My journey to reach the roof of Africa

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Kebabs and the Rongai Route

7 months, 29 days to go before I leave for Kilimanjaro…

After many hours of online research of many different combinations of flights I’ve finally settled on Turkish Airlines to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) via Istanbul as they were almost 40% cheaper than the KLM alternative I was looking at. The only down side is I have to overnight in Istanbul – still a night in an airport hotel is a modest amount and I like the odd Kebab now and again 😉  I’ve flown with Turkish Airlines before and always found them to have a modern fleet of aircraft and good service.  I’m also going to give myself 48 hours in Tanzania to rest, recuperate and hydrate before my climb.

I’ll be staying in Arusha which is where my chosen climb operator, Team Kilimanjaro is based. As it looks like I’ll be doing the trip alone I’ve booked on to a pre-scheduled open group climb organised by Henry Stedman the author of the definitive guide book “Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain”.  Between 18 – 24th June 2013 I’m going to be doing TK’s variation on the Rongai route up Kilimanjaro which they say offers excellent acclimatisation opportunities. I’m now pondering which hotel / lodgings to select. Whilst I don’t want to slum it I don’t really want some fancy air-conditioned hotel either as I want to ease my way into the climb and get used to the local conditions – it’s not like the Mountain will be offering me AC, mini-bar and satellite TV is it…

My fitness is slowly improving as I’ve extended my cycling circuit and improve on my times. I currently feel like I’m getting my fitness up to the point where I can start training in earnest – kind of “getting fit enough to get fit”. The months will soon fly buy and once I’m into the New Year I’m definitely going to have to up the training I think.  Haven’t really lost much more weight but I’ve had two weeks travelling with my work – never easy to avoid opportunities to over eat or enjoy the odd drink or two.  Generally feeling good though, energy levels are up and what used to be almost chronic indigestion has disappeared so something positive is already coming out of my exercising. Better not have too many Kebabs then…


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First Steps

Today I’m walking around with a John Wane like stagger as my leg muscles provide their feedback on yesterday’s trekking around the Blackstone Edge area in the Pennies.  Clocked up around 10 miles as we wandered around and up and down and I managed to keep up with the group (albeit at a price my legs are paying today!). I found the extended uphill stuff certainly got my heart rate up but I was pleasantly surprised to be keeping with the group’s pace.   Next time out I’ll turn on my iPhone Cycling app as it’ll log the distance and elevation covered.

The weather forecast was for wind and rain and whilst the rain held off until lunchtime by the afternoon we all got a soaking. It was however a good test of some of my recently purchased gear. My new Meindl Burma Pro GTX boots kept my feet warm, dry and blister free. I really like the Osprey Atmos 2 35 Rucksack and its optional hydration bladder too; so comfortable to wear as the weight seems to be taken mainly on your hips, not your shoulders.  I had a less positive experience with my Trekmates Cairngorm Gaiters however as their calf elastic gave way on the first pull to tighten the top – they’ll be going back to Go Outdoors this week. Next on my kit shopping list will be some breathable waterproof over-trousers, an absolute must for UK walking and handy to have for the lower levels of Kilimanjaro where precipitation falls as rain.

I’m going to try to get at least one walk in per month for the near term and then step up the tempo as Kilimanjaro gets closer in 2013. I’m still deciding on a date – either June or Sept depending on if anyone else wants to join me along with factoring in some family commitments.  Still researching companies to provide the climb with but keep coming back to Team Kilimanjaro who’s web site is by far the most comprehensive I’ve found and written in a candid (but perhaps a little verbose) style. They’re run by Brits and directly manage the climbs unlike many companies who are just agents. I’m leaning towards their Rongai route which they suggest offers good acclimatisation and based upon my huffing and puffing up Blackstone Edge yesterday that sounds like just what I’ll need.

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Cryogenic Cycling

Brrrrrr, I’m just thawing my fingers out with a little typing.

A glorious clear sunny autumn morning welcomed me today as I took the bike out. I guess the frost on the car windscreen should have been a clue how cold it was going to be though. Frozen hands and face acerbated by biting wind chill had me slowing down and even considering turning back home to try and find some more suitable clothing. In the end I figured that I just needed to toughen up and put up with it. Kili’s going to be way colder and today’s little ride only reinforced the need to get the correct gear for the environment. I’ll now look for a cycling hat that will go under my helmet, something to cover my face / neck and a pair of full fingers riding gloves. It’s not even October yet – what’s January going to be like?

Off into Manchester today to meet up with some of my MBA alumni friends. I’m looking forward to catching up for lunch and a few drinks with the guys. Perhaps I can talk them into joining me up Kili next year – watch out Paddy!

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“On Yer Bike”

So if I stand any hope of getting up Kilimanjaro I’m going to have to drastically improve my fitness and drop more than a few pounds of weight. Given that I haven’t really done any sport or exercise for a number of years combined with my love of good food it’s not really too much of a surprise is it?

To ease myself back in to exercise I’ve started doing a bit of cycling. I picked up a mint “Specialized Crosstrail Sport” hybrid bike on eBay for a good price a few weeks ago. It got some use whilst on holiday and now is getting regular evening rides out when I’m at home. I’m starting with a modest 5 mile loop which takes in a few hills (which have me dropping down into very low gears and gasping like a fish out of water!). I’m tracking my rides using an iPhone app called Cyclemeter – it’s really cool and you’ll see it automatically tweet a summary and map of each of my rides.

This evening it’s sunny for a change so at least I won’t get the soaking I got yesterday when I rode out. Watch for my tweet.