The Journey

The journey began over a year before summit day when pondering how to celebrate my 50th birthday milestone.  It had to be something different, challenging and adventurous but achievable.  There was never any doubt that my long-time partner and soul buddy Jono would be up for the challenge, having shared many adventures together over the last 20+ years.  To complete the group, my sister Soda joined us, the timing of the trek planned to coincide with my 50th birthday and the 2 week period where we are both the same age.

In the past year, many many hours of research, planning and preparation had been clocked into overtime.  Given the time and cost and a philosophy of ‘if I commit to doing something, it must be done with 150% effort’, nothing was left to chance within our control.

After extensive research, we decided on the Northern Circuit 9 Day trek through Peak Planet which is run by the guiding company African Walking Company.  The key criteria in the selection process was to ensure we had the best possible experience and highest probability of reaching the summit.  In this respect the following was of primary importance:

  1. A highly rated guiding company that had a good resume, excellent client reviews, good equipment and facilities, a comprehensive safety and evacuation plan and good support staff to client ratio
  2. The best routes that would maximize acclimatization time on the mountain, balanced with being picturesque and less congested
The bonus was the chosen route is the least travelled, we avoided the traffic and the base camp to summit (School Hut) was all to ourselves.  Price was never a consideration.  In the pre-trek lead up we did the following:
  1. Spent two months hiking very hilly terrain using as much of our ‘Mt Kilimanjaro’ gear as possible, in particular our boots.  We also did a multi-day hike to test other gear.
  2. We booked business travel, given it was 48 hours (door to door) traveling from New Zealand to Tanzania
  3. We carried all our hiking gear as cabin luggage, wearing our boots etc, to avoid losing luggage in transit.
  4. We arrived in Arusha (at approx. 1300m) two days before the scheduled trek and rested, ate and hydrated as much as possible
  5. We drank no alcohol or caffeine and drank only bottled water
  6. We avoided any food that might upset our stomach.  Conversely, we ate any food that was thought to be beneficial, even though we didn’t like it or typically ate it.  Incidentally, we are vegans.
If we could, we would have added altitude (>2500m) hikes into the training schedule.
The days were spent trekking through landscapes which change every day as you pass through different vegetation zones; the pace is never exhausting, as you have to walk slowly in order to give yourself a chance to acclimatize.  What’s more, at the end of the day, while your dinner is being prepared, you are free to freshen up, tuck into afternoon tea and popcorn, wander around the campsite, rest, write-up the trip diary, relax or spend time with fellow trekkers.  A sense of routine and community soon develops.  This was a favourite time of day: rested, replete with food and rehydrated with a day of satisfactory walking behind and a good night’s sleep ahead, it’s natural to feel a sense of comfort and contentment with the thought of the next day’s activity to look forward to.
Short of actually carrying you up, your support crew will do everything in their power to make your entire experience as comfortable as possible.  In fact, they’ll spoil you: not only do they carry your bag, but at the end of the day’s walk you’ll turn up at camp to find your tent has already been erected, with a bowl of hot water lying nearby for you to wash away the grime of the day.  Later and a large plate of popcorn and biscuits will be served with steaming hot tea or coffee.