snacks of gummy bears, twizzlers, and granola bars.
Hiking from sea level at the river’s edge, we walked up the steep slope to the peak of the bridge. Along the pedestrian pathway, we dodged the bikers, including a motorized gas-powered bicycle exceeding speeds of 25mph.
The cable car, Roosevelt Island tramway that traverses the river, passed us. This tramway is a movie star. It was where the Green Goblin battled Spiderman at the end of the first Spiderman movie. We walked over Roosevelt Island and over to Long Island City in Queens. By then, an N Train subway rolled passed us on the tracks parallel to the walkway. Finally, we turned around to head back over the bridge to Manhattan. On our way back we had a nice scene of the New York City skyline including views of the United Nations and the Chrysler Building.
Next stop, the Williamsburg Bridge, but not before we grabbed an authentic New York City bagel for sustenance. I got my favorite: A sunflower seed bagel lightly toasted with tofu scallion cream cheese and a slide of tomato.
We headed down First Avenue, passing the United Nations, 42nd Street, and 34th Street. Here the mighty Empire State Building was in full view. Then we made our way back towards the East River where the helipad is located.
We continued walking south along the river’s edge. Here gorgeous views of the New York City skyline and the Queensboro Bridge emerged. This day had a beautiful sunshine to it and the temperature was not too hot for a New York summer. Unfortunately though, we are not able to prepare for the cold temperatures we will experience on Mount Kilimanjaro. However, our Australian hiking friends do have preparation currently, as they located in the Southern Hemisphere and are experiencing winter.
After walking about an hour from the bagel store, we reached the Williamsburg Bridge. This bridge, too, has a pedestrian walkway but it is more colorful than the Queensboro Bridge. The Williamsburg Bridge connects the Lower East Side in Manhattan with Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
The crowd on this bridge was much different than that of the Queensboro Bridge. They are the eccentric, artistic, expressive hipster crowd. We followed two guys dressed in all black, with long black hair holding their skateboards. On the opposite side of the pathway, I spotted my colorfully happy yoga teacher, Dana Trixie Flynn riding her bike. She is the founder of the famous Laughing Lotus yoga studio, my yoga studio in NYC.
My brother and I continued walking along the graffiti pathway. Again, a subway – the J Train – passed us on the parallel track. Sounds of screeching metal and heavy motions permeated the sound clouds.
From our perch high above the East River, we spotted a group of city kayakers riding in the direction of the current. I was surprised, even from this vantage point, how fast the East River moves sometimes. We continued onward to the Brooklyn side of the bridge and I posed for a picture with the downtown NYC skyline in the background. Bridge #2 complete!
Devin and I crossed back over the bridge to the Manhattan side and walked through Chinatown. We stumbled upon a large volleyball tournament situated on the blacktop of a caged, city basketball court. Scores of teams, boys and girls, played simultaneously. I did not expect to see this scene, especially in the heart of Chinatown, as we trained for mountain climbing. Random, I know. New York has this way of being surprising around every corner.
We passed through the crowds on the sidewalk and through the small Chinatown alleyways, walking by fish markets and Made in China souvenir stores. A hot dog – an English Bulldog – looked at us with his crooked eyes, panting as he waited for his owner.
The heat was strong at this point, and I realized I was hungry. My brother and I stopped to eat at any of the Chinatown restaurants in the immediate area. The cool air-conditioned restaurant gave us temporarily relief to recharge. I refilled my camelback with their glasses of cool, tap water on the table. More so, the grilled teriyaki chicken sandwich with fresh cut potato fries was awesomely delicious.
Fortunately, we had more energy in us despite the high heat and humidity at this point. We continued on as tough mountaineers do. Our next stop was the Manhattan Bridge. We winded through the streets of Chinatown, passing the famous Fung Wah Bus to Boston. Finally, after some backtracking, we found the entrance of the pedestrian walkway and then proceeded to cross.
The Manhattan Bridge does not have as much character as the Williamsburg Bridge. It is a grey metal bridge built during the early 1900s. Although, this bridge is famous for its cameo in the iconic downtown Brooklyn photographs.
From the bridge, another iconic view of New York City emerges. The entire downtown including the full span of the Brooklyn Bridge comes to light. I spent some time trying to take the just right shots of this scene. Moments like these remind me why I love New York.
Reaching the end of the bridge, Devin and I turned around and retraced our steps back to Chinatown. Bridge #3 is complete! Next we headed south towards City Hall and downtown NYC. The fourth and final bridge: The most famous of all the Brooklyn Bridge.
