Kilimanjaro Expedition – Part 4

Part four and Day three of a bloody long walk.

This day finds us still at the Horombo Huts at 3700 m above sea level.  It’s an acclimatization day.  We are asked to relax and take in the fresh air, allowing our body time to adjust to the altitude, mind you the alarm is still set for 7am to have breakfast!  We’re given the option, which I took, to walk to Mawenzi Ridge and Zebra Rock at a height of 4100 m above sea level.

On arrival, those with sight admired the scenery.  The South African trekkers had the opportunity, if they choose, to climb the rock and have photos taken.  As this rock is considered sacred to the local people, I chose to respect the Tanzanian people and not climb.

We mulled around for about 20 minutes to half an hour then made a slow walk back to the Horombo Huts for lunch.  There are plenty of great scenic views from this altitude to admire.  The high altitude makes itself felt in the thin, low oxygen air that you breathe and we’re reminded to prepare for the trek on the following day which is the big one!  You’re suggested to drink an extra liter of water throughout the day and also another through the night as dehydration is a contributor to altitude sickness.

The afternoon passed slowly and a fellow sighted trekker told us of a climber from a different group who was experiencing altitude sickness and had to be evacuated by the local ambulance.  This consisted of a steel bed-frame with two handles at each end.  The trekker was wrapped in their sleeping bag and strapped down.  Under the bed frame was the rear end of a motorcycle suspension and wheel.  With a porter at each end they then ran back down the track to the gate, where hopefully, an actual ambulance was waiting.  No machinery up there.  Everything is carried in and everything is carried out!

From there we just relaxed, waiting for dinner and contemplating what’s coming. The next day.  This is the big one!

The walk to the summit will be in the next update.

If this is your first time reading these posts I’ll let you know I’m blind.

(Image of Zebra rock from Gringo Potpourri)

Kilimanjaro Expedition – Part 3

Kilimanjaro part 3

Part three and Day two of a bloody long walk.

Leaving the Mandara Huts, 2700m ASL (above sea level), this day took us to the Horombo Huts, 3700m ASL.  This day was extreme for me.  I’m not sure why but it just seemed to be never-ending.  The path was rougher with larger rocks on the path to navigate (as mentioned previously the path is not concrete or smooth) added to this were timber bridges, gutters, rocks and the fact I put on the wrong clothing.

The occasional light rain showers didn’t help!  The altitude started to play a role and with the little sight I had it all seemed to be very bleak.  Thinking back – I may have been dehydrated.  Keep in mind that I was trying to stay in arms-reach of my guide, therefore holding my arm up to keep in contact while we were walking.  Believe me – this gets painful after several hours!  Try holding your arm out in front of you in the one position for an hour, walking, and see how you go.  Added to that was the concentration of traversing the gutters and rocks of all sizes and shapes!

From our guides, I’m told of what the terrain looks like around us – valleys and more shrubs, the plant life mostly low ground cover.  There was apparently a bird similar to a crow at the Horombo camp.  Only one though.  I really don’t remember hearing any other bird life up there!

I distinctly remember the feeling of humidity possibly because we were walking through a cloud and lots of greenery.  Note to self for next expedition; Don’t wear the thermal undershirt too early.  Just makes the job harder!

We were able to fill our water bottles in streams on the way, always asking the porters which were safe to drink as some are poison to us due to vegetation rot tainting the water.  Arriving at Horombo Huts it was possible to see the summit of Kilimanjaro, or,  Kibo Summit as it is known in Tanzania.  We were encouraged to drink an extra litre of water through the night preparing for the major walk to come just two nights away.

I will be back with the next days walk in the New Year.  Please have a most lovely Christmas and New Year period.

Kilimanjaro Expedition – Part 2

Kilimanjaro part 2

Part two of a Bloody long walk.

The entry gate to the Kilimanjaro National Park is 1800m above sea level. Like all park entrances, we had to sign in. As we waited, a line of local people were read the riot act by a stony-faced man in army greens holding a rifle. These locals try to rent equipment to visitors to make money. Our group had already met our expedition leader and had all of our supplies and the porters who would be carrying our major backpacks. Apparently, the locals are strongly advised not to offer their wares on the inside of the National Park. Within about 60m into the fence line I heard a commotion up front. I was told that the expedition leader was swinging his walking stick above the head of a local and abusing him for not respecting the rules.  Well, the local was back into the bush like a scrub turkey chasing a grasshopper!

