Sunday, December 29, 2013

SHG Radio Show, Episode 189

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to a distribution on other terrestrial radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes and numerous other sites. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 189) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:



By the way, I just put up a link to a live set from a club called Treehouse in Nairobi. Click HERE to see that, as you might want to check it out after you listen to this week's episode of Subterranean Homesick Grooves.


Here are Track Listings for episode 189:

01. Helmut Kraft & Miss Brown, "Miss That Melody" (Monika Mass Disclose Remix).
02. Light Breath, "Amnesia" (Son Remix).
03. Citizen Kain & Phuture Traxx, "Tan Guapa" (Syntec Remix).
04. Matt Sassari, "Babbo Napalm" (Original Mix).
05. Tontrauma, "Soultrain" (Original Mix).
06. Black Shine, "About" (Emanuele Esposito Remix).
07. Xavi Deck, "Emotions" (Original Mix).
08. Sinisa Tamamovic & Jay Lumen, "Yeah Mann" (Original Mix).
09. Rex, "Toolwar" (Original Mix).
10. DJ Csemak, "Area 51" (Original Mix).
11. Andres Blows, "SubZero" (Original Mix).
12. Jose Ponce, "ITF" (Pfff Mix).
13. Alex Gamez, "Darknet" (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, MySpace pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Helmut Kraft (France)
Miss Brown (France)
Light Breath (Belarus)
Syntec (Germany)
Matt Sassari (France)
Tontrauma (Germany)
Xavi Deck (Spain)
Sinisa Tamamovic (Britain)
Jay Lumen (Hungary)
DJ Csemak (Hungary)
Jose Ponce (Spain)
Alex Gamez (Colombia)


Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting and direct downloads, another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-clark/5b/510/9a1
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca




Monday, December 23, 2013

DJ Bolivia - Live at Treehouse (Nairobi), 2013-11-17

This is the second of three shows that I recorded while I was travelling in Africa last month. This was recorded during a set at a club called "Treehouse" in Nairobi.



Photo by KenyaNights


Treehouse was a great club. Very music friendly to all styles of music, not just underground/EDM. They also do live shows of bands and solo artists occasionally. They also had good prices on drinks. It's definitely worth checking out if you ever visit Nairobi.





This mix can be downloaded as part of an archive of all 28 of DJ Bolivia's available recordings of live shows, from the following Google Drive link:


The recordings are compressed as a RAR archive, which can be opened natively in Windows.  If you're using a Mac, you can use a free utility to open the RAR (popular examples are "The Unarchiver" and the "UnRarX" app).  The password to open the archive is simply 'bolivia' and the size of the download is 5.6 gigabytes.  If you have problems downloading this archive from the above Google Drive link, you can email DJ Bolivia at djbolivia@gmail.com for an alternate download link.

Additional information about finding any of DJ Bolivia's older mixes can be found at this link:


Thanks for your interest in these old historical mixes!


And here is a link on Soundcloud:




This set, being played at a club, had more house influences than my set from Giraffe Manor. You'll find that this set (an hour long) was mostly house and tech-house tracks. Although I was playing at a fairly slow tempo, down around 125/126bpm, quite a few of these tracks had "busy" rhythm sections, so it sounds more energetic than you'd expect from music at that tempo.


Anyway, here are the track listing from my set:

01. Cole Jonson, "Dangerous" (Original Mix).
02. Carlo Cavalli & Eros Locatelli, "Mexico" (Massimo Russo Remix).
03. Sammy Gonzalez, "Deixa" (Alex Z Remix).
04. Magitman, "What Was That" (Original Mix).
05. Mr Guelo, "Bounce Step" (Original Mix).
06. Jaceo, "Boink" (Original Mix).
07. Kadoc, "The Night Train" (Amo & Navas Rework).
08. Adrian Oblanca, "El Cazador" (Original Mix).
09. Phunk Investigation, "Let The Bass Kick" (Original Club Mix).
10. Blacksoul, "Be Right" (Crazibiza Remix).
11. Radi & Keith feat Corey Andrew, "Roc King Trip" (Tech Mix).
12. Uto Karem, "Taking Me" (Original Mix).
13. Umek & Tomy DeClerque, "Original Challenge" (Original Mix).
14. Filterheadz, "The Right Place" (Original Mix).
15. Parov Stelar, "All Night" (Umek Remix).
16. Umek & Groovebox, "Cause And Effect" (Original Club Mix).
17. Phunk Investigation & Hitchcock, "Vroom" (Original Mix).

I'll be posting a link here shortly to some video footage from my trip, overlaid on top of the audio recording of another set that I did in Africa, at Club Maasai in Arusha, Tanzania.

Also, if you want to see some photos from my trip to Kenya, here are links. These two galleries have the same photos. The first one (on facebook) is the smart choice if you're on a cell phone, because those photos are smaller. But if you have a good laptop and a fast connection, the photos on my own server are at a higher resolution (3600x2400):

  Photos on Facebook: Kenya Photos on Facebook
  Photos on my server: Kenya Photos on djbolivia.ca



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-clark/5b/510/9a1
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox


Thursday, December 19, 2013

SHG Radio Show, Episode 188

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to a distribution on other terrestrial radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes and numerous other sites. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 188) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:



By the way, I just put up a link to a live set from Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. Click HERE to see that, as you might want to check it out after you listen to this week's episode of Subterranean Homesick Grooves.


Here are Track Listings for episode 188:

01. Stefano Noferini, "Norway Road" (Totoproto Black Remix).
02. Marcelo Vak & 5prite, "Commitment" (Original Mix).
03. Simon Doty, "Never Or Now" (Original Mix).
04. Calderin, "Raices De Mataznas" (Tony Thomas Remix).
05. Angel Pina & Juanfra Munoz, "Tikka Massala" (Alex Roque Remix).
06. Muui, "Tsssh" (Mr Bizz Remix).
07. DJ Wady & Tony Verdu, "Claps Up You Dancing" (Original Mix).
08. Sam Paganini, "Chocolat" (Original Mix).
09. Alejandro Montero, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (Rob Costa Remix).
10. Dani Masi & DJahir Miranda, "Sweet Party" (Original Mix).
11. Karlos Kastillo, "El Trumpetero" (Original Mix).
12. Phunk Investigation & Hitchcock, "Vroom" (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, MySpace pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Stefano Noferini (Italy)
Marcelo Vak (Chile)
Simon Doty (Canada)
Calderin (United States)
Juanfra Munoz (Spain)
Muui (Australia)
DJ Wady (United States)
Tony Verdu (Spain)
Sam Paganini (Italy)
Alejandro Montero (Argentina)
Dani Masi (Spain)
DJahir Miranda (Mexico)
Tony Thomas (United Kingdom)
Alex Roque (Spain)
Mr Bizz (Italy)
Rob Costa (Paraguay)
Karlos Kastillo (Mexico)
Phunk Investigation (Italy)


Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting and direct downloads, another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-clark/5b/510/9a1
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

DJ Bolivia - Live at Giraffe Manor (Nairobi), 2013-11-24

I just got back from a month in Africa. I played three separate shows there. Two of them were public shows at clubs in Nairobi (Kenya) and Arusha (Tanzania), and the third was a private event at a place called Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. This is the set from Giraffe Manor.




Giraffe Manor was really pretty awesome. I spent a bit of my time in Africa with a group of friends on what was called the Junglist Tour. This particular group of friends is pretty awesome. Most of them are ninja hackers & IT people, so they have associations with pretty much every company and thing that is internet. Anyway, Giraffe Manor is a pretty high-class lodge in Nairobi, and the group spent ten grand to rent it for the night.






This mix can be downloaded as part of an archive of all 28 of DJ Bolivia's available recordings of live shows, from the following Google Drive link:


The recordings are compressed as a RAR archive, which can be opened natively in Windows.  If you're using a Mac, you can use a free utility to open the RAR (popular examples are "The Unarchiver" and the "UnRarX" app).  The password to open the archive is simply 'bolivia' and the size of the download is 5.6 gigabytes.  If you have problems downloading this archive from the above Google Drive link, you can email DJ Bolivia at djbolivia@gmail.com for an alternate download link.

Additional information about finding any of DJ Bolivia's older mixes can be found at this link:


Thanks for your interest in these old historical mixes!


