Today, I am continuing with the narration of my experience hiking on Kilimanjaro Mountain. The last post had covered our experience of the first day on the Machame trail. Day one finished at the Machame Camp. Day two on Kilimanjaro I woke up cold. My fingers felt like they were burning. I tried to keep them warm in a pair of gloves, but the agony continued. When I went outside my tent, I was surprised to meet someone from Europe in a t-shirt and a short. I couldn’t help but ask how he would manage such a feat. He replied that he was used to the cold. In fact, his countrymen were able to handle temperatures colder than what I was experiencing. This was a light-bulb moment. I rushed to meet my hiking partners and shared the news. We needed to stop using gloves to get the fingers to acclimatise. I proceeded to remove mine. Later on it proved a good move.
This morning there was fog around the camp. When the fog lifted, the mountain was in a cloud cover. And when the clouds briefly lifted up, I caught a glimpse of a mountain ahead. It looked like it was going to be a long hike that day. We took our breakfast and started off. David, the guide, remained behind with the porters to dismantle our camp and set off for the next camp. Then we had a first taste of the infamous hiking jams. This happens as hikers and porters squeeze through narrow passages. The porters were carrying heavy equipment and hiking bags. They needed to overtake us in order to set up shop at the next camp. At many points especially when we just started hiking, we would have to stop in our tracks for a couple of minutes because of the jam. Dust kicked in, and though, this was not summer, it was clear we were on the trails similar to those of wildebeest or buffaloes.
Vegetation had changed and the tropics weather pattern had disappeared over night. Now, the tall trees, climbers and creepers of the previous day were replaced with a desert like vegetation. One notable thing about this day was that we were higher than all the mountains I had been to prior to this hike. Mulanje Mountain, which is tallest in Malawi stands at 3,002 m on Sapitwa Peak. However, my two previous climbs on Mulanje went as far as the plateau. Therefore, in terms of altitude, this was new territory.
What got my attention at this stage is how expansive the mountain looked. We had taken a big part of the previous day hiking, and when I lifted my eyes it seemed there was still a lot of mountain to cover. In fact, Kilimanjaro has hills on the mountain. That was how big this place looked. I had not seen anything like it, and have not seen it since. I could immediately seen the importance of having guides and well marked trails. If one was to get lost here, it would take a lot of effort to be rescued. When we got to the top of the mountain ridge that was in front of us, near at the end of that day’s hike, we saw another mountain in front of us. Uhuru Peak was comfortably shrouded in fog, and its proximity looked rather remote. This was a mountain worth hiking.
When we arrived at Shira Camp we were at 3, 750 m effectively above anything in Malawi. The implications of this were quite overwhelming. This meant that every bit of training I had done on altitude stopped right here. I would need to generate fresh experience. It felt a like a special priviledge to be at this height and still be able to breathe comfortably. The camp was dry and looked very different from the one we were coming from. The procedure remained the same though. We had to register and indicate the name of our guide. David, the guide, had already set our camp by the time we arrived and in no time, we refreshed and refueled our tired muscles. We were really being taken care of as if we were loyalty.
The next post will take us to third day on Kilimanjaro, getting an inch closer to the ultimate goal – setting foot on the highest point in Africa.