By the time we showed up on this Saturday afternoon, the bridge was packed with tourists. Keeping our pace proved to be difficult as we tried to get around the many people stopping to take photos. Finally we succumbed and took a few photos of the famous views of the suspension bridge and the skyline. Below the bridge we could hear a Hip Hop festival taking place. Apparently it made social news as the famous rapper DMX was performing that day.
I found my favorite shot of the day, a sign that referenced New York bagels. It says “No to Locks and Yes to Lox”. Like what they are doing on bridges in France, some are putting locks on the Brooklyn Bridge. So to deter this practice and in honor of the traditional New York bagel spread, say yes to Lox!
We were tired at this point. So, once we made our way over to the Brooklyn side, we hustled back over to the Manhattan side. My knee was hurting now. It was stiff and pain resonated around the back to front of my kneecap. This temporary injury worries me. I had this same injury on Mt Fuji by the very end of our hike down the mountain. The pain was acute and strong enough to cause me to limp the way back to the finish line. I think this pain is a result of my old sneakers and for not stretching before the long walk. Perhaps I was just tired and dehydrated. Either way, I hope it does not return on Mount Kilimanjaro.
From the Brooklyn Bridge, we walked as far north to Grand Central Station than we could go. Finally we called it at Lafayette Street at the REI Coop Store. By this point, we walked 20 miles that day. Ironically this place was our final destination!
We had just enough energy to stop into this outdoor gear store. We need some ideas about what to purchase for this trip.
Towards the end of the month, we returned to REI to buy practically all of our gear. I spent a majority of the time trying on the right hiking boot. I tested the boots wearing thin silk socks and a layer of wool socks. I even walked up and down their fake boulder in the store. My cherry red, waterproof Oboz hiking boots turned out to be just right.
Most days I will wear just the wool socks and will layer the silk socks when the temperature gets colder. Actually, the silk layer may prevent blisters, so I might wear them during the entire hike. I bought three pairs of each type of sock. My hands will be covered too. I bought ski gloves and thin gloves to layer under these gloves
Next, I tried out layers and more layers of hiking clothes. I bought three pairs of merino wool long sleeve shirts for undergarments and two pairs of merino wool leggings. On top of the wool shirts, I am wearing a fleece zip and over that, an 850 count down jacket. The last layer, I will be wearing a thin gortex jacket that is windproof and waterproof.
The same goes for my pants. I will wear thin silk leggings underneath my wool leggings. Over those layers, I will wear my safari khaki cargo pants. My final pant layer will be waterproof and windproof ski pants.
Also, I got gaiters, or mud shin guards as I like to call them. We will wear our gaiters during the jungle portion of the trail and while we are summiting in the extreme cold.
Lastly, I purchased a lightweight daypack backpack, 30liters in size. This bag has clips for carbines and for my new solar battery charger that I will take up the mountain. It also has room for the two 1.5 liter water bottles I purchased. We should be drinking at least 3 liters of water a day when we hike. Resultantly, dehydration causes altitude sickness.
Later, Devin and I laid out our purchases. In total we spent a whopping $3000 in gear, not including hiking poles and a large, waterproof basecamp duffle bag I will need. While the price tag was jarring, we were not surprised. But when we Facetime out parents asking them to guess how much we spent, they were surprised! Showing them all of that gear, my dad guessed that we spent $300 dollars in total. Um, multiply that guess by 10. So basically, my free flight to Africa and my gear purchases net out more or less.
Joanne gave me hand warmers and a warm hat to borrow. She will be joining us on the safari portion of this trip after we climb Kilimanjaro. So now I can breathe a sigh of relief. We are now even closer to being fully prepared to leave for Kilimanjaro.
I even got some electronics for the trip including a virtual reality, 360-degree video camera. Check it out!
And to finish the month, we finally booked our side trip to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar used to be the Sultanate of Zanzibar and it is where Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen was born.
Last month, I visited a dear college friend in Boston. We celebrated her daughter’s 1-year birthday. At the party, her neighbor told me she was from Tanzania! What are the chances? She gave some good recommendations about where to stay and what to do while we were in Zanzibar. Too bad we were not visiting the capital city of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. If so, we could have stopped to eat at her parents’ local restaurant.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania on the Indian Ocean. It can be reached by boat from the capital of Dar es Salaam or by plane. We will be taking a short flight, lasting approximately an hour from Arusha to Zanzibar.
