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Plains and Primates Through The Looking Glass: Experiences in The Serengeti and Rwanda by Ian Flores

This trip was planned to get me to the plains of the northern Serengeti in September and off to see the primates in Rwanda for two gorilla treks. This trip could not have been more action packed from a game-viewing or experiential perspective. 


I arrived into Tanzania and transferred to the Lake Duluti Serena Hotel. This is a great option after the long flights due to its cleanliness and proximity to the airport. 

It was awesome to meet our AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda at the airport and to catch up since we last met on his roadshow around the US.

 AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda Landing at Tanzania

The following morning I was on the way on the scheduled charter flight (a 12-seater) to the Lamai airstrip in the Northern Serengeti, with a couple of stops along the way. I saw from the plane a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro above the clouds – a mountain I climbed in 2011 (click here for that trip report)!

On arrival in the Serengeti I was met by Godsend, my guide from Kimondo Camp for the next two game drives. It was fantastic to be in Tanzania and have my game viewing experience from an open vehicle – one of the benefits of flying to the Serengeti versus driving!

Game viewing experience from an open vehicle Scenery with Elephant

The drive back to camp took about an hour and we spotted a fair amount of game including lots of antelope species such as topi, impala, eland and more. 

We arrived in time for a nice lunch followed by our first game drive. We headed out with the sound of seasonal thunder constantly rumbling in the distance with those rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border. Armed with ponchos and camera we headed out to the Lamai wedge.

Scenery with wildebeest and zebra Rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border

This is a vast area with very few vehicles to be seen. The scenery was that of what one imagines the Serengeti being: sweeping views of open plains with wildebeest, zebra and other game roaming about. We saw elephants, giraffe, a large range of birds species, and a pair of mating lions.

As the day was drawing to an end, we got the call that cheetah had been spotted. So we left our amorous lions and headed to our next sighting – two cheetah were walking around and playing and chasing with each other with the speed and dexterity only a cat could have. These two brothers were sharpening their hunting skills while playing at the same time. Godsend had thus far delivered ½ of my wish list.

Lion starring at Lioness Two cheetah are playing and chasing to each other

That evening back at camp we compared tales over dinner. One Indian couple had spent 5 hours sitting by the Mara River waiting for a famed river crossing. The stage was set, zebra and wildebeest were all congregated at the edge of the water, the crocodiles were all strategically positioned, the only thing that was missing was the one brave (and not so smart) zebra/wildebeest to take that leap of faith, but it never happened. Another couple echoed their experiences on the previous day whereby they sat for 4½ hours with nothing to show. Little did I know what was coming the next morning...

My stay at Kimondo Camp, a seasonal mobile tented camp in the Lamai wedge to the north northwest of the Serengeti, ideally situated for Migration game viewing for this time of year (September).

Kimondo Camp a mobile tent The bed inside Kimondo Camp

The next morning after breakfast we continued on our tour of the Serengeti, this time crossing over the Mara River into the northern Serengeti. It is amazing how much the landscape could change from wide open plains to the hills peppered with oversized boulders, canyons and hills. This is where we found our next lion encounter. This pride was about 20 strong with different aged lions in the group. They were on top of a rocky hill purveying the landscape and the multitude of wildebeest that were slowly coming closer to their domain.

Two lion cubs on the tree A tree on a rocky hill Lioness at the top of rocky hill

On this side of the river I also saw the beautiful Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors, sliding doors to the bathroom and an impeccable and luxurious setting from which to see the Great Migration!

Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors a beautiful leopard at the top of the rock Bird sightings on the plains

We didn’t stay long enough to if this scene would play out, but shortly thereafter we found a beautiful leopard also amongst the rocky outcrops enjoying the sunshine and a stretch. Of course there was game all along the way, and after our leopard we were on a hunt for the rhino that was spotted the day before.

That was when we received the call: River Crossing! We quickly turned the vehicle around and got the river about 5 minutes before the first zebra jumped in. There were about half a dozen Crocodiles in the water, but only two that were really going in for a meal.

Over the next 40 minutes we watched zebra and wildebeest jump in and swim for the far side, we saw several attempts by the crocodiles to take down full sized animals, and eventually took down a young wildebeest. This is a very raw moment that shows the power and beauty of nature at its most elemental state.

Zebra and wildebeest crossing the river Group of wildebeest and one zebra crossing the river

wildebeest crossing the river Wildebeest going up from the river


This had been an action-packed day in the Serengeti and from here I went directly to the airstrip for my charter flight to Rwanda – home of the highland gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park. The scheduled charter flight from Mwanza to Kigali was about 1hour 15 minutes with great views of Lake Victoria along the way.

In Kigali I stayed at the Kigali Serena Hotel which is a fine option. This business hotel offers a clean place, great dinner and breakfast options, swimming pool and everything you could hope for in hotel before heading out for a gorilla trekking experience.  I also saw the Hotel des Mille Collines which is a step down that feels that has modern elements to it while still an older feeling hotel. Lastly, the Flame Tree Village is a great option for a more boutique hotel type of stay, with nice rooms (I definitely recommend the suites), pool area and bar.

The gorilla trekking was going to be the cherry on the safari cake for me. This is an experience that after having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, was something that I knew I had to do at some stage in my life. The time had come.

We drove around the city seeing some of the different sights. What struck me was how clean everything was, only to find out that the last Saturday of every month everyone participates in a general cleanup clearing the streets and parks of any litter. I was also amazed at how much construction and development was going on. It gave a sense that Rwanda in general, but Kigali in particular was moving forward with its growth after a horrific epoch in its history with the genocide of about one million people in less than one hundred days.

The drive to the Volcanoes National Park area was about 2½ hours winding through the Land of 1000 Hills. Along the way you drive through eucalypt forests that were imported from Australia and have done very well in that wet environment.

eucalypt forests at Volcanoes National Park Volcanoes National Park

My accommodations were at the Gorilla Mountain View Lodge which is a great our entry level option property for clients looking to use as a home base for the gorilla trekking. The cottages were large, as were the bathrooms, with enough hot water for two people and fireplace. It did have a little space heater that was sufficient enough to warm the room for sleeping. The main area of the lodge has two large fireplaces inside the lodge with chairs around for people to use while reviewing their pictures on iPads or conversing with other trekkers. Dining was in a large room that was served buffet style and individual tables.

