Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – “The Shining Mountain”
She towers above the Tanzanian cloud line, her glaciers reflecting in the morning rays, ‘shining’ as my eyes see her for the first time. I am about to start day two of my trek up the highest mountain in Africa and she offers me a glimpse of her beauty. She remained covered in cotton wool during my first days trek through the rain forest with porters marching up to Machame Camp where I rested my head for the first time on this beautiful eruption from God. I feel like an ant against her ginormous size and I realise that I am at her mercy.
The ‘pole pole’ pace is doable as the going gets steeper and the treeline gets smaller. The hot African sun shows no mercy on my delicate white skin. Mount Meru in the distance greets us as we meander upwards. The consumption of water from my 3l camelback, which was filled by my waiter the night before, is coming to an end as Shira Cave Camp reveals itself after a rocky climb.
Camp life buzzes, delicious meals are provided, long drop toilets are already the norm and tent sleeping all add to the adventure. The day starts off with a slight headache and some nausea and the realization of altitude sickness hits home. Part of my meal is forcibly eaten to combat the altitude effects and takes in the region of an hour to consume before I kit up to start the trek to Lava Towers at 4600m above sea level.
The path zig zags to where the weather is cooler and the sights less appealing as I plonk my butt down on a rock to share my packed lunch with hungry crows. This is the official climb high sleep low day, another trick to aid the human body in acclimatizing. By now my guide has become my best friend, in Swahili ‘rafiki’. His gentle, kind, caring and patient mannerism is intoxicating. Our conversations vary from family to politics and eases into silence. I know I am in the hands of a true angel.
The scenery changes and the beauty of plant life is pertinent where the glacier river cascades into a waterfall. Baranco Camp is reached in the mist and remains slumbering there until after my headlamp is switched off and placed inside my -8° sleeping bag. By now the morning routine is done without much though. I pop my head out of the tent and view the unexpected Baranco Wall, a 1.7km scramble which started off with butterflies nervously fluttering in my solar plexus and now they are enjoying the experience with glee. The mentally, emotionally and physically strong porters glisten with sweat as they scramble up carrying trekkers heavy equipment, yet they remain friendly as they follow their own mantra of ‘Hakuna Matata’ – no worries!
The barren landscape shares it’s tranquillity as self-discipline is practiced on the undulating section. Fine rain sets in and a realization deep inside my soul is felt of how privileged I am. The last narrow glacier river on the Machame route is crossed as the porters fill the buckets upon buckets in order to provide the nourishing meals, fill the flasks for daily tea and still have enough for all the water bottles. We head up the last steep path huffing even though ‘pole pole’ is the order for each step.
Karangu Camp – Mount Kilimanjaro
Karangu Camp brings with it damp cold air caused by ice rain and the wet seeps through the tent floor. A wet camp life has new challenges for all as dinner still needs to be cooked and served. Sleep reaches camp early and the next morning welcomes us with a clear view of the lower regions yet clouds covering the path behind me. A base layer is added and the rock graveyard path continues right up to Barafu Camp and is tougher than expected.
I face the last up at midnight with all the required layers. My best friend is carrying both our necessary summit items in my 35l daypack on his back. Headlamps snake up and behind us as altitude smacks me with a force from above. My brains feel as if they are popping out of my skull, my heart tries pounding out of my chest and my stomach churns with every small slow step I attempt to take. Two steps with a five second rest is all I can manage. Disappearing into the abyss is felt with every slow blink and Gilibert Kasaba, the angel sent to help me reach my 33 year old dream, guides me to sit on a frozen rock. He rubs my ears and back in an attempt to keep me awake. He checks my tongue and eyes and asks me to remember his name to make sure that Acute Mountain Sickness does not have full control over my body. Nine solid hours later and the first misty sight of Uhuru Peak has tears streaming down my cheeks. Uhuru offers me the freedom her name has promised and I know I have changed… I know a new way of looking at life awaits me.
Two hours down to Barafu in snowfall, a cup of tea, a warm meal with an hours rest, then my tired body, tired mind but elated spirit heads down to Mweka camp to rest before the last day in the rainy rainforest is enjoyed. The end has come too soon.
Surviving Mount Kilimanjaro
Warm appreciation goes to Soul Adventures South Africa and Zara Tours Tanzania. Your dedication in bringing alive a dream with supreme staff, guides and crew has made me a better person than I could ever have dreamt to be. I will be forever grateful. Asante Sana!!
Dubbed ‘Pole Pole Queen’