Over the course of 18 days, the Dare Divas® traveled to Tanzania Africa specifically to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain – a mountain which rises majestically above the African plains at 19,341-feet.
For 8 straight days (seven nights), the Dare Divas, along with 2 of our spouses and 4 of our friends, hiked Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route. Even during the climb, we all agreed that this was by FAR the most challenging adventure the Dare Divas had ever embarked upon. We quickly realized that this adventure presented not only the physical challenge of hiking in high altitudes and cold weather for days on end, but it also required us to dig deep into our emotional and spiritual reserves to continuously push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Make no mistake, this adventure left an impact on our lives that will last forever, and ever.
During most of the evenings on the mountain, we slept in below-freezing temps, waking up to snow and frost on our tents. Our sleepwear consisted of thermal hats, several shirts and pairs of pants, 2-3 pair of socks, jackets and gloves. In fact, the marketing team at Dare Diva Mia’s company provided our entire group with custom-made beanie hats. The hats read, “Ally 2018, Do Kilimanjaro Right” on the front, and “Ally, Do it Right” on the back. We really appreciated the hats as they were thick enough to help keep us warm, but small enough to tuck into our day packs and pull out when needed.
On an average day, we found ourselves hiking up to 9 hours, using every muscle in our quads, glutes, calves, hips, back and feet to keep pushing forward. On Day 5 we encountered the famed Barranco Wall, where we had to literally climb straight up a portion of the mountain – with the assistance of our very capable guides, thank God! At various points during our adventure, we cried, pouted, encountered fatigue, muscle aches and spasms, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and severe headaches caused by the high altitudes. On more than a few occasions we questioned our sanity for taking on such a HUGE dare. I mean, four city girls…hiking the tallest freestanding mountain in the world…with no showers or baths or flush toilets…for 8 straight days. Let that sink in for a minute. There were several times we wanted to throw in the towel, and we all took turns threating to direct our guide to radio the helicopter rescue team (lol), but we also took turns motivating one another not to give up and to keep on pushing. On the flip side, we also prayed together, hugged, shared, laughed and leaned on one another for unwavering support. It was truly a time of deep bonding. We are a Kilimanjaro Family for life!
By the 7th day, some of us didn’t have enough of an appetite to eat the food being expertly prepared by our support team, which led to munching on peanuts, bread and an occasional now-and-later candy for sustenance. Our days started with a knock on our tents around 5:30 – 6am for coffee or tea, followed by breakfast: boiled or fried eggs, sausage links (not sure if it was really meat) and toast. We all became accustomed to eating tablespoons of peanut butter for breakfast as we got closer to the end of our 8-day trek. Lunch was the only meal where we got some good protein, mostly chicken. Dinner consisted of pasta and a variety of soups over the course of our hike: cucumber, tomato, vegetable, carrot and so on. After consuming so much broth on the mountain, we jokingly vowed we wouldn’t eat soup for the remainder of the year. A few times we were served fresh popcorn and hot roasted peanuts before dinner, which seemed like a special treat after so many days of being without our creature comforts.
On our last night on the mountain (the 7th night), our team awakened around 11 pm to attempt the summit. The winds were unusually high that night, approximately 45-50mph. It was EXTREMELY HARD to move up the mountain, and with every step forward, the wind was pushing us a half step back. As day began to break, we could hear rescue helicopters whirring overhead. Despite these extreme conditions, one of our travel companions made it all the way to the summit (Uhuru Peak). Nevertheless, we all made it to base camp at 15,300 ft – which we consider a great accomplishment in itself! We can check this off our Dare Diva bucket list.
The first day after summit night, we hiked down 10,000 feet and began approaching the rainforest portion of the trail, over slippery slate, boulders, loose rocks and mud. After being at elevations where barely any wildlife existed, it was invigorating to see monkeys swinging from nearby trees. The hike down was brutal, but the views were amazing.
All in all, seeing the curvature of the stratosphere well above the clouds and feeling like we were on top of the world made this incredible challenge well worth the effort and the agony. Not to mention the fact that we were able to experience all of this as a Dare Diva unit with our wonderful companions and others from all over the world. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
After coming down from the mountain and enjoying a day of rest, we finished up our time in Tanzania with a 3-day safari at Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire Park. We saw lions, impalas, monkeys, giraffes, hippos, water buffalo, ostriches, hyenas, jackals, baboons, pelicans, flamingos, gazelles, elands and herds of wildebeest, zebras, and elephants – all in their natural habitat. The only animal we were looking forward to seeing was the rare Black Rhino, but none showed their heads.
In addition to our Mt. Kilimanjaro adventure and safari, we had the privilege of visiting a nearby school in the town of Moshi which has about 30-40 students who are orphans, street children or children of underprivileged women who are learning a trade by day. As soon as we arrived, the children greeted us with huge smiles, big hugs and joyful shouts. It was clear that these babies just wanted to be loved and to give love. We were honored to be able to donate a new laptop, soccer balls, books, and other toys and gifts to the school. As we presented the gifts, the school directors broke down in tears – their sincere gratitude was palpable. After hugs and tears all around, we parted ways knowing that we were the ones who were truly blessed by this encounter.
One thing the Dare Divas realized is that “summit” happens long before you start climbing as you prepare your mind for the journey, and we experienced many summits during our time in Tanzania.
Before arriving in Tanzania we’d only heard the phrase Hakuna Matata (Swahili for “no worries”) in The Lion King movie. But in Tanzania, and in particular on the mountain, this is a commonly used greeting. For Tanzanians, it’s not just an exhortation, it’s a way of life.
So, we say to you “Hakuna Matata” and we thank you for your support, encouragement and inspiration and for your prayers for a safe climb and return home.
Continue to live life to the fullest!