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Trip Report Trip Report: Kili climb/OAT Serengeti w/Rwanda gorillas

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My trip report isn't nearly as hilarious as crosscheck's, but I thought maybe someone would enjoy it.

I climbed Kili, then joined the OAT Serengeti trip with the post-trip to Rwanda and visited the Susa gorilla family. I had a wonderful vacation.

My trip report is at:

There are some pictures on the blog, and I'll be adding more later, maybe in a web album like Picasa, not sure yet.

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    Thanks for posting about your trip. Maybe I just missed it, but did you talk about the actual walk to get to the gorillas? I'm hoping to do a gorilla trek next year, but am not super fit. How difficult did you find the walking?

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    I didn't really comment on the details of my trip on the blog. I was using it to communicate to my friends/family here at home, while I was in Africa. I did most of the posting from Africa, but did upload the gorilla pics after I got home. That's why there are more of them than the safari pics. Plus that seemed to be what my friends wanted to see. The posts took forever to do from Africa on dialup.

    The gorilla trekking is pretty steep to get to any of the groups, I think. You have to tromp through terraced fields before you get up to the stone wall that surrounds the park.

    You hike up, up, then across through the potato rows, then up, up. You gain a new respect for the people who lug tools, water, themselves up here each day to tend their crops and then carry the produce down.

    Once you go over the wall, the fields end, and the bamboo/vines start. You can see the vegetation from my pics. There were various paths through the vegetation, and we followed these until we located the gorillas. The trackers used their machetes to help clear away some vegetation. I think everyone fell at least once, but you just land on a pile of vines, so it doesn't hurt. I fell when my foot got tangled in a noose of vines, others slipped because the crushed leaves and vine stems are slimy. The porters help a lot, be sure to hire one. I brought a Clif bar and a bottle of water for my porter and he seemed happy.

    There were stinging nettles, and they stung right through my long sleeved shirt and pants, ouch. I was glad for my stretchy leather garden gloves that I always wear hiking, and for my trek poles.

    I visited the Susa group, who are often far up the mountain. It took us about 3 hours of walking up, 1 hour to visit, 1 hour down, plus an hour drive each way. We left the lodge at 6:30 am, and I returned at 3pm. Oliver was our guide.

    The others on the post-trip visited Group 13, and had a steep, but shorter walk, and a shorter drive. They were back at the lodge at 12:30. They had Francois as their guide. They ranged 54-78, not super-fit, and they did fine.

    I had trained for the Kili climb, but I'm not a fast hiker, and I had trouble keeping up with the young guys in our group. Oliver made them slow down by putting me in front.

    I'd highly recommend some time on a stair-stepper and elliptical trainer until you can do 30 minutes combined, and some actual steep-hill walking. I live on the CA central coast--not any big peaks in sight, but I walked up and down every steep hill in our county, plus drove to some bigger hikes to train for my Kili climb, including Mt. Whitney.

    You can read old posts on my blog about my training hikes, they are June 5, 10, 19 posts, plus the May ones.

    colduphere-- yes, some serious training is involved unless your daughter is already in seriously good shape. I could hike 3-4K elevation increase, 12 miles a day, swim 1,000m at a good clip, do 45 min on the stepper/elliptical with a 20# pack, and I still felt like I struggled on Kili. Its the altitude that gets you once you hit 15K, and there's not really any way to train for that. I'm also 50, and I know it would have been a lot easier 10 years ago--my 17yo DD completely outpaces me, but I can hike farther than she can, and I don't whine :)

    If she wants more info about Kili, she can email me at the address on my blog. It's not my primary address, but I check it at least weekly.

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    PA_Kathy: the Susa group is always the farthest away; those who trek to see them are invariably tthe last to return to the bottom each day. My experience (2008) was that they tended to sort people into groups based primarily on two criteria: language and age. (The exception is if you request a specific family or guide, which you may or may not get.) Those of us "of a certain age" (we are early 60's and reasonably, but not super, fit) were usually assigned to families closer to the base.

    The first day we had only a 40-minute walk to the gorillas...not strenuous. The second day, after I announced that I could handle more than the previous day, turned out to be a 3-hour climb to see a family that is normally down low -- but that day they had climbed high into a narrow ravine. It was totally worth the hike because we were so close to them...but I would never have made it without my porter!! Don't set out without one -- even if you do NOT need them, at least you are giving someone employment for the day.

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    Congratulations on your climb! Nice blog with good photos, thank you for sharing it.

    I was in Rwanda trekking gorillas around the same time as you. What a magnificent experience.

    PA_Kathy, I am quite fit but not accustomed to altitude so I was surprised at how easily I got out of breath. No problems, though. I hired porters each day and we made it. Trekked to the Amahoro group (moderately difficult because they were in a steep location and it had rained the night before) and Agashya, formerly known Group 13. To Agashya was a really easy and short walk. I also trekked to see the Golden Monkeys, moderately easy walk the day I went.

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