Photos of Cities in Kenya

Journey to the Roof of Africa
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is on the bucket list of any serious hiker. It is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and reaching the 19,341 ft. summit does not require any technical climbing. Two years ago, my brother completed the hike with four of his friends which inspired me to also attempt this hike. Travelling all the way to Africa and not have my family with me would have been quite unfair. So I convinced them to do this hike as a family vacation. We decided to add a wildlife safari to our trip for some additional fun.
Until now, I had never gone with my wife and my daughter on my epic day-long hikes, so I wasn't sure how they would fare. Mt. Kilimanjaro hike is a multi-day affair which can take anywhere from 5 to 12 days depending on the route. And it reaches altitudes that are not easy to prepare for. My wife had hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, so she had some experience hiking around 14,000 ft. On the other hand, my daughter had not hiked much above 10,000 ft. when we climbed Mt Washburn in Yellowstone NP. The highest I had ever reached was 14,500 ft. when I climbed Mt Whitney, and my endurance hikes are only a one-day effort. So the impending hike was unfamiliar territory for all of us. My wife and I decided to build our endurance by hiking in northeastern Pennsylvania on weekends. My daughter could not join us on these practice hikes due to her studies, but she hit her school gym to build core strength. As a three-person team we felt pretty good about our chances to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, provided we could stay healthy.
We had booked our trip for June through the same company that my brother and his friends had used, so that process went smoothly. We also requested the same guides, as we had heard good reviews about them. We picked the same route that my brother had used on his successful summit. Our hike would take 7-days over Rongai route which starts in the north of the mountain and ends in the east. This route is less prone to rain, which can be a debilitating factor in the success of the hike. Not only is it unenjoyable walking over a muddy trail, getting wet during the hike at high altitude can result in hypothermia and jeopardize the chances of success.
After months of planning and preparation during which we purchased all the items for our hike, it was time to fly to Tanzania. With nervous excitement we boarded our flight from JFK airport. As the flight was approaching Kilimanjaro airport, we saw the mountain with its peak above the cloud cover. It looked formidable and we asked ourselves if we could really climb to the top. Those thoughts were kept aside as we had 3 days of safari to enjoy before the hike. We were greeted at the airport by a representative of the company and taken to our hotel in Arusha. Arusha is one of the big cities in Tanzania, but it felt more like a small town. The traffic on the 2-lane highway moved painfully slow due to low speed limit and frequent police checkpoints. The country seemed underdeveloped, and we were struck by signs of poverty in many places. Yet the people looked happy and went about their business.
After a good overnight sleep in our hotel we left for safari aboard our personal jeep with our driver and cook. The safari to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater was a wonderful experience. We saw a large variety of animals in their natural habitat that, until then, we had only read about in African tour books. The rainy season had just ended so the animals were easy to find in such a large area. We were fortunate to see lions, elephants, wild buffalos, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffes, zebras, leopard, cheetah, jackals, hyenas, wild dogs, wilder beasts, and numerous kinds of deer and antelopes. After spending 3 days camping and exploring the park, including visiting a Masai village, we returned to Arusha.
A quick change of vehicles and we were off to Moshi which is a smaller town close to the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. There, at the hotel, we met our hike coordinator who briefed us about the hike and checked our bags to make sure we had all the necessary gear for our hike. After a restful night’s sleep, we got ready to depart for our hike. We were picked up in the morning from the hotel with all our hiking gear and reached the starting gate by lunch time. There we met 14 team members who would assist us with the hike. The team comprised of two main guides, one assistant guide, one cook, one dishwasher, one portable toilet person, one server, and seven porters.
After finishing all the formalities at the gate, and eating our boxed lunch, we were off from Rongai Gate towards Simba Camp. Starting at around 8,000 ft. elevation, the air felt crisp, and soon we had covered 4 miles to reach our first day’s destination. Our tents were already set when we arrived, and we were greeted with singing and dancing by our 14 team members. Three hours had quickly passed by and the smiling faces of the por