The island is actually made up of many islands as part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Located near Iran, India, Pakistan, and the Arabian Peninsula, this island was a nexus for trading activity, including the spice trade, over many centuries. Therefore, its culture is a vibrant mix of Persian, African, Asian, Arab, and even Portuguese. It once was part of the Sultanate of Oman. More so in the 1840s and 1850s, the capital of Oman was actually Stone Town, the main city on the island of Zanzibar.
After the Sultan of Oman died in 1856, his two sons divided up the Sultanate. Consequently, the Sultanate of Zanzibar formed. Like in the history of the United Arab Emirates, Zanzibar came under a British Protectorate from the 1890 to as long as 1963. For a while, Zanzibar was a historic hub in the slave trade, and so anti-slave measures were undertaken as the British ruled the island.
On December 10, 1963, the British ended their Protectorate over Zanzibar and enabled it to become an autonomous, self-governing island. One year later, the United Republic of Tanganyika on the mainland of Africa and Zanzibar merged. As a result, the country was renamed a blend of the two names to Tanzania. This tidbit is good to know for trivia!
We booked our hotel in Nungwi, a beach town located at the northern part of the island. After mountain hiking and lion spotting, we will relax on the white sand beach next to the turquoise water. A few of us, including Devin and me, will spend the half-day scuba diving at either the Leven Bank or the Mnemba atoll. An atoll is a collection of islands in the middle of the ocean.
On our final day, we will head back to Stone Town and park our stuff in a day room. From there we will go on a walking tour of the rustic city or go out to the countryside for a spice tour. After lunch, we will make our way to the airport to catch our international flight back to New York City with a layover in Doha Qatar.
Happy birthday Kilimanjaro Bulletin! This bulletin is one year old. I started covering my journey in preparing to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro, here. Now with just days away, we are heading to Tanzania to begin this epic adventure!
And what a way to start this month of August! I had to get a new passport! AHHHHHH!
As Americans, we will need a visa to enter the country of Tanzania. Upon landing at the airport, the government will issue a visa on the spot. However, the time it takes to get the visa at the airport is unpredictable. This unpredictability is greater when a plane full of foreign tourists, also looking for visas, arrive with you. I heard some have waited over two hours to process their visa on the spot. After flying for nearly 24 hours on this trip, I would not prefer to wait an additional two more hours.
So my brother and I decided to front run this effort. We applied for the visa in person at the Tanzanian Consulate in New York City. Click here to learn more. Ironically, this consulate is walking distance from my apartment. Yet, since I commute to the office in New Jersey, I had no time to go to the consulate during business hours. Instead, my brother took charge of getting these visas. And with what patience!
First they turned us away because we did not have a detailed enough itinerary. We provided a completed application form, had proof of our flights, and US$100 in cash. The itinerary that we had needed to show the address where we were staying and other detailed information. So my brother had to return to the consulate a second day with more information.
Then upon return, they rejected our passports. The consulate wanted two consecutive blank pages in our passports. The Tanzanian visa fills an entire blank page in the passport. Given how much I travel, I did not have two consecutive blank pages for this visa. Neither did my brother. Naturally, I was frustrated.
So on August 1 with just one month to go, we scrambled to get brand new passports! By the way, my passport is only 3 years old.
We needed to act quickly. Basically we had two weeks expedite our new passports. Then we had to give the Tanzanian Consulate five business days to process our visa. We leave at the end of August so timing was of utmost importance. Or in a less ideal option, we arrive at the airport in Arusha, Tanzania with our new passports. Then we would apply for the visa there. Fortunately, we did not have to learn at the airport that would would have needed new passports.
I checked the US Passport Agency for open appointments to expedite my passport application in person. Rats. No open appointments were available in all of New York City. I looked beyond New York to nearby offices in Stamford, Connecticut and in New Jersey. No available appointments worked for me. Same for my brother.
So next up…Apply for the passport via the US Post Office! But what post office do I go to? I commute to my office in New Jersey each day on my electric scooter and then by train. I only had so many options that are not too far by driving distance. Luckily, I found a post office nearby my office and the train station in Iselin, NJ.
Next day bright and early, I arrived to the post office just as they opened. I came with my scooter! Like a whirlwind, I explained to the mail lady about my ordeal. I needed a passport, and I needed it now! We had to take a new passport photo, and I had to fill out a lengthy form. Then I shelled out over $170 to pay for a new passport and expedited processing service. And then I had to shell out more money to mail back the passport using overnight delivery. All in all, this ordeal cost me well over $200. Plus the $100 for the Tanzanian visa, this headache totaled over $300. Argh.
Thankfully, my new passport arrived in a week, and my old passport was returned to me a few days later. My brother received his new passport too.