And here are links on MixCloud and Soundcloud:






The other couple of sets that I played in Africa were more house-oriented EDM. However, because of the dynamic of the crowd at Giraffe Manor, and their receptiveness to music with more of a deep tech emphasis, I tried to make this set less house-oriented than the other sets. So this set is basically all tech-house or techno, at 125 bpm (slower than I usually play). Well, I guess there are maybe a few house influenced tracks near the end. Also, since the sound equipment at the venue was limited, I did my mixing within Ableton rather than on a professional DJ mixer. The advantage is an especially clean recording, but the disadvantage is that there aren't any fancy EQ'ing and effects, and the mixing is pretty smooth and conservative.


Anyway, here's the track listing from my set:

01. DJ PP & Gabriel Rocha, "Old Class" (Jerome Robins vs DekoZe Jungle Funk Mix).
02. Andrea Roma & Yeso, "Rexin" (Original Mix).
03. Spartaque, "Phantom" (Original Mix).
04. Umek & Beltek, "Out Of Play" (Original Club Mix).
05. Matt Ether, "Insomia" (Original Mix).
06. Made & Marty, "Long Way" (Original Mix).
07. Ti & Ti, "Cala Conta" (Original Mix).
08. Spark Taberner, "Embush" (Original Mix).
09. Aaron Mills, "Andromeda" (Original Mix).
10. Filterheadz, "Atlantic" (Original Mix).
11. Toris Badic, "Click Boom Bang" (Original Mix).
12. Marco Bergman & Pim Van Der Wal, "This Love" (Kevin Le Rouge Remix).
13. Galant, "Black Mamba" (Original Mix).
14. Umek & Spektre, "Klaxon" (Original Mix).
15. Jay Lumen, "Get Ready" (Original Mix).
16. Fedde Le Grand, "Metrum" (Manuel De La Mare Remix).
17. Shiloh, "Pathogen" (Patrick Carrera & Enrico Sangiuliano Remix).
18. Hollen, "Jobless" (Original Club Mix).
19. Marco Bailey, "Horny Tiger" (Filterheadz Remix).
20. Jay Lumen, "Get Ready" (Original Mix).
21. Danny Garlick, "Exit 21" (Original Mix).
22. Umek & Beltek, "Out Of Play" (Original Club Mix).

Edit, December 20th, 2013: I have NO idea why I played that Jay Lumen track twice. I just noticed that now when I was listening to the set again, and I don't remember doing that when I played. #djfail



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-clark/5b/510/9a1
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca


Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Canadian Tree Planter Climbs Kilimanjaro, part 3 of 3


(This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Click here to go back to part 1, or here to go back to part 2, if you haven't read them yet).

My Own Background

I just realized that I've covered the basic background of the others in my trek group, but many of the people reading this may not know anything about me. I'm Canadian, and I spent seven months of each year on Canada's west coast working in the reforestation industry. For part of that time, I supervise a mobile tent camp of about sixty tree planters. For other parts of the year, I'm a professional tree planter myself, climbing around the wet cliffs on Vancouver Island. So for part of the year, I consider myself to be in very, very good physical condition. Click on THIS LINK to see some of my photos that will give you an idea of the beautiful but rugged conditions that I work in. For the five months that I'm not working in reforestation, I spend some time travelling, and the rest of the time working on music/video projects for fun. If you're curious to learn more, there are a bunch of links to my various sites at the bottom of this post.



Medical and Physical Challenges

One of the biggest problems about Kilimanjaro is that many, many people underestimate the difficulty of climbing it. True, it is essentially “just a hike.” But there are two problems. First, there is the physical challenge. The hike is fairly lengthy, and covers a great deal of variation in altitude with periods of inclement weather. Let me try to put it into perspective. Many residents of western Canada are familiar with the “West Coast Trail,” which is a 75km hike along the western edge of Vancouver Island. The West Coast Trail has a total elevation gain from lowest point to highest of 110m. Hikers generally take between six and ten days to do the complete trail. In comparison, a climb up Kili is longer - our G Adventures travel itinerary came to 95km total. More significantly, the elevation difference on Kili is more than 4000m from the gate to the peak. Also, we started on Tuesday at lunch and were back to the gate on Saturday afternoon, just slightly over four days total time elapsed.

The second problem of course is the physiological, ie. the effect of the altitude on your body. There is a saying that the healthiest person in the world can be affected by AMS (acute mountain sickness) just as easily as someone who is not in top condition; it hits people completely randomly. So before you climb Kili, be aware that you might be one of those people who are affected by altitude sickness. Essentially, almost everybody gets it to a small extent, although some people are severely affected. There's no way to know how you’ll react until you’re there, and there's not really any easy way to train your body for the altitude, other than being at altitude.

The statistics on the success rate of reaching the summit vary widely from source to source. I have seen stats saying that over 25,000 per year attempt to reach the summit, and other stats that give lower numbers. If you look at the advertised success rates of various tour companies, they often say that between 80% and 99% of their participants make it to the top. Don’t believe those numbers. The Kilimanjaro National Park Service (probably one of the more reliable sources of information) currently says that only 41% of climbers make it to Uhuru Peak.

Here is one of the reasons why the trip for me was a lot different than for almost everybody else that goes to Kilimanjaro. My interest was to be ON Kilimanjaro, and to see what it was like. I was especially interested in the biological aspects of the area, ie. the flora and fauna (although there obviously wasn’t a lot of diversity compared to other parts of Africa that I travelled). I’ve been on top of lots of mountains before, so reaching the actual summit of Kilimanjaro didn’t really hold any significant appeal for me other than maybe a nice photo or two. On the other hand, for 98% of the other people that were there, reaching the summit was the all-consuming goal. The intensity and single-mindedness was something that I really found quite astonishing. There were people there who had attempted the summit on past trips and failed, and it seemed like getting to the top had become a consuming obsession, or a lifelong goal. There were a few people who I met that went into long discussions about how they were going to make it, and who talked about the months/years of intense preparations that they’d been making to maximize their success. When I said, “Ah, it’s just a mountain; if I go to the top, that’s cool, but if I don’t, that’s fine too,” one climber actually got a crazy look in his eyes and recoiled as if in horror. And that was the end of our conversation.

As Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Think about it this way: if your whole trip revolves around going to the peak and you are one of the 59% of people who don’t do it, you’ll feel that your entire trip was a failure. But if you go with the mindset that you’re there to experience the mountain, you’ll be far less disappointed if you don’t reach Uhuru Peak.

For me, I guess my goal was fairly moderate … I wanted to make it at least to the Lava Tower. It turned out that I didn’t have any problems with altitude sickness up the point where we reached the base camp, and I felt much better than I had expected (other than very sore legs). On summit night, I started to get a headache not long after we passed the 5000m mark, and it got to be pretty nasty within a few hundred more meters. I didn’t bother going right to the summit, but it was a relatively logical and easy decision for me. I had already seen 95% of the mountain, which was more than I had expected. I didn’t really want to push things and have the potential for some sort of medical emergency, considering that the only real option for evacuation was for a porter to pick me up and carry me for thirty-some kilometres down a mountain in the dark, with no advanced medical care at the bottom.

As it turned out, deciding to skip the last few hundred meters turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. On the walk up to the summit, every bit of energy was devoted to shuffling slowly up the hill, trying to regulate our breathing, and trying to stay hydrated. I couldn’t look around and enjoy the view of the lights of Tanzania below, or the brilliant stars above, because I immediately got hit with a wave of dizziness. But after I turned around and started back down toward the base camp (which took a few hours), the dizziness went away quickly. And this quickly turned into one of the most memorable nights of my life (in a good way), with just myself and Anton slowly picking our way down a snowy mountain in the middle of Africa, with only a pair of small headlamps to guide us.

