I woke to the sound of porters speaking in Swahili. It wasn’t quite dawn yet but I knew that soon we would have to rise and begin our day. I felt incredibly well rested! However, as I drifted back and forth into consciousness, I suddenly remembered lots of commotion and noise that took place during the night. After talking to the guides we discovered baboons had been running around our camp during the night. Adrienne even heard them playing with the chemical toilet. The hilarious part of all this was that both David and Adrienne thought the commotion was ME! Not sure how I feel about a baboon being mistaken for me – haha! Later that morning before we left, I saw a large baboon stroll by Arlette and Adrienne’s tent. Once again, for a split second I thought it was a human and wondered why someone was so close to their tent AND once again, I got excited about seeing a baboon so close. It ran from me and climbed into a tree while I snapped off pics like paparazzi. Dave and I followed it as it climbed through the trees before finally disappearing. To this day I can’t figure out why no one else was as excited about seeing a baboon as I was. I mean, it’s a baboon not a groundhog! Oh well – hakuna matata!
After breakfast we set off! We spent the first few hours hiking through the rain forest. It was absolutely GORGEOUS! It was on this day that we started what would prove to be the standard routine on the trail – millions of bathroom breaks! The biggest problem with taking Diamox is that it causes one to pee a MILLION times. This is especially troublesome at night but it also proved annoying on the trail. At some point in a conversation, it was revealed that “dada” means sister in Swahili and “caca” means brother. We told the guides that “caca” means “poop”in Spanish. Through constant joking we somehow started referring to the paths leading away from the trail and towards large rocks as “caca trails”. Caca trail proved to be an appropriate name because in our attempts to find places to pee, we discovered many a climber had “sullied” the landscape with some caca of their own. Gross! As if it wasn’t bad enough to find brown trout lurking behind rocks when you’re about to pee in your pants, we had to deal with looking at their nasty baby wipes or toilet paper they left behind. *VOMIT* Humans are filthy, vile creatures. It really disturbed me that so many people thought it was okay to leave behind toilet paper on such a beautiful mountain. I get that nature calls even when you’re out in the middle of…well…nature. But for goodness sake, pack it out or at least bury it! If you’re repulsed by your own waste, how do you think the rest of us feel? ICK!
Okay so back to nicer thoughts….the rain forest was stunning and at times reminded me of King Kong’s island due to the uniqueness of the landscape. We continued our climb when suddenly we emerged from the dark forest into the blindingly bright “heath and moorland”. I remember David turned around and said, “Welcome to the heath!” Instead of being surrounded by gigantic trees and vines, we were now trudging our way through thick, scrubby plants. As we made our way down the trail, I found my first piece of obsidian. Fido Dido said, “Congrats! You just found a black diamond. You’re now rich!”. Wouldn’t that be nice?
We hiked for another hour or so until we reached a saddle along the ridgeline. As we emerged from the bushes we saw Sistusi, Magambo, and some of our other porters. They greeted us with big smiles and Swahili greetings then showed us a perfectly set table (table cloth included) for us to enjoy our lunch. We were served macaroni, fried chicken, and some delicious fruit. While we ate another group of climbers emerged from the bush. It was the group that would eventually be known to us as “The Dads and Daughters”. We had a love-hate relationship with this group. Dave told us he sat with them on the flight over and they were from Utah and Colorado. The group consisted of three men and their teenage daughters. To be fair they were nice and friendly but as you will read in the upcoming entries, they did some things that annoyed and bewildered us. On this particular day they sat near us (but not a table! haha) and ate their lunch. They seemed a little dejected over the fact we had place settings and fried chicken while they sat on the ground eating a boxed lunch. We also noticed that one of the daughters seemed pretty sick. Not sure if it was heat exhaustion or atitude sickness but she didn’t look well and was being attended to by another teenage girl. Personally, I was a little irked that her father wasn’t checking in on her but perhaps there was more to the story than I knew. In fact, while she was struggling on a rock we saw the father whip out an iPad (Yes, that’s right…an IPAD!) and start snapping off pics. Perhaps you had to be there to really appreciate the absurdity of having an iPad 10K feet up on a mountain but for me, it just seemed like such a douchebag sort of move. But hey!- to each their own!
After we ate we snapped off a few pics of clouds/fog/mist rolling in. It was really beautiful and was a good introduction into how quickly the weather and landscape change on Kilimanjaro. One minute we were hot, the next minute we were chilly from the cold air rolling in. After a few more excursions down the caca trail, we threw our packs back on and took off up a crazy ridge that Arlette later referred to as the “Stair Master”. As we climbed, Dads and Daughters passed us at a ridiculous clip. We were stunned by how fast they were going, especially when the name of the game was “pole pole” ( Swahili for slowly, slowly – which is how you’re told to approach Kili so you’re able to acclimatize). We also started to have our first incursions with the “White Neck Ravens” which followed us and tormented us for days and days. Adrienne said they reminded her of Edgar Allen Poe and The Raven so the running joke was that the ravens were screeching “Never Summit”!
During a water/snack/pee break we all discussed how we felt better on day 2 than on day 1. In my case I think it was a result of getting a good night’s sleep. My only complaint for day 2 was the sun. It was so intense! I suppose that’s to be expected three degrees below the equator but my poor English/Swedish skin felt like a pork rind. Ouch! Luckily I was wearing SPF 100 so I never got burned…it just felt that way.
After hours and hours of non-stop climbing up the “stair master” we started downhill. When climbing Kili we all constantly looked down at the trail to make sure we had stable footing. As a result, I didn’t bother to notice what stood before us all as we crested the ridge. In fact, I didn’t even look up until Chichi said, “There’s your first view of Kilimanjaro!””. There she was! Kilimanjaro. I noted the time. It was 2:41PM. We’d been climbing for two days and this was our first view of Kibo (Kibo is the actual peak that most people know. There is another peak known as Mawenzi that is also part of Mount Kilimanjaro). I wanted to cry! It was absolutely breathtaking (literally!) but it also seemed so far away. Standing on the windswept Shira Plateau, it seemed am impossible feat to ever reach the top of Kibo and stand at Uhuru. My moment of pondering and reflection was interupted by a request for photos from the group. We excitedly grabbed our cameras and started snapping off pics when Dave declared he needed to suck his gut in. Suddenly it occurred to the three women in the group that our pack belts were causing muffin tops! EEEEEK!!! Immediately we unhooked our belts and demanded “re-takes”on all our photos. Ha! There we were, standing below one of the most gorgeous natural wonders in Africa….and we’re sweatin’ our muffin tops!
After approving our new muffin-less photos, we continued our journey to camp. We could see Shira 1 camp in the distance. It looked so tiny and fragile. The Shira Plateau is a beautiful but lonely looking place. Even before reaching the camp, I knew it would be a cold night for sleeping.
When we finally arrived into Shira camp, I dropped my pack and took a few more photos of Kibo before heading into my tent for a little rest. My journal entry says, ” Right now I’m resting in my tent. Kili is behind me and I hear the chatter of the porters. Life is good! I’m thankful to God for good health and safety today.”
After resting, I went to the mess tent for tea and dinner. Inside the four of us chatted about the day and our Diamox side effects. For me, I just had some slight tingling and constant need to go to the bathroom. I noticed that David excused himself and was having an intense conversation with Fido Dido. When he returned he announced that he was DOR (Drop on Request….okay, the truth is, I stole that term from Officer and a Gentleman. All through the movie Lou Gosset Jr. keeps harassing Mayo, played by Richard Gere, to DOR out of the program. Later his friend DOR’s…omg, I digress!!!!). Dave was leaving us! He said that his decision was based on a number of reasons. First, he had sleeping bag issues. He rented a bag from Climb Kili but unfortunately they didn’t have any that fit him. They finally found a bag that sort of fit him but it was a Marlboro Adventure Series bag. Essentially, it’s a bag you get from Marlboro for smoking an ass ton of cigs. Not exactly quality, ya know? But the deal breaker for Dave were the blisters. He said he had some serious blisters on his feet, hands, and shoulders. As much as it pained us all to hear he was leaving, we understood his reasons and respected it. Truly, it took a lot of courage to make that decision and I think he made the right one. Day 2’s terrain was nothing compared to what was to come and I think he would have been miserable or worse, he would have seriously hurt himself had he not turned back. Still, I really felt down about the prospect of losing a member of the group. Granted, I’d only known David for 48 hours but still, I think the four of us really connected. Also, his leaving brought home the reality that there is no promise that anyone can reach the summit. In fact, the statistics say that only 1 out of 3 will reach the top. With only three of us left, we all looked at one another and wondered who would be the lucky one. I don’t know if it was thoughts of failure or something else, but I had no appetite during dinner. In my journal I noted that I wasn’t hungry but I knew it wasn’t from altitude sickness because I still craved other food like…lol….Subway (for those who know me really well, they know it would be a cold day in Hell before I got sick of Subway) and chocolate. On another note, while we sat in the mess tent we noticed the Dads and Daughters out and about. The Dads had their iPad out and one of the girls was doing hand stands, flips, and other assorted crazy stunts. We were impressed that she had the energy and lung capacity to do such things. The Dads were eating it up, snapping off iPad pics like crazy.
After dinner Fido Dido and Chichi came in to brief us on the next day’s climb and to check our saturation and heart rate. My oxygen was 92 and my heart rate 88. Still good! Arlette still had an oxygen rate of 99! Amazing! According to my altimeter we were at 11,152 feet and inside my tent the temp was 43 degrees. Also, I drank nearly 5 liters of water. Water would be the key to warding off headaches later on.
When it was time to head to bed, I noticed two things: the cold and the stars. It was FREEZING outside but goodness, the stars were stunning! I’ve never seen so many in my life! From horizon to horizon the sky was filled with stars and the Milky Way was bright and enormous! As we left the tent, Adrienne started singing Yellow by Coldplay. I can still hear her singing, “Look at the stars. How they shine for you….””. I felt like they really were shining for me. What a great way to end an incredible day!