Things I wish I had known about hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kili

Kilimanjaro Summit

No matter how much you prepare for any hike, there are always surprises. Mountains like to throw as many kinks in your plan as possible just to see you melt down into a hot mess.
Kilimanjaro was no exception. You don’t think about how tiring it is to hike 6-8 hours day while sitting at your desk. I trained a lot, but nothing can prepare you for the long days and altitude. Needless to say, there were a lot of f-bombs and a few days of crying on the side of the mountain due to exhaustion.
While I was in camp I made a list of things I thought might be useful to the next hiker (and yes, I included TMI because you need to know this).
Boots

Pick a good hiking boot!

  •  Have a morning routine and mantra that will help you get into the zone for the day. It was the difference between a successful day and a total melt down. Listen to your favorite play list while you have coffee, read a daily motivational passage, or anything else that calms you.
  • O.M.G., the dust. No one told us about the moon dust.  It should have been a “no shit” moment since we were going during the dry season, but for some reason it didn’t register that we would be dealing with a powdery substance that sticks every inch of the body. Literally. There aren’t enough body wipes or tissues in all the world to get rid of it. Channel your inner toddler and embrace it.
  • Experiment with body wipes before you leave. You will not shower for 7-10 days and need a durable and effective cleaning solution. Go for a long run and then use a body wipe. That will give you an idea of what to expect day after day.
  • Blow your nose constantly. Because the dust was thick, it clogged my sinuses resulting in a horrible sinus infection. My sinuses were so infected I had nosebleeds for 2 weeks.
  • Take more cold/sinus meds than you think you will need. Someone in your group will need it. A very kind hiking partner gave me her meds after I gave all of mine to my husband. Thank you Shelby!
  • Take ALL the ibuprofen. ALL of it. You’ll need it.
  • Take a camp pillow and earplugs. Your tents will be tied down next to each other the higher you get on the mountain. Camps are also very loud with crews working day and night for all the hikers. A pillow and earplugs makes sleeping a little more likely.

    mountain sunrise

    Sunrise on the way to the summit

  • Take care of your feet. Wash them every morning and night and trim your nails if needed.  I applied blister blocker salve and bandages every day. It made all the difference. I wish I had thought to bring peppermint foot lotion for the evening.
  • Don’t bother taking a book. You won’t read it. The schedule is very tight and I was too exhausted to open a book. I should have saved the weight.
  • Eat all the things at every meal. I ate even when I thought I was going to be sick and I still lost 10 lbs. on the trip. This is not the time to diet!
  • Even if you stop drinking liquid early in the evening, you will still be up several times a night if you are taking Diamox. Don’t try to hold it, just go. The body diverts energy from keeping you warm so it is better if you get up. I saw the Milky Way for the very first time in my life while up at 3 a.m.
  • Ladies, I would suggest a go girl. It makes “visiting the monkeys” a lot easier when all the privacy you will get on the mountain is a small group of rocks if you are lucky. And you will pee constantly if you are taking Diamox. Get over it.
  • Taking Diamox is a personal decision. I had tingling in my fingers and numbness in my toes while taking it. The numbness in my toes did not go away for about a month, but I think that was due to the strenuous activity vs. medication.
  • Take eye drops (if you have dry eyes), ginger candy, and anti-nausea meds. They were a life saver. Altitude can be a bitch if you live at sea level.
  • Hat and SUNSCREEN. Enough said.
  • Hire a personal porter if possible. We had several people in our group that did and it would have saved us a lot of energy to have someone helping to carry our backpacks or water. You don’t realize how heavy 5 liters of water can be over 7-10 days.
  • Bring pole gloves. Your hands will sweat and get blisters. You can also use blister blocker on your hands.
  • Take half the clothes you think you will need. I ended up wearing the same things. However, bring at least three pair of pants (they get very dirty) and enough sock liners, underwear and bras for every day. You will sweat through everything you wear.
  • Have a pair of warm socks and a clean sweater reserved just for sleeping. It is hard to sleep in dirty clothes.
  • Bring something special for summit day that you can associate with the memory of Kilimanjaro. I forgot to bring a trinket from home, but fortunately, my sweet husband brought along a camel figurine (which I collect). Now I have a story to go with the gift that was at the highest point in Africa!
  • Say thank you every day to the hikers, leaders, and support staff. They make sure you are safe and successful.
summit

Summit day!

