Gasping for oxygen as we watch the sunrise over Africa, my new husband, Tim, looks at me and states, “I’m so glad we did this.”
Just a few hours earlier, as we were climbing up 19,341 feet in the freezing moonlight, Tim turned to me and questioned, “Why did we do this? We have to turn back. Why didn’t we just go someplace and sit on the beach?” His earlier lack of enthusiasm is forgotten as we reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
When I was 7 years old I watched an IMAX movie where a group of people hiked the tallest mountain in Africa, and I immediately decided that I wanted to do the same. When I was 22, I was so fortunate to fall in love with a man who shares my sense of adventure and love for travel.
Tim and I far prefer to spend our money on experiences over things. When we got engaged, we knew we wanted a long engagement to save up for our wedding and to plan the trip of a lifetime for our honeymoon. In fact, before we started any wedding planning, we were discussing our choices for a honeymoon location.
Options flew back and forth, but we knew we wanted to take a trip that we could perhaps never take again. We considered South Africa, where I had studied abroad, but a September wedding meant a September honeymoon, which was winter in South Africa. We decided on Tanzania, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which we knew we would never again be able to do as life and future physical limitations could get in the way.
Our friends and family thought we were crazy. We were going to spend our first 6 days as a married couple camping in tents on the side of a mountain. Not to mention the physical risks, and unbelievable cost (nearly $14,000 with flights), of such an adventure. With the help of Traveler’s Joy, we did it anyway. From September 10 to September 25 we had the trip of a lifetime.
A 24 hour flight, with layovers in Paris and Nairobi, gave way to a 6-day climb and the most grueling physical test Tim and I had ever endured. Through jungle, alpine desert, and arctic desert we climbed. Both of us suffered the side effects of altitude sickness, Tim with a vise grip-like headache, and me with dizziness and nausea.
However, thanks to an amazing team of porters, guides and one hell of a chef, we didn’t give up. There was no running water, so showers and toilets didn’t exist. The land was so barren, there were times we felt like we were walking on another planet. We needed each other’s love and support more than we had ever needed it before. We didn’t let each other quit.
Finally, together, we reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on Sunday, September 18th. We stood at the top for no more than ten minutes, and saw the sun hit the sands we had just been struggling to climb up. We watched the sunrise over the Mawenzi peak and knew we’d overcome the first challenge of our marriage.
Rather than elect the typical post-climb safari, we decided to head to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, where we finally relaxed on the beach and snorkeled, one of our favorite past-times. We stayed at the two most beautiful hotels we had ever been, Gold Zanzibar and Baraza Resort, and got the much needed rest we craved.
Finally, after 7 days in the sun and crystalline blue waters searching for rare fish, we got the Kili dust out from under our fingernails. While we didn’t want to leave, we were so excited to return to the friends and family who had made our trip possible, and share our incredible experiences.
Our honeymoon was unique, but also made us stronger as a couple. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for an adventure and a once in a lifetime trip, Tanzania will provide.
Whenever we’re complaining about a tough commute, a difficult assignment, or having a petty argument, we remember the physical test of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, and how we could not do it with the village who supported us: our climbing team, our friends, our family and Traveler’s Joy.