Tanzania – Day 1 & 2 Traveling to Kilimanjaro

Tanzania. It’s hard to know where to start on this trip. I came to Tanzania to find peace, to find understanding, and to find God. Words can scarcely describe my time in this east African country, but try I will.

In total, I was in Tanzania for three weeks, and I will break up my blog posts summarizing what happened each day during my trip. Some might just be interested in my trip reports up Kilimanjaro and on my safari, but I will also write down my reflections when appropriate. Hopefully this will give my family (especially everyone in Iowa!) and friends a glimpse into my experiences on the other side of the world.

On September 1st, I set out on my trip with good friends Michael and John Hoban from the Dulles Airport in Washington DC. John and I spent a remarkably comfortable night in one of the terminals at Dulles, and we met up with Michael early on the 1st. We soon boarded our 13.5 hour flight on Ethiopian Air all the way to Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia. We were greeted with awesome touch screen tv’s behind each seat, pillows, and Ethiopian Air branded eye masks and socks (I’m still not entirely sure what the socks were for…). On the way over I treated myself to the new Great Gatsby movie and the Internship while my seat slowly started to feel more and more like rock. On a 13+ hour flight, I suppose that was bound to happen.

We arrived in Addis without a hitch and went to a different terminal to catch our flight to the Kilimanjaro Airport. Before we left what seemed to be the interesting country of Etheopia, we indulged in some local St. George’s beer at 8am local time (don’t worry it was 11pm back at home, so I could justify it). I worried that the beer would dehydrate me before our big climb up Kili, but John and Michael worked their persuasive magic on me. When we arrived in Tanzania, we were greeted by our Zara Tours bus driver who escorted us to what I can only describe as the most incredible mini van in the world (pictured lower right). This thing was decked out with four skylights, fluorescent accent lighting, curtains, and a tv. When I was five, I would have died if my family had this car.

The bus then brought us to the Springlands Hotel located in the town of Moshi. The Springlands is one of the many hotels owned by our tour company, Zara Tours, and it provided a good staging ground for our trip up Kili. Zara Tours was recommended to me by a friend of mine who climbed Kilimanjaro last year, and I would highly recommend Zara as well. The staff was all extremely friendly, the food was great, and the prices were extremely reasonable. The hotel itself was quite the compound with its large walls separating us from the rest of town. It felt safe and comfortable, but it was slightly weird to feel impounded.

During our first few hours in Tanzania, we met our Kili guides, Gilbert and Rasheed (pictured below bottom right), and we stocked up on a few random pieces of gear that we did not pack for the trip… the most notable of those being a subzero sleeping bag. Yikes! We packed our bags as best we could (below top left) taking care to keep hydrated with bottled water.

That next day we finally set out on our journey in what I can best describe as organized chaos. My guess is that 30 people left the Springlands hotel that morning to hike up various routes on Kili. We all congregated in the courtyard of the hotel with bags in hand. We randomly handed these bags off to porters who threw all of our precious gear in the back of our tour bus. I never worried about losing my gear, but it might have been because everything was moving so quickly… we were off to Kili!

Top Center – A tuktuk negotiating the difficult back roads in Moshi. Top Right – John and Michael on the bus just after we left the walls of our hotel. Bottom Left – John modeling for our bus while we made a final stop at a local gas station on our way to the trailhead. Bottom Right – The chaos on the morning we began our hike. Our tour guides Gilbert and Rasheed (back showing) are centered in the photos. The bus on the right took people off to the Marangu Route. 

It took us maybe an hour to an hour and a half to get to the Machame Gate of Kilimanjaro National Park. We cut through numerous impoverished towns in the Moshi province to get to the gate, and when we finally arrived at the gate, we were greeted by locals who tried to sell us last minute items like American flags and backpack covers before we began our ascent.

Top Left – Informational signage as we entered into the Kilimanjaro National Park. Top Right – Looking back at the gate after we entered the park. Locals attempted to sell us last minute items just on the other side of this gate while an armed Tanzanian guard looked on. 


All the pain and suffering that I felt over my last year seemed washed away. I knew that I was meant to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. What this mountain had in store for me, I did not know, but I knew I was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be.

My first day in Tanzania I marveled at the very fact that I was in Africa. The pain of the past year seemed like a distant memory, but somehow it all led me to that moment. All I had was today. Every breath, every moment was a second chance gifted from God, and I was about to embark on an incredible journey!

Every breath, every moment life beats in my chest
Let my life praise you

Here I am Lord
All I am Lord
Here I am Lord
I am yours

~Gungor, Every Breath

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