“The time was about 6 am and we felt energized and restored from the entire night hike. We were almost closer to Stella point which is about 1 hour from Uhuru peak.”
An attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro is a daunting one, but Lulu’s adventure as she endured a gruelling hike to reach the top, is one of victory as well as inspiration.
Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, the highest point being 5,895 metres (19,341 ft). A hike to the top can take anywhere between 5 to 9 days, depending on the route taken and one’s pace. Every year, hikers and adrenaline seekers embark on the journey to the top of Kilimanjaro, braving the harsh cold weather, high winds, as well as altitude sickness. Not many make it to the highest peak on the mountain, but the attempt to do so is celebrated. Those that make it to the top, experience the African sunrise as the sun kisses their frostbit skin. Breathtaking views are guaranteed, as you stand above the clouds with a God-like view.
Lulu Pownall, a Tanzanian adventurer, took on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018. Her story of how she conquered Mount Kilimanjaro will leave you wondering if perhaps, now is the time to start mapping out your next wild adventure and heading off to Mount Kilimanjaro to tackle those altitudes!
1. Tell us about yourself. Who is Lulu and what do you do?
I am Lulu Pownall, born in Arusha, Tanzania and currently the owner of a travel company called Furahi Afrika Safari which offers wildlife safaris, Kilimanjaro climbing, cycle tours and cultural tourism.
2. What inspired you to take on Mount Kilimanjaro?
Having seen tourists from other nations coming to explore my country, I felt that as a young Tanzanian woman I could also be a pioneer to encourage other women both from within and outside Tanzania to explore the nature that we have and also have a goal achieved. Therefore, climbing Kilimanjaro for me was not only a dream come true but an inspiration to others who love exploring nature and taking on adventures.
3. Describe the hike up and the challenges you faced along the way
As we may have all heard, Kilimanjaro is described in many words; the most common of which is “The Roof of Africa”. This is a dream come true for anyone who has the idea to make it to the top – a mammoth 5895 meters above sea level!
I began my hiking preparation over three months before climbing. I used to cycle on a mountain bike to be fit, and I never smoked or consumed alcohol. I ate healthily and took long walking tours. September 2018, I was a part of a group of ten people who would climb Kilimanjaro for seven days. The group included a family of seven from the Netherlands, two men, one from Italy, the other from Canada and me.
The start took off with a drive to Machame gate which is about 1800m in altitude. Here we had our lunch, filled our back packs and started our hiking. On this first day, we hiked for about 6 hours through the rainforest and had an over-night stay at Machame camp. The second day, we started with breakfast and then hiking to Shira camp which is 3050mhigh for about 5 hours. Here, we passed the Moorland zone and got to see the Shira caves.
The third day was a bit challenging since we had to hike up to 4600m high at Lava Tower and then down to Barranco camp which lies at 3850m. The process of acclimatizing helps the body to adapt to the high altitude and reduce the risk of altitude sickness. On this day, I felt colder, but our supportive guides were always there to help us and service us with delicious warm meals. The day hike took about 6-7 hours walking.
Day four covered a hike from Baranco camp to Karanga camp through Alpine desert. On this day we had a smooth hike and took 4 hours to reach Karanga camp. The fifth day took us to Barafu camp which gives a spectacular view of the Uhuru peak. Here, we camped, rested and prepared for the summit day.
The most exciting day was day six also known as the summit day. We got up early around midnight and started our hiking to the top. It was dark, cold and steep. The wind was blowing, that we could feel the movement. Our guides sang and made us feel better while we tried hard to keep on the hiking. Along the side, we met other tourists on their way up. We had our head torches that gave us light and our hiking sticking which supported us.
As we got closer and closer to the top, the sun began to rise from the Far East. This was an unexplainable feeling – even today, I find it hard to describe. You have to experience it, to know it. It about 6 a.m. and we felt energized and restored from the entire night hike. We were almost closer to Stella point which is about 1 hour from Uhuru peak.
From Stella Point, we encountered snow and the beautiful view of the crater, and the sky. At this point, we were standing high above the clouds. We continued hiking through the snow to Uhuru peak, the top of Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa and the world’s free-standing mountain. Our journey was now coming to an end, with laughter, tears of joy and time for photos to keep those memories and inspire others to take on similar adventures.
4. What tips do you have for those who have Mount Kilimanjaro on their bucket list?
To those who have dreams to climb Kilimanjaro, I would say it is never too late to climb. With a willing mind and some preparation, anyone can make it. Of course, one should take precautions in case they have some health conditions that could be risky to take on such high altitudes. The main advice is to consult your doctor. Otherwise, you will just have to keep healthy and fit with some sports and exercises and also follow the guidelines from your tour guides. Drink lots of water and eat healthy too. As you climb the word “polepole” will be used most of the time. This means slowly-slowly, enabling any hiker to take on easy pace and adapt to the high altitudes easily.
5. How has your life changed post-Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro climbing has brought more into my life. After my climb, I realized that I could use my passion and translate it into the business. Today, I have established a travel company www.furahiafrikasafari.com which provides adventures and tours based on real-life experience. I want to continue to share adventures, nature and culture in my country Tanzania with the people from every corner of the world. Come explore nature, and live adventure
If Kilimanjaro is on your bucket list, be sure to connect with Lulu and book for an unforgettable experience at the ‘Roof of Africa”.