At one point on the way back down, despite the cold, we paused for almost half an hour and just sat and enjoyed the views above and below. The constellation Orion was directly above at that point in the night, and I could see a number of constellations that I can’t see from my home in Canada. And the lights below us were even more incredible, kind of like being in an airplane at night, except that we were sitting on the side of the highest mountain in Africa. Commercial airliners were slowly flying far below us. In the crisp night air, with no clouds, I could clearly see what I imagine must have been a significant portion of the entire country. Put it this way, Mount Kenya is 345 kilometers from Kilimanjaro and can easily be seen from Kili on a clear day. The Kenyan coast around Mombasa is closer than that. Moshi and Arusha were very obvious, even though the amount that these cities are lit up at night pales in comparison to North American or European cities. My only regret is that I didn’t bother trying to take any photos, because I wasn’t carrying a tripod and I would have needed a fairly long time exposure to capture the scene well (plus a wide angle lens). I also figured that I'd be able to find similar photos on the internet when I got back, but it appears that almost nobody takes the time to just sit and enjoy the view on summit night (at least very few people who are good at night-time photography). Anyway, sitting there in the middle of the night, taking in the view, was unquestionably one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. Even more memorable than the night I spent camping in the snow (without a tent) in Antarctica a few years ago.


Altitude Sickness, aka. AMS

There is a drug called acetazolamide (brand name Diamox) which is used to help minimize the chance of getting altitude sickness. I have never seen so many conflicting opinions about the effectiveness of a drug! Some people (including my doctor) say that you must start taking it the day before you start climbing in order for it to be effective, and that it cannot be started part-way through the climb as a reaction to symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) appearing. Other people say that you should hold off from taking it until you absolutely need to, if you find yourself sick, because as you go lower it will help you recover more quickly.

Many people, including my guide, have said that they don’t think it really does anything to help except in a psychological sense. I took it, and I had the same side effect that many other people complain about – extremely tingling in my hands and arms and face. The tingling isn’t as sharp as if your hand has “fallen asleep” but is rather more of a throbbing, pulsating feeling. That didn’t bother me, but it certainly bothered some other people. Another problematic side effect is that it often reduces one’s appetite, which can be bad because you will burn a lot of calories on your climb, and you’ll need to be able to eat as much as possible while on the mountain. A final side effect, and possibly the worst, is that acetazolamide increases urination, which means that it will dehydrate you. This can be a huge problem, because your body loses more fluid than normal when breathing at higher altitudes where the air is dry. You already need to be drinking a minimum of 3-4 litres per day while hiking, on top of what you have to drink with meals, and anything that further dehydrates you is going to make things harder for you.

There are also a lot of people who suggest that ginkgo biloba is an effective alternative to acetazolamide, and it doesn't dehydrate you as much. I’m not sure what to think of that. However, it should be noted that if you are taking acetazolamide you aren’t supposed to combine it with aspirin or Tylenol (or alcohol), so that limits your access to pain relievers if you have a mild headache. By the way, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol on the mountain because that also dehydrates you. I love a good stiff drink now and then, but I stayed away from alcohol completely on the climb and I was glad that I did, considering how dehydrated I got anyway. The anticipation will make that first beer back at the hotel taste even better.

  Link: www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Altitude-Sickness





Staying Warm & Avoiding Dehydration

You will probably have problems sleeping at altitude. I don’t know why this happens, but everybody did. I think it’s a combination of several factors. First, your body is naturally less comfortable in the low-oxygen environment, so you don’t sleep as deeply. Secondly, if you’re taking certain medications that increase urination, you’ll end up waking up several times in the night to go to the bathroom, which is really annoying. Finally, if you’re cold at night, you’ll keep waking up because you’re trying to figure out how to stay warmer. My only recommendations are that you need to be well rested going into the trip, be aware that you won’t get as much sleep as you expected, and look forward to falling into a virtual coma at the end, when you’re back at the hotel. Do not take any sleeping medications, because almost all of them dehydrate you!

Speaking of staying warm and avoiding dehydration, here’s something that I haven’t covered. And I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about. Besides the altitude/oxygen issues, you are going to be fighting two main controllable physiological challenges during your trek: energy loss (burning of calories), and dehydration. If you’re smart, you can sometimes mitigate one of these, but at the expense of the other.

Think about how your body cools itself. It sweats. Sweating uses water, which means that as you sweat, you become more dehydrated. The solution is to drink more water. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: drink about three times as much water as you think you need, even when you're not thirsty!

Think about how your body warms itself. It burns sugar. Burning sugar means that you’re depleting your body’s energy reserves. The solution is to eat food, and some types of food are more effective than others.

You can help regulate both of these processes through the addition/removal of layers of clothing. When you’re hiking, your muscles are working hard and creating heat as a by-product. So when you’re hiking, you’ll warm up and stay warm. If you stay bundled up too much, you’ll sweat, but the sweat soaks your clothes and doesn’t evaporate. It is the evaporation of sweat that cools you down, not the actual process of sweating. So if your body is getting too warm, because you’re exercising and wearing a lot of clothing, you’ll go through more fluid than necessary because evaporation is hindered by your clothing and not effectively cooling your body. In other words, by wearing a lot of layers, you’re contributing to your own dehydration. If you’re getting warm, consider removing layers, especially before your clothing is soaked in sweat! The more layers that you can get rid of, the more effective sweating becomes, which means that dehydration is minimized (on top of the fact that you probably don’t need to sweat to cool down your body if your body is semi-exposed and naturally cool).

However, if you try to minimize dehydration by removing too many layers in cold weather, then certain parts of your body become cold enough that you need to burn extra energy for warmth, above and beyond the warmth naturally generated when you’re exercising.

Anyway, the point is that if you find yourself getting dehydrated and can’t seem to drink enough water to keep up, consider wearing fewer layers of clothing, within reason. And if you find that you’re not having problems drinking lots of water but you’ve lost your appetite and you’re worried about calories/energy, bundle up and worry less about dehydration. The key things is to dress in multiple thin layers that are easy to remove, rather than just a couple thick layers that limit your options. Don’t be scared to stop repeatedly for short breaks to remove or add layers. Use your brain and common sense to help regulate your body’s temperature externally, instead of forcing your body to regulate it internally through physiological processes.


Travel Insurance

Be aware that getting travel insurance can be tricky. Many insurance providers will not agree to provide travel coverage if you try to arrange your insurance more than 48 hours after you booked your trip. Of course, I forgot to deal with this when I first booked, so I had to do some digging to find an insurance provider. Eventually, one of my friends pointed out Ihi Bupa, an international insurance broker. Ihi Bupa lets you buy a policy long after you've solidified travel plans. In fact, they'll let you buy a policy part-way through your trip. Can I give any feedback on how effective they are if a claim is necessary? No, because I didn't get sick or need their services. But in order to climb Kili, you'll need to provide proof of insurance cover before you leave the hotel.

Something else to be aware of is that most insurers don't cover trekking expeditions, or anything deemed remotely unsafe. I was a bit concerned about this. I initially got the coverage for the full month that I was travelling, but the intent was more for the safari portion of my travels. I assumed that I'd have to contact a specialty insurance provider for Kilimanjaro, partially because of these two specific exclusions in the Ihi policy:
Article 23.24: [you are not covered for] active participation in .... mountaineering that requires specialized climbing equipment; and
Article 23.27: [you are not covered for] expeditions, mountaineering, and trekking in Antarctica, the North Pole, and Greenland.

After failing to find a specialty provider, I decided to write to Ihi. I gave them my policy number and explaining that Kilimanjaro was technically a trek/expedition, but it wasn't to the listed exclusions, and I would only be hiking and would not be using any climbing equipment. I said that I'd be willing to pay a premium to be covered for my climb. Two days later, they wrote back and said that I should consider the note to be written confirmation that I would be covered for my Kili climb at no additional cost. Nice! My total premium for a month of travel was $228 including all surcharges. Very reasonable. Of course, who knows how effective the coverage would have been if I had gotten sick or needed to submit a claim, but at least there was some peace of mind that I theoretically might be covered.

By the way, during my insurance search, I learned something interesting. I have a "Blue Cross" policy in my home province of New Brunswick, in Canada. I found out that it is impossible to purchase travel coverage if either my point of departure OR my point of return was outside of my home province. Since I flew out of British Columbia, I was ineligible for coverage (incidentally, I tried getting coverage from Blue Cross in BC and they said that they couldn't cover me because I live in New Brunswick). Also, even more interesting, since I was flying back home into Halifax International Airport (which is located in Nova Scotia, the province beside New Brunswick and only two hours from my New Brunswick home), I was again ineligible for coverage for the simple fact that my journey didn't end in my home province. The same approximate problems were evident with the CAA insurance arm. I'm guessing that a number of Canadians don't know that some Canadian insurance providers will not issue travel insurance if you're flying into or out of an airport in a neighbouring province, so be aware of that potential obstacle. Look into travel insurance at the same time that you book your trip!



