Monday 16 September 2019

11. My Kilimanjaro Training : 5 Months in - Tanzania Visa Time, Pack for a Purpose and One Month to go in the Gym!

Hi all!

Thanks for dropping into my next post about my Kilimanjaro 2019 Training, if you've been reading my blogs since the start over 5 months ago - thanks so much! Others I'm sure have been dropping in to read a few so if you've read them all then I'm hugely flattered and touched.

So, the expedition date is scarily getting closer and I'm coming up to my last few weeks of training and have had to get together all the little bits of pieces you need for an expedition on Kilimanjaro. 
But above all, you can't get to Kilimanjaro unless you've got a valid visa into Tanzania so I've been off to the Tanzania High Commission in London to sort out all this official legit stuff....

Behold The Tanzania House! Just off of Oxford Street in London - applying for a visa for Tanzania seemed pretty straight forward. If you have a British passport you can get an e-visa online but being in London, I think its all part of the adventure visiting the embassy yourself! The visa office is down in the basement which the big bold yellow sign quite rightly directs you down to - how shady and cryptic!

It couldn't be less intimidating, no security checks, no buzzing, just walk straight in with nobody sitting behind the glass window but with a paper sign telling you to take a ticket from the red pulley roll on the wall and take a seat in the small waiting room consisting of 10 chairs and framed beautiful photos of the National Parks of Tanzania (strangely enough, none of Kilimanjaro).

Having lived in Ghana for 5 months years ago, I fully expected it to be TMT (Tanzania Maybe Time) and take a while to be served. You can only apply for a visa in the morning between 10 - 12.30 and collect your visa in the afternoon between 2-3.30 (you have to pay more if you want it same day). So I joined the spare seats along with other Tanzanian's waiting to get their passports and could only make assumed guesses what the non-African's where applying for. The ticket number system was strange - there was no working screen to call your number so I'm not sure how they were able to monitor how many number had been taken?!?

Watching a couple more Africans wander in, looking around, poking their heads up the hallway and then finally deciding to come in and sit, a few perplexed looks flickered between us Europeans and resigning to the informality of it all - I just started eating Jaffa Cakes! About 20 minutes later, a young man appeared behind the glass and waved his hand forward to individuals who were there before me, then disappearing again with them into another room - the interrogation room!! no not really - they emerged soon after looking happy as clowns before he beckoned for the next visa applicant up to the counter in our 'already-made-british-politeness-queue'. A man carrying, what looked like to me, mountaineering bags looking confused at the whole set up of what he should do. Looking around the snug waiting room, the majority of applicants were of African descent and it looked obviously only a handful of us were applying for a visa. I told him he needed to take a ticket off the 'red roller thingy' and we seemed to politely have to micro manage the queue positions ourselves!

It didn't take long though before the young chap was back and beckoning the next person to the counter and swiftly taken care of. One other woman was there about to embark on Kilimanjaro a couple of weeks before me, different route but skiving off work to sneak in and get her visa sorted. The other man with the mountaineering-looking-gear-carrying-guy was actually a fishery scientist and hobbyist photographer called Alistair with his own portfolio at Fishsauce Photography looking to get his visa that day and jet off to Tanzania that night. (Quatar, Swiss Air are pretty good he told me). I was before Alistair and the whole exchange with the young friendly chap at the counter when it was my turn was over in about a minute - simply handing over a trip details form, 2 passport photos and my passport, he asked when I wanted my passport back and considering I was going for another 5 weeks and the visa was expected to take 2-3 weeks to grant I was surprised he told me to come pick it up in a few days even before it was granted!

Oh the adventures you can have just purely going to get your I left it 5 days and after a £40 fee - ta da!

3 Month Visa granted!

Ahaha, all so official and yet probably the easiest visa I've had to get in person. I'm not silly enough to put my passport details on public display on the net (although I am silly in other things), but this is what a cool Tanzania green visa label looks like. A single tourist visa is valid for 3 months since the date of issue and if you look closely in person there's a giraffe hologram in the Tanzania shape in the corner and a picture of Kilimanjaro too!

Pack for a Purpose


I do believe in meaningful travel and giving back if you're in a position to do so (which I think in the privileged first world, we all have the capacity to). I want to do more with my trip to Tanzania than just climbing Kilimanjaro and whenever I have visited a developing country with communities who are struggling and don't have access to the countries supplies and resources, I do take it as an opportunity to bring donations of learning materials, clothes, toiletries or anything significant that will be of essential use to a community, childrens home or project.

In the past, a charitable non-profit I co-founded with a Ghanaian tennis coach, Africa Tennis Aid was spawned by home donations of tennis rackets and books and Teams4U sending Xmas shoeboxes of toys, sweets and stationary (and a cuddly toy too, if they get a box from us!) to poverty stricken children in rural Romanian and Belarus. I have seen first hand the joy and gratitude that these people give out in receiving these things, so you just can't not do it can we?!?. It's a great feeling!

Of course, if you have the opportunity and chance to buy donations in-country that's great too, you're able to contribute to the local economy as well as being able to supply some much needed materials - but if you can, try both!

But there is a universal initiative called Pack for a Purpose which encourages good-hearted travellers to make a difference around the world by using available space in their luggage to provide supplies to the communities they visit. If you can't find a project yourself, they list accommodation and tour operators who will donate your gifts to a project they support. Sounds pretty easy hey, and we all could do it!

So, whether I find a local project or not or get the chance to find some supplies in Tanzania, I took the opportunity to go find some education supplies at home and came across the Autumn 'Back to School' clearance sale in WHSmith and look what it made me do! Perfect timing! A simple pencil and exercise book can mean an education for an ambitious child in a developing country so I couldn't help but clear the whole lot and pick up 150 HB pencils too. Ironically, the kind lady who helped me out had been to Kenya herself and visited a school project during her trip - meant to be!

I also think I was on a string of good luck and visiting my local bank Barclays, Sutton, the lady in there told me her daughter had just come back from Tanzania and was happy to donate three full boxes of Barclays pens! Wow, what luck I'd struck!

So I'm getting in to Tanzania! So lets get back to the training....I've now done my Gym session #67 over the last 5 months and the really helpful and supportive staff at The Gym Group, Sutton have been suggesting how I can mix up my regime in this last month of training. I've treated it as my '6-month project' and I'm starting to feel physically ready to take the big 'K' on in four weeks time.


I'm climbing Kilimanjaro for charity Action for M.E who help thousands of people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome like my sister, cope with the difficulties of daily living. I am very lucky to be able to have the opportunity to attempt Kilimanjaro for those who have no energy and would really appreciate any donation you can please afford which will make each step up the mountain easier to bare!

And if you have already donated - thank you so much, you rock and you're a super duper person!

But only 4 weeks to go so I'll leave you with a shameful grainy gym selfie to prove, yep, I'm still going and hopefully all the hard work will pay off!

Peace and thanks so much for following the journey so far....

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