Category Archives: Destinations

Are You ready to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

By Octavia Drughi

Each year, around 25,000 people travel to Tanzania in the hope of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is on top of many adventure seekers’ bucket-list. Is it on yours as well?

The symmetrical snow-capped volcanic cone is synonymous with Africa and is all about superlatives – the world’s largest freestanding mountain rises in perfect isolation above Tanzania’s open plains and savannas. You’d be surprised that Mount Kilimanjaro is not considered a technical climb. This is because you don’t need an oxygen tank, ropes or prior technical climbing experience. Especially when compared to the world’s tallest and deadliest mountains, it is fairly accessible for the average trekker. But it’s not exactly a walk in the park either! You might want to think twice before taking on the challenge, so here are some aspects to consider before deciding whether climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an adventure you ought to pursue:

 

An introduction to Mount Kilimanjaro

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Photo by Kyle Taylor

In northern Tanzania, at the border with Kenya, the Kilimanjaro National Park is home to the largest freestanding volcanic mass in the world. Rising 19,341 ft (5,895 m), Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent, which also makes it one of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents). It consists of three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The summit, Uhuru Peak, is found on Kibo, a dormant but not extinct volcano, its last volcanic activity having occurred some 200 years ago.

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Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro

There are seven major routes to the summit, which take anywhere between four to eight days. However, the success rate depends on the number of days spent on the trek. The more days, the better you will be acclimatized. Five-day routes have a far lower success rate than eight-day routes.

The Marangu Route is the only route on the mountain with hut accommodation, which makes it one of the most popular. It is also the shortest and the most crowded. It can be completed in five days, but climbers are advised to take an extra day to acclimatize at Horombo Hut in order to increase their chances of reaching the summit.

According to statistics from the Kilimanjaro National Park, around 50 percent of climbers choose the Machame Route to get to Uhuru Peak. The route is indeed scenic, passing through varying landscapes. It is, however, more difficult than others, as climbers are faced with the Barranco Wall, which they must climb on day four of the trek. No climbing skills are required, as the wall is often described as climbing a staircase, but a good fitness level and mental preparation will help you feel much more at ease during the climb.

 

Preparation

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Foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Katie (alaskahokie)

As with most high mountains, training, planning and careful preparation are key. Before the 1990s, you could just head down to the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro with nothing but a good old pair of boots, a backpack and some crackers, and attempt the summit on your own. Since 1991, it is compulsory to sign up with an agency if you wish to climb Kili, as it is affectionately called. The agency will provide a guide, porters and a cook. Food is usually healthy and wholesome, and vegans/vegetarians can easily be catered for as long as they give the agency notice in advance. The national language is Swahili, but up on the mountain, you will hear Kichagga, spoken by the Chagga people. English is spoken among the guides and the more educated crewmembers.

Kilimanjaro5Porters on Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Mouser Williams

Kindly note that signing up with a company does not guarantee your success. The average time to complete the trek is six days, which is quite short for a mountain this tall, but the trails are steep and you should prepare yourself months in advance, both physically and mentally. Physical endurance is a must, but mental stamina is even more important. After all, you will be trekking 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) each day.

You don’t have to be a marathoner, but you should be an active person. Short runs through the park, long walks, a little bit of mountaineering will help you get prepared for the challenge ahead. The idea is to increase lung capacity. Still, being fit does not mean you will not have trouble with altitude sickness. That’s a whole different story…

 

Acclimatization

Kilimanjaro6The Milky Way from Barranco Camp, 12,795 ft (3,900 m) – Photo by sama093

The altitude is not to be messed with. In fact, it is the thin air that often stands between mountaineers and the summit. Acute mountain sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness, is triggered when going too fast to high altitudes, not giving the body enough time to acclimatize and adapt. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea and nasty headaches, all caused by the lack of oxygen. Walking slowly and spending more time in each camp helps prevent acute symptoms. Altitude sickness is nothing to joke about, as it can lead to pulmonary or cerebral edema, which can prove fatal.