Hopefully, this info will help you prepare for a successful hike and a trip of a lifetime! If anyone else has brought items on a hiking trip that they couldn’t live without I’d love to know as I’m preparing for a hike in Peru next year!

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Alentejo Wine Tour

Portugal wine region

Alentejo wine region

Last summer we were fortunate enough to visit Lisbon, Portugal, as part of my husband’s work trip. It was my first visit to Portugal and the surrounding wine country. While I do drink a fair amount of French, Italian, and domestic wine, I had almost no exposure to wines from Portugal. Because of a compressed time frame, I decided a wine tour made the most sense for us to try several different wineries and specialities of the Alentejo region.

It was a great day touring with The Best Portugal Wine Tours. Armando was a wonderful, entertaining host and very knowledgable about the region. If you only have a few days and want to maximize your time, I would recommend a tour with The Best Portugal.

These are a few experiences that really stood out for us:

Dona Maria

Dona Maria is located in the city of Estremoz and dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. While the estate and chapel dates back to the 18th century, the wine is produced from an adjoining vineyard with a heritage that dates back 150 years. Dona Maria produces Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Aragonês, and Viosinho among several others. I brought home the Dona Maria Grande Reserva which was excellent! One of the most interesting features of the estate that I had never seen personally was a marble wine storage room where grapes are allowed to soak and drain naturally  into containers. I still don’t know how the marble looks that pristine!

Dona Maria Estate and chapel

Chapel

Dona Maria Chapel

Dona Maria production room

Monte da Ravasqueira

Monte da Ravasqueira estate is located in Arraiolos and has been linked to one family for several generations. Monte da Ravasqueira offers a wide variety of affordable, high quality wines from Petit Verdot, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, and Alvarinho to sparkling and liqueur wines. The estate also produces olive oil, honey, cork, cattle, and has an impressive carriage driving museum.

Ravasqueira estate

Monte da Ravasqueira estate

wine tasting

Wine tasting at Monte da Ravasqueira

A Cadeia Quinhentista

For lunch, we stopped at a very unique restaurant in Estremoz located in a 16th century jail house. We had a multi-course lunch with salted cod and other local dishes along with….more wine of course! It was one of the food highlights from our entire trip to Portugal and I would recommend a stop if you are in the Alentejo region.

restaurant in Estremoz

A Cadeia Quinhentista

Outside of A Cadeia Quinhentista

We hope to go back to Lisbon this fall for a quick visit. Do you have any other favorite wine regions in Portugal?

 

 

 

Around the World in 2017

Castle

I have been doing a lot of overseas trip planning lately and it got me to thinking of all the places I have been and want to go in the future. It wasn’t until I sat down with a map and started writing down all the countries that I realized I had been to five continents and well over 20 countries (some multiple times)! Not as many as a lot of travel bloggers, but I’m not really a budget traveler. I fall somewhere around mid-range with a rare luxury experience. I save up for big trips and enjoy myself, but I don’t need to stay in fancy hotels. I’m good with a basic, clean room, a bowl of whatever from the place around the corner, with a bottle of good wine. However, all travel styles have advantages and can give you a different outlook on where and how you travel. I wanted something totally different this year so I am about to embark on a more budget friendly solo Euro trip. It will be a big step outside my comfort zone at my age, but I’m really looking forward to a different perspective and new experiences!

2017 Planned Travel List:

UK (again)

Ireland (again, but staying with friends! YAY!)

Spain

Dominican Republic

Peru (Hiking the Salkantay Trail and Machu Picchu)

Napa or Willamette Valley

Where are you planning to go in 2017?

Tanzania: A Photo Essay

African sunset

Sunset at Ndarakwai Ranch

As far back as I can remember, I’d always wanted to visit Africa. It seemed like the most vast and remote place to a small town Texas girl. Many years and numerous countries later, I finally made it to Tanzania. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, go on  safari, and visit Zanzibar. Here is my Tanzanian journey:

Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kili camp

Camping above the clouds on Mt. Kili

Lava Camp

Lava Tower Camp (15,213 ft.)