The walking path up the mountain is not concrete or compacted gravel. It is created by hand by the locals. The path is very easy to follow, however, it has rocks and stones of varying sizes throughout making the walk treacherous if you don’t keep your wits about you. Lifting your feet and placing it in the right spot can be a challenge. You need to be fit, have flexibility in your ankles and have enough energy.

Occasionally you’ll find gutters crossing the path created to allow the rainwater to flow through and not to wash away the main path. These gutters are also manmade and are varying widths and depths everything from six inches to a foot and a half. Keep in mind, if you’re sighted you can judge how far to step. Blind, well, I felt with my white cane first then stepped across. This I very quickly got used to as stopping to feel out each gap would waste time. I also had to hold onto my guide, communicating about the terrain ahead. The trail is heavily forested near the entrance of the park with large trees and undergrowth.

The beginning of the track was smoother but became rougher the further we continued. Every day was certainly an experience on this walk! Walking the trail we could hear birds twittering, excited monkeys in the trees watching the trekkers go by while jumping from branch to branch and the porters talking to each other in their own language sometimes singing or chatting with other porters walking in the opposite direction with their team of travellers on their way out.

Our goal for the first day was to make it to the 2700m, or 9000 feet above sea level camp, the Mandara Huts. As we reached the huts in the afternoon we understood how important it was to get fit prior to undertaking this trek. If I were to do it again, however, I would prepare better for the stress on your ankles. Our legs ached and we found it beneficial to walk with slightly bended knees to help with cushioning and stability. Sighted you can make a quick judgement where to place your foot and adjust. Blind, we find out when we put our foot down. Judgements are made instantly whether to tense or relax and have as much of the boot surface on the ground as possible. Making a bad decision, breaking a bone or spraining an ankle, could mean turning around and leaving! That would be a disaster!

More next week.


The benefits of knowing your DNA

The emergence of genetic testing has provided many opportunities to predict the future of humans. Genetic testing offers a chance for the scientist to understand the DNA structure and predict the risks humans carry with them.

Apart from that, the scientists can even help you to find the right way to lose your weight or to give up addictions like smoking.

Two Finnish researchers conducted a study aiming to understand the DNA structure of the individuals with high cholesterol levels. Testing of their DNA revealed that they are more likely to face any heart disease in the future.

When researchers disclosed this truth to the individuals, they began practicing healthier habits in order to protect themselves from these diseases. The DNA tests did not give any guarantee that the individuals would be facing heart problems, however, knowing about their predisposition, helped them to develop better habits.

Out of the individuals who were a part of this project, 17% of them quit smoking successfully in just 18 months.

A similar study was conducted in Estonia where the researchers developed a tool called “KardioKompass”, which produces a risk score on the statistical chance of developing a heart disease.

Apart from predicting and helping to develop healthy habits, knowing about your DNA can help in various ways. For example finding your lost family members.

Comparing the results of your genetic reports with that of other DNA samples can help you to find members of your family tree. There are organizations that compare your sample with those available from the world and help you to understand your true ethnicity.

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Benefits of Working out in Bare Feet

Did you know that ditching your shoes while working out could actually help you in tremendous ways? Well, it can! Grounding – that is feeling the earth, is said to contain natural healing properties for the human body. When you touch the ground with your feet, you form an electrical connection with the earth. This connection with earth has been shown to relieve inflammation, pain, and stress by providing a better circulation for your body.

The Chinese too believe in a constantly pervading natural energy of the Universe which is termed as Chi in their culture. Chi is believed to be the life flow that moves in all our body parts and it is something that holds a central place in martial arts.

Take a look at how working out barefoot can help your body in different ways –

  • Working out barefoot can contribute to strengthening your arches, toes, ankles, shins, and even your knees. These joints are otherwise at the risk of becoming weakened due to wearing incompatible shoes for long hours.
  • Working out barefoot is great for your overall body structure and stability. So if you are working out in bare feet you are not just strengthening your feet, but also your entire body.
  • Your feet are the foundation of your body and the nerve endings in your feet connect to other nerves in your whole body. On the whole, working out barefoot challenges the mobility of your body that subsequently helps to improve it.

The Hygiene Factor –

One factor that needs special attention before going barefoot for your training is Hygiene. Working out barefoot is not only unhygienic but also risky as it increases the chances of slipping and getting an injury. Hence, it is always a better idea to go for special barefoot shoes that can help you with great arch support. With their seamless toe dome, Xtreme Kinetic shoes can help you at great lengths during your yoga, Pilates, or squats sessions.

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