“How long have you been planning to hike Kilimanjaro?” – Everyone

“oh, it was on the bucket list but I just decided a week ago” – Me

Thank you covid for moving up a bucket list item that was pretty far down on my list to the very top of 2020. With how crazy the world has been this year I really didn’t expect to be able to travel, let alone travel across the country. In August my bestie Melissa and I noticed a few countries finally were opening to the United States for travel and low and behold, Tanzania was on that list. Hiking Kilimanjaro had always been faint in the back of my mind, it was something that I thought would be cool to do but it wasn’t my first pick of bucket list items to check off. Melissa, the seed planter she is, mentioned to me that we should maybe look in to going sooner than later and I immediately shot it down. I’m not sure if it was the lack of research I had done or the fact that I was still recovering from the Inca Trail hike 2 years prior but I brushed her off and said “maybe later”. After a casual tag made by Mel on the GLT facebook page from a girl who just hiked kill sharing her wonderful experience, the seed began to grow. Two weeks later I sent her a text saying, “I’m in, lets go hike Kilimanjaro”. And just like that, the idea was born, the dates were picked, and a month later the trip was booked.

I’ll be completely honest in saying that I didn’t do a whole lot of research before I agreed to go. I sparked up a chat with the girl from GLT who had gone, got some info from her and advice and did a few google searches on what to pack. Most of my information came later on from previous hikers and onlookers who decided to share their thoughts and opinions on the trip. After my initial reach out to Popote Africa Adventures, that tour company we were recommended to, I knew that we would be in good hands and I felt so comfortable with every piece of information they were relaying back to me. Sabino was so accommodating to every random question I had as the weeks went on and very patient as we began to get a little nervous about what we had just gotten ourselves in to. From what to pack, airport pickup, hotel accommodation and more, Popote had us every step of the way and I am so grateful for this amazing company. Picking the right tour company is extremely important when choosing to hike Kilimanjaro, the Inca Trail, Everest or any guided hiking experience but please do your research if you do not use one of the ones I have recommended and make sure that the porters are treated well and paid fairly.

On October 29th we took off from Chicago to Amsterdam to begin our trek to Tanzania Africa. Thankfully the flight was not very full due to covid and we were able to spread out on the first 8.5 hour flight and sleep in our own rows. This made our next long flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport much more bearable. Again we were able to sit in our own rows on this flight allowing us to feel extremely rested when we finally landed after 22+ hours of travel.

We were greeted at the airport by our lovely driver who took us to our hotel Park View Inn in Moshi, a small town 1,5 hours from the airport. Our package for the hike included two nights at our hotel and transportation to and from the airport which made it extremely convenient and safe for us to travel within Tanzania. Our hike was set to begin November 1 so with a day open before to rest and explore, we booked a day excursion through Popote to take us to Arusha National park. On the morning of the 31st our amazing driver Tuma picked us up in an old school Toyota Land cruiser to take us over to Arusha National park where we went on our Safari drive. Having been to Africa before and on a week long safari, we felt like this was a great way to get a mini safari in, see some spectacular animals and still have time to relax before our big day. I highly recommend exploring other parts of Tanzania while you are there and if you can make time for it, do not miss the Serengeti! You can easily book multiple types of Safari’s through Popote ranging from Luxury, Camping, Lodging etc.

Everything you need to know about Hiking Kilimanjaro 

I will start by saying that this hike was one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life but extremely rewarding and a once in a life time experience (unless you are a crazy person and decide to hike multiple times.)


We didn’t do a whole lot of training for the hike seeing that we really only had a month to prepare but, I work out 5-6 days a week normally doing HIIT and weight lifting so I am decently fit to begin with. I recommend working on your endurance and ramp up that leg day to a few days a week. The most difficult part in the beginning is getting your breathing down with your walking in the changing altitude but after awhile you get the hang of it.

Day 1

The night before our Trek our guides came by our hotel to go over our 7 day trek plan and to make sure we had all the proper gear we needed for the week. We were given duffels to transfer all of our necessities over to for the 7 days, leaving anything else unnecessary behind at the hotel locked up. Popote made it very easy to rent gear & clothing so anything that we did not bring with us such as our heavy coat, headlamp etc they provided us. The next day we were picked up and headed off to the beginning point of where we would meet our porters and have some lunch before starting day 1 of our trek. After a hot meal and a few hours later, we geared up our day packs and started to climb the first few thousand feet in altitude. No matter what shape you are in, the most challenging part in the beginning is getting your breathing down with your steps. You feel like you’re constantly gasping for water and you’ve only gone 5 minutes up the path. Day 1 had beautiful scenery through the rainforest and if you looked and listen close enough you’d see monkeys swinging from tree to tree along the path. After 3 and a half hours or so we made it to our first camp and we were shocked at how quickly day 1 went. Upon arrival our porters were setting up our camp for the night which included two sleeping tents, our meal tent and our bathroom. Ya’ll…. let me tell you how key having your own bathroom is on a hike like this. After doing the Inca Trail and having to use the public outhouse (hole in the ground) vs having your own clean potty inside a special tent I will never ever ever go back. The public outhouses are absolutely filthy, smell and pretty unsanitary. Most of the time they are a decent walk away from where you camp also so imagine waking up in the middle of the night and having to find your way to the restroom vs walking 2 feet to your bathroom tent. Game changer for sure! Around 6 we went into our meal tent where we were given hot tea, coco, coffee and snacks to get us ready for dinner. Dinner consisted of the most delicious cucumber soup, rice & veggies. Each day they loaded us up on carbs to fuel our bodies and make sure we were in good health to continue on to the next day. Once were debriefed it was time to get a good nights rest to begin a very long second day ahead of us.


