Kilimanjaro (Part 3)

18 September 2017 Most of us are up early. I did not sleep well. I’m eager to get out of the crowded camp. There’s two routines to get used to. The first is your own morning routine. Wake up, search for your headlamp, find the toilet paper. Pull on your boots en head for the little yellow tent. Thumbs crossed you’re the first one in! The second routine involves the entire team (that’s what they call a bunch op people climbing a mountain). Get coffee or tea. Get your water bottles from the guides who have filled them with boiling water the previous evening (they’re using water collected from the mountain and needs to boil it to kill all the stuff that might kill you). Pack your day pack with what you reckon you’ll need during the hike to the next camp. That usually includes your waterproof outer-layers, snacks, water, a little bit of patience and a dose of determination. Pack your big bag and put it where the porters will find it. Eat breakfast, attend the briefing and make sure your partner is feeling OK.

The first morning’s watery brown porridge is inedible. First I went for small spoonfuls of the stuff and when that didn’t work I went for a big gulp straight out of the bowl. That nearly caused me to hurl all over Mary from Scotland sitting across the table from me. I was not only one that could not stomach the porridge… I rinsed the vinegar taste out of my mouth with a cup of  tea and went outside. The cool morning air was a relief.

Rain forest vegetation on Kili’s lower slopes

Straight out of camp we are greeted by a series of steep climbs and it quickly became hot and humid. We are still in the forest and I’m sweating profusely. After a quick stop for lunch (which the guides provide) we climb through the 3 000 m (9 842 ft) mark and the forest vegetation makes way for Cape Fynbos, a variety of succulents and a number of proteas. Protea is the botanical name for a genus of Southern African flowering plants which, in local tradition represents change and hope. Very apt indeed for the team members are certainly out of their comfort zones and hoping dearly to make it to the top. I’m glad to be out of the forest. As we ascent the temperature plummets dramatically.

Matt is struggling slightly. Two factors are contributing to his struggles. Firstly Matt is not exactly in tip-top shape for the mountain (not that being in shape would guarantee you anything) and thanks to an enormous camera his backpack’s on the heavy side.Cellphone signal comes and goes and Mark uses every opportunity to find out where the missing bags are and when (and if) they will arrive. A little before 14h00 we enter Shira 1. A nice flat camp with a spectacular view in the direction of Kili’s Uhuru Peak. A big improvement on the crowded camp of yesterday.

The guides spoil us with a pre-dinner snack of popcorn, tea and deep fried drumsticks. Whether it was chicken or quail or any other bird for that matter is anyone’s guess. It went down well. I’m also slowly getting used to the Tanzanian tea. With bit of brown sugar its drinkable. Like with most things it helps to lower expectations a tad to prevent disappointment. It takes me a while to scrape enough courage together to go for a wash but after the sweating in the forest it became rather necessary. It works like this. You take your small bowl of warm water and crawl into your tent where you have already cleared everything from backpacks to sleeping bags to one side. You undress and depending on your mobility (and age) you either sit on your behind next to the little bowl of water or you squat. The squat option’s advantage is that your naked butt is not in contact with the ice cold groundsheet of the tent. First you soap and then you rinse. And you do it quickly. Wet wipes are a great idea to get rid of the worst dirt and grime before using the little water you have. Deodorant and a new t-shirt and I crawl out of the “bathroom” feeling refreshed and as good as new. I take my wife for a stroll. The one thing the mountain does is take your mind of the troubles back home. We spend the rest of the afternoon in the dining tent chatting about bicycles and beer with Jedd and Simon. Two things I know a bit about.

Dinner consists of mince patties with rice and green beans, with pineapple for dessert. Enjoyable. We go to bed early. Apart from the fact that it is cold, we’re also on the tired side. For the first time in my life I pull on thermal underwear. The “Batman” suit is warm and comfortable and I get a good night’s sleep.

We’re sleeping at 3 610 m (11 844 ft) and covered roughly 11 km (6.2 miles) for the day.

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