 

The weather

Kilimanjaro8Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Fredi Bach 

I’m sure we all associate Africa with sunny days and warm weather. Mount Kilimanjaro is here to tell you otherwise. It inspired Ernest Hemingway’s short story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, written 1938 after having been on a safari in Tanzania, in which he questions morality and philosophy, even his own existence as a writer. Contrary to the title, it is not as snow-covered as one would expect. Nevertheless, the weather can be tricky.

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Changing weather on Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Fredi Bach

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will take you from 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) to under 20 Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius) up on its alpine meadows, with strong winds making matters even worse. This will make you put on layers over layers of clothes. Still, you must make sure you don’t pack too many, as there is a limited weight and volume porters will carry.

Best months for trekking are January through mid-March and June to October. March, April and November are the wettest months. The cold season usually lasts between December and May, and snow levels are at their highest between November and May.

 

Why climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro9Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Fredi Bach 

This is a matter of personal choice and you are the only one fit to answer this question. If you are a mountaineer, climber, or simply someone who has always dreamed of reaching the summit, then, by all means, go for it! Other things you might enjoy, or at least find interesting, are:

  • Encounteringstrange animals that are simply out of this world.
  • Experiencing four different seasons in one week.
  • Reaching a serious altitude.
  • Taking amazingphotographs while crossing farmlands, lush rainforests, alpine meadows and lunar landscapes.
  • Watching incrediblesunsets.

 

Should you think twice?

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Barafu Huts camp, 15,357 ft (4,681m) – Photo by Stig Nygaard

Yes! No matter your training and dreams, you should think twice. Adventure-addicts might think of it as a perfect getaway, but remember this is not your average holiday. If you’re looking to relax, forget about it! It might not be a difficult summit, but you will have to fight for it!

It is estimated that between three to seven people die each year on Mount Kilimanjaro, mainly due to acute mountain sickness, falls and hypothermia. Altitude sickness and poor physical and mental training cause hundreds to abandon the trails each year. Not to mention the air will get thinner as you go higher, it will be uncomfortable, even painful at times, and you may have second thoughts.

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Glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro – Photo by Mouser Williams

You might not reach the summit, and you have to be okay with that. Most people who do not make it to Uhuru claim they still enjoyed the trek. But disappointment can easily creep in, and you must be prepared to face it. Even if you do reach the summit, you might still experience nausea, dizziness, dehydration, diarrhea and other nasty symptoms that can make the experience pretty painful.

 

Reaching the summit of a baffling natural wonder, a snow-capped mountain at the Equator can become more than just a dream. As long as you do not underestimate the challenge and are ready to step out of your comfort zone, you too can place your foot on the roof of Africa.

 

About Octavia Drughi

Octavia is a travel writer for BookAllSafaris.com. She is a passionate mountaineer, tree hugger and adventure addict who believes every living creature deserves care and respect.

 

 

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My experience with Ayahuasca

Colombia, located next to Peru and Brazil. It’s a country that is part of the biggest rainforest of the world, the amazon.

In the amazon all plants and animals are different and much bigger than everywhere else.
Did you also know that the Amazon has the most variety of plants and species of all forests and jungles?

That could be one reason why the indigenous people in this area are so connected to Mother Nature and use the plants for different manners. The Amazon has plenty of plants that works as a medicine for the body. The experts and herbal medicine mans, who are working with this herbs already for more than 5000 years, are called shamans.

One of their most famous ceremonies, which is prepared with a hallucinogenic wine, is called Ayahuasca.
Or also Yage. It’s made out of different plants from the Amazon.
This medicine gives you the possibility to connect to Mother Nature, to your true inner being, your spirit. It forces hallucinogen circumstances, but not like chemical drugs as LSD with movie sceneries where you you are just an actor without big influences.
It’s more that you have visions and can ask your spirit what you want to change, who you are and what your mission is on this planet.

As a spiritual and rebellious adventure lover I was playing already for more than one year with the idea of taking Ayahuasca. Firsts he plan was to do it in Costa Rica.
But in the end I hadn’t enough time. So when I’ve been already in Colombia, I decided I want to take Ayahuasca with original shamans in a country, where it comes from.

