Playing The Field by Ashleigh Nelson

Ash Nelson Begins Her African Adventure

Former Hockeyroo player and host of The Circle podcast Ashleigh Nelson leaves the comforts of home  in Western Australia to tackle the highest mountain in Africa – Kilimanjaro

Jumbo readers (Swahili for hello),

Don’t get me wrong I love spontaneity. Some of the best adventures and fun are derived from chaos. When it comes to holidays however… particularly overseas, I would say that I find myself sitting in the organized person camp… until now.

If you had asked me two weeks ago where I would be on my month vacation the response would have been Central America, or Sri Lanka or Japan. Actually maybe Tanzania might be a goer too. Yes, I had became my worst nightmare, an indecisive person.

Fortunately the indecisiveness subsided with this very basic decision making process:

Central America – Flights two weeks out, too expensive and traveling with Tequila never ends well.

Japan – Too cold even with my great love of the Puffer jacket, and with knees of a 90 year old, snowboarding is an accident waiting to happen.

Sri Lanka – I think we just forgot about this as an option and proceeded straight to Tanzania.  Sorry Sri Lanka, I am sure you would have been wonderful.

So Tanzania got locked in, and with five days to spare, airfares home were purchased, alongside some very comprehensive travel insurance — the Mums very relieved by this.

The first of January rolled around—Happy New Year y’all—and alongside my equally disorganized old boarding school friend we left Perth for Tanzania via Doha. The transit time is roughly 20 hours, giving plenty of time for us to develop some damn sexy chubby ankles or cankles to flaunt upon arrival…watch out Africa. Fortunately for us we managed to use our New Year hangover and lack of sleep to our advantage sleeping eight out of ten hours on the first leg. Sheer dumb luck or great planning, who knows, but it made for a quick trip.

Now I said indecisive people are annoying, but shock horror, I too have a flaw. I am one of those irritating people that when they see a hill, mountain or surface that is slightly higher in altitude, they have a real need to say they climbed it. People like this you know who you are, and apologies to our friends and partners who have to come along for the ride. Hence when it popped up that Tanzania was home to Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, of course I thought it was the perfect activity to do from absolutely no training.  Bless my dear friend who is either highly influenced or just as stupid as me to do this with minimal prep.

So here we are in a small town called Moshi getting ready to climb Kilimanjaro. Moshi is a busy little town known as the gateway to Kilimanjaro, filled with tourists – half who are starry eyed about the prospective of climbing Kilimanjaro, while the other half bleary eyed after days of altitude sickness.

I thought after entering my 30’s that all my travel would consist of private rooms, and definitely a private bathroom, but alas with the cost of hiking Kilimanjaro, anywhere from US$1500 upwards, I’m back channeling my younger backpacking hostel days. How nice it is to be listening to the sweet sound of strangers snoring and wearing thongs in the shower again. What has been great however is hearing the tips from reverently returned trekkers that have completed the hike. I have literally just had a 30 minute conversation with two Kiwi girls about how much toilet paper to pack!  Two rolls it seems.

With a few days up our sleeve before the trek starts we are acclimatizing through staying at a slightly higher altitude than sea level and heading out into the Kilimanjaro foothills for some cultural activities. Today we were driven out to the small town of Materuni to hike 40 mins to Materuni’s 80m waterfall. Escorted by Africa’s equivalent to David Attenborough or Steve Irwin, Matthew was very adept at spotting a vast array of edible flora, and numerous Chameleons. While he was busy being outstanding, us useless mzungus (white people) were busy watching where we were stepping and taking ridiculous amounts of selfies with out new spirit animal (the chameleon)

The Kilimanjaro foothills are home to the Chugga tribe whose main form of industry is producing and selling Arabica coffee. A variety introduced by the Germans initially, this type of bean grows well at this altitude and climate. As it turns out there is much more to the coffee process than plopping a pod and pressing go. As the video below shows grinding down coffee beans is hard work and motivation from friends who can sing and hold a beat helps in the process. Sadly once again us mzungus had little rhythm and probably won’t be invited back to help with harvest.

The Kilimanjaro trek starts on the 6th of January, so if you are interested in hearing more about the trek I will be blogging all the ins and out and probably over sharing along the way as a good health professional always are inclined to do.

Till next time.


The underprepared and haphazard hiker!


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