A week of pushing limits.

One of the first things I booked and planned when I decided to spend my summer in the US was a bus and adventure travel tour. The route would take me down from San Francisco along the rugged coastline of the Big Sur, back to Los Angeles. I’d then spend some time in Joshua Tree National park, Las Vegas, and Zion National park before heading back to San Francisco.
It was a week of long bus rides, new friends, camping, dirty hair and exhausting but exhilarating hikes.

I was never and probably will never be a huge fan of camping but I enjoy it every once in a while. I feel better after having been uncomfortable and dirty for a couple of days. It makes me appreciate what I have more, learn how to deal better with awkward situations and exercises my patience. It grounds me in ways other things cannot.
This is why I’d urge anyone to put themselves out there and feel uncomfortable at least once a year. Go out there, smell like campfire and have sticky hands from all the S’mores you just made. The laughter and occasional shooting star will more than make up for that. I promise you.

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Moshi and Kilimanjaro

Did you know that when you hike up Kilimanjaro, it starts out as a rainforest? Well, I certainly didn’t. I also didn’t bring a rain jacket (or any jacket for that matter). Super silly, right?

But let’s not focus on the fact that I was so desperate and cold that I rented a raincoat 5$ or that it smelled like mould. Let’s focus on the insane beauty and the crazy experience you have when you hike up Africa’s highest mountain.
Sadly, we did not go up to the top (though I’ve heard that while it’s tough, it’s totally manageable as long as you are physically in decent shape).
We only went up to the Maundi Crater, which takes around 5 hours. Walking down took us another 3 hours so this hike is perfectly suited for a day trip if you want to not only see the mountain from afar, but actually up close. I can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed.

As mentioned before, the hike starts out in the rainforest. Damp, wet, green, gorgeous. Fog was hanging low in the trees, you hear the distant splatter of water – a small waterfall hidden by dense and lush plants.
Right before you get to the Maundi Crater the landscape changes drastically though. Gone are the tall trees, covered with moss. Instead grass like plains take their place. Barren scenery, chilly  winds and heavy clouds. It is utterly breathtaking.

Moshi, the town at the foot of the mountain seems incredibly cute. Sadly we only spent one night there and didn’t see or discover much. On nice days you can be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro from various points. It’s pretty incredible.

I wish I could have seen a bit more of Moshi. It seemed like a city I would very much enjoy. Small, not as busy as Dar es Salaam or Arusha.

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Here some tips if you’re planning a day hike:

  • Apart from a rain jacket (a light one should be more than enough if you have a sweater with you) you actually don’t need any gear. I wore L. L. Bean Boots (these were super handy for this trip. Especially during our Safari and I was glad I took them with me) but all of my friends managed just fine in sneakers. Like mentioned before, it is also possible to rent a rain jacket there for about 5$.
  • Pack some lunch and water. You might also want to bring a plastic bag to collect trash, as this is a natural preserve and you’re not allowed to leave any trace.
  • Make sure that you’re back at the base before 6pm as the gate closes around that time.
  • Take at least a copy of your passport with you because you need to fill out some forms in order to get entrance to the park.
  • Tip your guide well. They will tell you interesting facts about the mountain and the plants you will see and often don’t get paid much. If you weren’t satisfied with your guide it’s ok to tip less than usual, but then please do explain why you are tipping less.

While in Moshi, we stayed at the Hu Hut Lodge. The rooms are clean, there’s hot water (this was definitely the best part for us), and the breakfast is decent. So the price/value ratio was great.