So I found the weekend retreat with Camino al Sol.Ayahuasca-retreat_V3

We met on a Friday afternoon in Medellin, to get a shuttle to the community farm in the mountains, one hour from there, I was together with 10 other spiritual seekers in the same age in the bus to our retreat.
In the bus one guy had a Ukulele, like me. So we started with a small music session in the bus.
The mood was already good and I felt very safe and was looking forward to it.
Of course before I was a little bit afraid of the unknown medicine and it’s different experiences and effects of people.
I had many doubts the days before.

But once I sat in the bus, I was sure it was the right decision.
When we came to the simple but beautiful small community with a traditional “boye”, the ceremony hut, we got a quick introduction and could choose a bank bed in the house.
There was no dinner in the night, because it’s said you shouldn’t eat something after 2pm anymore before a ceremony.
So we got some tea, fruit juice and water.

My first Ayahuasca session
At around 7pm we started the ceremony with a cleaning therapy. We should clean our body with a warm special herbal bath. While we were taking the bath as a shower bath, we should focus on our intention, what we want to achieve with Ayahuasca Ayahuasca-retreatand want to ask our spirit.
After the herbal bath we had to go into another room, where we got a fire treatment with candle light buy one of the shaman helpers. Always with the focus on our intention.

At around 8pm we started the ceremony with the circle of words, where the shaman chose a topic to talk, share and discuss in the circle. The topic of the first day was about all the bad energy and vibes right now on earth. How can we change the earth by producing and spreading more love on this planet to limited the evil side.

After one hour we got our sacred medicine, the Yage wine.
Each of us took a small cup of the wine and we sat down in our chairs in the circle around the warm fireside. But they also offered us to lie down on the ground, if we preferred.
I decided to sit in the chair, because I was already tired and afraid I would fall asleep.
The light turned of. Just a small fireside in the middle. It took around 15 minutes when the first of our group went out to vomit. Vomiting is a ritual of cleaning the body. I didn’t vomit at all.
Either my body didn’t want to let it go or I was already very clean by my healthy nutrition.

Anyway, while a lot of the group went out and one started even to cry right next to me, I didn’t feel anything than cold and tiered and queasy.

Suddenly after 1,5 hours, my stomach rumbled and after that the visions started. Very decent first, than stronger. But I saw everything always like a snippet on a screen in front of me, when I closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was back in reality.

I asked two questions to my spirit. First one to guide me to the light and the second regarding some happening in my past. I had not the chance to experience a lot of visions of my past life. All visions that came up were far away from my personality and ego. It was about the truth of life, our planet earth, about ancient history and culture, about the universe, the existence and intelligence we are after all made of. Very abstract. But I felt always safe and still the director of my thoughts and conscious mind.

You just can’t choose the visions; you can just change your questions and intention, what you want to know.
The spirit will give you the answer.
Even though you might have bad experience or visions. It’s just a process and way to connect with Mother Nature and your own spirit. Everyone gets what he needs and can receive.

After the first round of Ayahuasca the shaman medicine men gave the men in our group a special treatment on their naked upper bodies.
Women should become one outside, but maybe they forgot it.
Then we started with the second round of Ayahuasca. Followed by 1,5 hours silence and darkness again.
The darkness and silence should help you to focus on your visions.
At around 4am they started to play music. It’s where you find back in community and harmony, enjoy your visions and constitution and connect to mother earth, your environment and the people around you.
It’s filling you with love and most of us are all happy.Ayahuasca-retreat_V4

In this very late part at the end, you can also lay down to sleep. Otherwise you sing and celebrate till the morning light, when the ceremony officially ends.

A day to recover
After a sunny morning and a breakfast most of us went to bed to sleep for a few hours. I couldn’t sleep very long. So I decided to go for a slow run or more active walk. I had the desire to connect more with the nature. The sun was brightly shining and suddenly I realized that the colors of the nature were so must stronger and intensive.
I went alone to connect 100 percent without distraction and had a enough to think about my visions from last night.

The day between the second Ayahuasca sessions was supposed to be the day of relaxation and discover from a long night. And you have the time to prepare yourself for the next session. So that’s what I eventually did.
Ayahuasca-retreat_V2Each of us became a few individual herbal treatments with massage, acupuncture and herbal preparations.

My second Ayahuasca session
The second Ayahuasca session happened almost after the same procedure. Just that the personal result might be completely different. And it was also for me.