Basic Travel Info

When you're flying into Africa, consider arranging to arrive in Moshi a couple days early. First, it lets you start getting slightly accustomed to higher altitudes if your home is in a low elevation area. Well, it's just under a thousand meters, so it's not that helpful, but it can't hurt if, like me, your home is about 22m above sea level. More importantly though, you'll find it nice to get over any jet lag, and to spend a day exploring Moshi and starting to get a feel for the culture. It'll also let you talk to other travellers, on their way to or from the mountain, and find out more details & tips that you haven't heard yet.

Make sure, when making your bookings, that your flights are tied together with the same airline group. For instance, KLM and Kenya Airlines do code-sharing. You need to make sure that if you miss a connecting flight, it's the airline's responsibility to re-book you and get you to your destination at no extra cost. This should be common sense, but I've seen far too many travellers who try to save a hundred dollars by stringing together flights from a series of unrelated airlines, and then wonder why travelling is such hell when the first airline has to make a two-hour diversion because someone just unexpectedly had a baby in first class. You guessed it, that's how I missed my first connection and ended up arriving in Africa a day later than expected, although KLM/KenyaAir made everything work for me.

Let's think about what else can go wrong. If your luggage gets lost, an extra day or two before you start your trek MIGHT allow time for your luggage to show up, or at least give you time to replace everything that's critical to your climb. Now I don't want to worry you about your luggage getting lost, but remember, ANYTHING is possible when you're travelling. For starters, I'd recommend that you get a carry-on that will meet the maximum space allocation that the airlines will allow, and pack it to its full permitted weight. At least you'll have everything in your carry-on even if your checked luggage disappears. Make sure your carry-on has everything critical for the mountain, starting with the smaller and more expensive items, ie. medicines, cameras, headlamp, etc. Try to pack your carry-on with the things that you imagine would be hardest to replace at the last minute in Moshi. For example, I doubt that finding a Balaclava is easy in Moshi, since their climate is so warm year-round. For your checked luggage, include the things that you can probably buy easily (shirts, pants) and include things that you can rent from the hotel if you're in an emergency situation (jackets, sleeping bag, rain gear, etc).

In a best case scenario, if everything goes smoothly and both you and your luggage arrive early, and you're completely prepared and ready to start hiking, the extra time at the start will let you relax by the pool for an afternoon. At $36/night, there are far worse places to spend a day than at the Springlands. And an extra day or two at the tail end might be good insurance in case something unexpected happens on the mountain, and you're suddenly hospitalized for a day or two with a broken leg or pulmonary edema. Mind you, if that happens, rearranging your flights might be the least of your problems, but it would still be a big problem.

When you're flying to Africa, flying into and out of Kilimanjaro International Airport (outside Arusha, Tanzania) is probably the easiest option. Due to a momentary lapse of reason, my departing flights were booked out of JKIA in Nairobi (NBO), so when I left, I had to take public transit from Moshi to Nairobi, which included many adventurous hours on packed buses with all my luggage, and interesting experiences at the Kenyan border (I had to get a transit visa).

Be prepared for every possible ATM and food/lodging establishment to reject your credit cards. My Mastercard worked fine in Kenya, at all lodges and ATM's. However, it didn't work at a single ATM in Tanzania, even though many of them displayed the Mastercard logo. It also didn't work at one of the Mastercard stickered ATM's in the Amsterdam airport, although a different bank's ATM on the other side of the airport didn't give me any problems. I called Mastercard about that to find out what had gone wrong, since I had called them before I left to make sure my account was flagged not to be shut down for transactions in the countries that I'd be travelling in. They said that there was no record of any ATM's attempting to access their system from the places that I listed, and the customer service representative said that ATM's often had Mastercard stickers but weren't actually hooked up to the Mastercard network. I also ran into the problem at the Springlands when the only woman who could apparently work the credit card machine had gone home for the night, so I was forced to pay cash. You'll also be asked to pay a 5% surcharge at most places if you're paying with credit card instead of cash, to cover the fees that the credit card companies charge to merchants (and a little on top). By the way, in addition to needing to carry cash (preferably both the local currency & US dollars), you're probably better carrying a Visa than a Mastercard. They seem to be accepted at a lot more places than Mastercard. Debit cards and other credit cards seem to be essentially useless. Remember, Tanzania is a country where it's often easier to trade your blue jeans for a live goat than it is to find a machine that takes your credit card.



Final Notes

Additional guidance on gear is one of the things that I think most people will benefit from, and I’ve already covered that. To reiterate gear-related suggestions, here are some of the highlights:

- The sleeping bags that you can rent seemed cold compared to what I’m used to. Bring a warmer bag, or sleep with a warm friend who doesn’t mind the fact that you’re going a week without a shower.
- Bring two rolls of toilet paper, not just one, and keep them dry in zip-lock bags. By the way, the toilet facilities on the mountain are rudimentary. They are what’s known as “long drop latrines,” which means a wooden outhouse with a hole in the floor. If you’re not used to this kind of facility, you’ll probably be very nervous the first time you use it, in case you “miss the hole.” More importantly, they’re kind of disgusting compared to most western washrooms that have amenities like, um, toilets. You might want to use these facilities before eating rather than afterwards, especially if you have a weak stomach. And also, your boots will get contaminated with normal African bacteria from the dirt that you walk through all over the mountain, which people from other continents aren’t used to, and your boots will also go through some disgusting areas when accessing the outhouses. In Canada, I often sleep with my boots as a pillow when camping. In Africa, I considered sterilizing them with a flamethrower.
- Make sure you’re in really good shape before your climb. All kinds of people who come back seem to forget to mention the fact that Kilimanjaro is a significant challenge, saying, “Oh yeah, it’s just a hike.” Well, that’s true, but it’s a a very tough hike if you’re not in shape. And people generally don't have to worry about altitude sickness when hiking at home. Remember that on Machame, you'll cover 95km in just over four days, with 4000m of altitude differential. You should spend a few weeks running before your trek, and make sure you climb/descend a few dozen flights of stairs each day before your trip, to get your uphill and downhill leg muscles in shape. Downhill is just as hard on your legs as uphill.
- Even if you’re not climbing in rainy season, be prepared with extra changes of fresh clothing, wrapped in plastic garbage bags so it stays dry in your duffle bag. You’ll stay warm while you’re hiking, but as soon as you get to any of the overnight camps, you need to be prepared to change into dry clothing immediately, to conserve body heat. Write this down: you need to take more changes of dry clothing than you think you'll need!
- Remember the conditions that your guides and porters endure when you're considering leaving a tip at the end of your trek. After a lot of digging, we were told that the porters earn the equivalent of $6 USD per day for carrying all that gear up and down the mountain, and many do not even have warm clothing or footwear. The general consensus from the literature that we read seems to be that if you're considering a tip (which I think you should!), then 10% of the cost of your trip should be a guideline. I can't comment about whether or not this is appropriate. However, if you think that your trip probably costs you around $2000 USD, then that leads to a tip of $200 or slightly more from you to the group. In our case, we had a lead guide, two assistant guides, two cooks, and thirteen porters for the five of us who were officially in the group (counting Curdin and his support staff separately). Even with all five of us contributing to the total tip, that's a lot of people to share the tip. Based on the way that tips are generally split between the different types of support staff, it seems that our tip basically doubled what the porters made per day. And let me say that they deserved that, at a minimum. Remember to budget for a tip when you're planning for your trip. After seeing what the support staff do for you, you'll realize that they deserve every bit of what you give them! And if you're from a country where tipping isn't part of the culture, remember that tipping IS part of the culture for the tour groups. When in Rome ...
- When we were done, we left some gear behind as an extra bonus for Hajji to distribute among his team, things like jackets, gloves, batteries, unused medicines, etc. These aren't left in lieu of a cash tip. These are just some things that you may not want to lug halfway around the world in your luggage on your way home, and if they can be of use in Tanzania, you should considering donating them.
- Nobody seems to agree on the effectiveness of altitude sickness pills. I suspect that the majority of the benefit that they provide is purely psychological.