Gorilla Mountain View Lodge large bathrooms of Gorilla Mountain View Lodge a large room with 3 bed at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge

Other properties I saw were Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, the luxury upmarket stay at a lodge with beautiful rooms, views and great taste in décor. It is as far from the park headquarters as Gorilla Mountain View. One thing to point out is that it is a steep climb from your vehicle to the lodge entrance, so be prepared.

Lastly, Jack Hanna’s House is a lovely that only has two rooms and feels like you are at home. The wood floors, lounge area with fireplace, long wooden kitchen table and more make this a comfortable option for a romantic stay for two or a homey stay for a small family. All three options are great and suit different styles of travel and budget ranges.

Bathroom in Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Bedroom at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Mountain view from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

a bathroom in Jack Hannah's Lounge area with fire place in Jack Hannah's Bedroom of Jack Hannah's
Jack Hannah's

We set out on the short journey the next morning at 6:30am to the park headquarters where we would find out about the gorilla family we were assigned to. I had put in a request for the Susa group on the first day because it was the largest of the different gorilla families and as it was known as one of the harder treks.

On arrival there are singers and drummers filling the air with a festive spirit as tourists, guides and trekkers alike come to find where they will be trekking that day. It’s a bustling atmosphere where you can purchase souvenirs, use bathrooms, get coffee/tea and just enjoy the anticipation of what’s to come. I was eventually told that I got my first choice group… Susa. You can put in request, but it isn’t always a guarantee for many reasons.

Singers and drummers  Tourist, guides and trekkers

I met our gorilla trekking guide, Patrick, and the rest of our motley crew. There are 8 trekkers per group. We were briefed and after some introductions and other general questions we headed off to the hike.

Our trek started alongside the forest where the farming land ends and the natural gorilla habit begins. Here we were briefed about the particulars in gorilla etiquette such as no pointing, no touching, no running, and of course, no flash photography. We started our way through a bamboo forest.

Trekking at bamboo forest Green valley’s lush with vegetation
trekking at bamboo forest

Once we were out of this unique setting we trekked into some pristine forest that opened up to green valley’s lush with vegetation, red ash trees and tons of foliage. This is where we came upon our first encounter after about 2½ hours of trekking. For the next hour we spent our time admiring the beautiful highland mountain gorillas in their habitat.

They were playing, sleeping, foraging, preening, and just being gorillas. We had ample time to photograph them and follow them around as they wandered. The experience was amazing and humbling at the same time. It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. The whole day took us about 6 hours before we were back at our vehicles, but we were only going as fast as the slowest person.

Gorilla close up picture Gorilla with baby It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. a masculine gorilla
It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. 

The second day of trekking was a vastly different experience in almost every way. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters. Our gorilla family, the Amohoro group, was much closer and the overall experience was much more laid back. The word “Amohoro” means peace and everything about this trek was just that.

It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters.

Gorilla family,Amohoro group.

Francois our park ranger, is such a large personality, someone who has been in trekking through these forests for the last 32 years amongst the gorillas. He is not bashful or shy and is engaging everyone and getting them out of their comfort zones by having them imitate gorilla vocalizations that means “good morning” or “every-thing is ok”. I saw him swinging from a bamboo, eating plants and roots just as a gorilla would.

The trek was shorter this time around only being an hour long and the gorillas this time were just hanging around then on the move. The lighting was much better as we were more out in the open and of the five silverbacks of the group we got to see four of them. There were babies, blackbacks (aka teenagers), mothers, young ones and of course the silverbacks. The whole experience would not have been the same if I didn’t have this second this second trek and really allowed to absorb the whole experience on a different level.

I was told that tourists don’t trek the same family twice in a row because the gorilla start to recognize them and feel comfortable enough to approach them. As Francois had been doing this for over 30 years I asked if he personally knew all the gorillas. His response in that moment encapsulated the whole history of gorilla conservation, research, tourism and everything in a single phrase. He said, “We know each other”.

Combining the Plains of the Serengeti with the Primates of Rwanda is, in my opinion, the best way to see East Africa and really get the best wildlife experience with a true adventure!

A gorilla mother and her baby

- by: Ian Flores

Going Green in Botswana

January 2014
There have been some amazing specials as incentive to travel in Botswana ’s Green Season: November thru mid-April. This is the Wet season when there is more daily rain, and afternoon and overnight thunderstorms are to be expected. Ironically, this is also the low flooding season as the waters have not made it to the Delta from Angola yet. Yet, these amazing rates have lured wildlife enthusiasts in their non-Peak season. I was going for a firsthand look during this time period.

Botswana ’s Green Season, this is a big tree

I flew via London to arrive into Johannesburg early enough to connect with the flight into Maun, Botswana and onwards to my first safari camp. A preferred method for many travelers from the US is to go directly into Johannesburg, spend the night and then continue the following day. This routing allowed me to also see first hand some rest areas in London and Johannesburg.

In Johannesburg I had a pass to one of the many club lounge areas, in particular the Bidvest Premier Lounge.  This is a great place to kill a few hours with access to showers, appetizers and snacks, and wide range of drinks (alcoholic and non).

Onwards to Maun…

I arrived in Maun and was surprised to find out that there was free Wifi available (for 10 minutes) so it was my last bit of communication before connecting with my flight to spend six days in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti areas of Botswana. In this time I would stay at a different camp each night in Wilderness Safaris’ portfolio of Classic and Premier level camps.

Arrived in Maun  Arrived in Maun
Arrived in Maun

My trip included a night at each of the following camps: Vumbura Plains North, Little Tubu, Xigera, Chitabe Lediba, Mombo Main and Kings Pool. I was also to get a look at Little Vumburra, Tubu Camp, Chitabe and Duma Tau. They are all in the Okavango Delta except for Kings Pool and Duma Tau, which are located in the Linyanti.

My introduction into both Botswana and the Okavango couldn’t have been better than my first camp, Vumbura Plains (North) Camp! This is a premier level camp in which the rooms are not so much a tent as it is a compound! As you enter your private area you immediately see un-obstructed views of the Delta. On further investigation one will notice outdoors sala with an L-shaped couch, private plunge pool and small breakfast table. Oh year, there’s also an oversized tent. As you enter there is another sunken lounge area with minibar stocked with your preferred beverages, king-sized bed, open shower (with optional drapes for privacy), bathroom, desk and dressing area as well as bathroom. If that isn’t enough you also have a second outdoors shower. This is a Premier Camp for good reason.

