Zanzibar Travel Blog

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,,,I don't like it. It tropical. It's paradise. Etc. Etc. But it's full of touts and tourists. We arrived a few days ago and headed straight to Kendwa – famed for it's beach and its full moon party.

The beach is very nice. But I've seen better. They've been cheaper. They've been chilled out. And there were fewer people bugging you.

As for the full moon party, well we arrived on the day and after dinner attempted to launch ourselves in to the action. Attempts at such launching were mostly unsuccessful. We had not yet acquired companions and (at least for me) the experience felt a lot like being trapped in a club college town club.

Now for the good stuff. I may not have liked Zanzibar, but after the first night, I had a great time. We stumbled across Andy, Kate, Becky and Dora on our second afternoon and fell into a happy routine of drinking, eating, talking and (most importantly pour moi) exploiting the free wireless internet.

I've been aggressively doing nothing since I got here, exercising for my right to be extremely lazy. And that's been great. I've enjoyed forcing myself not to do anything more the stumble from (massively over-priced) meal to (massively-overpriced) meal, with occasional forays to the bar. Still, apparently there is such a thing as too much nothing, and feeling quite excited about getting back on the road for some more adventure,,,

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It may have taken my camera.

It may have cost Tommer half a tooth.

It have caused mild food poisoning.

But we made it. Kilimanjaro has been conquered.

I'm not really sure what the best thing the describe is I could write of the details. Run through the finer points of the Machame route. Describe the rainforest from the gate to Machame Camp, the alpine meadow to Shira, the barren rockscape to Barranco and the vertical wall to reach Barafu before attacking the summit. But that's not that interesting.

Alternatively, I could talk about the pain. My, there was pain. Nausea swamps over you as you try to get from 4700m to 5895m. Every step is agonizing. You clutch on to the hope that the thumping in your heart is from excitement and not from imminent heart failure. Breathing seems like a long lost memory - you're sure that when you used inhale back in the day air would rush into your lungs and oxygen into your blood, but no longer. But pain, everyone has pain.

So what shall I write of? Well since I no longer have the photos to show you, I thought I'd try and describe the awe-inspiring vista of the ascent. Apologies in advance for excessively flowery language and general linguistic pretension.

It was only a couple of days off the full moon, and it was hard to miss the fact. Picking our way past tents and guy ropes the moon bore down lighting both our way and the snow-capped peak that faced us. If looking up at a moonlit Kilimanjaro was imposing, looking down was something else. It was transcendent. It was ethereal. It was like nothing I have ever seen before.

Barafu Camp is above the clouds. So when the sky is bright but the ground is obscure, you can look down and see the purest, fluffiest blanket imaginable. In the distance Mt. Meru peaks just above cover, but otherwise, as far as the eye can see, all you have are the tops of clouds. And, if clouds at sunset with the shadow of Kibo peak falling upon them are dramatic, clouds in moonlight are on a whole different level. A silvery hue plays upon the cloudscape. Fluffy white become a ghostly gray, with peaks and troughs picked out with sharp glints and deep shadow.

The mountain itself is a boulder-strewn, scree-covered edifice. Bright paths are shrouded with shadow on either side and the ground beneath your feet moves from rock to frozen mud to snow and ice. The peak itself seems impossibly far away for many hours – there's always another dramatic ridge to crest, a short dip to cross or a rock to scrabble over. Eventually, though, you hit the snowy path to the crater. And, pausing to catch your breath, you look around.

Off to the side is a dirty, streaked glacier of an almost frightening size. You can only see the side, a vertical wall, replete with deep ridges and hidden crevasses. Across and down is another of Kilimanjaro's peaks, confirmation that you must have ascended since it was above, and now it is below. And beneath your feet is a frozen crust of snow and ice.

It creaks a little underfoot and veritably screeches as you plunge the point of your walking pole in. Every step seems to be tempting the gods of falling over and hurting yourself. But, treading in to steps of those who have gone before you push on and make it to the top in time to turn around and watch the sun rise, peaking up first past the clods that lie so far beneath you.

Looking down into the crater as you walk along the rim all the eye can see is a vast untouched snow field, pock-marked with the odd boulder and begging to be frolicked in. The summit itself seems like it should be an anti-climax. The scenery is old by now, and lit by dawn rather than the moon. But when you get there, it's like nothing you could have foreseen. Despite the cliched climb. Despite the dozens with you. Despite the thousands upon thousands in whose footsteps you follow and who will follow in yours... You drown in the sense of achievement. It washes over you leaving you amazed at yourself, at the moment, at the fact that you Made It.

photo by: tirsomaldonado