This is day four on the 7 Day Machame Route. Last post was on day three. My friends and I are aiming to reach Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa. Kilimanjaro is the biggest free-standing mountain in the world. It is located in Tanzania, which is a neighbouring country to Malawi, where I was born and raised, and currently based. Though Malawi is neighbours with Tanzania, we do not get a lot of people going to there to scale up either Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru, which is the second biggest mountain in Tanzania, and ninth biggest in Africa. I am hoping to help influence a change in perception for fellow Malawians to pick up hiking as a hobby and take us around the world. Tanzanians, and other Africans should also reciprocate and come and visit us.
Malawi has many fascinating sites to see. I am hoping to sell the country to all tourists out there so that when they come to Africa for safaris, they can also come to our country and experience natural beauty that can only be found in Malawi. This blog covers some of those sites, and in time, we will build a comprehensive catalogue of the places to see and visit. Malawi, a land of smiles. Malawi, a country of ubuntu. But for now, we have to continue from my previous post. Last time we were on day three and had just spent the night on Baranco Camp on Kilimanjaro Mountain. This is the last point to help the body acclimatise. On day four, you begin to get strong feedback on how your body adjusts to high altitude and low oxygen environment. But because we are starting off from 3,900 m, the reaction is gradual and only significant towards the end of this day’s hike.
I had thought that I would have plenty of time to read. In fact, I had brought along a book to read, and thought I would spend pleasant hours in the afternoon and evening listening to inspirational talks that were saved on my mobile phone. As it turns out, it is very difficult to read at high altitude.
THE BREAKFAST WALL
We started the day with a climb on the Breakfast Wall. This is a face of a vertical cliff standing menacingly in front of Baranco Camp. I’m told the name comes from the fact that whatever you had for breakfast will have been completely digested by the time you arrive at the head of the cliff.
This was the most challenging task so far, and I’m glad it was on the fourth day. Any day before adjusting to this rough terrain would have raised an alarm. Along the way we came to a very narrow strip that had a big rock blocking the path, leaving a small space to navigate round the rock. We were given the instructions and then a demonstration on how to do it. We had to walk sideways like a crab with arms outstretched.
Then we were advised to kiss the rock! Yuck! I had no intention of kissing the rock, considering among other things, the number of kisses that rock gets in a day. I depended on my blessings from above, and not paying homage to some misplaced rock blocking my path. This rock was not going to get a kiss from me. Uh uh!
Once at the top of the cliff, it was such a huge relief. And the view was amazing. This is where I did my favourite “jump in the air” photo. It just had to be. It wasn’t even scary the fact that we were very near the edge.
We stopped for lunch at Karanga Camp. This is where we should have camped for the day, but since we had knocked off a day from our itinerary, we rested enough for the next trek to the base camp. It was at this point that reality started to settle in. By midnight of this day, we would be on our way to Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa.
Karanga Camp stands at 3,995 m, which is just 5 metres above the previous camp, Baranko. However, even with this small shift in altitude I lost my appetite. This was pretty much the only symptom I had of high altitude sickness. And a little bit of the rumbling in the tummy, but nothing else much.
After a short break, we started off for Barafu Camp. We tried our best to cheer each other up but fatigue was beginning to show on all of us.
BARAFU CAMP – THE BASE CAMP
We arrived at Barafu Camp in the late afternoon.
What looked so distant was close-by. And at 4,673m the effects of high altitude started kicking in earnestly. Any physical activity seemed tedious. I always thought that lack of oxygen would feel like there is not enough air to breathe. No, that’s not it. There is a lot of air to breathe, but there is not enough oxygen in that air. The body gets confused from this mixed message. As a result you easily feel tired without the body knowing why that is the case.
Barafu is a base camp. That means this is the last station before you gun for the top. This is where we were going to eat our last meal before going for the peak. This is where we would get our last rest. In short, whatever we had prepared for goes into full effect here. Any weakness gets heightened, and any major strength, if you have any, better come to your rescue right here. This is a make or break point.
We were given a special lecture to prepare for the ascent. Safety was the number one factor to the guides. No, I told them, getting to the peak was my number one factor. Dead or alive, I needed to get to the peak. Of course, I wanted to come back alive so that I could tell the story.
After a good light meal we were put to sleep at 18:00 to be woken up at 23:00. This was it. It was happening.
Wake up with me in the next post to start my hike on Uhuru Peak. The target is to reach the highest point in Africa. And to say, yes, even an ordinary Malawian, with limited resources can step foot on this most prestigious peak on Kilimanjaro Mountain.