Vumbura Plains (North) Camp - rooms are compound, L-shaped couch A breakfast table - Vumbura Plains (North) Camp
A leopard brings a baby leopard Elephants are walking in the river plains

The staff was attentive and my guide, Moronga (aka Mork) has been guiding for over 10 years. The game viewing was very productive and we found a pride of 4 lions on a zebra kill on our first afternoon game drive. Mork spun a tale about a larger pride of 8 that was split up the week before, presumably by a buffalo. In any case, two sister lionesses each with two offspring (1 boy and 1 girl each) had been split up and each lioness ended up with her sister’s youngsters. According to Mork, if they don’t meet up again soon they could end up as their own prides in their respective right, in which case they could be confrontational. It’s these dramas that unfold in the heart of the Delta that are only made known to you by your guide.

After my morning game drive the following day and finding the lost sister and two other cubs on a kill of their own, I was off to my next camp… Little Tubu!

Little Tubu Camp - an open area bedroom Little Tubu Camp - outside chairs
Meeting new friends a little green frog

Little Tubu Camp is a brand new tent that only opened June 2013! Just like Vumbura the two different camps are connected by a single boardwalk, but that’s about it. Little Tubu only has three tents and is great for small groups or a larger family. The bar is made of an old tree and fits beautifully into the camp making it a natural congregational area. The tents are large for the Classic Level standard and includes all the usual details you find in the type of rooms – writing desk, outside chairs with great views, en suite and double basin vanity, and of course, an outdoor shower.

The camps are located on Hunda Island which renowned for their population of leopards (if this is on your game wish list). This is also where we had our Boma night! This is a festive occasion that happens at all the Wilderness Camps every Monday night! There is lots of singing and joy in the air as you enjoy your evening cocktails before your special dinner. This is an experience that will put a smile on any face.

I continued by charter flight again to my first of two camps in the Moremi Game Reserve, Xigera Camp. This is a great camp to begin or end with if you are on a small circuit of camps around Botswana . Xigera is a water-based camp that offers lots of great water experiences including game viewing by boat and makoro rides. The camp has a very relaxed atmosphere that I think is partly due to the management team I met – Neuman and Rauve. There are a lot of trees that offer ample shade and the breezes that come through camp make it a nice place to miss a game drive and read a book or sleep in. This camp is run on an advanced system of solar panels, purpose-built batteries and generators (just like Mombo, Duma Tau and soon Vumbura Plains).

game viewing by boat and makoro rides game viewing by boat and makoro rides

I said farewell to my new friends and continued to the eastern part of the Delta at Chitabe Lediba.

The camp is a beautiful and open with what is now the “standard” sweeping views of the Okavango Delta. The camp is shady and just like all the other camps I’d visited I was given an introduction with safety briefing. Part of this is the relaxed philosophy to help yourself to a drink behind the bar if there isn’t anyone around. This kind of attitude makes you feel like you are at a friend’s house and feels inviting. This is something conveyed by the staff as well.

Delta at Chitabe Lediba Delta at Chitabe Lediba
a leopard resting air game drive

My guide here, Gordon, was stellar. He is another cool character that is relaxed in his manner and elaborates and enunciates perfectly. However, if a guide is well-spoken but can’t find any game, then it’s not enough. However, this was not the case with Gordon. As we did our afternoon game drive we explored the area finding playful hippos in the water, herds of elephant drinking and foraging as well as reading animal tracks and listening for tell tale signs of predators in the area – animal alarm calls.

We were enjoying sundowners as we noticed a tower of giraffe slowly meandering our way out of the bush. Oh, I almost forgot to mention each and every place had the most stunning and spectacular sunsets that literally changed in color from moment to moment. Purples and oranges blazing in the sky as you start making your way back to camp for pre dinner drinks and dinner. Dinner at all the camps was communal and very jovial. I did not have a bad meal at any of the camps.

The next day we found a beautiful leopard resting in a tree after a long and unsuccessful night of hunting. You see a leopard it feels like you have won some sort of karmic prize. These elusive cats are elegant and seductive. Spending time here was one of my highlights. From here it was off to find a pride of lion, lots and lots of elephant, hippo, and more.

I next flew to the famed Mombo camp. Of all the places I was visiting this is the one that I was holding the highest expectations for from all the feedback I’ve heard over the years from clients and colleagues. All I can say is… Believe the Hype!

Welcome to Mombo Camp Mombo camp
Wild Dogs resting Some lion watching while the one lion is jumping over the water

From the moment we got off our plane our guide told us to be quiet and quickly get in the vehicle as there was a pride of lion right by the runway… are you kidding me?!?! Awesome! We got in and made our way to spy on these relaxed beasts. In fact every moment spent in that game vehicle was amazing.

Our specialist guide, OB, who is now based out of Mombo, has 17 years of experience. The two most used phrases he used were, “Oh my god” and “Wow!” Here is someone who has been doing this for a long time and yet he gets as excited as a first time safarier. He embodies passion for his job and gets you excited.

There were so many highlights here but the other one that stands out was finding and following a male lion completely in his prime and oozing the confidence that only a male lion can. He was roaring and letting it be known to those unwanted intruders that this was his home, and they’d better leave or come and talk to him about it. I’ve never experienced hearing a lion roar so close to me. It vibrates in your chest and in the floorboard of the vehicle. It is equally impressive and unnerving and reminds you of your own vulnerability and still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Game viewing aside the rooms here are very long and comfortable. There is an outdoors day bed, indoor and outdoor showers, comfortable bed and everything else you could hope for. The rooms are elevated so the game viewing doesn’t just have to happen in a vehicle, it happens out your back door.

The camp is number one when it comes to details from the coffee beans on your bed that spell out, “Welcome to Mombo” to the little mason jars of snacks you can bring with you on your game drives. The staff is genuinely friendly. They are proud to be there and it shows. However, accommodations and service aside, you go to Mombo or Little Mombo for the unparalleled game viewing.

My last stop on this whirlwind tour was Kings Pool. This was the final leg on my stop and apart from Vumbura and Mombo the only other Premier Camp. Kings Pool definitely had the biggest “wow” view as you enter into the camp after getting out of your vehicle. You arrive into camp and walk up two or three steps only to see this beautiful river. As your eyes wander down closer you can see this very big and inviting semi-circular couch that could sit around 20 people with a fire pit in the middle and a hippo filled river just in front.

