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!

Confessions of a Dieting Food Blogger

Dieting Food Blogger

Rest

Dear Friends,

So, I have a confession. An uncomfortable confession for a self-proclaimed food and wine lover. For the last year I have been on a diet. Not the typical lose-weight-to-look-like-an-unrealistic-airbrushed-swimsuit-model diet, but a lifestyle diet.

Last year I decided that I had too much excess in my life. Too much food, too much drinking, too much work, and too much stress. So I went on a diet and started focusing on my health, doing things that make me happy, and being more present in my life. Blogging and social media were not a priority.

Unfortunately, for a food/wine/travel blog this wasn’t ideal, but these are the five things I learned:

  1. Give yourself permission to rest. Life should be about loving experiences and it’s ok if you need to take a break to reconnect with your passion (or find a new one!).
  1. Change isn’t bad. Good things will always happen if you keep moving towards what you want to accomplish. My husband and I were over weight, exhausted, and dealing with health issues. We started working out 4-5 days a week and eating simple, healthy food at home. We now look and feel better than we have in years. And have more money in our bank account for travel. Win!
  1. It’s also ok to indulge every once in a while. Saturday night dinners with a good bottle of wine are things to look forward too. It feels like a special treat for all the hard work during the week.
  1. Starting over is difficult. Finding the discipline to write before/after work is always a struggle. Just remember to keep moving forward.
  1. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. It really is that simple.

Has anyone else taken a lifestyle or blog break? I’d love to know what you learned!

Also, look for more changes ahead on the blog, new recipes, and exciting posts about our upcoming trip to Africa and Kilimanjaro!

 

Why does food and wine make you happy?

VINTAGE_FOODWhy does food and wine make you happy? I often ask myself (usually after a few glasses) why some cultures are so obsessed with food/wine. Yes, I often think about random, academic explorations when consuming the vino. Damn you grad school!

But the question still remains. Is it an emotional, familial, religious, political, or cultural attachment? Is it boredom? Is it to stay current on the wave of new social media outlets? Maybe it is a biological reaction.

Let’s explore the history. Food and wine has played a significant role in history by providing basic survival, cultivating societies, and defining cultural and social identities.  Open a random history book and food or wine (or lack thereof) is usually an accompanying theme to any event. Discoveries of new lands introduced new foods. Great victories in war were celebrated with great feasts and copious amounts of wine. Marriage contracts were negotiated with food and wine. Death rites often incorporated food and wine to carry over into the next life. From a historical perspective, it is an integral part of our existence.

However, the modern food revolution of the 1950’s gave way to processed food and allowed the middle-class to dine conveniently; effectively freeing the housewife from the kitchen.  Food became a liberator of women.  The 1960’s brought on our first celebrity chef: Julia Child. It was also a time to explore and innovate. Food and wine started evolving into a diverse sub-culture of its own. The 1970’s introduced more exotic cuisine. The 1980’s was all about nouvelle cuisine and expensive wine. Now we are obsessed with fad diets: low cal, dairy free, gluten free, paleo, organic, etc.

But why does it make us happy?

I think it is a combination of various influences. I think it is in part a social experience and a way to connect with the world around us. The online food and wine social concept has exploded the last few years with blogging, Instagraming, Tweeting, and events. According to the 2012 Nielsen Social Media Report, 163 million people in the U.S. use social media. Even if we can’t travel to another country we can experience the food, wine, and culture on a social level.  This can make us feel connected, informed, curious, and energized. People are happy when they are interacting with like minded individuals.

I think food and wine makes people happy on a primal level as well because we are biologically programmed to seek out the best: best job, best mate, best food, etc.  Some people may not agree, but seeking out food is fulfilling one of our basic needs. When basic needs are met, we are better aligned to be happy.

For me, food and wine is emotional as well as social. I love to feed my family and friends. My Mamaw (the Texas pronunciation y’all) taught me that you can show love through cooking. Food is directly linked to my memories and experiences and that is what makes me happy. Wine represents discovery for me. Trying new things makes me happy too.

What about you? Why does food and wine make you happy?