Incidentally, unrelated to Kilimanjaro, if you want to bring things to hand out as gifts in Moshi or other parts of Africa, I can make a suggestion: we were frequently approached and asked if we had extra pens or note pads. I think these are FAR better gifts than candy, and for my next trip to Africa, I'm going to stuff my luggage with pens and notepads and maybe a few books too. Also, a couple people from my Kenya safari group brought a real Polaroid camera, and it was a HUGE hit. I think that a lot of people had never been photographed short of cell phone photos, and they absolutely loved the polaroids. If you're getting hassled by a couple dozen street vendors to buy their necklaces and beads, there is no easier way to distract them from the hard sell than to say that you will give them a free photograph.

Remember that most of your Kili trek will be challenging. Don’t think of it as being “just a hike.” Despite that, if you’re in good physical condition when you start, almost everyone can do at least 90% of the climb. The only exception is summit night, where the low oxygen levels will mess up many people regardless of how healthy they are.

With all of the qualifications and warnings that I’ve listed here, you might think I’m trying to warn people away from this experience. That couldn’t be further from the truth! I highly recommend it. The only reason I have so many warnings in this information is because if you take them seriously and it makes you more prepared when you start your trek, you’re going to enjoy Kilimanjaro a lot more.

And again, remember that only 41% of people make it to the top. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t reach the summit. Go for the experience of being on the mountain, not for being on the top of the mountain. If you temper your expections before you start, it can mean the difference between coming home thinking “that was awesome even though I didn’t go to the summit” versus being disappointed because you think that the summit was the only reason for going. Enjoy the journey, not the destination.



Click HERE to read part 1, if you missed it before reading this part of the story.

Click HERE to read part 2, if you missed it before reading this part of the story.

(If you're looking for the links to my photos/video, they're at the top of the part 1 post)





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A Canadian Tree Planter Climbs Kilimanjaro, part 2 of 3


(This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Click here to go back to part 1, if you haven't read that yet).

My Trekking Group

I signed up for the trek as a single individual, but indicated that I wanted to go as part of a group rather than as a solo climber with a small group of personal guides and porters. I got really lucky with the group that I was part of:

- Jackie & Nathan were two other Canadians. Jackie is a licensed GP. It's always nice to have a doctor in your group, if you have any questions about mixing medicines! Nathan grew up only about ten kilometers away from where I did, on the east coast of Canada, and we discovered that we have many friends in common. Even more unexpected, he works for a helicopter company that I also work with, on the other side of Canada, about five thousand kilometers away. So we also have mutual friends on Canada's west coast. It's a small world. Jackie & Nathan had been doing a ton of physical training in the months leading to the trek.
- Martine was from Norway. She had just spent a few months surfing in South Africa, so she was naturally in great shape already.
- Mitch works professionally in electrical networks in Australia, based out of Sydney.
- Curdin works in Switzerland, but he is also a part-time professional climber, whose goal is to eventually finish all of the Seven Summits. Technically, Curdin was doing a "solo" trek, but we were hanging out with him in the hotel before we left, and since he was taking the same route, we suggested that he and his guides join our bigger group.

Be aware that there could be risks if you're joining a group of random people that your tour company is putting together. It's entirely possible that the group of people you're matched up with are not nearly as cool as the people that I went with. For instance, we heard a story about one tour group that one of our guides had recently escorted. I won't go into exact details, but let's just say that there were a couple people each from two countries that are currently disputing the ownership of a small group of five uninhabited islands. Because of the hostility between the two countries, the trekkers from each of the countries refused to have meals when the trekkers from the other country were present. I would recommend that if you're going to go climb a large mountain in Africa, it helps if you're open-minded about life and the other people on our planet, no matter what they have for ethnicity, nationality, skin colour, or religious beliefs. If you can't be open-minded, let your tour operator know in advance if there are any potential group-composition issues that you'd prefer to avoid. Even better, if you're not adventurous and you don't want to meet new people from other cultures, perhaps you should find some friends that would be willing to accompany you to Kilimanjaro, so you and your friends are the only clients in your trekking group.

Also, if you have dietary restrictions, you may only have two options: eat whatever they put in front of you, or starve. Based on my month of travelling, some Tanzanians can comprehend the idea that someone is a vegetarian. That's about the extent of it. Two of the people that I traveled with prior to the Kilimanjaro climb were vegans, and that concept was simply incomprehensible to every single cook and waiter that we met, for the entire trip. They would start each meal with a ten minute discussion, telling the staff, "We don't eat dairy products, such as milk and cheese and butter. We don't eat animals. Do you understand?" The wait staff would smile and nod and say that they understood, and then come back with a rice dish cooked in butter and covered with meat sauce. If you happen to be gluten-free, well, you'll probably be pretty much screwed in Africa.



Machame Route

Be aware that the longer your trek, the higher the chance of reaching the top, because you have more time to acclimate. Due to this, all tour companies try to advertise their trips to be as many days as possible. This includes days that I wouldn’t really count as a part of the trip. For example, if you arrive back at the hotel on the evening of Day “7” they will probably list 'Day 8' as being "this is the day that you depart the hotel." Now on a positive note, the stay at the hotel on the first and last night is included as a paid part of the trip.

If you're curious about what the exact full itinerary might look like, here’s the link again to the itinerary for the G Adventures (Zara) trip up the Machame route (this was the itinerary for my trip, but check the GA website for the most recent itinerary if you're actually doing the trek):

  Link: www.djbolivia.ca/docs/kilimanjaro_details.pdf

Now let me go through what I experienced in my own words, to give you a better idea of what to actually expect. I’ll use weekdays instead of numbered days, to match my own trip:


Sunday:

I arrived at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi. Decent hotel. Basic rooms, but quite clean. Nice pool, reasonably priced gift shop, reasonably priced beverages ($3 large beer, $1.50 for a 1.5 litre bottle of water), nice courtyard, etc. I think some people would say that there wasn’t as much variety in the food as they would have hoped, but I’m not a picky eater so I was fine with it. The rack rate is $120/night, which seems a bit high. However, the hotel is owned by Zara, the tour company, so if you’re showing up early for a Zara tour, or if you stay for a couple nights extra, you only pay $36 per person per night (I was in a single so I don’t know if this meant that a couple would pay $72 for a room for one night). That’s a very good price. Dinner if you’re there for extra nights outside the itinerary is $10 per meal, buffet style. You sign pieces of paper for everything extra that you buy, and just pay when you check out. By the way, all the prices that I list here are in US dollars, which are commonly circulated everywhere.

Be aware that payment can be challenging! I’ll tell you a story about my Mastercard later, but for now, assume that it’s helpful to carry cash. On my final night, I asked when I could pay my bill, and they said that the office was open until 10pm. I had used my credit card there the previous week, with no problem. I showed up at 8pm to pay, since I had a shuttle before 6am the next morning, and they said that the woman who runs the credit card terminal was gone home and wouldn’t be back until after breakfast. It would have to be cash. That kind of issue can be tricky if you don't actually have any cash on hand.

Anyway, I made it to the hotel and got settled in, had a few drinks, tried to organize my gear, and went to bed after talking to a few other guests.


Monday:

I thought I was supposed to start my climb this morning, but due to confusion with the dates, I found out that they had booked me to start the following day. This turned out to be very lucky, because it gave me some time to catch up on my sleep, and allowed me to be FAR more organized than I would have been otherwise.

At 4pm, we met with the local Zara representative. He spent about an hour talking and then answering our questions. He wasn’t going up the mountain with us, because he stayed at the hotel full-time as a tour coordinator. Anyway, after talking with him for a while, I felt like I knew much more about what was going to happen. We also met our lead guide (Hajji), and made some arrangements to have gear available that we weren’t able to secure by that point. We also got some gear from the rental shop at this point, and I finished packing.

By the way, let me also take a moment to say that Hajji was AWESOME as a lead guide. He was a bit quiet for the first two days, until he got to know our group. But he very obviously had a LOT of experience on the mountain. This was his 98th trip to the summit. Seriously, if you're booking a Kili trek with GA/Zara, ask them if there's any possibility of having Hajji as your lead guide. Here's a photo with Hajji on the left:





Tuesday:

This was the day that we started. We met at 8:30am in the hotel courtyard for departure, and got on a bus with all of our guides and porters. We stopped at a small shopping centre on the way to the mountain, to get a few last minute items like extra batteries and energy bars. Be aware that this last-minute shopping expedition can have very high prices! Get everything you need in Moshi before you leave the hotel. The hotel provides a shuttle in and out of Moshi that’s only $2 return.