Semi-circular couch in Kings Pool Kings Pool Boat
Some wild dogs sleeping hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river

These rooms were also large and my second favorite after Vumbura. Instead of it being long like Mombo it was like a large square with two shower heads, bathroom area, lounge area and outdoor private plunge pool and day bed. From here you can hear and see the hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river. It’s a great water and land camp. For my evening activity we went out on a two tier barge where we had our sundowners and cruised amongst the tall grasses and pods of hippos.

The following day on my way to inspect Duma Tau we found a pack of 18 wild dogs! This was another one of my highlights. They are much more active than lions and leopard from a game viewing point of view. They are forever moving, adjusting, scratching, getting up and laying down in a different spot. If you made a noise they would look to see what that was. Other activities you can do from Kings Pool are fishing, viewing elephant from a hide and nature walks.

Kings Pool Outside Kings Pool Dining Outside
A small boat and big boat one lion versus group of wildebeest

This was the perfect way to end such a short and sweet trip. Botswana in the Green Season is awesome.

The other amazing thing was all the babies we saw. Baby warthogs, hyenas, elephants, lions, hippos, tons and tons of baby impala and more. There were more types of birds than I could count. If I lived around here I could easily become a birder.

The last thing I learned on this trip was to never say goodbye. It’s not because of cultural differences or anything like that. It’s simply because you don’t know when you will run into these people you meet on safari again. On six of my seven charter flights I had the same pilot whom I sat next to. She was a great Australian girl who had been on the reality show Bush Pilots. We had great conversation and shared a few laughs. Another was a couple on their honeymoon, whom I ran into on four separate occasions. I learned that in Botswana it’s never about goodbyes, but what’s next.

On top of everything else I mentioned, a huge incentive for many people is that traveling this time of year can potentially save you thousands of dollars per person. If you want a premier level safari trip at a fraction of the price with world class game viewing, then there is no question about doing this, but when.

Go… you’ll thank me later.

- by: Ian Carlo Flores

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Shadow in the Night - My Climb Up Mt. Kilimanjaro - August 2011
Ian Flores - Tanzania
I recently had the good fortune to be sent on one of the most exciting adventures of my life - climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Africa Adventure Company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (2011); and to commemorate it they have put together a few special trips including this 'Kili Climb'. I have always found that when a trip requires more than me just sitting and listening to a guide, I feel like I have gained something more than just knowledge.

When traveling by foot you notice more of your surroundings, such as the sound of winds blowing through the forest to the magnificent vistas normally taken for granted when traveling in a plane or land vehicle. While I did do a few days o f safari beforehand in the beautiful parks/conservation areas of Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro, the focus and highlight of the trip was definitely the multi -day climb. I would recommend a few days of safari before the climb because it allows your body to start adjusting to local time and higher altitudes - like at Ngorongoro Conservation Area that ranges between 4,400 to 11,800 feet.

A few fun facts
Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the 'Seven Summits,' which comprise the tallest mountains on each continent. While Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa it also holds the record for the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

This is not a 'technical' climb: no ice axes, crampons or ropes are needed. The most hazardous aspect of climbing is altitude sickness. So while it is one of the 'easier' climbs as far as mountaineering goes, it would not be prudent to think that this is an easy stroll in the (national) park. It is a gorgeous walk and with the right preparation and expectations this will be one of those great experiences that will remain forever etched in your mind.

My trip was in early August when the weather is supposed to be colder, but a great time to climb. This is true, but you also learn quickly that the weather is as fickle as today's stock market, and you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

Ian Flores - Tanzania Ian Flores - Tanzania

There are five or six routes up the mountain and I selected the Rongai Route for my ascent. This is the most remote and one of the 'less traveled' ones when compared to the Marangu (aka Coca Cola) or the Machame (aka Whiskey) routes. The least traveled is the Umbwe Route as it is the most difficult and allows the least time for acclimatization. In general the Rongai is a little longer than the other routes, but it is also one of the gentlest ascents of the options available. Acclimatization hikes are a part of this program which allows your body to adjust to the high elevations reached. This is also a very scenic route because you go up the mountain one way, and down another.

Ready, Set, GO!
The day before the climb we stayed at the perfect casual trekker venue - Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort. That first evening, after settling into our rooms and enjoying a nice buffet dinner, we were briefed by our local trip coordinator. We were told how much weight we could bring (33lbs) and were given a hand scale to check the weight of our gear. We were also given maps and an overall briefing of the climb. If any of us had rented gear like sleeping bags, mats, walking poles, etc we also collected at this time.

Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort

Later, at the bar, we noticed a group of about 20 people (mostly in their 20s and 30s) celebrating their return from the mountain. Interestingly, it wasn't the wild party atmosphere that you would expect from this demographic, but more of a relief and enjoyment of reliving the stories created on the mountain. It felt like I was about to go on that really fast and high roller coaster where everyone waiting in line is slightly nervous but excited, while those getting off have this satisfied and wide grin plastered on their face and a sense of relief

I did not want to ask anyone about the actual climb as I did not want to have any expectations. However, I did meet a girl from the UK and couldn't help but noticing how her neck and hands were badly peeling from a combination of the intense sun and wind. Note to self: Don't forget the sunscree .

Day One - Nalemuru Gate to Rongai Camp One (aka Simba Camp)
This morning we were met by our coordinator, Ngaya, in the lobby. After storing a ny extra baggage and getting some Tupperware whose contents would be our lunch later that day we headed to the gate (1.5hr drive) to collect our climbing permit, meet our guides and porters and begin! Our private group consisted of a motley crew with an age range of 49 years from the youngest to oldest.

L to R: Francis, Trenton, Barry, Florence, Dana, Elia, January, Justice and Ian
L to R: Francis, Trenton, Barry, Florence, Dana, Elia, January, Justice and Ian

Here's the cast of characters (from youngest to oldest):
1. Trenton - A 21 year old college student from Kansas Universit y who was obviously in the best shape of all of. He trained by running several times a week, and did a 'test run' up Pikes Peak in Colorado (14,115ft)!
2. Ian (me) - I am a 32 year old father of two who was ready to temporarily trade the diapers and sippy cups for gaiters and walking sticks.

