Is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on your bucket list? At 5895m (19,341feet) Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. 20,000 climbers attempt the climb every year and 65% actually make it to the summit. If you’re not one of the 1000 evacuated each year or one of the 10 people who die from altitude sickness, you’ll have a grand achievement under your belt. But before you rush off to make a booking, you need to do some planning. One thing you absolutely must give serious thought to before hiking Kilimanjaro is how to manage your ablutions
Finding a toilet is while hiking Kilimanjaro or Kili is serious business.
The physical challenges of hiking Kilimanjaro are certainly matched by those of using the toilets during the climb.
If you are not an experienced bush hiker, then you need an idea of what to expect when hiking Kilimanjaro.
HIKING KILIMANJARO – RONGAI NORTH EASTERN ROUTE
There are seven routes to ascend Kili.
The Rongai Route is a drier but less scenic route, however, it has great views of Kili, especially from the toilets.
DAY 1: SIMBA CAMP – MARAUDING ELEPHANT AND BUFFALO
The route starts at Nalemaru Gate (1950m) and the toilet here sets the standard for the hike.
This is an easy day with warm temperatures and a day of slow gentle walking through green farmland and rainforest.
The evening camp site is surrounded by trees and high shrubs with a clear starry sky.
The Simba Camp bush toilet is a relatively clean wooden hut.
Watch out for the African guard in full military uniform with a rather large rifle over his shoulder.
The gun is ‘to protect you from wild buffalo or elephant, Missy’. This is nothing like campsites back home, where the odd kangaroo might bound past as you dart for the ‘dunny’.
Guarding vulnerable tourist backsides from marauding wildlife is a job of great honour.
After all, this is Africa.
DAY 2: KIKELEWA CAVE
Ascending the mountain, past the Second Cave at 3450m, the vegetation changes as you enter the heath zone.
You are encouraged to drink four to six litres of water a day. But the problem is unless you are a camel you will need to use the toilet more frequently than at the formal stops. You’ll appreciate my comment later – read on.
The evening is spent at Kikelewa Cave with views to towering Mawenzi in the distance.
Day 3: MAWENZI TARN HUT – PENETRATING COLD WINDS
Mawenzi is an extinct cone of the three volcanic cones of Kili.
At 5149m, the ‘long drop’ toilets at the base of Mawenzi offer great views of majestic rocky outcrops whilst one does one’s business.
It’s a little cool and somewhat breezy. But the wind keeps the flies at bay. This is a huge bonus on relatively warm days.
As temperatures fall, however, positioning such toilets on the edge of a rocky precipice where howling and freezing winds pass through is by no means the height of ingenious African construction or forward thinking.
NIGHT TIME SHEWEE TO THE RESCUE
Using a bottle whilst enjoying the luxury of sleeping in a warm tent is easy for a man but a woman has to improvise.
This is where a shewee comes in very handy. Shewees come in many forms. I had a fancy pink, collapsible and washable latex version bought at our local hiking store.
Be diligent and watch a few YouTube videos before use. There is a technique of using one properly.
I found my shewee very useful in the dark of the night. Whilst crouching in our low two-person tent using my husband’s night time bottle, I managed to achieve a successful outcome whilst he snored. Brilliant!
DAY 4: KIBO HUT – DAYTIME ROCK HUNTING
The guides will encourage you to drink lots. But the more you drink, the more you pee. It’s simple mathematics.
This needs to be taken into consideration as the vegetation disappears and is replaced by alpine desert. African shrubbery is slowly replaced by rocks.
Our guide often disappeared mumbling “I go look for rock”.
At first, I thought he was collecting small rocks along the way for one of his children as a momento. But I soon understood why he repeatedly went off rock hunting.
Upon increasing my fluid intake, I too joined in the hunt for a rock. And women need big ones to crouch and hide behind out of view whilst one drops one’s trousers and gets on with business.
The problem is when you find the ideal rock, you can be sure that hundreds of trekkers before you have also used that rock.
What you see behind those rocks will super charge you to hold on until your next lunch stop with a proper toilet!
NIGHT TIME SNOW AND SHEWEE
Kibo is the only dormant volcanic cone of the three cones (4703m) and the point of the final ascent to Uhuru.
By now, the landscape is bare earth and volcanic dust, with sub-zero temperatures and light snow.
Kibo houses flashy ‘Tourist Toilets’ complete with partly tiled floors. Compared to the bush rocks, it’s a luxurious touch. But walking to the toilet in the middle of freezing-cold nights is not an option.
Here’s where you’ll be thankful for your shewee. Bouyed with confidence from my previous success, in the silence of the night, I positioned myself and my shewee perfectly.
I aimed into my husband’s bottle. Hole-in-one I thought as I heard the trickling of my urine into the bottle. But although I was greatly relieved of my bladder pressure, I realised I had a ‘blow back’ phenomenon and had leaked all over my sleeping bag – aaargh!
Thoughts of nursing homes and warm uriniferous beds came to mind. Noooooo!
Thank God I had brought some perfume to kill the smell. Yes, that’s another tip. Bring perfume to Kilimajaro. You never know when you may need it.
DAY 5: KIBO HUT – ASCENT IN THE NIGHT
Use the tourist toilets as much as possible during the day to prepare yourself for the final ascent.
Wearing five to six layers of clothing in freezing cold conditions at night is not conducive to ablutions on the rooftop of Africa.
The tramp through the night to sunrise at Stella Point (5739m) and on to Uhuru Point (5895m) is without a toilet stop. However the exhilaration of getting to the top puts any thought of toileting well out of mind.
In fact, I don’t remember having to go until late afternoon back down at Kibo.
DAY 6: UHURU, KIBO AND HOROMBO HUT
By late morning when you return down the mountain to Kibo, the short toilet break and spaghetti and popcorn carbs top up after the 1000m vertical climb is very welcome.
The continued walk to the final stop late that afternoon at Horombo Hut is now a downward breeze.
But there are also surprisingly civilised and new toilets there now, complete with a flush system, tiles and running water.
Oh what luxury! I slept like a baby through the night after the long 15-hour walk. And the best of all, I didn’t have to use the she-wee.
DAY 7: MARANGU GATE AND CIVILISATION
Be conscious of celebration too much during your last night on the mountain as there is only a very old toilet midway during the walk out of the park.
I was about to use it out of sheer desperation until I went inside.
It didn’t take a split second to decide to wait till the lunch stop at Mandara Hut.
The very nice, clean luxury style western toilet at Mandara is a blessing indeed.
Passing through Marangu Gate at the end requires a dance of victory and a celebration of a return to relative civilisation.
Treat yourself to a night in a luxury western-style hotel room with a well-earned bath, cold beer and a long sit on the loo.
Fresh toilet paper? Now you are talking!
Irene Isaacson hiked Kili with her own toilet paper at her own expense.
There are several luxury camps in the Maasai Mara, including Governor’s Camp, Olare Mara Kempinski, Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri and the famous Olonana. Riding in a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara is a bucket list experience.