Kilimanjaro Mountain High
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Q. I plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in July and would like to go with a tour group. Any suggestions?
Jodi Finkelstein, Olney
The Mount Kilimanjaro climb is one of the world's top mountain adventures, but unlike some other ascents, you'll have enough strength after the climb to gloat. "It's a marvelous trip, but it's a beginner's climb," says Todd Burleson, owner of Alpine Ascents International (206-378-1927, http:/
The African mountain, whose 19,340-foot summit is the highest on the continent, sits on the northeastern tip of Tanzania. The trek to the top passes through five ecosystems, including jungle and high alpine desert, and adventurers can see antelope, monkeys and the occasional leopard along the way. The journey can take five to seven days, and most tour operators start the final leg at midnight, so trekkers arrive at the summit for sunrise. Climbers usually follow one of two main routes: the Marangu, nicknamed the Coca-Cola Route, and the Machame, or Whiskey Route. The former is shorter and less costly, and visitors overnight in trailside huts and eat in lodges that can be crowded. On the less populated route, guests sleep in cushy tents and have porters carry their gear.
If you're in good physical condition -- Burleson recommends doing cardio an hour a day and hiking six miles twice a month -- you should be able to master the mountain. However, climbers are susceptible to altitude sickness, which is why Burleson recommends traveling with a company knowledgeable in Western health care. In addition, when researching companies, ask the tour operator about its safety record, experience on the mountain and medical skills. Also, request references from past travelers.
Climbing season runs mid-December to February and July to mid-September; the rest of the year is full of rain. Alpine Ascents leads two July trips that cost $5,400 per person double. In addition to the Marangu Route climb, the land-only price includes safaris, meals and hotel stays in Tanzania; for the climb only, pay $4,500 per person double. International Mountain Guides (360-569-2609, http:/
We'd like to take a spa vacation within three hours of Jacksonville, Fla. We're interested in a non-corporate type of spa.
Ann Reisner, Arlington
Choosing a spa vacation can be as difficult as deciding between the Swedish and Thai massage. "The definition of a spa has really expanded," says Betsy Isroelit, spokeswoman for SpaFinder.com (212-924-6800, http:/
Spa vacations fall into four categories: day spas, which have no overnight lodging; medical spas, which offer health and wellness treatments; resort and hotel spas, which are full-service properties with on-site spas; and the traditional spa destination, "whose only purpose is to be a spa," Isroelit says.
A number of spas are within 160 miles of your starting point. The White Orchid Inn and Spa (800-423-1477, http:/
For a larger resort, Sea Island (800-SEA-ISLAND, http:/
Liz Tankersley of Washington has a book suggestion for the road-tripper planning a drive around the United States. "I highly recommend the 'Off the Beaten Path' series, published by Globe Pequot," she says. "I spent six months driving around the country a few years ago after I retired, and I used several of the books in this series to give me ideas for interesting and unusual places to see."
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