3. Francis - A 35 year old from Canada who was ready to make this climb as a symbolic effort for others in his life. He spent a lot more money on gear for the trip than he originally admitted.
4. Dana - A tall 62 year old Texan who sounds a lot like Bill Clinton, is easy going and has the perfect punch line for any scenario. He packed every gizmo, gadget and supply imaginable.
5. Barry - He is a true testament that age isn't anything more than a number. At 70 years old he was the strongest of the group, climbing without headaches or other problems and only took Diamox (altitude sickness medicine) on the last day as a 'precaution'.

 Our private group consisted of a motley crew with an age range of 49 years from the youngest to oldest. Ian Flores - Tanzania

We set off on an easy 3 hour day of hiking through farmland and forest stands. Our picnic lunch was tasty and our arrival into camp was heralded as a success. This is where we first got to see all our accommodations, mess tent and lavatory for the trip (see below).

Before sitting down for our dinner we headed further up the trail on a brief acclimatization walk. It was an easy half hour hike without any gear (except some water). At the top of our walk we rested for about 15 minutes before heading back down for popcorn and tea (or hot chocolate). Our dinner came soon after which was a three course delicious meal.

Our tent  Our dinner came soon after which was a three course delicious meal.
 Ian Flores with the rest of the group

Total Time Walking: 3.5hrs
Distance: 4.5miles (7.2km)
Elevation Min/Max: 6,568ft/8,858ft (2,000m/2,700m)
Elevation Gained: 2,290ft (700m)
Weather: Walking during the day was in the 60s. Evening at camp in the 50s. Temperatures dropped into the 40s overnight.
Difficulty: Easy

Day Two - Rongai Camp One to Kikilelwa Camp
This morning we were woken up at 6am and brought a choice of hot beverage to our tent within a few minutes. Fifteen minutes later a large bowl o f hot water was delivered for us to use for washing up before breakfast. This was our second cooked meal and we were quickly seeing that meal times were extravagant affairs. Today's Special: Porridge, scrambled eggs, bread (no butter ), bacon and fruits. By 8am we were on our way. 

Day Pack contents:
- 2-3 liters of water (camelback and two Nalgene bottles, 1 -liter each)
- Rain pants
- Gore-Tex jacket
- Warm hat
- Phone (yes, there's reception) - using Google Latitudes to show progress to those at home
- Spare batteries and camera
-  Multi-tool (SOG)
- GPS: Garmin Dakota 20
- On-the-trail first aid kit: lip balm with 15 SPF, Sunscreen, Saline nasal spray, Imodium, Advil, Aleve, Diamox, toilet paper, wet naps, hydrating powders, Steripen, water purifying tablets, and more

Day Pack contents:
Dakota 20         /        Google Latitudes       /                       Camelbak        /                 Steripen         /                 SOG Multi-tool

This morning we were greeted by crisp and clear weather with stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi Peak. The trail was wide enough to walk side -by-side. Each day of the walk was in a different climate zone providing for constantly changing view. We started in the rainforest and slowly moved into the Heath Zone, characterized by more shrub -like bushes that are lower to the ground.

Today's walk was on more of an incline and about an hour into our walk clouds and mist slowly replaced the sunshine. Visibility was about the length of a football field. On our walk we passed Mawenzi Caves where we ran into a heart surgeon from Austria who had a neat gadget called a Portable Finger Pulse Oximeter for monitoring blood oxygen . While there are no medical studies proving a link between low blood-oxygen ratio, you can be sure that if your oxygen levels start dropping it will coincide with you not feeling so well. Also, yo u will make a lot of friends on the trail if you have one of these gadgets.

The group kind of walked together and in pairs with different people, but after our lunch Dana and Barry were in the lead trailed by Trenton and me. Francis kept falling back beh ind but was always with a guide. We knew we were setting our own paces, and that we were all walking at paces we felt comfortable with.

Mawenzi Peak /Mt. Kilimanjaro/In the Clouds
Mawenzi Peak                           /                  Mt. Kilimanjaro                  /                          In the Clouds

After lunch we continued hiking for several hours, enjo ying the conversation. This is when I started feeling the headaches. They came and went like the wind, and in varying degrees, but the important thing was that they always went away. At this stage no one in the group was taking any altitude sickness medication (Diamox). Our guide recommended that we allow our bodies to adapt to the high altitudes and take it once we are feeling the effects of altitude sickness.

Barry and Dana arrived to camp about 15 minutes prior to Trenton and me, and we were ahead of Francis by about 25 minutes. We were slowly figuring out our routine: Get into camp, drop your gear, set up shop (lay out sleeping bag), change into non -hiking clothes, wash up with warm water, and head to the tent for either peanuts or popcorn. Thirty minutes later our dinner would always arrive like clockwork, and lots of it. I started to understand why the five of us needed an entourage of 20 guides, cooks and porters - to bring up all the food we would be eating!

The food we would be eating!  The food we would be eating!  The food we would be eating!

Our teammate Francis arrived to camp looking winded and was apologetic about not being able to keep up. He said he was definitely feeling the effects of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). His headaches weren't disappearing and I believe he was having some respiratory issues. He started t aking Diamox, but said he wasn't feeling any change yet. He forced some food down, and headed to bed early.

By dinnertime the temperature was down to the 40s. It was during the middle of the night that Francis was feeling ill and our chief guide made the call to send him down the mountain that night. The logistics involved were quite impressive as his big bag had to be packed, tent broken down, and meals coordinated for his descent. He went down with Assistant Guide Justice and two other porters. From his account he walked through the night for many hours before resting and then continuing onward to the gate where he was met by an 'ambulance'.

For the remainder of the climb he was at Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort and under the supervision of Justice who took him to see the real sights of Moshi, his hometown. These sights included rice fields, the school where his mom teaches, his local hangout and more. The next time we all saw Francis was at the end of the climb, where he greeted us with a cold six pack of Kilimanjaro Beer!  

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Total Time Walking: 6-7hrs
Distance: 7.38miles (11.8km)
Francis and FlorenceElevation Min/Max: 8,858ft/11,811ft (2,700m/3,600m)
Elevation Gained: 2,953ft (900m)Weather: Walking during the day was in the 50s.

The walk was done mostly in overcast conditions with a fine misty rain. Evening at camp in the 40s. Temperatures dropped into the 30s overnight. There was frost on the ground and tents in the morning.

Difficulty: Moderate. The terrain was pretty good, but it was mostly the distan ce and time spent walking that gave this day a Moderate rating.

Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn
One man short, we started out at about 8:30 a.m. for a shorter day of hiking - less than half the time spent walking the day before. The big difference was that the gradient of the terrain was much more inclined and every day we went higher and higher. At these altitudes your body works harder to acclimate to the  lower levels of availability of oxygen in the blood.

Room with a view  Frost on the ground  Today's destination: Mawenzi Peak
     Room with a view              /                Frost on the ground                 /   Today's destination: Mawenzi Peak

This was my day to fall under the powerful grip of AMS. It came in the form of headaches that were a constant throbbing in my head, accompanied by nausea. The only thing that seemed to help was drinking water, Advil, but mostly keeping my mind preoccupied by listening to other people talk so I didn't have ot. When that wasn't happening I tried to think about others, and how my own problems/pain are insignificant compared to theirs. This see med to work for the most part.

We arrived to our waterfront camp (see pic below), dropped our gear, had lunch and then decided we would take our second and final acclimatization walk. This one wasn't an easy 25 minute stroll, however in a relatively short amount of time we climbed roughly 1,000 feet to Mawenzi Peak. Needless to say, by this stage the headaches had consumed my every thought. I thought there was no way I could continue up the mountain feeling like that. I told Florence, and he suggested I d rink more water. I told him I was already feeling nauseous and that it probably wouldn't help. He insisted, so I drank and my suspicions were correct as I 'popped' at the top.

I immediately started feeling better and the headaches subsided. Instead of staying at the top of the mountain for 25 minutes, as originally planned, we headed back after 10. The walk down was nice as it was my first headache -free part of the day. However, once we arrived in camp and stopped descending the headaches continued where they left off. I laid down in my tent with my feet hanging out because I couldn't be bothered taking my boots off. A few minutes later, Florence popped his head in with some 'Magicky' pills. He had ibuprofen and suggested I start taking Diamox. I still don 't know why this thought didn't occur to me until he mentioned it. Needless to say, 20 minutes later after popping those pills I understood exactly why he called them the magicky pills'¦ life was good again!

That night after dinner Dana, Trenton and I continued our nightly tradition of me consistently beating them at Spades. I was back on top and confident about continuing my climb. To be honest I wasn't thinking of summiting; I was really taking it day -by-day.

Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn  Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn

Total Time Walking: 3-4hrs
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Min/Max: 11,811ft/14,161ft (3,600m/4,316m)
Elevation Gained: 2,350ft (716m)Weather: Walking during the day was in the 50s. The walk was done mostly in overcast conditions with a fine misty rain. Evening at camp in the 40s. Temperatures dropped into the 30s overnight. There was frost on the ground and tents in the morning.

Difficulty: Moderate. Most incline to date as you climb steadily for the few short hours of hiking.

Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp
 By this time 'sleep' is more resting than sleep because at higher altitudes it is a sacrifice your body makes to compensate for the low levels of oxygen. You manage a handful of hours of actual sleep, but it is more about letting your body and mind recharge for a few hours. I brought an iPod with me and a lot of people asked why. I never turned it on when we were hiking, but at the end of the day when you're laying in your tent, there is something nice about turning on some music that is familiar. It allows your mind to drift off into melodies and lyrics you know so well. Rest.

We were forewarned that this day was going to be another one of those long days of hiking, but fortunately it was easy walking. We had a short incline and a long sloping walk that descended before gradually coming back up. This stretch of walk between Mawenzi and Kibo is known as the Saddle, because that's what it resembles. At this altitude we had passed the Heath and Moreland Zones with their low lying shrubs and officially entered the Alpine Desert Zone. Excep t for a few randomly scattered bushes lying about, it was all dust, rocks and a fallen airplane?!?

A small charter plane apparently crashed there a few years ago. As we approached you could see debris scattered about. The story goes that a few tourists a sked their pilot to get closer to the mountain for a better look so that they could snap a few pictures. As they got close some clouds quickly moved in, making it difficult to see, and caused the plane to crash. My first thought was, 'Why hasn't anyone taken it off the mountain,' but when you think about it, I can't really blame anyone for not wanting to carry a plane off a 19,000+ foot mountain, plus all the gear you are already carrying and do it for free!

Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp  Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp
A small charter plane apparently crashed there a few years ago
Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp

While we could see the camp fro m afar, we did not get a sense of how high it was until we reached it. It felt like we had found the long lost and fabled, albeit, tent city of Shangri La. This place was a bustling hub of activity because a few of the trails come together there as the bas e camp for the summit assault. We arrived to a throng of porters, tents and people wearing North Face jackets, four -day old beards and a steady wind of about 25 miles an hour. We were directed to a hut where we had to check in by logging our details in a registry. From here our guides noticed our confused looks and led us to where our tents had been set up'¦ away from the crowds and out of the wind. I have no idea how they managed it, but we were extremely grateful they did.

We arrived tired from the walk. We sat down for lunch without much appetite around 12:30 p.m.. We were told to rest until dinner served at 5:30 p.m., after which we would have our daily briefing. This was one were eager to hear as it was going to be our summit briefing. We went back to our tents and did just that. On went the iPod again and I closed my eyes for a few hours.

By now we were definitely in the Alpine Desert Zone where we would only see the odd little shrub scattered about. Everything was rock or sand, and apparently when Hans Meyer made his ascent in 1889 there was still glacier on this part of the mountain. According to our guide, 'they' predicted that by 2025 the glacier will have disappeared forever from the mountain. At this altitude there was no surface water anywhere to be found, and any water we used for drinking, cooking or washing up was brought up from Mawenzi Camp.

Alpine Desert Zone   Alpine Desert Zone   Alpine Desert Zone

We awoke for dinner where we tried feeding ourselves the food that was served. It is easy to identify how the altitude is affecting our bod ies. Just a day or two ago we had voracious appetites from all the exercise, but now we could hardly manage a small serving.

After dinner Florence came in the tent and formally introduced us to our summit porter, Dayo. We were told that we would be 'woken up' at 11:00 p.m. for a quick meal of porridge and to get our stuff together to start our trek at 11:45 p.m. If we were taking Diamox, we needed to take some before we actually started the climb. 

We were also told that we should only bring the following essentias:
- 3 liters of water
- Chocolate or trail mix
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm
- 5-6 layers for your top half (including Gore -Tex)
- 4 layers for your bottom half, plus gaiters (for keeping rocks and scree out of your boots)
- 2 pairs of socks
- 2 warm hats, 2 pairs of gloves and hand -warmers
- Trekking poles
- Headlamp, camera and spare batteries for both

The reason for all those layers is because once we are up high if we get cold it would be much harder to warm up. If we started warm and stayed warm we would be ok, but if we got to the point where we were shaking uncontrollably from the cold'¦ that's an automatic one -way ticket back down to camp.