Uhuru

Highest peak in Africa at 19,341 ft.

Tarangire Park

Tarangire National Park

Maasai Guide

Sunset walk with our Maasai guide in Ngorongoro Crater

Safari

Safari View

Elephants in Tanzania

Lots of elephants in Ngorongoro Crater

Zanzibar Beach

Beach in Ras Nungwi, Zanzibar

Market

Zanzibar market scene

Fish market

Zanzibar fish market

Stone Town

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam

While Tanzania was my first stop in Africa, it certainly will not be the last. I have my eye on the sand dunes of Namibia, another safari in Botswana, and wine tasting in South Africa. Where would you like to go?

 

Love photos? Let’s connect on Instagram!

 

5 unique things to do in Rome

On every trip I take I try to balance the typical touristy activities with more off the beaten path experiences. I like to see the things that make a place a destination, but I personally find that doesn’t provide the most memorable experiences. I like talking to the locals to find out where to eat, shops to visit, and their favorite places to go.

I have been to Rome several times and have seen all the big sites, but I keep going back because I keep discovering more things that I love about the city. It is big, loud and delicious, but has hidden pockets of beauty. For me, it is like getting to know a person. You see all the superficial stuff first, but then you start to share experiences with a place. It eventually becomes a friend that you enjoy seeing over and over again.

5 unique things to do in Rome:

  1. Park of the Aqueducts

It took us a while to find The Park of the Aqueducts located along the Appian Way. You basically get on the metro and ride it out to the last stop and keep walking through a suburban neighborhood. We did eventually find it and spent a relaxing, quiet afternoon admiring the 2,000 year old handiwork away from Rome’s crowds. You can spend a whole day walking the park. There are also several neighborhood cafeterias where you can grab a few to-go items and have a picnic in the park. If you need a break this is a fascinating place to go.

aqueduct

The Park of the Aqueducts

2. Testaccio neighborhood

We stumbled upon Testaccio on a food tour and loved the non-touristy vibe of the neighborhood. It is business as usual here with locals chatting in the square, grabbing a coffee, or picking up groceries. There isn’t a major site to see here so it isn’t crowded. Testaccio slaughterhouse used to pay its workers in fifth quarters so this is the neighborhood to go to for tripe  if that is your thing. If not, they have a wonderful market and low key restaurants serving up delicious, straight forward food. It is a place that I will visit again and again.

Market

Vendor at the Testaccio market

3. Testaccio Slaughterhouse

Also in the Testaccio neighborhood is the old slaughterhouse that now houses the MACRO al Mattatoio, a branch of Rome’s contemporary art gallery. Testaccio used to be the slaughterhouse district all the way up to 1975.  It is a unique space that still has the original animal pens and meat hooks hanging from the track. The art exhibits complement the space and is a unique place to visit.

slaughterhouse

Testaccio slaughterhouse

4. Baths of Caracalla

What do you see when you don’t want to see the Roman forum again? The Baths of Caracalla were Rome’s second largest public baths built in the 3rd century. It is estimated that 21 million bricks were used in the construction of the baths. Several large pieces of mosaic work along with entire tiled floors have been preserved at the site.  The vast complex of ruins are surrounded by a large green space. There were few people there when we visited and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Personally, I found this to be one of the best ancient exhibits in Rome. I can only imagine how impressive the baths were in the third century!

Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla

5. Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is so completely out of place in Rome which is why it is an interesting visit. Located next to the Protestant  cemetery, it is a funeral monument  to Caius Cestius, a wealthy Roman magistrate. Egyptian architectural style was fashionable after Rome conquered Egypt in 30 B.C. While it wasn’t the only pyramid built in Rome (there was one near the Vatican at one time), it is the only one to survive. After visiting the pyramid, walk through the gardens of the Prostestant cemetery and visit the graves of Keats and Shelley. If you get a nice day, the soft light reflecting off the marble of the tombstones is very beautiful.

Cestius

Pyramid of Cestius

cemetery

Protestant Cemetery

 

What are your favorite, unique places in Rome?