South Shore women feel Kilimanjaro’s allure
Africa is a land travelers describe as a magical place because it takes people on a journey that starts long before they arrive. It’s been said that roaming the land simulates walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.
“You get a big sense of where we come from,” said Robin Twining, one of three South Lake Tahoe women who made the trip with nine others from Oct. 19 to Nov. 7.
She discovered more than the ancient continent’s roots and the romance of safari halfway across the globe.
Twining, her mother, Rosmarie, and Cassandra Chandler found a kinship with the native Masai people and an extraordinary sisterhood with six other women who scaled Africa’s highest peak — Mount Kilimanjaro. Twining and Chandler completed the six-day climb, while the elder Twining made it to Gilman’s Point at 18,635 feet.
Many outfitters take groups with porters carrying about 40 pounds. Lion’s Safari out of Tanzania, the nation where Kilimanjaro is located, took the women up the Marangu Route. This route comes with hut accommodations. The women enjoyed morning tea at 6 a.m.
The 19,340-foot mountain has a few notable distinctions that set it apart as a favorite travel destination.
For geologists and botanists, the climb takes hikers through five climate zones — including the rain forest between 5,000 and 9,000 feet and freezing temperatures on top.
“It’s amazing how one climate would end, and all of a sudden, you’re in another,” Twining said, while her mother nodded.
For climatologists, Kilimanjaro presents a study in global warming. The glacier has slowly shrunk over the years, alarming scientists.
For peak baggers, it’s one of the highest summits on the seven continents. Since making it to the top requires no technical ability, it is altitude sickness that affects many who storm up the trail.
Chandler, a personal trainer at Sierra Athletic Club, forced herself to saunter up the mountain. Hikers who negotiate Kilimanjaro at a turtle-like pace have a better chance of making it to the top.
“‘Pole, pole’ — we heard this all the time,” Chandler said of the Swahili term that means slowly.
Rosmarie Twining, 64, admitted to feeling intimidated by all the young people who signed the registry before the hike. But she soon discovered what often happened to the young bucks who didn’t heed the advice.
“You see these guys come down, young and strong, and they don’t make it. It made us wonder,” Robin Twining said.
Some struggled to get down — a common symptom of altitude sickness.
To stay up to par, Chandler drank an extraordinary amount of water by most hiking standards — 4 to 5 liters a day. Three is a must to avoid dehydration. At least 4 are recommended.
The practice gave her another challenge — finding a place to urinate.
Fortunately, the other hikers found themselves in the same boat.
She wrote in her journal of “butts everywhere,” as the mountain changed to a moonscape environment in the upper elevations.
“Forget about trying to hide,” Chandler said, laughing.
When nine women made it to the summit, Twining’s aunt — a cancer survivor — was the first.
“On everybody’s mind the whole way up was ‘are we going to make it?'” Robin Twining said.
The summit of Uhuru — meaning freedom in Swahili — held special meaning for Chandler, who took the ashes of her friend, Leland McSwain, to the top to release.
“He said I could do anything I put my mind to,” Chandler said of the Harrah’s bartender.
After the climb, Twining joined the group on a 10-day safari that led the women to the Ngorongoro Crater — acclaimed as a natural wonder of the world. On a treeless grasslands myriad species — zebra, wildebeest and gazelles — were the most abundant on the open plains.
Its crater floor, which spans 102 miles square, resembles a miniature Serengeti National Park, the world’s largest wildlife park.
The group also took jaunts to Nairobi and the Masai Mara Reserve. On safari, the group heard elephants and monkeys at night. By day, lions roamed the landscape. Twining’s favorite was the giraffe.
And who says you can’t take a piece of it with you?
Twining recalled how one woman bought a wooden carved giraffe standing 9 feet high. The group helped her drag it through the airport.
At least the woman’s boyfriend had the right idea. He picked her up from Los Angeles International Airport in a convertible.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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