We got to the Machame Gate in about an hour or so, and got our gear unloaded. The porters began dividing everything up so everyone had equal loads. We had to wait for Hajji to deal with a lot of paperwork, so we relaxed in the visitor area for about an hour or so.

We started walking just before noon. No turning back now. By the time we reached the first camp at Machame, it was almost dark. This first day was a fairly easy walk as there was a solid trail the whole way, but we covered a lot of ground. To be honest, I was a bit out of shape, so my legs were cramping by supper. If I had done this immediately at the end of a season of tree planting, it would have been an absolute joke. However, I had just spent the prior nine weeks driving around in trucks, drinking coffee and eating sushi, with practically no exercise. My “advance exercise” for the trek consisted of going out dancing for a few hours on Saturday night with an African girl in Arusha. No wonder that my legs were like rubber after a sudden eighteen kilometre hike with a gain of 1500m. The others in my group had done a lot more training than I did (some of them running 20km/day for months before the climb), so I was probably hurting the most. Anyway, we made it with no real problems, and everyone was in a pretty good mood for tea and then for dinner.

Incidentally, I was soaked when I arrived at the Machame Camp (3000m), partly from light rain/mist most of the day, and partly from sweating. However, the temperature was still pretty good. But it was good to change into dry clothing.


Wednesday:

The walk this day was shorter, but we still climbed another thousand meters. Again, we had light rain/mist for most of the day. We got to Shira campsite fairly early, but that was intentional, because after lunch we waited for the rain to calm down, then we went for an acclimitization hike for a couple hours.

The view from the Shira campsite (3800m) was pretty good, and Mount Meru was very photogenic. This campsite had a lot of white-naped ravens. Be careful, because those ravens are curious and smart, and they will definitely steal your lunch. I'm sure that I wasn't the first victim.


Thursday:

This was the day that we passed the Lava Tower (4600m). We had lunch there too. It was kind of cold and wet, unfortunately, so there wasn’t a good view of the Tower. One of the porters had altitude sickness by this point and had to go back down. After lunch, we pressed on, but the for that segment we actually went back down the mountain for a bit to a lower elevation. Our camp for the night was at Barranco, back down at about 3900m.


Friday:

After breakfast, we studied the next section of trail. It looked imposing. The Barranco Wall requires a lot of careful climbing (scrambling) rather than pure hiking. But it was far less difficult than it appeared from the bottom. Good photo opportunities. Also, by now, my legs were back in shape, so I was feeling pretty good. I was also pleased that I didn’t have any problems with altitude sickness, although two of the five others in my group had problems with headaches, nausea, and some loss of appetite.

The walking in the afternoon wasn’t difficult, as we were only going up to Barafu Camp at 4600m. This is the Kili base camp. We saw quite a bit of snow during the afternoon hike, but I prefer snow to wet rain. The snow doesn’t soak your clothing as much, so it’s actually a bit warmer than a freezing rain. We got to Barafu camp by mid-afternoon, which was good because we were going to do the final summit hike that night. We had an early dinner and then Hajji talked to us for a while about what to expect for the summit attempt. We then tried to sleep for several hours. I suspect that some of the others didn't get much sleep, although I was pretty tired and had no problems staying asleep until we were woken back up at 10pm.


Saturday:

Well, it was obviously still Friday night when we got up at 10pm. We had a light meal, then started to hike through the night. Perhaps the biggest problem with the night hike to the summit, other than the potential for altitude sickness, is the problem of carrying supplies.

Because the air is so dry, I recommend taking 5-6 litres of water with you. But the problem is that it’s pretty cold up there, maybe fifteen to twenty degrees Celsius below freezing by 5am. Carrying water in your backpack is fine at first, but after several hours of climbing, that water will freeze. You don’t want to carry the bottles again your body to keep them from freezing, because that draws heat away from the core of your body. My recommendation is to partially insulate your backpack from the cold. I’m used to colder weather, so as long as I’m dry, I’m fine with the low temperatures. I wore a long sleeved undershirt and a decent fleece, and two coats. One was a very light winter coat, and the other was a regular ski jacket, very large. There is an advantage to this kind of system, because layers are important. I was cold when I started, but within fifteen minutes, I was removing layers. But three or four hours later, as we got higher and the temperature dropped significantly, I was starting to put those layers back on. Anyway, with the large size ski jacket, I was able to wear my backpack outside my fleece and light jacket, but underneath my heavy ski jacket. Do that, and wrap your water bottles in a sweater or something, and you should manage not to have everything freeze up. You might also want to take a thermos or two full of warm tea, and save those for last.

  Link: www.bradleyalpinist.com/goodbeta.html#bottles
  (I didn’t have any special gear with me, and this link has far more information than I’d care to read, but this will open to a section about water bottles which is worth the read)

A second problem with the low temperature relates to cameras. Your cameras will freeze up very quickly at low temperatures. I’ve done a fair amount of photography during the snow, and I didn’t think that low temperatures were a major problem, but it’s possible for a digital SLR to stop working once it gets cold, and your camera batteries will drain very quickly. Make sure you keep your camera warm against your body until you get to the summit. If you have a spare battery, keep it in an inner pocket.

  Link: cameras.about.com/od/troubleshooting/a/Extreme-Winter-Photography.htm
  Link: digital-photography-school.com/how-to-handle-cold-weather-photography
  (Some of the comments under this last article are more useful than the link itself)

It seems that many people get this close to the summit, and then start to experience symptoms of altitude sickness. At that point, they’re so close that they ignore the symptoms and push through. Unfortunately, a small number of these people that push too hard end up getting very sick (or occasionally dying). Admittedly, almost everyone gets minor symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, and nausea. So the trick is to try to decide if you have normal minor symptoms and want to proceed, or if you might be going further than you should. I’m a tree planter, so I’m always in favour of pushing the limits of what the human body can do, but sometimes you have to remember that you can push too hard and too far. I'll talk about altitude sickness in more detail in a few minutes.

To put things into perspective, let me tell you what the other five people in my group experienced while going to the top:

- Four of the five said that it was the hardest thing that they’d ever done. One of these four is a professional climber.
- One decided that he wasn’t even going to try for the summit, since he felt sick at base camp. However, Hajji talked him into going at least part of the way just for the experience, and after a few hours he started to feel much better. In the end, he was really glad that he pushed the limits.
- One of our group threw up “about a hundred times” on the last half of the trip to the summit. That person said they would never do it again.
- Our group saw people who pushed too hard, who were literally getting carried off the mountain, with oxygen. That’s obviously not very smart. Incidentally, we didn’t use oxygen to climb, although the guides carried one bottle for emergencies. However, it wasn’t much consolation, being a first aid attendant myself, to know that their bottle appeared to be a D cylinder. That size bottle only gives about 35-36 minutes of oxygen flow at 10 litres/minute. Even if you drop down to 6 litres/minute, which is a bare minimum, that’s only an hour of oxygen. And it takes a couple hours to walk down from the summit just to base camp, IF you can walk.
- Even Hajji threw up on the final ascent to the summit.

The coldest part of the trip to the summit is from about 3am to 5:30am. After that, as the sky begins to lighten, the temperature warms up. If you haven’t run into serious altitude problems by now, you'll likely be fine. Your time at the top will be extremely limited. Take a couple quick photos (if your camera is still functional), spend five minutes to look around, and then head back down the mountain. There is no executive lounge. It’s cold, the air is thin, and you’re probably feeling unwell and exhausted. Get back down to base camp, as fast as you safely can.

After you’ve had some hot tea in camp, you’ll crawl into bed for a few hours to warm up. Despite the difficulty of sleeping at altitude, you’ll probably have no problem sleeping now. You’ll have lunch a few hours later, then start heading down the mountain.