Day 2

Day 2 was one of our longer and harder days, we tackled the “elephants back” which by far was the hardest hours of our hike so far. Trekking through the end of the rainforest, the most exhausting part of this day was spent going uphill climbing “steps” that formed in the shape of a very very very long “elephant skeleton”. We reached Shira 1 camp after 6 hours, stopped for a nice break and lunch and then headed on our way for the next 6 hours trekking across a plateau of grassy moorland and heather scattered with volcanic rock formations.

Elevation: 12,631ft

Day 3

Day 3 began with an easy walk into the climatic zone of the upland desert and beautiful panoramic views of the mountain. After a few hours we began to increase in altitude to get us more acclimated by the time we reached lunch. Unfortunately day 3 took a toll on me and I ended up with an awful headache and super nauseous which made the last 3 hours of steep decent down to the base of the Great Barranco Valley miserable. Thankfully my amazing guides helped carry my day pack for me and encouraged me every step of the way that I would make it to our next camp. The altitude headache is something I never hope to experience again and unfortunately the only cure for a headache on the mountain is more water!

Elevation: 15,190ft to 13,044ft

Day 4

Day 4 was a brand new day and after a lot of water and a good nights rest I was feeling energized more than ever! Our day started by descending into the start of the Great Barranco, a huge ravine. We then exited steeply, up the Great Barranco Wall also known as the “Breakfast Wall.” This was by far my favorite part of the trek because it consisted of bouldering and rock climbing but nothing too technical. At the top of the Barranco Wall we had the most glorious views of Kilimanjaro above the clouds. We had a nice picture break and rest before heading down the rest of our hike towards the Karanga Valley.

Elevation:13,106 ft

Day 5/6

Summit Day….after a good night’s rest and breakfast, we set off on our walk to Barafu camp. The scenery had no vegetation around us and felt like we were completely walking on mars. Although the trek to Basecamp was only about 3 hours, we had to spend the rest of our day at camp resting and preparing for our summit at 11pm. We took a nap, had an early dinner and then napped again until about 10pm. It may seem like ample amount of time to rest up for the biggest part of the hike but in reality it was very hard to nap during the day and get an accurate amount of rest. After a light breakfast at 11pm energy was very  low as we began our summit to the top of Kilimanjaro. Hiking in the pitch black with only the light of moon to guide us, we took each step slowly and carefully following our guides footpath in the freezing cold. After about two hours I began to get extremely sleepy to the point where I couldn’t even stand anymore without being held up. I realized that the altitude medicine and lack of sleep started to make me extremely drowsy, forcing our guides to pair off one by one with us and slowly get us to the top of this mountain. The summit was by far the hardest thing I have ever done nut physically but mentally. Your mind is constantly giving up on your telling your body to quit with it. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself you are going to make it, there is that little voice in your head trying to remind you how tired you are. I can honestly say without our guides we would not have made it to the top of Stella Point. When the sun began to rise and we only had a bit to go, I got this sudden burst of energy and knew that I had to keep going, I had to make it to the top and to the sign. It was 6:30 am and we finally did it, we reached Stella point and there was no going back! Only 45 minute more and the sign was ours and we could say that we successfully summited Kilimanjaro. I took off with my guide first, determined to get there through the glacier maze no matter how exhausted I was and how many times I tripped over my own feet. The feeling of finally making it, all the work you put in, the tears the sweat.. emotions were so high I bawled my eyes out for a few minutes thanking my guide and thanking god for getting me there. A friend of mine who did the trek the week prior to me left a note for me to find when I reached the sign and now that was all I could think of. I had to find that note! After a few minutes of looking around my guide and I found the place where she had hit it and a rush of joy and relief set over me. I couldn’t believe that I did it, I summited Kilimanjaro.

BUT WAIT… it’s not over yet. Somehow through out the entire time we were trekking I never processed the fact that once we reached the top, we still had to go down. All of the exhaustion set in once I realized I had to go back down the exact way I came up. Thankfully it was only 2 hours down to basecamp (not 6) since you don’t have to hike as slowly downhill. My guide and I practically ran down the mountain all the way to basecamp allowing me to rest up with a three hour nap. From basecamp we hiked two more hours to our final camp of the trip where we relaxed, ate dinner and basked in the glory of finishing our summit.

Elevation; 19,341ft

Day 7

We woke up at 8 am to finally head out of the park and back to the reality of life after a very long 7 days. 5 hours of hiking out of the park felt like a million more since the pain had finally set in to our tired little bodies. Although the walk itself was easy, my body still felt like it was crumbling beneath me every step I made. We completed the trek with receiving our plaques at the finish congratulating us on the feat we just accomplished. Our amazing team took us for Banana Beer (local beer home made you must try it) and we cheered and celebrated the unbelievable week we just had. It was sad to realize that the trip was over, we had to go back to reality, check our cell phones and leave this amazing country that evening.