Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
02.06.2007 - 10.06.2007 -15 °C
On the first night of our Kili hike I started to fantasise, not your run of the mill fantasies, I was fantasising about spraining an ankle, getting bitten by a semi-poisonous snake or even a minor volcanic eruption. Anything to spare me the shame of being beaten by the mountain. I lay in my wet clothes, in my wet sleeping bag, in our wet tent with a throbbing altitude headache and we were only at 2800 meters, that’s 3 oxygen sapping kilometres, below our goal. Apart from my own altimetic ineptitude I was also having serious doubts about our guides organisational ability. Despite every single Kili trekking company providing tents and sleeping mats he deduced that seeing as we didn’t specifically ask for sleeping mats that we must have brought our own. He also waited until ¾ through the first day to check with us. You’ve got your own sleeping mats, right? Ahhh no! You would also think that porters would have some sort of system for keeping gear dry. Those freak showers in a rain forest in the wet season sure caught us by surprise…..
Fortunately day two brought a little relief from the rain but not from the cloud. As we made our way up a further our guide took control of the situation and started chanting the Kilimanjaro mantra, pole pole (slowly slowly). We managed to climb into the clouds with only a hint of the previous days altitude headache, all it took was a little patience. This also led to my day two epiphany. I discovered the link between old people and flowers / plants. The clouds had reduced my vision (just like my nana) and the altitude had reduced my mobility (just like my nana) and I started to notice flowers (just like my nana). It was the craziest thing, once the parameters were changed I started enjoying flowers. Here’s some proof.
By day three we had passes through the rain forest, through the moon forest and into the alpine tundra. It was the first time you could see the full extent of a Kili campsite. I’m glad we were hiking in low season because by the look of things it must get pretty crazy once it’s at capacity. Our little two person expedition had swollen to 10 people with the addition of a guide, an assistant guide, a cook, a waiter and four porters. At high season each campsite can hold 100 punters which, by my maths, would equate to around 500 people. Apparently the toilet and rubbish situation gets well out of hand. It doesn’t take long before one starts putting two and two together, or more accurately starts timesing park fees by campers and you can see why tourism is the backbone of Tanzania’s lacklustre economy.
There are 5 main routes up Kili.
The two main routes max out at 100 people the lesser routes at about 50.
You can climb in 5, 6 or 7 days.
6 months of high and 6 months of low. Lets say an average of 50% capacity in low season.
So that is 350 punters entering each day, paying $110 per day, for an average of 6days, for 180 days of high season and half of that in low season.
One comment in the guest book summed up the most common complaint pretty well “cost of upgrading toilets = ?? Park fees per year = $60 million” hmmm I wonder where the moneys going?
By day five we were feeling great. Each day we had been acclimatising by hiking up to a new high before descending to camp for the night. The environment had been different and stunning every day but the time for cakewalks was over. It was time to measure ourselves against the mountain. We had made it to 4800 meters without too much trouble using the pole pole method but we were both a little fearful that no matter how slowly we climbed we were going to get worked by the last lunge to the top. Uharu peak is 5895meter above sea level and the last 1095 meters was hell. We were due to start at midnight but our guide (possibly not fully convinced of our ability) decided we should start at 11pm to get a jump on the crowd. I’ve learnt the when estimating the altitude you have gained whilst climbing a mountain it’s best to half the hight you think you’ve covered. Are we at 5000 yet? No 4900. Are we at 5400 yet? No 5100? This pattern continued until my mind was taken off the altitude by an overwhelming sense of nausea. It takes 6 hours the get to stellar point and another hour to walk around the rim to the highest point, Uharu peak. When we arrived at stellar point we were not greeted with the pre dawn glow and gentle breeze I had envisioned. We were met with –15degrees temps, 40 – 50 km winds carrying skin splitting snow drifts. We staggered around the rim, reached the peak (first people for the day might I add), took a few average photos and got the hell out of there. I suffered (noisily) for a good 3 hours on the way up and 3 hours on the way down. I haven’t really discussed Nat’s physical or mental state that much as yet and that is with good reason. She nailed it. Apart from a little breathlessness at the peak and a few tears at 3.30am (which is par for the coarse for her) she didn’t put a foot wrong the whole trek Upon arriving safely back at our tent she summed up her feeling with “I’m so glad we made it to the top so we never have to do that again”, I concur. Whilst climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was one of my life goals having done it I can safely say that climbing above 4000 meters is ridiculous. I thought many times on the night we sumitted , why the hell would anyone pay for this??? My feelings of bewilderment subsided as we returned to a more agreeable altitude and the sense of achievement kicked in. After 7 days without a shower we had both developed a tangy aroma that only a full bar of soap and a good 30 minutes of steaming hot water could cure.
My buns, they don’t feel nothin' like steel.
On a very different note we have received devastating news from home and are as a result we’re ending our trip early. We have loved writing about our travels and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them. We will no doubt be off again some time in the near future and are already looking forward to blogging again.
Lots of love,
Nat and Ev