Group Check-in: Trenton was getting AMS and started taking his Diamox as his headache was persistent most of the day. Dana also started taking his altitude pills as he had a rough night the night before. Barry was ready to charge - no headaches and no signs of slowing down from the altitude. He decided to take Diamox before the midnight departure as a precautionary more than anything else. He had proved to be the strongest climber with the least amount of problems. I was doing ok at this point, just taking it step-by-step.
We all headed back to our tents early that evening to start any kind of 'getting ready' ritu al and laid down for a few more hours before our summit attempt to the Rooftop of Africa.

Total Time Walking: 5hrsDistance: 5.2miles (8.5km)
Elevation Min/Max: 14,161ft/15,437ft (4,316m/4,705m)
Elevation Gained: 1,276ft (389m)Weather: The weather was the most stable today. The sky was mostly sunny until we arrived into camp.

The average temperature during the walk was in the low 50s. On arrival into Kibo Camp the winds really picked up and quickly became over cast with the temperatures

Difficulty: Moderate. It was an easier day in terms of elevation gained, but at this altitude you are starting to feel some of the toll it is beginning to take on the body. It is a long day of walking.

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Day Five- Kibo Camp to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Camp
After dinner I headed to my tent and got partially dressed for both warmth and so that I wouldn't have to get dressed in the middle of the night. These were the kind of things that no one taught us, but learned quickly after a morning of getting out of that warm and comfortable sleeping bag in the tent and dressed in below-freezing temperatures.

Having laid down and rested somewhere between sleeping and waking states most of the time, I started hearing porters moving about. I looked at my iPod: 10:30 p.m. By the time some one came by my tent I was fully alert and already throwing the layers on and double checking my gear to make sure I don't forget anything vital like my camera.

We met up in the mess tent and look at the porridge in front of us with disdain. What seemed l ike a pretty tasty meal just a few days ago was looking as appealing as last week's leftovers. Before we started out I checked my pulse to see what my resting heart rate was: a steady 102 beats per minute. I managed to get some food down because I knew m y body would need the energy later. After that we were all suited up with more layers than I'ed ever worn. I was dressed in a thin Merino wool t -shirt, heavy merino wool thermal top layer, thick North Face fleece, very thick hooded sweatshirt and Gore -Tex jacket over that. With that, my warm hat, thick -fleeced hoodie, thick neck warmer, and two gloves. At this stage I felt more like the Michelin Man than human.

We actually started our walk close to 12:15 a.m. as we had some people who were having technical difficulties with their gear. Once we started out we could see that others had already started their trek by the trail of headlights. A group of 10 -12 headlamps were winding up the switchback trails and looked like a serpent of lights in the night. The te mperature was just above freezing.

Earlier we had made the decision as a group to try and summit together. The pace was excruciatingly slow. We were easily walking about 1mph or slower. Our guide purposely set the pace this slow to keep our heart rate dow n as much as possible to allow for slower breathing, but also to slowly acclimate as we went up the mountain.

As we climbed, Florence was like the pied piper as he sang some obscure tune that he looped over and over, never-ending, but guiding us up the mo untain, keeping our minds off the task. We slowly winded up step after step. After about an hour or so we stopped for a quick break. It felt like I could just stop and rest there for a long time, but our guide, the ever -watchful professional, made sure tha t we didn't stop for too long and cool down too quickly.

For a few hours all we saw in the dark was the person's pack in front of us, their shoes and the trail. If you did ever look up, you were quickly reminded of the daunting task that lay ahead. Those other climbers we had spotted earlier seemed like they were directly above us.

As the night wore on and the temperatures continued to drop we noticed that when we stopped our water was slowly turning to ice. My Camelbak was slowly freezing over. Even th e Nalgene bottles of water I had were turning into slushy ice water and the caps were freezing to the tops of them. Dana also had a Camelbak, but with an insulated tube, and had no issues with it. (I highly recommend this as you don't have to stop to take a drink; and prevents the water from freezing).

We continued into the night and whenever I looked up I saw The Mountain as something dark in the night, a shadow looming over us. The 'landmarks' we passed - Williams Point (5,000m), Hans Meyer Cave (5,150 m), and Jamaica Rocks (5,500m) seemed no different from each other in the dark. They were just a chance to rest for a bit before continuing on. During this long trek we began to see that this part of the hike as 80% mental and 20% physical. Tired and cold, all you have to say, 'I've had enough, please take me back down,' and that was end of your climb (if you wanted it to be). Florence and the other guides were continually encouraging us: 'Never give up!'

I counted about a half dozen climbers escorted down due to either altitude sickness, exhaustion or they they'd had enough: enough to end the summit attempt. When the sun finally broke the night, I could feel my spirits rising up with every moment. I reminded myself that at this altitude with every step up I took I was setting my all -time record for highest I had ever been on foot. Every time I wanted to stop or give up I kept thinking'¦ just one more step so I can set a new record for myself. Step after step.

I think we were all feeling the same thing once the sun came up because we started talking again. By the time we reached Gilman's Point (5,686m), we achieved a huge milestone. I can honestly say that anyone who reaches this sign should be proud of what they accomplished because this is definitely the hardest part of the climb. We were all ecstatic to reach this point, but were tired enough to find the closest rock to slump on. Dayo came by with some hot tea and a bar of chocolate.

Ian Flores - Tanzania

We were reevaluated both by ourselves and by the guide. I noticed th at when the guide had checked us for altitude sickness before, he checked the color of our tongues and our eyes. When he came over I stuck my tongue out and took off my glasses. It was almost as if I was looking for an excuse to be told I couldn't go on, but in the end he cleared me to go to the top and reassured me I could do it. 'Never give up.'

Barry the Bionic Bear was ready to charge. Dana had to convince the guide that he was good and after standing on one leg without falling down the mountain he was cleared. Trenton, on the other hand, had already made the decision that he had had enough and was going to head back down. However, if the three of us were going to summit then we weren't going to let him off that easily. It didn't take much convincing before we were gathering our gear for the final push. It was also around this time that we started noticing people coming back from their summit hike and noticed they were covered in snow, beards frozen over. There was even a girl who had icicles hanging from her eyelashes!

