Mark's Kilimanjaro Trip
It was a friend's idea, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Brendon had seen a magazine
ad for an Outward Bound class in Africa. It lasted a month, cost $5000,
and included climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. That's what triggered if for me.
Suddenly, for a large but finite amount of time and money, I could do something
that I hadn't even considered possible.
The idea grabbed me: It had romance, adventure, a chance to completely
leave my normal world. Alas, Brendon had other things to spend money on
and I didn't have a month's vacation. However, I began saving money anyway.
The next year I was going to turn 30 in September. That spring the idea
that hadn't done anything significant in my 20s began to bother me. (I
understand it's a common malady.) I felt that the occasion of my 30th birthday
should be of some moment. On the occasion of my 21st birthday I'd gone
barhopping with great friends, which was a noble and appropriate way to
spend the onset of my legal drinking age. To do it again for my 30th birthday
seemed anti-climactic. At this point the idea of Kilimanjaro came back
to me. I didn't even know where Kilimanjaro was, beyond the fact that it
was on the very large continent of Africa, or what kind of mountain it
would be. I began examining the back pages of climbing magazines, which
always carried ads for guide services. I found one or two for Kilimanjaro,
but had no idea how to select between them. I finally called one and asked
About this time a friend at work pointed out that her mother was a travel
agent and might be able to help. At the time, it hadn't occurred to me
that a normal travel agent might know how to get me on Kilimanjaro. Daytona
Beach, sure, but atop the tallest mountain in Africa? (I have since learned
that travel is travel and that's what travel agents do.) Anyway, Joyce,
my new travel agent, found an outfit in Massachusetts that had a trip scheduled
for the third week in September. It would be two weeks after my birthday,
but close enough for my purposes. The standard trip was one week on safari
and one week climbing Kilimanjaro. For an additional fee, a third week
could be added after the climb for relaxing on Zanzibar. (By this time
I had learned that Kilimanjaro was in Tanzania, just south of the Kenyan
border. Zanzibar is an island that is now part of Tanzania.)
Zanzibar fit in nicely with the romance of the trip and I thought I
could use a week on the beach. The safari, on the other hand, didn't interest
me as much. Feeling I could really only take two weeks off work, I arranged
to meet the tour after the safari.
Here I made a major goof. I scheduled my flight from the US to land
in Tanzania the evening before the climb. The hotel at the base of Kilimanjaro
was essentially 20 hours travel time from my apartment in New Jersey and
there's an eight-hour time difference. I allowed no time at all to recover
from the trip or to get over jet lag.
At any rate, I signed up for the trip and got the airline tickets. Now
I needed to get ready.