The next day, on my way to the train station, I zipped over on my scooter to my brother’s office building on Park Avenue. I handed him my brand new passport, and he took care of the rest.
For the third time now, he returned to the Tanzanian Consulate. The lady there joked after seeing him by saying “You again?” Yah we are back, and we need our visas!
Finally, with one week to go, we received our Tanzanian visas. I am guarding it with my life, because I cannot risk losing this passport or this visa this month.
Besides this last minute wrinkle, things leading up to the trip are going well. In the beginning of the month, I made another trip to REI to buy my waterproof canvas duffle bag. This type of bag is called a base camp bag, and it is designed for epic hiking adventures. The bag even has straps, so it can be worn like a backpack. I was excited to pick one designed with the map of the world. On the bag it has Mount Kilimanjaro labeled!
Also, my signs for Mount Kilimanjaro are here! My travel pal, Tom Mueller of H C Graphics Screen Printing so graciously made these signs. I am so excited to be bringing them to the summit and the roof of Africa to display proudly.
In this month, I continued with my hiking adventures. This time, my friend Kristina and I walked across the Hudson River on the George Washington Bridge. She is training for her 3-day Avon Breast Cancer Walk and wanted to join me for practice.
Early in the morning on a beautiful summery Sunday, I met Kristina in the waaaay Upper West Side. After getting my now typical New York City bagel, I walked towards the subway. On the route, I passed the Tanzanian Consulate, a nice nod of what is to come.
We walked from 178th Street to the entrance of the GW Bridge. Unlike the other New York City bridges I walked last month in my Bridge-to-Bridge Challenge, this bridge was different. The pedestrian lane is narrow and is shared with aggressive bikers. Many serious cyclists use the GW Bridge to get over to the New Jersey side, like my friend Allie who I visited last year in Belize – hear Allie’s podcast here. These cyclists travel long distances through scenic New Jersey or up along the river to upstate New York. And on our walk across the bridge, these cyclists were quite vocal about getting out of their way. As if they owned the pathway! What nerve.
Another reason why the GW Bridge experience was different from the other NYC bridges. The guardrails, separating the walkway and the river way down below, are low. I felt uneasy getting to close to the side.
But the views over the Hudson River to the New York City skyline are worth the bridgewalk.
After a brisk 20-minute or so walk across the bridge, we made our way to the Palisades Park located on the New Jersey side. Across the street, I saw a mural dedicated to those who lost their lives on 9-11 in New York. Signs like these always give me pause. Never forget.
We walked through the woods and past some historic stuff from the Revolutionary War times. Then we walked downhill towards the river’s edge with the intent to walk back up the long, steep hill. Then we made our way back over the bridge. All in all, I walked over 8 miles before heading back downtown.
Next I took the subway to the famous B&H mega camera store to pick up a new camera for Kilimanjaro. I showed up to the store wearing my hiking books and my camelback filled with water. What I sight: I must have looked hilariously ridiculous and I chuckle at the thought of me in the store. I ended up buying the Sony RX100 DSCR camera that one of our Kilimanjaro hiker friends recommended. Josselin is a professional travel photographer as seen in his Instagram account here. He will be joining us on this trip so I am excited to see what photos he captures of our journey!
The following weekend, I ran 9 miles in Central Park in the August summer heat and humidity. I forced myself to run the route at a slow pace to emulate being exhausted and short of breath. Fortunately, I made it through, although I began walking the route towards the end of the way. I am relieved that I feel physically strong and have a good cardio in time for our journey. Continuing to ride the Citibike around the city and doing my advance yoga classes have been helpful too.
And as the month rolls though, time is of the essence. I am teetering on getting it all done in time for our departure including my workload from my day job. For example, this month, I had to make separate short trips for work to Pittsburgh and to Houston. In Houston, I witnessed the epic solar eclipse from the steps of our office.
Conversely, just days later however, this beautiful sunshine in Texas was replaced by the severe Hurricane Harvey. Sadly, the city of Houston has been submerged in catastrophic floods after experiencing 50 inches of rainfall in two days. The surrounding southeastern area of Texas was ravaged by the hurricane winds and rain. What a difference a few days made. I am wishing colleagues and the people of Houston god speed.
Upon returning to New York ahead of the storm, I got word from Qatar Airways that they had urgent information regarding our flights. I called the airline right away to learn that my flight was cancelled. Cancelled!? “Yes,” the woman on the other end replied. “The plane changed.” My heart skipped a beat. “So my flight is not cancelled”, I asked seeking reassurance. Her response did not make immediate sense to me, so I asked for additional clarification.
