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Author Archives: NatalieHarriett

Getting down the mountain was one of the things I was dreading from day one. When you think of doing Kili you mainly focus on being able to get up, whereas getting down is also hard and painful.

Immediately after summiting we were told to descend, as being at such a high altitude for a long time is bad for your body. Exhausted we took a few pictures, sat down, caught our breath and attempted to get down the mountain. The scree and rubble that made it so difficult to get up meant that it was also a nightmare to come down again. The porters told us to slide down (just like skiing) but this was a lot more difficulty than they made out. It took around 4 hours for me to get to base camp, sliding on scree only meant that I fell over many times. So much so that at one point I rolled down part of it because it seemed more efficient and a faster way of getting down than getting up and falling back down again. Those that could barely stand were ran down the mountain by porters, every so often you would see someone with a guide holding their hand, or arm in arm, and being dragged down resting their weight on the porter and not falling over – I really don’t understand how these guys do it!

Arriving at base camp was allowed some food and an hour’s nap before doing another 3 hour trek to the camp where we would be spending the night. By this time I had been walking for 11 hours straight, with only snacks and 4 hours sleep – so tired. The next day wasn’t so bad, it took 4 hours to get to the gate. Only we walked through a big rain cloud for a couple of hours which meant the floor was slippery and hard to walk on.

We were drained as we got to the bottom, we had some lunch and got on the bus that took us back to the hotel – so excited for our first proper night’s sleep in ages.

That evening the guides came back to the hotel with us to join us in a celebration meal. We received our certificates and ate dinner in a room, with actual chairs and actual lights – oh the luxury!
Instead of then going to bed (another luxury we hadn’t had for a while) we stayed up with Konyagi, the national spirit of Tanzania, drinking games and celebrated some more, ignoring the fact we had yet another 6.30am start the next day.


Summit night had arrived and we were all nervous and worried about the challenge that awaited us. The porters woke us up at midnight (2 hours behind schedule due to our tiredness from the earlier trekking) and we sat in the tent drinking tea and eating biscuits preparing.

Wearing about 6 layers, I was ready for the walk. I turned on my iPod and zoned out for the next 9 hours. My water in my camelback froze within an hour, which wasn’t ideal, but I did have spare water. The air was cold, and we only had our head torches for light – which in a way was good as it meant we couldn’t see just how far we had to go.

Altitude sickness kicked in a couple of hours after we started, but I can’t be sure that that it was it was. I felt sick, had a headache and generally quite wobbly, but that could have just been me over-exhorting myself exercise wise and the general lack of sleep.

The porters were incredible they did everything for you, from giving you drinks to dragging you up the mountain. I was ok(ish) compared to other people that were on the mountain at the same time, and managed to drag myself up to Stella Point, this was the hardest bit to get to as the scree and rubble meant that you would take two steps forwards and slide a step back. It was exhausting, a steep hill, the scree and the altitude and lack of oxygen in the air meant I had to sit on a rock to rest every few metres. It really was a struggle, and everyone says it, but it was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure.

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At Stella Point you can see the sign for the Uhuru peak, I decided to go on, but others stayed at Stella Point. The distance doesn’t look very far and at sea level would probably only take you a few minutes to walk, yet the altitude meant slow walking and rest stops.

I managed it, I managed to get to Uhuru peak! The rooftop of Africa and the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro – we took pictures to remember and prove that we got there before attempting to descend from the summit.

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Summit night now feels like a blur, I don’t really remember getting up to Uhuru peak, but I’ve had the best time climbing Kilimanjaro and am so amazed that I was actually able to manage to get to the top.

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The next day was Barranco wall, from the camp we were at it looked like a vertical cliff type thing, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

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Climbing in the altitude was difficult every move made us exhausted and we ended up taking an extra hour climbing it than we were supposed to. We walked through valleys for about 6 hours (which was frustrating because every time you go downhill you know you have to go back up again) until we reached a mid-point camp were we could eat a hot lunch and not the poor excuse for lunch boxes that we had had on the previous days. The roast chicken dinner (how they did this up a mountain will forever bewilder me) boosted everyone’s morals. It was a further 4 hours before we reached base camp, where we had dinner and a 4 hour nap to prepare us for SUMMIT NIGHT.

How the porters managed to balance things on their heads whilst scaling this wall I will never know.
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Day 3’s ecosystem was the alpine desert. The lack of oxygen meant there were not many plants or animals around – just lots of rocks.

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The atmosphere amongst the group felt more serious (Buster Rhymes, one of our guides, told us off for taking too many breaks!) It was long day of walking and trying to acclimatising to the altitude. Our climb today saw us reaching 4600m above sea level to the lava tower (didn’t look too much like the tower I was expecting) and then back down to 3950m to camp. I am starting to feel the effects of the altitude now; getting headaches, feeling sick and generally feeling, well, hungover. I was lucky though, there were many of the group that felt a whole lot worse than I did.

