By Bill Plock
Khem Suthiwan is a vital part of the 303Endurance team. She is as passionate, maybe more so, about travel and experiencing cultures as she is about cycling and triathlon. If you follow her on social media, it’s like following a combo of Samantha Brown, Rick Steves mixed in with Bear Grylls.
On this particular Holiday Journey she mixes some serious endurance by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro followed by a Safari and scuba diving. Carrying all the different gear and clothing needed for these three vacations wrapped into a holiday package complete with ribbon of Khem’s contagious smile is endurance enough, let’s take a deep dive into this adventure with Khem.
Upon her return, keep your eyes open for a Garage Talk with her!
1. Where are you going? Trip starts with arriving at the Kilimanjaro International Airport. From there I’ll spend the first night in the city of Moshi where I’ll meet my trekking group. The hike up to the summit of Kilimanjaro begins at the Machame Gate. After the hike, we will conclude that portion of the trip in the city Arusha. From there we will go on safari and camp in the Serengeti National Park and Ngnorongoro Conservation Area. Before coming back to the US, I’ll fly over to Zanzibar for a few days of scuba diving.
2. So three big things; climbing Kilimanjaro, a Safari, and diving in Zanzibar. That’s like three amazing trips in one!! How was packing and remembering all the different stuff you might need? It’s a lot like packing for an IRONMAN, sort of. Hahaha. I have a pretty good packing list sheet that I’ve used in the past for various races and trips, so I use that to make sure I don’t forget anything. Packing cubes and ziplock bags help me stay organized. For the diving portion, I’m only taking my fins and mask, so I’ll just rent the rest of my equipment.
3. And three trips with vastly different experiences, how would you describe the different levels of excitement you have for each part? First the feat of climbing Kilimanjaro kind of terrifies me. Not from a difficulty standpoint, but more from a physiological one. Knowing how tired and awful I felt climbing to Everest Base Camp (17,800′), Kilimanjaro being almost 2,000′ higher (19,341′) – I’m definitely prepared, but not looking forward to the amount of fatigue and acute mountain sickness I’ll experience. Nonetheless, the opportunity to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world and highest mountain in Africa – I’m definitely excited about that! As an aspiring photographer, I’m looking forward to the safari portion of the trip. I definitely prefer seeing animals in their natural habitat versus going to a zoo. For the scuba diving part of my trip, I’m always excited to dive, especially when it’s somewhere new. Most of my divind\g experiences have been in Hawaii, Mexico, Belize, and the Maldives. You just never know what animals you’ll run into!
4. You have climbed to Everest Base Camp, you are a master diver, what intrigues you about the climbing and diving experiences you will hopefully have? Correction, I’m a certified Rescue Diver. Divemaster and Master Diver are next in my scuba education plans. Lol.😉 All these adventures, I do them mostly because “it’s there.” The endurance athlete part of me enjoys doing the physical part of adventuring, the curious part of me loves learning about other cultures and nature.I’ve also never been much of a “follow the herd” type person, so I enjoy doing things that many won’t or for whatever reason are unable to. I’m a proud nerd and growing up I read a lot of books and magazines, and the thought ot being able to visit places and see things that people only read about, I find it tremendously inspiring. .
5. What are you hoping to see on the safari? Have you done anything like that in the past? How many days is it? I’m hoping to see all the typical stuff – lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, and anything else. The closest thing I’ve done to being on safar is driivng through Yellowstone National Park and having buffalo cross the road in front of my car. We will be on safari for about 5 days.
6. What special nutrition are you bringing for Kilimanjaro? I’ve packed my favorite VanHolten’s Pickle in a Pouch along with a couple bottles of iKOR Recovery Shots, BASE Performance Salt, Skratch energy chews, Noka Superfood Smoothies, Nuun tablets, DE-HI Foods Crispy Jerky, and Emergen-C. Knowing that you’re going to be in a country where you don’t know what’s readily available causes you to overpack on a few things. 😂
7. You didn’t love the altitude at Everest, Kilimanjaro is a bit higher which I’m sure makes you a bit nervous, will you do anything different to try to deal with the altitude. I’m loaded up with a lot of drugs, literally. Hahhaha.When I hiked to Everest Base Camp, I didn’t start taking Diamox until I was above 15,000 ft. This time I’ll be starting much much sooner. Plus I have scopolamine patches for nausea (Zofran didn’t cut it) and for emergency use I’ll have dexamethasone. Whether any of these drugs are USADA or WADA banned, I have no idea and luckily I’m not winning races for anyone to care. 😂😂😂
8, How many days is the hike to the summit? There are several routes to the summit. I’m taking the Machame Route which is about 5 days to the summit and a day and a half back down. The hike to the summit starts around 11pm where we’ll start from Barafu Camp (15,239′) and go to Stella Point (18.652′) for a rest stop, which is about 4km. The last bit from Stella Point to the Summit is 1km, and we should be reaching it at sunrise. I’ve never done a sunrise summit, so I’m looking forward to that!
9. Will diving in Zanzibar offer a lot of new things for you to see? Different coral, fish etc? In all honesty I’ve been so focused on the Kilimanjaro part of the trip, I haven’t had a chance to research a lot about the diving off Zanzibar. I know there are a lot of atolls, which gives a lot of reef wall diving sites and I think there might be a few shipwrecks. It’ll be fun to see what coral, fish, and other marine animals are native to these waters compared to those I’m used to seeing in the Western Hemisphere.
10. What else are you looking forward to seeing and doing? The excursion company I booked this through (G Adventures) is the same one I used for Jordan and Egypt. I really like their philosophy of promoting sustainable tourism and supporting the local economy. Some of the things I’ve experienced is having a meal with a local family and learning about their way of life. On this trip, the “G for Good Moment” experiences will include visiting the Moshi Women’s Cooperative and Clean Cookstove Project. The Moshi Women’s Cooperative provides free adult business education for women in Moshi, which was spurred by the fact that women and girls are often excluded from education programs in Tanzania. Most girls are pulled out of school by 3rd grade to help out at home. The Clean Cookstove Project involves visiting a Maasai village -which I’ve always wanted to meet the Maasai people. In Tanzania, 95% of people rely on cooking with wood and coal, with women and girls spending hours walking to collect wood every day – making them vulnerable to assault and unable to use their time to go to school). Indoor smoke from open-fire stove also causes a host of chronic and acute pulmonary diseases. The project trains women as stove engineers and we’ll get to help build a stove in a home.
I’ve always enjoyed giving back to the communities I’m involved in as well as travel to, and with G Adventures I get to combine my love of travel with community give-back.