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Kili: 289 meters

On the plane into Tanzania, we soared over the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro! Greeted in the sky with our first glimpse of this stunning landmark, the fatigue of travel melted. I had arrived and ready to summit. I slept in the car from the airport to our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania where we were greeted with fresh mango juice (yummy)! We had time to get acclimated, get to know one another and understand from the guides what we signed up for.

Prior to landing in Africa, it is usually either necessary or recommended that malaria medication be taken. For this trip, I was prescribed Malarone – side note: if you have taken Malaria medication and know whether that specific kind had adverse effects on you (odd dreams, lack of appetite etc) it is best to share these with a doctor when discussing trip details. I was prescribed Doxycycline for my first trip and wish I had expressed my fondness for this version. I learned that if taking Diamox (an altitude sickness aid) that it would not mix well with the Malarone, and a choice would have to be made.

I had never heard of Diamox, so I did not know to ask my doctor about it. Prior to the climb I bought Diamox in town in case I needed it – I had never climbed above 14,000 (4,267 meters) feet so having a back-up seemed logical until I learned that Diamox is not a short-notice kind of medicine. I decided to take the Diamox instead of the Malarone, as the malaria threat is not huge in Tanzania and we would soon be above the elevation that mosquitos can survive. I would only end up taking one half-dose of Diamox the entire time – the day before we set out.

It may have been the Diamox that started my trickling decline in health as the hours passing would lead us to the welcome gate. We had just been told that we should attempt to eat five times our normal amount per meal! I share this suspicion with you because a side effect of Diamox can be lack of appetite, which is what led me to eat red meat for the first time in over a year. The lack of appetite I was experiencing frightened me.

I hardly ate a thing for over a day – right when my body needs to take in the most fuel it can. I could feel my body yearning for food, but I was so overwhelmed by the act of eating that I went for it – a beef sausage. It seemed about the only thing worth trying to eat in terms of most nutrition for the least amount of work. That would, I believe, be where everything really took a turn for the worst. Sparing the details, that sausage wrecked my system. I got steadily better as time went on and was over this episode before the thick of the hike – thank goodness!

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