Mark's Kilimanjaro Trip

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Chapter 1: 
The Idea

Kilimanjaro from Kenya, courtesy Jill Kliger

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 for information.

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.
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