Luckily our flight back from Zanzibar, Tanzania to Doha, Qatar is still scheduled. Only the flight number changed. And now the plane is to stop in Salalah, Oman for a 50-minute technical layover. We would not have to change planes. That day we learned of our flight change, news came out that Qatar restored full diplomatic ties with Iran. The neighboring Gulf Coast states, except Oman, have been trying to place an embargo on Qatar for its ties to Iran. As a result, our flight paths can no longer fly over Saudi Arabia and other surrounding countries. They may have laxed some of this restriction over the last month or so. But with this news, all of a sudden our flight has to land in Oman before heading to Qatar.
Either way, I have purchased trip insurance through World Nomads and will be prepared to make a last minute switch on flights if need be.
To balance the sobering news is some good news. A new podcast is released! This episode is the latest in the series of podcasts on Kilimanjaro.
I sat down with an old friend from high school, Kim, who trekked up the mountain back in 2010. She and I used to have lockers near each other back in the day. Who would have thought the two of us would be coming together again to discuss what it is like to climb this tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Also, I ask Kim about:
- her Kilimanjaro adventure
- the 50 some odd countries around the world she has visited
- her decorative military career in the Marines, serving three tours of duty
- and her time working in the Pentagon
Hear the episode here:
And this month, Jen and Adam have come to New York City from Australia. They are on their round-the-world adventure, leaving from Australia to California to New York and then to Africa. As you may remember, I traveled to the country of Jordan to attend their wedding and to tour the country. Read about the adventure and listen to the podcast: A Wedding in Jordan here.
Jen, Adam, and I are travel friends who have seen the world together. We ventured all around Australia, swimming with great white sharks and diving the Great Barrier Reef. We traveled all throughout Japan, climbing Mt Fuji and diving in Okinawa. Even, we explored Myanmar and Thailand, soaring above the ancient pagodas of the Kingdom of Bagan along the Irrawaddy River on a hot air balloon. Now we trek to Africa together to conquer Kilimanjaro, see the safari wildlife, and scuba dive in Zanzibar.
In the meantime, they have spent a few days with me in New York City while seeing other friends too. We enjoyed the weekend on the rooftop ordering authentic New York pizza for delivery at night and authentic New York bagels in the morning. Friends from other travel adventures stopped by too to say hello. It was a great last weekend before Africa with beautiful summer weather to boot.
Also, I spent the weekend shopping for last minute items for the trip including light safari clothes and stuff at the pharmacy. I ended up getting the altitude sickness medicine, Diamox, in addition to the malaria pills. I am still on the fence about Diamox. It produces uncomfortable side effects like tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, and more. It seems as if I am just better off enduring the effects of possible altitude sickness, which are basically the same feelings.
Fortunately, we may have another option. Jen’s brother Issac, who will be hiking up Kilimanjaro with us, said simple ibuprofen would help mitigate altitude sickness. It is a pain reliever, reduces inflammation, and helps with blood flow. I would prefer to take these pills instead. I have a few more days before committing to my decision as the pharmacist recommends taking Diamox a few days before traveling.
Lastly, I went to a health food store to inquire about vitamins that help with altitude. I wondered if they had the coca leaves that they take for altitude in Peru. Since it is the derivative of cocaine, coca is very hard to find in the United States. Instead, the person at the store recommended I take ginger root tablets. Ginger root is also supposed to help with altitude.
Well now, I am ready. I have packed most of my gear. I have my medicines and my visa. And I have money for tips and travel. Also, I have my snacks: Natural gummy bears, granola bars, and Rice Krispies treats from Whole Foods.
And I think the Universe is giving me a green light sign. I rode my Citibike to Kristina’s apartment to pick up binoculars and a few other items for Africa she had for me. On the way, my doorman asked if I was excited for my trip to Africa. I am!
Then I shared with him that the porters sing the Jambo Kilimanjaro Hakuna Matata song with us before we begin our trek. I sang Hakuna Matata song again with Kristina when I said goodbye to her. As I was exiting her apartment lobby downstairs, a neighbor of hers held open the door for me. Guess what shirt he was wearing: Hakuna Matata!
And one more little sign from the Universe: The song Signs by Tesla. When I neared my apartment on my Citibike, I stopped at a red light by a bar. There a musician was playing his acoustic guitar, singing that song exactly at the part: “Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs..”
I think the time has come.
The Kilimanjaro Countdown is ticking down to zero. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1…here we gooooo!!!! See if we make it. Stay Tuned!