I was preparing myself the previous two days to set the right intention, to ask the right questions, and especially to try to have a lighter vision.
I wanted to experience more love. I saw so much evil in the previous session that I asked my spirit now for more love. Just to know its there and I am still in believe this still can be a positive, light and lovely place in the future.

And what I got was a 4-hour-disco in my head with laugh, lots of colors and lovely warm feelings. In the beginning I started to ask questions to my spirit, but the figures I saw dancing in front of me where just smiling and said, “let’s dance”. Colorful tribals, funny animals, dancing figures were all in front of me. If I would compare my visions and feelings at that time it was maybe like on a LSD trip and MDMA together.

In the beginning I was a little bit disappointed, because I had such clear and strong visions in the first session, even I saw a lot of darkness, it was so real and true. And that’s what I was looking for with taking Ayahuasca. It was for me a spiritual experience; I was not there for taking any drugs.
But it must have had a reason. Maybe because I was asking for more light and love or maybe I was not ready for more visions. So I tried to let go and to enjoy this experience right now.

I smiled almost the whole time, I couldn’t really move or talk, but felt just like a baby in the stomach of a mother. Protected, warm, little light in this soft dark night. Until I fell asleep in my hammock, with a big smile and lots of love inside of me.

Namasté! Gracias mi espíritu! Gracias medicina!

The visions you may have are always different. No Ayahuasca session is equal.
It depends on how you are prepared for it and if you are ready for it. Ready to connect with your spirit, set your intentions and the followed the recommended diet in advance.

You might have no visions at all, because you are not really seeking for a spiritual experience.
Like this Asian guy living in America, who was working the whole time during this retreat and even in our holy Ayahuasca session, he was sitting next to me with his iPhone in the ceremony and was playing on his phone while he was waiting for his visions. Poor guy!
He always ask our shaman for more Ayahuasca, but he just smiled at him with the words, that’s not about the amount of taking Ayahuasca, it’s about how ready you are for the reality and your spirit. He definitely wasn’t.

Or you can have a personal experience like Sam.
He saw in his visions a meat factory where they where killing animals and produced grocery meat out of it.
After that intensive vision, he told me afterwards, he feels like he wants to become a vegetarian.
Wow, isnt it impressive that this medicine can change a person just in one night?
You can easily change your habits and values rapidly, depending on your intention and questions.

In general I can recommend Ayahuasca or other shamanic sessions next to meditation.
It brings you back to the source of the truth, of how you really are and connects you with the nature, earth and our universe.
But you need to be ready for it. Ready to drop your ego and enter a different level of being.

If we are not trying to understand the endless universe where we live in, we might miss a great opportunity.

Every new year is a new chance to live every single moment

It’s been a long time ago, I have been writing something here on this blog.
Honestly I am struggling with the idea what to do and where to go.
Actually it is like always. Haha!
But I want to continue. One of my goals for next year

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Everyday is a sunday in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

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This year has been amazing. I met wonderful places, like on Bali or Santa Teresa and Nosara in Costa Rica. But also Tarifa in South Spain was amazing. And I met a lot of beautiful people, who entered my heart, and from whom I learnt a lot about life, business and about myself.
Every single person was my teacher on my path through life.

I made big steps in my personal growth and could broaden up my mind even beyond my horizon, where I though there must be the horizon. But learning and experiencing is endless.

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My barrio in Santa Marta, local lifestyle

I am writing you right now from my little apartment in Santa Marta in Colombia, sitting in my hammock, with the view over the city.

I was here primarily to volunteer for an organization, which is called Mariposa Amarilla,  supporting street kids in this area. I decided to use the time, while everyone is celebrating Christmas with there beloved ones, to share my love with those who need it the most.

 

On Christmas Eve I spent time

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Christmas decoration in Santa Marta Beach, Colombia

with the local family where I stay. Its a small apartment i booked via Airbnb.I live in a barrio (district) where just locals live. No tourists here. This is the best way to learn and understand the culture and people, who are living here.

When I reflect the last year, I can just see beautiful moments and experiences. Of course, there have been also negative moments, but this is a part of life. And hounestly, most of the time they just kicking you even deeper in the reality, and you will feel that you are alive.