At this point, it’s normal to descend for a few hours and camp for the night at Mweka Camp. However, at this time of year, it’s often cold and wet there, and you’re probably tired and exhausted (and everything you own might be wet). Our group decided unanimously to turn our “two day orderly exit strategy” into a six-hour mad rush for the exits. So we didn’t stop at Mweka; we just pushed on, practically jogging, all the way to the base of the mountain (28km from the base camp, 35km from the summit - a good workout).

Let me give you a suggestion: when you’re training, make sure you’re doing downhill hikes as well as uphill. The body uses an almost completely different set of muscles in your legs going downhill. So even though I thought I was back in shape by this point, the downhill trek woke up all the muscles that I had barely used when climbing the mountain, and again, my legs were like rubber by the time we reached the bottom. As noted before, if I’d been doing some physical activity for the few weeks leading up to this point, it would have been a comfortable hike back down to the Machame Gate.



Other Routes

There are a total of eight or nine conventional routes up Kilimanjaro, although you need special permission for a couple of them because of past fatalities (ie. Umbwe and the Western Breach). Machame is one of the most scenic, and has lots of up and down. Some of the other routes are very, very simple flat slopes uphill. Therefore, those routes are much easier hiking, but climbers don't get much opportunity for advanced acclimitization along the way. Accordingly, success rates (of reaching the summit) on those easy routes seem to be lower.

Would I take the Machame route again if I went back? I'd say 50/50 odds. There is a newer route called the Northern Circuit which I think I'd also consider. It's listed on the wikipedia page as being the longest route, at 90kms (remember that the distances on the wikipedia page are the "shortest possible climb using the direct route," exclusive of side trips for exploring and acclimitization). Check out the link below for more detailed information:

  Link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kilimanjaro_climbing_routes





Click HERE to read part 1, if you missed it before reading this part of the story.

Click HERE to read part 3, which covers medical and physical challenges, altitude sickness, potential travel problems, getting trip insurance, and some final notes.





Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
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A Canadian Tree Planter Climbs Kilimanjaro, part 1 of 3


I recently had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which is Africa’s tallest mountain. It was a pretty amazing trip, and I took a fair number of photos and also some video footage. There’s a TON of information out there on the internet already for other people who are interested in climbing Kili, but I was struck by the fact that despite the information overload, there’s a lack of information in a few key areas, so I thought I’d write about my own experience in detail. I’ll cover basics first, but eventually I’ll get into some very specific suggestions which should be quite useful for others who are attempting the climb. Bear with me, I have a lot to cover here.

If you want to look at my photos first, I have them on both my website and facebook. The facebook version is better if you’re watching on mobile (less bandwidth) or if you want to make comments on photos. The photos on my server are better if you’d like to download any of them as desktop backgrounds, etc., as those ones are in the highest resolution (2700x1800 pixels, around 3MB each on average). Here are the links:

  Photos on Facebook: Kili Photos on Facebook
  Photos on my server: Kili Photos on djbolivia.ca

By the way, the few photos that I've included in this blog posting are not the full-resolution versions. Go to the photo page on my server (above) to see them in the best detail.

I also took about twenty minutes total of video footage, which I combined into a YouTube video. Since there was no effective background audio, I just used a copy of my weekly radio show as background audio. You don’t need to listen to the audio if you want to mute it:





Kilimanjaro Information

Alright, let’s get down to some background details before I talk about my own experiences. What’s so special about Mount Kilimanjaro?

Kili is the highest mountain in Africa, so it’s often referred to as “The Rooftop Of Africa.” There’s actually an Imax video out there of the same name, which you can view HERE on YouTube. Come to think of it, that's probably the video that years ago originally got me thinking that I’d like to see Kili in person.

Anyway, Kilimanjaro is a mostly-dormant volcano, and due to this, it’s the largest free-standing mountain in the world. It has three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo is the cone which is highest. Kibo has two peaks on it, Stella Point at 5725m AMSL (above mean sea level) and most people’s goal, Uhuru Peak at 5895m (19,341 feet).

Kilimanjaro has glaciers at the top. However, they are disappearing rapidly, like glaciers in many other parts of the world. Of the glacial ice at the top in 2000, almost half has now disappeared, and estimates are that Kili will be glacier-free in approximately ten to fifteen years.

Kilimanjaro is one of the Seven Summits, which refers to the group of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. The others are: Mount Everest (Asia, 8848m), Aconcagua (South America, 6961m), Mount McKinley (North America, 6194m), Mount Elbrus (Europe, 5642m), Mount Vinson (Antarctica, 4892m), and Puncak Jaya (Australasia, 4884m). Most people regard Kilimanjaro as being more of a hike than a true climb, so it usually has a reputation as being the easiest of the Seven Summits. However, there are climbers out there who have succeeded in climbing the other six but failed to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. I have some ideas about this, which I’ll get into later.

So how high is Uhuru peak? Let’s put it this way: “Kilimanjaro summit is well above the altitude at which high altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema can occur. All trekkers will suffer considerable discomfort, typically shortage of breath, hypothermia, and headaches.” In comparison to other well-known mountains, the Mount Everest north base camp (Tibet side), which you would expect to be at a pretty high elevation, is only at 5150m (more than 700m lower than Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak).

Kilimanjaro is usually referred to as a “trek” rather than as a “climb.” If you take any of the standard seven routes (Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe), you will not need any ropes or specialized climbing equipment. Most of these routes can be walked the entire way, although a few of them (including Machame, the one that I took) have some areas which require “scrambling” or using your hands to help climb over rocks and up the face of hills.

The Machame route is one of the more popular routes. It’s one of the hardest, but it’s also one of the most scenic. There is also an advantage to this route because there are some “acclimitization” sections, where trekkers are forced to ascend to a certain altitude but then drop back down to a lower altitude further on the trip. Therefore, this route seems to mitigate some of the effects of the altitude. Acclimitization is important, and one guideline that is often recommended is to “climb high, sleep low.” In other words, push your body so you become accustomed to thinner air during the day, but sleep at a lower elevation to allow your body to rest at night.





Tour Operator

As a tour operator, I chose G Adventures. GA is a global tour company, although I was surprised to find out that their head office is actually in Canada. For the Kilimanjaro Trek, the packages are advertised online as a G Adventures tour, but they subcontract the actual trek to a local company called Zara Tours.

I also used G Adventures prior to this trek for my other African safaris. I was very happy with the experiences. Also, I should note that when we were in Moshi (the closest town to Kilimanjaro), we were asking locals which the best tour operators were. Without saying who we were booked with, we were told that G Adventures has one of the best reputations, and treats it staff well.

I was amused to see that G Adventures doesn’t sugar-coat the difficulty of the trek, unlike many other operators. In fact, their trip details document says, "These trips include serious high-altitude treks, cycling or other heavy exercise. For superhumans only. Remember to pack your cape."



Gear Required

Since the links on the G Adventures website change annually, I’m not going to do a direct link, because I don’t want it to stop working in a year. Instead, I downloaded the current (December 2013) version of their full trip details (for the Machame 8-day itinerary), and I’ve added that to my own server. Click HERE if you want to download that PDF. Of course, if you’re going to climb Kili, you should look at the most recent version of the trip details on the GA website.

