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From California to Kilimanjaro 1: My Journey to the Roof of Africa plus a link to Tony Fletcher’s Podcast

April 7, 2020

Kilimanjaro is the Holy Mountain of Africa.  Standing at over 19,340 feet, it looms majestically over the countryside and dominates the horizon in Tanzania and Kenya. It’s the highest point on the African continent and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

In spring of 2017, I made a “to do” list of sacred journeys. I’d already done part of the Inca trail but wanted to do more, I had been to the Pyramids, I’d walked around most of the Welsh island of Anglesey, and I wanted to do the Camino de Santiago. In 2021, I would circumnavigate Mount Kailash in Tibet. I slated Kilimanjaro for summer 2020.

But in December 2018, I was invited by Tony Fletcher to join a climbing expedition in August of 2019 to Kilimanjaro.  I debated and finally in late July, I committed to the trip– one that Tony would record for a planned podcast, a series that would kick off his “One Step Beyond” travel adventures.

Originally presented on four Fridays February 7, 14, 21, and 28, it’s available online, and you can listen to Tony’s podcast here.

Right now because of the novel corona virus pandemic, we can’t travel. we can’t even really leave our homes, much less our countries.

All dreams to go there, do that have been put on hold, my own included.

(Yes that’s an American Sentence…)

Today I should have spent skiing at Mammoth in the Sierra then tomorrow we were going to head to the Lucidity Festival where I was presenting several workshops, then later in April I was flying to France and Germany on a wine press trip.

All travel and everything else is now on hold or postponed or cancelled.

Since we can’t go anywhere or do anything, I will be posting a link to Tony’s podcast each week: April 7, 14, 21, and 28 on Travel Tuesdays beginning with today. I’ll add some narrative and some photos from my journey that you can look at while you listen. On the fourth Tuesday, April 28, I will share an essay about the trip that I wrote for a Travel Nomads scholarship.

Almost there!

I committed to the trip on Sunday July 21 while at 9,000′ in the Sierras, I booked my plane ticket on Monday July 22 while sitting in the Main Lodge at Mammoth Mountain, returned from the Sierra on Tuesday July 23, I renewed my passport in Los Angeles on Friday July 25, went to an REI garage sale for a few last minute packing items on and ran errands all over town on July 26 losing my prescription sunglass in the process, and I left California late Sunday July 28.

with Banksy in AMS

 

 

 

I arrived in Amsterdam early Monday July 29 and spent a long layover walking almost 10 miles getting around from the airport and around town, rode a loaner bike for hours on end along the canals, visited a museum with a Banksy exhibit, and ate late along the water before riding back in the near dark to my Air BnB, a small studio beside the owner’s houseboat where the bathroom was!

I thoroughly enjoyed my layover in Amsterdam which is well set up for public and active transportation and famous for its museums. I also knew from wine friends that the city has wonderful wine and food, and I found a great restaurant along a canal where I enjoyed sunset dining.

But as I was “in training” I saved most of the museums for another day, knowing that as I loved AMS so much that day would come.

On July 30 I flew from AMS to JRO,  the Kilimanjaro airport near Arusha, Tanzania arriving late at night.

July 31 I got some wine writing done and I tried to beat jet lag in my ground floor room in Arusha.

 

 

 

 

I was discouraged from going for a walk to town on my own but if I climbed up to the top floor, I was rewarded with views of the local life and 14,000′ Mount Meru, home to Arusha National Park. Since I hadn’t slept much on the plane or in AMS, I napped a lot.

the view from the top of the hotel in Arusha

On August 1 our group of five gathered together for the first time and stayed near the trailhead at 5000′ or so at the Babylon Lodge.

We were gathered together by Tony Fletcher, who I met at Burning Man in 2009, along with two of his Catskills running pals, Marie and Steve, plus a London boyhood buddy Tim who now lives in Australia.

 

 

Our guide was also from the Catskills, by way of Tanzania: Protus had grown up guiding on Kilimanjaro until he had an opportunity to go to school in the US. He fell in love, married an American, and settled here, but continues to lead expeditions to Tanzania for safari and Kilimanjaro climbs.

On August 2, we did a day hike together and learned about each other as well as the local culture.

A girl walking home from school wanted a photo with me — so I asked for one also! Here’s Jennifer and I.

 

On August 3, we packed up (I wish I’d taken a photo of my gear all laid out!) and headed to the trailhead

where we waited and waited and waited to get going. We checked out the exhibits including this one which depicts our trail on the far right “Coca Cola route”, goofed around, and climbed up this sculpture before finally getting on our way.

Really, the more time you spend at elevation the better so it wasn’t exactly wasted. I just wish I’d known that it would take several hours for the twenty guides and the porters on our crew to gather and distribute the gear. When you’re on pins and needles excited to get going, every minute is an hour!

Here’s the link again to Tony’s podcast which takes you from his home in the Catskills to Kilimanjaro. Part one covers how we came together and takes listeners to the start of the trail: https://radiokingston.org/en/archive/jimmy-buff-loves-you/episodes/kingston-to-kilimanjaro-part-1

Enjoy! See you next Tuesday for part 2 where we’ll finally head up the trail!

PS Subscribe!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2020 8:34 am

    What an adventure! I look forward to reading the rest of your story – so exciting!

  2. April 8, 2020 11:29 am

    Thanks Lauren! It was quite a whirlwind adventure! A lot happened in 8 days to get me from California to Kilimanjaro!

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