My worst problems the last months have been the electronic problems. 2 laptops crashed and my phone is since days locked by a Colombian mobile provider, so that I can’t use it. That sucks, but it’s just a material problem.

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Tanganga Beach, Colombia

But since I decided, to live a nomad lifestyle, reduced my guts to a minimum and nowadays have less things and responsibilities – I feel richer than ever before. Because once you have nothing, you can do everything.
You can’t loose a lot and you can act spontaneous.

What I learned this year, is that you can open the door to another world, that welcome you with open arms, a world that’s so diverse and intensive, IF you allow yourself to le go, let go from believes, habits and too many expectations. The world is constantly moving and changing. So stop to collect things, save, live secure, and build up a future, which you wont able to keep it. Live right now. In this and every single moment, expect changes and be even open to new things that come along. This is part of the game. If you can handle it, you can reach the next levels.

And they are so much fun!

I am already looking forward. Just the next 2 month will be amazing for me, with many new experiences.

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Goal for next year: see more sunsets at the ocean

I am going to have my first tattoo. On my ankle. Finally my roommate and host in Bogota inspired me to do it now.

I will join a sacred medicine retreat with the elders and Sharman’s. One part will be of course Ayahuasca. I am a little bit scared to take this medicine, what it’s called here in this area. But I am going to prepare myself and think I am ready now – especially from a spiritual perspective.

Than I will do an excursion to the Amazon and fly to Brazil to celebrate Carnival in Rio. Raised in the Carnival city Cologne, participating on the biggest Carnival parties in the world, has been always a dream for me since I am a young girl.2015-11-19 16.39.23

Afterwards surfing again in Pipa! 🙂 I never thought that you could get so addictive with surfing.
But it’s true.

I will keep you updated about all my experiences.

I wish everyone a good start of a new year, and a new chapter to change or improve yourself. Open your eyes, ears, heart and mind and live every moment…wherever you are!

PuraVida

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My favouite place in the world: the beach!

Traveling by bus in Panama

Travelling by bus in Panama is quite easy.

There are buses going to almost all areas an places.
The main bus stations are Panama City and David. from there leaving minimum every hour buses to all areas.
For example:
  • Bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro: There is a bus from Albrook bus station in Panama City, which takes around 9 hours
  • Bus from Panama City to Boquete: take the bus from Albrook bus station to David. from David (ca 5 hours). From David the bus to Boquete (1,5-2 hours).
  • Bus from Panama City to Las Tablas / Tonosi/ Cambutal: take the bus from Albrook bus terminal in Panama City to Las Tablas. From Las Tablas there is once a day at 1 pm a bus to Cambutal directly. Otherwise there is very hour between 6 am  – 4.30 pm a but to Tonosi ( ca. 1,5 hours). from Tonosi take the local bus to Cambutal, but which can take about another hour or take a Taxi for 15 USD for 20-30 minutes.
  • Bus from Cambutal / Tonosi/ Las Tablas to Bocas Del Toro: this is a long way and you hardly get it in one day (ca 15 hours in total), because the last ferry from Almirante to the islands leaves at around 6 p.m.: from Cambutal take the first bus at 7 am to Tonosi (ca. 1 hour). From there the bus to Chitre (eventually you have to change the bus station), which takes you around 2,5 -3 hours), from Chitre the bus to Santiago (1 hour), from Santiago to David (3,5 hours). In David you have to change the bus terminal (just a few meters next to the Santiago terminal) and take there the bus to Bocas (Almirante), which takes another 3,5 hours. From Almirante you need to take a water taxi to the islands (ca. 45 minutes to Bocas del Toro (Isla Concon)
  • In David and Panama City are also international buses to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and to other countries in Central America. The best bus travel organisation is TICA BUS http://www.ticabus.com
By the way, I can highly recommend this platform, to search for public transportations.
This tool will offer you different routes by bus, train, ferry and/or airplane. It shows you all the the prices and total price of your trip and schedules of each means of transportation.

10 things you should know before you travel to India

A lot of people asked me questions about traveling in India.
And there are a few things, which are good to know before you start your trip through India. That brought me to summarized my top 10 advises, I can give you from my own experiences:  Continue reading 10 things you should know before you travel to India