As soon as we crossed over the lip of the peak the reason was apparent. It felt like gale force winds were blowing at the top. We were walking with our heads down as snow flurries were whipping by. The wind was blowing so hard that ou r walking poles (an item that anyone attempting to climb should not do without) were being blown in the wind. Barry said he plays golf back home and it wasn't unusual to have 40 mph winds, and he reckons that these were between 50 -60 mph.

These conditions continued for the next two and hours as we made our ascent. Luckily by the time we had reached the summit the winds had died down. Then I heard someone utter the words, 'There it is.' Without looking up I knew what I was about to behold from the hundreds of others' pictures of their Kili climbs was the place where they came for that ultimate souvenir: a sign stating you are at the Rooftop of Africa, the highest place on the continent. The sign reads, ' Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, 5 895m AMSL. Africa's Highest Point - The world's highest freestanding mountain. One of the world's largest volcanoes. Welcome! ' It's covered in old stickers promoting restaurants, companies and other destinations around the globe, and looked as weathered as the mountain.

Africa's Highest Point  Africa's Highest Point

We were up there for about 25 minutes, but it felt like a blip as we snapped pics and congratulated each other, some with a swig of Bombay Sapphire's finest. By this time I could feel my brain starved for oxygen and so the only drivi ng thought in my head was to get off this mountain quickly!

Interesting fact: Did you know that there is 50% less oxygen available at this altitude than at sea level? With every step I took back down the mountain I could feel a difference. I quickened my pace to a slow trot and only stopped long enough to take in the first magnificent view since the sunrise the looming glacier, the last remnants of it at least. Within a few moments the clouds were rolling back in, protecting it in a blanket of snow. In retrospect I wish I would have taken a picture but the effort involved in stopping, unzipping my jacket, taking off my gloves and taking that pictures was far too great at that time. I got back to Gilman's in record time where Dayo and I waited as the others caught up. From here we started the descent down the scree for what I call a little Scree -skiing action. For the next hour and a half we skied down on our feet using the poles. About an hour into it I wished I'd been wiser in conserving energy coming back from Uhuru. For most, this would have been enough physical activity for a week, let alone a day. However, after an hour rest and lunch, we were packing up our gear and ready to start another 3 -4 hour hike to Horombo Camp. There's no two ways about It, this was a very long day.

The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery
The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery

The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery. We came down the Marangu Route as this is an Up and Down route whereas the Rongai is Up only. We arrived at camp tired and hungry. We ate, played cards and all had the best night's sleep imaginable. I don't imagine the Sultan of Brunei would have had a more comfortable night's sleep than any of us did that evening.

The next morning, while still cold, after a hearty breakfast we packed up our bags for the last time on the mountain. Then we had the absolute pleasure to witness what they call 'The Tipping Ceremony'. All the porters, guides and cook stood together and sang the Kilimanjaro song that would put any gospel choir to shame. They were so happy and some almost even seemed possessed. Afterwords, I said a few words thanking them for everything because without them we wouldn't have come anywhere near that peak.

Total Time Walking: 13-15hrs
Distance: 12 miles (19.3km)
Elevation Start/Max/Min: 15,437ft/19,341ft/ 12,204ft (4,705m/5,895m/3,720m)
Elevation Gained: 3,904ft (1,190m)
Elevation Loss (total): 7,137ft (2,175m)Weather: The night walk started off calm. The temperatures dropped well below freezing into the nig ht, and was coldest just before sunrise. The sunrise was clear and crisp. At the summit steady and strong winds blew blustery snow, and calmed down towards the peak. The walk from Kibo to Horombo was clear and temperatures rose steadily into the 50s until the evening.

Difficulty: Difficult. It was not a technical climb, but between the altitude and the overall duration of walking in a 24 hour period that I would rate this as the only difficult day of the trek.

Day Six -Horombo Camp to Marangu Gate
The last day we continued on another 5½ hour hike motivated by the thought of a hot shower and proper bed. We passed other climbers heading the opposite way. They looked so fresh and clean and full of optimism, heading into what was going to be an adventure they would never forget. As for us, we were coming off the ride relaxed and filled with so much good energy that it almost'¦ ALMOST felt like we could've turned around and climbed back up. Good luck to all of you who attempt it, and remember, it's 80% mental…… be prepared!

Total Time Walking: 5-6 hrs
Distance: 12.8 miles (20.6km)
Elevation Max/Min: 12,204ft/6,045ft (3,720m/1,143m)
Elevation Loss: 6,159ft (2,577m)Weather: As we descended into the tropical weather we were met with typical rainforest climate in that it was cool and a misty rain. There is a lot more moisture in the air and I was hiking in a t -shirt until it rained a little bit.

Difficulty: Easy. Long walk, all downhill. Again, remember to pace yourself for a long day of walking, but compared to t he previous day, it was a breeze.

The 25 th Anniversary Kili Crew      Barry the Bionic Bear
The 25 th Anniversary Kili Crew         /                         Barry the Bionic Bear

- by: Ian Carlo Flores

Take it Easy, but Take it - My Namibian Biking Trip

Take it Easy, but Take it - by Ian Carlo Flores

"Take it easy, but take it"

These were the words most repeated by my guide over five days of mountain biking in Namibia this June.

The Namibian desert in the northwest part of the country, better known as Damaraland, is an open book that reads like a story. The unique landscape, flora and fauna that survive there have their own stories to tell. It is tough adapting to Namibia's harsh conditions, they tell us.

Experiencing the land from a bicycle with an expert guide is unlike anything else. While the most difficult aspect of the ride was navigating through terrain such as loose stones and sandy patches, it must be said that you do need to be somewhat fit to enjoy it. The keyword is enjoy - take it easy. Anyone can toil along for the 2 -6 hours per day spent on a bike, but by preparing yourself mentally and physically you are getting ready for an epic adventure.

The excitement at the prospect of seeing lions or elephants from your bi ke, the magical sunsets with hues of purples and pinks on the surrounding hills as you ride into camp and the delicious food when you eat only paint a part of the picture. By yourself, Namibia is a dangerous place to be on a bike, but in the hands of professional guides you will be able to experience the country on a whole new level.

The Africa Adventure Company specializes in unique adventures such as this one - take it.

- by: Ian Carlo Flores 
Assistant Operations and Sales Consultant