It should have been a good night's sleep but again it was fragmented with Jess' phone once again telling me "the Mexican" had sent a message and then later into the early morning a car alarm constantly sounding. I could only lie there praying for the owner to sort it out sooner or for someone to just burn or steal the car. I tried to mentally silence the car but my tyre moving powers failed me! Thankfully after about an hour the alarm was somehow silenced. As for Jess' Mexican....well we had a power cut when she was charging her mobile. Power was re-instated in the early morning and as her mobile charged up, the messages also came charging through.
After 2 days in Arusha, it was time to climb the mountain. There was concern amongst the team members about the shadowy figure of AMS. I knew I was prone to it. I have had symptoms:
- the first time I went up Snowdonia (Wales), I had a horrible headache and found it hard to move;
- Ben Nevis (Scotland) a taller mountain was totally fine although had ascended it slowly with my cousin;
- Kinabalu (4200m), we moved up fast and would not listen to our guide who told us to slow down, I suffered with a terrible headache and threw up;
- Mt Blanc I was fine but again had moved up slowly.
Ridges and climbing rock faces to get up a mountain are more my thing......on the other hand walking up a mountain.....well this one was honouring my promise to Tess. Thus my strategy to get to the top would be to take it slow and easy, at my own pace, as I would do in a marathon and it was a break from the fast paced life I seemed to be leading.
The Road To Kilimanjaro
- had to have their bags checked to ensure they had the right gear for survival on the mountain otherwise they would be barred
- the bags they would carry had to be weighed to ensure they were not overweight
- and then finally they had to register in.
Mary counted that our team of porters had expanded to 35, as well as our guides to 6. They would be with us for the full duration of the 10 days carrying all our equipment, food, and luggage. We were expected to do nothing but carry at least 2-3 litres of water, snacks and simply walk. Even then, if you required it, guides and porters would carry you up the mountain. This was a totally new experience for me and one that I felt uncomfortable with.
Of course our vehicle did not make the entire journey and so we found ourselves changing to the vehicle that had managed to make the entire journey and had dropped off the other 1/2 of the team to the start point.
About 14:30: By the time we had arrived at the start point, porters drenched in sweat, carrying equipment and food were also arriving. Many of these guys were young, in their early to late 20s so had the energy and strength! I wondered if they had bet each other on a race to the start.
We were encouraged to sit and wait for lunch at a table, however the dark clouds that had loomed in the distance as we drove to Kili, were now over head.
Droplets began to fall, first in slow motion, an advance warning, and then the rain music began. The porters who had mushed up as fast as possible to the start point, some hauling up pieces of a tent, now had to quickly put up that tent in the now light falling rain. Once the tent was up, we were quickly herded into the tent. The rain began to fall harder and quicker and soon we had a down pour. Here we were gathered in the safety of the tent, whilst the porters and some of the guides huddled outside under the forest foliage to stay as dry as possible. The discomfort of "We" and "Them" would be something I would be keen to break down. "We" were a team and that included "Them".
When lunch arrived, again the food smells made me feel slightly quesy. I could only guess that the lack of sleep for the last 1.5 weeks was starting to take its toll on me but I still had energy and I knew I was strong enough to keep going. I forced down 2 bowls of soup and a piece of bread. By the time we had finished lunch, the rain had stopped and we were all ready and keen to get going to the first camp site. But before we could begin the trek, we would introduce the rest of the porters and guides to the final members of the group - the Peace Flame and Amani. Anne opened the walk with a prayer and Tess continued with more words of peace and love......which was hurried along by Freddy as time was getting on and so was the light. So a final closing song from the rest of the porters to celebrate the start of our ascent up Kili.
I started off at the rear of the group taking some final video footage for the day. Felix decided to stick with me, to be my personal guide. He was chatty and it was okay for the first couple of hours but when I am out in nature I like to hear nature, feel nature, be with nature. He began to remind of a runner who stuck with me for 4 hours in a marathon, chatting non-stop and who I had tried to get rid by slowing down and had encouraged him to carry on, but he slowed down with me. It was only when I met some friends along the route that I could persuade him to talk to them and not to me. (thank you my friends!!!). Felix would continue his chatter until we had caught up with Jackie, who was taking it cautiously to protect her ankle, and being held by two other guides who would personally care for her for the duration of the trip. Anne was slightly ahead and now I could dissapate the energies of my chatty guide to the others.
As darkness began to sneak in, I walked ahead in front of Anne. In the twilight, the shrubs and trees gradually became grey outlines and the birds sang a final chorus for the night. The guides advised us to put on our headlamps. Having good night vision, I held off putting on my lamp, wanting to retain a wider vision. As night embraced the forest, the faint moonlight through the trees made my path just perceivable. Felix again asked me to put my headlamp on, instead I gave him my headlamp. He refused to take it/switch it on. He stumbled on a root and I gave him to take one of the walking poles I was not using to help him anticipate any foot level obstructions. He took it happily.
About 20:30: We arrived at camp 1 amongst a flurry of activity and a porter greeted me to show me to my tent that I would be sharing with Jess. Dinner was ready and so were the rest of the starving team members. Again I had to force some food down. All I really wanted was a good night's sleep and I hoped that this would be that night.
Next write up will be completed by the 24th October.