Mt. Kili-Days 1 and 2
At last…our first day of officially climbing Kili began with breakfast- freshly squeezed seasonal juice, pancakes (traditional Tanzanian style), toast, jam, and fried eggs rounded off a good start to the morning while we waited for our transportation to arrive.
After what seemed like forever we finally set off East towards Arusha to the Machame route entrance. Driving up a steady incline, off into the distance I could barely discern the entrance sign, engulfed in the morning mist-seemed more to steer away possible Kili hopefuls rather than welcome. Needless to say, excitement overwhelmed me even more so once I set foot on its hilly doorstep. After the usual paperwork, paying for, and greeting local vendors our morning climbing time pushed back our initial day 1 ascent to almost 2pm. After a few pictures and the proper weighing of your bags (important-each porter is only allowed to carry a maximum of 20kg, therefore before each climb all gear, food, and misc. must be weighed). A side note: when we were paying for the park entrance fees, we couldn't help but notice our guide had an ID badge which read assistant guide, questions only followed.
Once we gathered our belongings, namely a wonderfully packed midday lunch and appropriate gear our guide…(cough cough, assistant guide Frumence- pointed to a direction up a very steep hill) saying, "You can go, I will be behind you." And so we set off…an American, a Belgian, one happy-go-lucky girl from England, and no guide…
The climb started off rough, the little sleep I had coupled with a lunch that was mistakenly packed with my main rucksack, left behind-set off a series of events that of which catapulted my immune system into overdrive. Let's just say that for the first day of climbing, I was properly overshadowed by the girls and at one point I am absolutely sure porters and cooks ran by (and not the type of run us midwesterners have grown accustomed to, but what seemed like a dead on sprint)-maybe getting of the couch to climb wasn't the best of ideas. After what seemed like forever, a quick stop for lunch, and to gaze upon the the scenery (aka. catch my breath) we reached a break in the forest where the trail opened up, allowing the sun to set an ominous glow over the path ahead-t"his isn't so bad," I thought. The trek ended after nearly 4 hours of climbing at a campsite that became progressively more crowded as the day wore on. And to top it off-our guide, was no where to be found. What an exciting day…the best part, for dinner we had popcorn, chocolate, rice and chicken (I think) under the stars. And for any of you wondering what the stars look like at 2 miles above sea level on Mt. Kilimanjaro-beyond words. Every second spent staring into an oasis of contrasting white and blues only brought a new set of stars to gaze upon. I could have spent the entire night standing, admiring, wondering-how beautiful, if only worlds could adequately describe, for now, sleep became a priority considering the long day we had to look forward to tomorrow.
Okay…so let me start off by saying, long johns would have been appropriate for this trip and I am discouraged that given all the material I read-no where did it say bring long johns. What a cold nit! Breakfast came bright and early at 7:30am, where the morning sunrise served as a primitive alarm for all those whose rays it happened to touch. After a very good night's rest I was ready for the long day ahead. Day 2 of climbing began at almost a 60 degree incline and continued on for hours. At one point we reached a set of rocks, smooth in texture, which was where I experienced my first fall-slide down. This was a good place to stop for rest. This day was exciting in the sense that we met many people, in particular, a couple from Austria who were climbing Mt. Kili together. After many hours of climbing we stopped at a very nice look out point where we spent nearly an hour admiring the views. At one point I decided that I would put my camera on a rock about 40m up trail to capture the crowds of climbers passing by. Situated on a perfect rock, I began filming and after our long stay at the look-out point we continued on. Now, I am not sure if it was the altitude or just sheer tiredness but as we passed by the rock where I left my camera, it was gone. Come to find out, I was only able to capture 3 mins of filming before a tour guide from another company snatched it up. The best part, video to come, is the video captured the camera being taken and the universal adage-"Cha-Ching." In Tshilings, my camera was worth 1.5million shillings-quite a lot considering a 1.5L bottle of water costs 1500 Tshilings or roughly a $1. From that point on I never took my eyes of my camera. We climbed for another 2-3 hours before making it to the next camp. This camp was set across a vast area, where to the right West stood Uhuru peak with all it's snow and glamour, to the East-clouds filled the sky below where momentary breaks in the cover captured hilly slopes below. If it were up to me, I would have built a home at this very spot and that would have been all I needed. Day 2 was also where my health gradually worsened. Having spent all night in the bathroom gave me time to reflect on what may have caused me to become so ill-I narrowed it down to an orange I had or some bad water; nonetheless, hopefully I would feel better tomorrow. The best part of the day besides the people whom I met and the views was when Sophie, Carole, and I all crowded together in their tent to watch the Lion King!