Welcome to the start of the trek blogs, part of the mini series on climbing Kilimanjaro. The guest blogger in this case is Vikki Allan. I’m excited to say that Vikki achieved a Guinness World Record after her successful climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. This mini series will detail what you need in order to climb it, the preparation she went through and the climb itself. To read more from the guest blogger then you can find her on Twitter here: @vikkimallan. I’ll now pass you over to Vikki…
Where to start… on the 22nd May 2017 I was asked if I would be available to referee a match at some point in June and it would be slightly different… After initially agreeing very sceptically I found out that I would be travelling to Tanzania on 15th June to be an Assistant Referee on a world record breaking match on top of Kilimanjaro!!
The reason for this match was to raise awareness of gender inequality within sports. What better way to do this than climb Kilimanjaro and break a record that had never been done before? I was super excited but also wondering how on earth I was going to climb a mountain with only three weeks training and also not being able to actually train to my full potential due to prior engagements!
So I thought I would write a few blogs on how to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro, how the trek up Kilimanjaro is and how to spend my very limited two days seeing Tanzania!
Day 1 – Edinburgh
It was a 4am wakeup call in Edinburgh for my flight to Kilimanjaro airport; I was flying KLM from Edinburgh to Amsterdam then right onto Kilimanjaro airport. Once I arrived in Amsterdam I met my Scottish colleague Morag and we flew together on to Tanzania.
Tip: Remember to pack a pen for your landing card… oops!
Once we arrived in Kilimanjaro Airport, I already had my visa so was able to go right through. In hindsight I could have just waited to get my visa in the airport and to be honest that might have saved time! The queue for existing visas was just as long and for the hassle it caused back home (see previous blog) I should have just waited. It cost slightly more but only around $10.
Tip: Lock your case!!!
Once I got through immigration it was time to pick up my bag off the baggage conveyor belt… or so I thought! Kilimanjaro airport isn’t the biggest in the world. It is a couple of guys carrying bags off the plane and dropping them in a hall. A few people noticed that a few items were missing from their cases so please do lock your bags or keep expensive items in your hand luggage.
After collecting my bag our taxi was ready to take us to our hotel for our first night in Tanzania. It took us about an hour from the airport to our hotel in Arusha, once we arrived we were checked in quite quickly and the hotel even had Wi-Fi! As soon as my head hit the pillow that was it. I was out like a light knowing it was my last night in a comfy bed for a while!
Day 2 – Arusha
I woke up to my last shower and breakfast served under a proper roof. I met the first people from the Equal Playing Field initiative and we went a walk into the local town. It was my first taste of African culture and I loved it! Everyone was super friendly and willing to talk to you, dance with you and laugh with you. The local fruit looked amazing and I even got a look at the local shoe shop! Once we walked back to the hotel it was time to pack up and head to the campsite to meet all the others.
Once we arrived we were first shown how to use the toilets (who knew there would be travel toilets, life saver!!). Down at this camp there were also showers (proper glamping). I then had lunch and started to check my gear; I could only take 9kg up the mountain (different depending on what your tour group is like) and was currently at 12 without my sleeping bag…. Packing, having a meltdown, unpacking, packing, freaking out, unpacking, packing and the cycle continued. I managed to get down to 8kg and would fight the next day to get rid of the final 2kg.
I moved into my tent for the next 11 days with Morag and then got to meet all the other amazing people on my trip. It was my first time camping properly so no street lights meant we got a proper view of the night sky and wow it was amazing but the best was yet to come in following nights. Sitting round the camp fire we all told our stories and then it was time for bed.
Day 3 – Match 1
Up early for breakfast and drive to our first football match just outside Arusha. We were going to play two short games with a local team who were going to benefit from the training centres after our climb. We then went back to our camp for our actual last shower this time. I tackled my bag one more time and finally got it to 9kg including my sleeping bag! Who knew that baby wipes weighed a whole kg!
We got to meet our trek guide leader Gabe for team Tembo (Elephant). We first discussed everything we needed to know from a health perspective and then onto our day bags and what to pack. We were also told that on game day we would be playing the match first then possibly climbing to the top of the mountain. At that altitude a 90 minute match was the equivalent of 6 hours constant football. 90% of us would not be able to make it to the top of the mountain. This was sad news but it wasn’t about reaching the top it was all about raising awareness of these amazing women reaching the top of their own mountains.
After this it was time for dinner and the welcome ceremony as everyone had now arrived. We spoke about why we were all there and how we all shared the same dream for gender equality in sports. These women were from 25 countries. After our climb there would be 16 clinics ran across the world for young girls to train and play football. It was now time to sleep before our 6am wake up to start our way to the mountain.
Day 4 – The way to Kilimanjaro (1.5hr hike)
After packing the vans (the packing skills of our tour guides were amazing! Every bag on the roof of the three vans!) we finally managed to leave about 8am. We drove for around an hour back towards the airport where we had our breakfast at the most amazing lodge, the Kia Lodge. It had a lovely outside area where we ate our breakfast and all sat together.
We finally got back on the bus and it was another 3 hour drive, on some crazy roads. We stopped once for the bathroom, we asked where the bathroom was and the reply was the bush… we were now officially in the wild! We finally got our first view of Mt Kilimanjaro, it was beautiful! We also saw a church service in a small town which the whole town had shown up for! The line was around a mile long and the bus had to stop to let them all sing and dance past our bus.
We finally arrived at the Londrossi gate which is the entrance to Kilimanjaro. We got off the bus to a local film crew who were there to greet us and thank us for choosing Tanzania for our journey. The Head of Tourism for the country welcomed us and wished us luck for our challenge and we had to sign into the mountain with our passports.
Tip: Remember to keep your passport handy for this!
We then had lunch and the dreaded weigh in of our bags…. Mine made it woo!! However, lots of others didn’t, they do take the weight limit very seriously.
After a long wait we finally went back in the buses for the final drive. We saw our porters for the first time and they were walking up ahead of us or jumping onto cars and about 20 of them would sit on the roofs it was crazy!
The final drive was very rough and the van got stuck at some points. At the top of this section we met our guides and off we went!! We were quite far behind schedule so after our initial walk it was already dark (and cold) when we arrived at our first camp. Once my bag finally arrived I was straight into it to find my jacket and gloves. Dinner came with a briefing and then straight to bed after a long day. This was our first view of the amazing Milky Way pictured above.
My next blog detailing Days 5-8 is available to read now!