Trip itinerary (September 14 - October 7)Day 1 Leave SFO, fly to Amsterdam
Day 2 Arrive Amsterdam, since we have about 12 hrs layover, we visit the historical center of A'dam. The train from the airport and back works great. Fly to Nairobi in the evening
Day 3 Arrive Nairobi in the morning and get a taste of African chaos when trying to get boarding passes and transfer our luggage for our flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro (JRO). People everywhere, all of them running and yelling as if a terrorist attack just occurred but no one really seems to be doing anything. We are told one of our bags did not arrive to Nairobi. On the board of the small plane to Kilimanjaro, the crew finds out that I was issued a boarding pass for a non-existent seat so they kick another passenger off the plane... I get to stay.
Arrive JRO, file a missing luggage report (very "fun" since the clerk does not speak much English and I am tired after two days on various planes, hence not very tolerant).
Transfer to hotel, catch a glimpse of African life on the way. Eat a bit, pass out.
Day 4 Originally we were planning to start Kili climb the day after arriving. Since I don't have my luggage, I don't have my sleeping bag, hiking boots, nothing. We ask Zara whether we can switch safari and the climb and to our relief it is possible so we are leaving on our 5 day safari today. We spend the day driving to Lake Manyara but get there to late so we go straight to the hotel.
Day 5 Drive to Serengeti, some good wildlife sightings along the way
Day 6 Whole day in Serengeti, amazing encounters with elephants
Day 7 Drive from Serengeti to Ngorongoro, wildlife drive in the crater. We observe a lioness hunting zebras (unsuccesfuly) - unforgettable!
Day 7 Lake Manyara in the morning, drive back to Moshi in the afternoon. My bag is waiting for me at the hotel so we can start the Kili trek tomorrow. Safari was great and wildlife amazing.
Day 8 - Day 13 Kilimanjaro trek via Machame route in a group with Aubrey and Jen (a couple from Colorado) and Michael from Germany. The trekking is super slow (pole-pole in Swahili) and the trail is more crowded than I expected but scenery is beautiful. Our whole group summits on September 26, 2007 at around 5.30am, about an hour before sunrise. Although we were telling our guide that everyone was feeling well and we hike fast, he still had us to start shortly before 1am... I wait at the summit for sunrise to snap some pix but it is very windy and cold, probably below 0F, not considering windchill.
Aubrey did a really nice job with his trip report here so no need for me to repeat anything.
Day 14 - Day 18 Fly to Zanzibar, visit Stone Town (amazing!) and spend a couple days on the beach. Almost too relaxing, last day I am happy to be leaving... I just can't stand lying on the beach and do NOTHING.
Day 19 - Day 23 Spend a couple of days in Prague with our families (too bad it was too short!!) and fly back to SFO.
Random thoughtsWe highly recommend Zara both for the trek and safari - we haven't had a single complaint that would relate to Zara. We especially appreciated their flexibility in switching the trek and the safari after the mishap with my luggage. We also had a great cook on our Kili trek, food was better than in the Springlands hotel in Moshi!! We booked both the trek and safari through AWR.
We got really lucky with our Kili group - great and fun people to be with and I hope to climb with Aubrey and Jen at some point in the future again. Heated discussion on illegal immigration at dinner table at 3,800 meters also sticks in my mind :-)
Footwear and clothing - for our late September climb most of our group wore trail runners/low top hiking shoes until the summit day. For the summit, all of us had leather hiking boots and experienced varying degrees of coldness. I had liners and two pairs of socks in mine and was fine (not comfortable, but fine). Vendula had just liners and one pair of socks and claims to have been fine as well :-). Light down jacket was handy in the evenings lower on the mountain (except for the first camp at 3,000m) and a necessity (for me at least) on the summit day. Both of us had 20F degree down sleeping bags and they worked fine.
I had different expectations for the Kili trek - it turned out way easier than I thought and daily hiking mileage was short as well (yes, I understand that one needs to acclimatize...) - except for the summit day we hiked for only maybe 4 -5 hours a day. The daily mileage posted on AWR's website is grossly overstated - maybe divide that by two. Obviously, I have not done any other routes on Kili but I think Machame is great - you get the best and varied views of the mountain. Our guide was of the same opinion. If they ever open Western Breach, that would be a good option too, direct and little more technically challenging.
The fact that you get better exchange rate for $50 and $100 bills is well known (now you know:-) - what took us by surprise was that Springlands hotel in Moshi would not accept $50 bill that was issued before 2000??!!
If you can, fly directly to JRO. Nairobi airport sucks and I was very unhappy how they were treating me when I was trying to sort through my lost bag...
AWR's website says to bring older outdoor clothing for porters - we brought some but after seeing the porters - just bring EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you can, including shoes, socks and T-shirts (cotton included). They can use anything. If we knew we would have brought a lot more.
End of September/beginning of October is a slow season in Zanzibar - we have not booked anything in advance and everything worked out well. We stayed at Jambo guesthouse in Stone Town and at Kinazi Upepo in Paje on the east coast (beach).