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).


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 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!

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:


Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kili camp

Camping above the clouds on Mt. Kili

Lava Camp

Lava Tower Camp (15,213 ft.)


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 View

Elephants in Tanzania

Lots of elephants in Ngorongoro Crater

Zanzibar Beach

Beach in Ras Nungwi, Zanzibar


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?


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Off the Beaten Path: ciboVino

ciboVino Winnsboro, TXWhile on my East Texas road trip a few weeks ago, I decided to take my Grandpa out for an “Off the Beaten Path” date. I love talking to him and hearing stories of his adventures. (Listen up-your grandparents are fascinating people. So, if they are still around—talk to them! My Grandpa traveled all over the world, helped build a hospital in Saudi Arabia in the 70’s, and did the carpentry in most of the buildings in downtown San Francisco. How cool is that?)

I am, by far, the most adventurous person in my family which is why my Grandpa and I get along so well. When I found a write up in Southern Living magazine on a restaurant in Winnsboro, TX, I knew he would be up for it.

ciboVino is a family-run, Italian restaurant located on the downtown square in Winnsboro, TX. Blink and you may miss it!  However, I was strongly advised by ciboVino’s website to call ahead and make a reservation. I was a bit amused by this, but I was sure glad of it after we arrived. The place was completely packed within half an hour!

Once seated, our well spoken, young buck of a waiter (the owner’s son, Brennan) told us all about the specials for the evening. They were featuring a bone-in veal chop with red potatoes and broccollini that my Grandpa could not resist. However, because I am obsessed with pizza, I went with my stand by: margherita pizza with sausage. If you make a decent pie, I’m willing to go back.

I have to say we were not disappointed.  The veal was perfectly cooked and very tender. The homemade pizza was thin, bubbled, and crunchy around the edges just the way I like it. Not the absolute best pizza I have had (that’s only in Italy!), but a solid choice in the area.ciboVino pizza

I was disappointed they did not offer a wine list, but they may not have the clientele to make it worthwhile. We were offered complimentary red or white wine, but the quality was not the best. However, ciboVino does allow guests to bring their own beverages and that seems to be the best option.

The owners, Rick and Sharon, have taken great care to incorporate the entire family into the business. It was great to see the family taking care of an obviously well-loved restaurant. My Grandpa is already talking about our next visit!

I get so caught up in what the city can offer that I forget there are many great places in small towns like Winnsboro. When you step off the beaten path you never know what you may find!

For more information on Winnsboro, TX check out the recent article in Texas Highways!