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It was also at this point that I realised I should have done some training, if you’re climbing Kili don’t listen to anyone that says ‘you can’t train for altitude.’ You can’t, but you will need to train for the 5 8-hour days of solid walking that you will be doing! I managed OK considering my severe lack of training, but my fitness level is higher than I actually expected – so all was ok.

Sleeping is still a nightmare, camping is killing my back and walking through and sleeping with all the dust makes you so dirty – I can’t wait for a real bed and a shower!

This hat never left my head…
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After a poor night’s sleep today trek involved walking through moorland. We woke up at 6.30am and started trekking at about 9, much behind schedule. During the hours of walking we spent our time re-enacting the Lion King (Alice and Rathu)

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and singing as many walking/mountain related songs as possible (Miley Cyrus – it’s the climb, Aint no mountain high enough, S Club 7 – Reach, Biffy Clyro –Mountains.) One of the guides keeps calling me Lilly, because I remind him of some Manchester student who was called Lilly. Interesting.

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Climbing has started to get a little bit more difficult now, I have realised that I’m lacking in sleep and have only had about 15 hours in 4 days. I really dislike camping, it’s impossible to sleep on my useless roll mat, it may as well not even be there (note to anyone climbing Kili buy a therma-rest!)

Others in the group are now starting to feel the effects of the altitude, but I’m good (so far!)


The journey was so long, after arriving at Heathrow to find out that a plane had caught on fire near a terminal building (luckily with no people inside) we flew to Nairobi (via Dubai for three hours.) It was an Emirates flight so it wasn’t all bad – I am amazed that now you can get WIFI on planes and use your mobile phones during flight – who knew?!

Feeling tired after a lack of plane sleep we hopped on to a (very crammed) minibus for a few hours (7!) to cross the border from Kenya to Tanzania, and then onto the hotel.

The hotel was far nicer than any of us could have expected, so it was a carb-loaded dinner and straight to bed for the 6am start the next day!

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After a quick breakfast in the Impala hotel, it was back to Phillip’s (our drivers) squished bus to take us to the Machame gate to start our journey up Kilimanjaro.

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The first day was walking through the jungle; this was to be the first of four ecosystems that we will see on our climb. Some people struggled with the first day but hung back and walked at their own pace.

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We had many porters to help with guiding us, carrying our bags and providing food, water and shelter. These guys were amazing, the could carry almost 4 times the amount of stuff that we had, walk at a quicker pace and get everything set up in camp before we even arrived!

We reached camp at about 6pm, settled into our tent for the first night of camping and the porters had our dinner ready for us.

I’m very pleased with the first day, it was a lot easier than I was expecting but I know it’s going to get a whole lot harder!


So due to my severe lack of WiFi in Africa in its entirety I am uploading all of my Kili blog posts within the next few days.

 

Since I got back from Asia it’s been go, go, go with everything.

In the 12 days I have been back in the country I have managed to graduate from University. On the 4th July I had my ceremony and was presented with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management – very pleased (mostly because now I’m done with studying!)

 I also managed to get everything sorted and get the keys to my beautiful brand new house and move in, I am still without a couple of appliances (like a fridge) but it’s getting there and starting to feel like home.

I am currently sat on a coach on the way to the lovely London Heathrow airport, very excited about my new adventure. It seems so long ago that I randomly asked Alice if she would like to go spontaneously climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and since then there have been a lot of fundraisers, and very generous donations from family, friends and companies (Huge thanks to Sharpe Systems! www.sharpe.it) But it’s finally here I am a few hours away from jetting off on an Emirates flight to Africa (via Dubai!)

Wish me luck!


On Tuesday we spent a whole day travelling to Phuket after the Full Moon Party; more boats, buses and minivans. We finally arrived at 8pm and had ice cream for dinner before heading off to bed exhausted.

The next day we ventured off to Koh Phi Phi, which is a 2 hour ferry ride from Phuket. Koh Phi Phi is a gorgeous little island where no cars or vehicles are allowed, we thought this was great until we realised we would be carrying our backpacks up hill to our hostel.

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Our original plan was to go back to Phuket after a day, but we loved it so much that we stayed an extra night. We spent our time canoeing in the sea and chilling on the beach.

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Later on that night I decided to embrace myself in the Thai culture with some Thai boxing. I felt great until I realised that I would be boxing some massive 6ft Ukrainian girl. All was OK, I didn’t sustain any major injuries and won the match.

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We then headed down to party on the beach, just like a mini full moon party.