Because I have lots of comments on the gear suggestions from the GA list, I’m going to list those here right now. The notes in italics are my own commentary:

- Warm fleece or wool jumper/jacket (fleeces are awesome when it gets chilly)
- Waterproof jacket and pants (I recommend a light waterproof/rain jacket, and also a heavier waterproof ski jacket, in a size large enough to go OVER the backpack you’re wearing)
- 3 shirts/t-shirts, cool and breathable (not cotton)
- 2 Long-sleeved shirts or sweaters (bring “quick dry” specialty clothing if you can)
- 1 pair of shorts, mid-thigh or longer
- 2 pairs of long hiking trousers, lightweight, breathable
- 1 pair of long trousers (I’m a fan of long underwear in combination with light, loose, breathable workout pants – a combination of long underwear and rain pants is quite warm and very comfortable)
- Thermal underwear – top and bottoms
- Waterproof, light weight hiking boots. They will get wet and dirty (I brought heavier steel-toed and steel-shanked work boots, which I was very pleased with, although they’re heavier on your feet)
- Tennis shoes or sandals for relaxing in the evening
- Comfortable, breathable socks (not cotton, and bring extras because they’ll all get wet)
- Winter hat/warm hat, balaclava (I brought both a wool toque for warmth, and a floppy sunhat for shade)
- Warm gloves/mittens (I brought lightweight gardening gloves for most of the trip, and a pair of heavy winter gloves for summit night)
- Day pack with good hip and sternum support, for you to carry (you can rent this at the Springlands)
- Very warm sleeping bag (see my notes below)
- Small travel pillow (I just use my fleece)
- Water bottles or "camel baks" (see my notes below)
- Small hot water thermos (as cold water has been known to freeze near the summit)
- Water purification tablets or purifier (I thought that this was unnecessary, since all the water is boiled, but for peace of mind you might want to bring a fistful of purification tablets, if you worry about that sort of stuff)
- Sun hat, bandana
- Sunglasses (very important for hiking in the snow at the summit)
- Sunscreen (very important, especially if summiting in snow, we saw people coming down from the summit with extreme sunburn)
- Headlamp / torch / flashlight (the Springlands does NOT sell or rent headlamps! Make sure you bring extra batteries and bulbs)
- Camera and extra memory cards (you don’t want to wear out your batteries reviewing photos on the mountain, while trying to make space on the card for more photos)
- Extra camera battery (and/or charger)
- Pocket knife / utility knife
- Electricity plug adapter (see my notes below)
- Energy bars and snacks (loss of appetite meant that I couldn’t handle pure protein bars on the mountain, but chocolate based energy bars still tasted palatable)
- Personal first aid kit (see my notes below)
- Toiletries (take care of your teeth and bring soap too, but other than that, remember that you aren’t on the mountain to look good – brush your hair with your fingers)
- Hand sanitizer gel/Sanitizer wipes
- Toilet paper (bring two rolls, just in case, and pack each one in its own large zip-lock bag to keep it dry)

With regards to the sleeping bag, I saw that it’s possible to rent a cold-weather sleeping bag in Moshi for $40 for the trip. I thought that this made far more sense than trying to carry my own good winter sleeping bag for weeks of travel across multiple continents. In retrospect, I would have been happier if I'd brought my own sleeping bag. The sleeping bags at the Springlands are allegedly rated for -20 Celsius. But for anyone who does serious camping, you’ll immediately see that these are NOT high-end sleeping bags. I sleep in the snow quite often, and I found these to be fairly cold. I don’t know why these were said to be rated for -20. Mind you, many of the porters did the climb in sneakers (without socks!) so perhaps they're more impervious to cold than your average Canadian. Anyway, you'll sleep much better if you’re warm, and you’ll burn fewer calories on the trek. You’ll appreciate still having those reserve calories when summit night rolls around. Consider bringing your own proper cold-weather sleeping bag, or at least a warm friend.

For water bottles, bring enough to hold at least 4 litres. Five or six would be better. You can get away with three or four litres for most of the trip, and you don’t want to carry a ton of full bottles in your backpack all the time, especially on the days when the hike is only 5-6 hours. But you’ll definitely want more water on summit night, even though that’s the night when you want the least amount of weight. Make sure your bottles are not metal, because that’s a problem when the temperatures drop well below freezing. Also, some types of plastic aren’t good when it gets that cold, so do some research. By the way, normal plastic (disposable/recyclable) water and pop bottles are not permitted on the mountain. The rangers have banned them because some idiotic tourists throw them on the ground as garbage and leave a mess. You can probably hide a couple in your large duffel bag, but it would be easier just to carry extra reusable cold-weather Nalgene-type bottles.

In terms of electricity, be aware that almost all modern electronic devices (including all my cameras, laptop, and cell phone) can run on any voltage from 110v – 240v, at either 50Hz or 60Hz. Unless you’re bringing a food processor or hair dryer or something non-electronic, you probably do NOT need the weight of a voltage transformer. Just a simple physical adapter should do it. Incidentally, if you're thinking about bringing a hair dryer, you should not be allowed anywhere near Kilimanjaro. Anyway, back to electronic devices - make sure your chargers say 110-240V on them to be safe, before you plug into the Tanzania grid. Depending where you are, the local electricity is probably either 220v or 230v or 240v, and running at 50Hz. By the way, Moshi seems to be famous for brownouts and power outages. In one night alone, our hotel had four power outages, one lasting for hours. When I got up at 5am on the last morning, to pack and catch my 6am shuttle, I had to do all my packing and showering in the dark thanks to yet another extended outage. Extra headlamp batteries are very, very handy.

For a First Aid kit, consider including all of the following:
- Sunscreen, which you should apply liberally so you don’t also need Solarcaine or Aloe Vera for a burn
- Lip Balm (bring the kind that includes a sunblock)
- Ibuprofen or pain killers (seems to be safer in combination with altitude sickness pills than acetaminophen or ASA)
- Malaria pills (if you’re on a short-term visit to Africa, they make sense)
- Anti-histamines (I often have allergies thanks to hay fever, although I didn’t have any problems on Kili – be aware though that many anti-histamines dehydrate you)
- Anti-septic and band-aids, white tape, etc., in case you fall and scrape yourself up?
- Imodium or similar tablets in case you get hit with Traveller’s Diarrhea.
- Insect repellent (you don’t need much, as there are almost no mosquitoes above Machame Camp)
- Prescription drugs, if necessary
- Electrolyte powders (definitely can’t hurt – I wish that I’d brought a can of Gatorade powder)
- Zip-lock bags (you can never have too many dry, clean zip-lock bags, good for everything from cameras to toiletries)
- Don’t bring muscle relaxants for leg cramps, because being in good shape to start is smarter
- The jury is still out on Altitude Sickness pills, so I’ll touch on this topic later

In terms of gear rentals, the Springlands Hotel in Moshi has a rental shop and a sales shop. If you’re not with G Adventures, your own hotel might have the same, but be aware that it might not carry everything you need. The following list is what the GA website says is available, but again, I’ve added comments in italics:

- Backpack /day pack $12 (this was a good deal, and avoids needing to carry a bulky pack for international travel)
- Balaclava $6 (this is something that I wish I had brought, it’s even better than a toque)
- Sleeping bag $40 (see my notes above)
- Ponchour $18 (what does this mean? Is it a rain poncho?)
- Plastic bag $4 (you can rent this large blue heavy plastic bag that fits inside your duffle bag, and you use it to keep everything dry in case water gets into the duffel bag. I found this to be useful, but I’d also recommend bringing a dozen heavy-duty garbage bags from home, and putting each complete change of dry clothing into its own garbage bag)
- Almost waterproof duffel bag $6 (this is a good deal, so rent this, don’t bring one)
- 2 Walking poles / ski sticks $12 (I didn’t use these, because I’m used to working in the mountains without them, but I feel that they might have been useful. I think when climbing up or down, if you can use the poles and your arm muscles to assist, it will take some of the strain off your leg muscles)
- Gaiters $8 (I find these to be relatively ineffective at the best of times)
- Gloves $6 (I brought one heavy set of winter gloves for summit night)
- 2 Finger gloves $8 (I brought a light pair of gardening gloves with me)
- Sweater $5 (bring your own wool sweater or wool fleece, if you want to be sure that you have something comfortable)
- Sunglasses $8 (the Springlands did NOT rent or sell sunglasses, so you’d have to find them in Moshi)
- Long underwear $5 (bring your own)
- Raincoat G.T.Waterproof $12 (worth renting)
- Rain pants $12 (worth renting)
- Fleece pants $6
- Mountain boots $9 (risky, you should bring your own comfortable and worked-in boots)
- Warm jacket/down jacket $12 (these appeared to be decent and warm)
- Hats $6 (you can buy a floppy sunhat in the Springlands shop for $7)
- Scarfs $6 (I forgot to bring a scarf, so I ripped up an old shirt)

I was surprised to find that the prices in the Springlands rental shop actually matched these prices perfectly.

The Springlands also has a locked room where you can leave any luggage that you don't want to take up the mountain with you. It's one large room, not individual lockers, but appears to be reasonably secure. There is no charge for leaving extra bags here during your trek.



Click HERE to read part 2, which covers a typical itinerary and what I experienced on my own recent route.

Click HERE to read part 3, which covers medical and physical challenges, altitude sickness, potential travel problems, getting trip insurance, and some final notes.



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
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        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox