have my backpack to contend with. After breakfast we start on the three-hour drive to the national park to register and meet the rest of the team. Stopped to buy 3litres of water each (required daily dose to combat AMS). I predict plenty of toilet breaks. As we drive along, I see a massive mountain and scream, “Kilimanjaro!” to which one of the guides laughs and responds, “That’s the baby mountain, Mount Meru. Kilimanjaro is still ahead.” Yikes. I see it and reality sinks in. What have I signed myself up for? Team’s all together and registered, it’s time to set off. We are all dressed in shorts, as it’s boiling hot, but out of nowhere, the clouds turn dark and start to pour with rain. We have to drop off further off than planned as the rain is wreaking havoc on the roads. That means an extra hour of hiking. Sigh. We’re donning our ponchos, waterproof trousers and jackets and starting the “easy walk”, which turns out to be anything but. The paths are muddy and slippery and I didn’t realise when I burst into tongues. My backpack weighs 14kg, I am climbing uphill through the rainforest, wearing the wrong shoes so I keep slipping and falling. Dembi, who sent you? My prayers intensify when a guy in front of me falls and starts rolling downhill. He has scarce recovered when I too slip, but one of the guides grabs my daypack to prevent me 28
Only 30% of people who attempt to climb Kili make it to the top; some turn back, others die. falling further and we realise my backpack is twice the recommended weight! That’s what happens when you skim through instructions. After distributing the excess contents of my bag amongst the porters, we carry on for another 4.5 hours till we reach Big Tree Camp. I am covered in mud and aching all over. Thankfully our tents have been set up - thank God for the 51 porters! There is limited access to water so we only get a bowl each to clean up. Day III - Shira 1 My first e x perience of sleeping in a sleeping bag is… not bad; I could actually get used to this. After breakfast we pack up and set off on our six-hour trip to the next campsite. There is a lot of uphill climbing
today but, thankfully, there is no rain, so it is less slippery and easier to maneuver around the rocks. We still have to contend with our aching bones from yesterday though. After 3.5 hours of trekking we stop for lunch before carrying on for another two hours, till we make it to Shira 1 Campsite, which is a lot bigger and colder than Big Tree, as it is 3,000 feet above sea level. It is still daylight when we arrive so a few of us play cards before dinner. Long day! Day IV - Shira II Camp We are woken up at 6.45am for “washy-washy”, which is followed by breakfast at 7:30am. This will be our routine for the rest of the trip. The terrain today is very rocky
Above, clockwise from top left: Volunteers defrosting their feet after a frosty climb; a volunteer who took ill during the climb being assisted on his descent; a porter helps with the duffel bags; a view of the snow-covered summit. Below: The volunteer group pause for a photo op.
Published on Mar 27, 2012