On Thursday we went on a boat trip, the guy told me it took 20 minutes to get to the other island so I prepared myself for feeling sick for 20 minutes. However, it turned out that it was an actual tour and we were on the boat for hours! Between my sea sickness and fish phobia, this was probably the worst trip I could ever have done.

On our tour we saw monkeys, so cute.

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The rest of the group did snorkelling and swimming with fish – I waited on the boat.

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Next up was Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed. Getting there was a nightmare, we had to swim through fish infested water. I never realised how bad my phobia was until I froze on the edge of the boat and couldn’t get in…blood, sweat and tears later (well maybe not the blood – the mosquitos have all my blood) we finally arrived. It’s a beautiful little bay with powdery white sands and clear water, it was beautiful but I didn’t feel it was worth all the hype. I’m glad I did it, but won’t be doing it again.

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Once it got dark, the group had a chance to swim with plankton, I didn’t but I could see how the plankton lit up when you move in the water – very cool.

After the boat tour we went back to the hostel and went for dinner before having an early night to prepare us for nearly 12 hours of travelling the next day.


After a long 17-hour journey we had arrived on Koh Phangan, the party island. We made our way by jeepney taxi to Leela beach where our bungalow was. The views from our bungalow were amazing we were on the beach front on the sand just metres from the sea – beautiful.

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Unfortunately the inside of the bungalow was not so good – there weren’t even beds, just mattresses on the floor. That night we met up with Mark and Josh (mini Intel reunion) for a few drinks before going to one of the islands pre-full moon parties, the Jungle Party. The tickets we got included two free drinks which would have been ideal had we been able to get to the bar, the whole place was far too busy and we weren’t impressed by the music choices. So, we decided to spend the remainder of the night drinking on the beach.

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The next day we hired mopeds so we could visit more of the island, having never rode any sort of bike/moped thing I was a little apprehensive but soon got the hang of it (except for the bits where you have to turn – I don’t think I will ever get that).

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We rode up the west coast of the island stopping for breakfast en route to Koh Phangan’s equivalent of a ‘Total Wipeout’ course. The roads were decent and pretty clear which made riding feel much safer. I didn’t do the course, as it looked painful and the lake would be full of fish (and cholera!) so Tom, Lozzy and I watched on as others swing into the lake, climb inflatables and slip off any surface they were on – amusing stuff.

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That night was the night of not just the full moon party, but the ‘Supermoon’(which turned out to be regular size) full moon party, we got ourselves ‘neoned-up,’ drank buckets full of cocktails and headed to the massive party on the beach.

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The party did not disappoint, thousands of people filled the beach, the bars and surrounding streets. The music blasted from various bars and fire dancers were showing off their skills. We continued to party until the sun came up dancing on any bar or table that we could. Realising that it was now light and people could see what we actually looked like, it was time to call it a night and got into bed about 7am.

I am now sat blogging in the bar near our beach bungalow watching the calm sea and can still hear parties going on – it’s 2pm. Crazy. For us, it’s going to be a chilled one today.


Another day, another early journey…We took a taxi to the Cambodian border, crossed the border was harder than we imagined and took a lot longer. This meant our plan to get the train to Bangkok was out of the window, so hopped into a dodgy minibus with a driver that spoke no English. It took him about 7 hours to do a 4 hour journey, but we arrived where we wanted safe and sound. Finally we settled into the hostel and headed off down Khaosan Road for a couple of drinks and some food before bed.
The next day we met a woman that panicked us that we would not be able to get tickets for the overnight train the next day, we did not want to miss the full moon party, so went in search of tickets. Later that day we went on river boat tour to see all the temples and houses on stilts, even though I hate boats – the river was calm so it wasn’t too bad.
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After, we then saw the reclining Buddha and witnesses some chanting monks.
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For the evening we had tried to plan a trip to a Bangkok Ladyboy show, we booked our tickets and paid online, but it turned out the tickets we had was for a location on the other side of the city, somewhere taxi drivers would not take us to. Absolutely gutted our plan had failed we headed back down Khaosan Road to drown our sorrows.
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The next morning we checked out of the hostel then headed off for the day. We spent the day in (air-conned) museums and wandering round the streets of Bangkok. That night we then made our way to the train station for our overnight sleeper train to Koh Phangan.
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This was one of the best decisions we made (with persuasion from Pippa before we left – thanks Pip!), as we were going to fly down to the full moon party. Once settled into our seats we resided in the restaurant carriage which turned into a massive party, with lots of dancing to the best selection of 80’s music. It took me until Irene Cara and the YMCA to come on to get into the full swing of the party. Once things had died down we headed back to our seat (which had now turned into beds) to sleep the rest of the journey to Surat Thani station where we would get a bus and a ferry to take us to the party island of Thailand, Koh Phangan.