The majority of the previous night had been spent continuously waking up after spending the night rolling up and down my tent…upon reflection probably wasn’t the best idea to have set up my sleeping bag horizontally in a tent which was on a slope! After being served Milo and tea in my tent (almost as good as breakfast in bed!), I stumbled out to breakfast with extremely low expectations of what I was about to consume.
Previous to leaving for Kilimanjaro we had heard horror stories about the breakfast ‘gruel’, so you can imagine the pleasant surprise when our porters walked in bearing platters full of eggs, sausages, tomatoes, cucumber and toast! For some reason I decided the ants would appreciate the first real breakfast I’d had in weeks more than I would so proceeded to drop my food in the dirt…fantastic!…lucky there was gruel available!!…it tasted like an extremely watered down, grainy chocolate porridge with the tang of light and tangy potato chips.
On leaving the breakfast tent, the sun and clouds came out, and just like magic the view of the summit had completely disappeared…eat your heart out David Copperfield!! We were walking by 9am, with our first views of Mount Meru appearing as the clouds and fog began clearing. Mount Meru is an active stratovolcano located 70 km west of Mount Kilimanjaro: at a height of 4,566 metres, it is visible from Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day, and is the tenth highest mountain in Africa. The walk was a much slower one than the day before, however much steeper! Rock climbing abilities were definitely needed, as in certain parts of the track we were virtually scaling walls!! Non-slip shoes were a fantastic choice of footwear as the day began with rainfall!
The whole day was spent trekking through the desert. It was an extremely dry landscape – one completely different to the muddy, moist, green rainforest from the day before. The way to get through the day was to just focus on taking the next step. It was easier to look at the ground as on looking upwards the view of the height of what we were attempting to climb was extremely overwhelming and literally had the potential to crush spirits! When all you focus on is to ‘just keep moving’ it’s amazing what you can achieve. Breathing at this point was still surprisingly easy!
We were quite happy to continuously take short stops on the side of the path to catch our breath while letting the porters run past – it’s a little disheartening that we’re puffing with stitches, red in the face, taking an age to climb up the mountain going at a snails pace when the porters were (in comparison to us) sprinting past, with plenty of breath, carrying up to 20 kilos while doing so!!…on their heads as well might I add! I can’t even balance a book on my head and walk 2 metres let alone go for a 9k sprint, up-hill, while balancing a table!! Bet they don’t teach you that in finishing school!!
Normally after a long period of walking a great distance up a substantially steep hill, the view of an upcoming descent is met with elation. It was, however, quite disappointing every time we saw were coming up to a descent. It felt like we had just walked up hill for nothing! Also, law of physics (or something like that), we were all well aware that whatever we walked down, we were only going to have to walk that same distance up again!! I don’t know what was more disappointing – the parts of the day where we were walking down-hill, or the realisation that my amazing new tan was actually dirt!…both rate quite highly on the scale of 1 to sad!!
I had purposely packed less in my backpack for the day so there was room for our paper-bag lunch. Expecting a paper-bag packed lunch I was therefore pleasantly surprised when we rocked up to a clearing and had a hot lunch prepared for us in a lunch tent which acted as a shield from the rain and wind! Don’t judge me, but pineapple dipped in milo is FANTASTIC, and peanut butter smothered over oreo’s is equally as amazing to the taste buds!! Full from all the amazing food at lunch, and exhausted from the mornings walk I slept for half an hour, apparently sleeping through surprise chicken which was also apart of lunch!
They warn you about los of appetite as a side effect of altitude sickness before you climb, but we’re presented with so much food that there’s not really a chance to loose our appetite!! It’s a nice change to be overfed – I’m looking forward to putting on all of the weight that I lost from the food at Rowellan in Kenya!! There was so much food that at the end of lunch we had spare eggs which were used in an attempt for Mike (the Canadian) to prove he could juggle. All I’m going to say is thank god they were boiled!!
Once we reached a certain height and had climbed above the clouds it was literally as if we were standing on the edge of the world. We had climbed through Hell and had arrived at Heaven. The path snaked around the side of the mountain, so we were virtually standing on a ledge on the side of the cliff, gazing over the top of an endless view of clouds. There was the same urge that you get when you see an incredibly bouncy, soft mattress – you just wanted to jump into the clouds! They were so white and fluffy and picture perfect it would have been amazing to go cloud jumping!!…although I (a) didn’t have a death wish and (b) hadn’t climbed all the way up so far just to go straight back to the bottom within a matter of minutes! Plus can you imagine the postage costs of having to ship myself back home limb by limb??!
I don’t know which view was more welcomed…the breathtaking views or the sight of the tents set up in a clearing ahead! It’s quite interesting how when exhaustion has set in and taken hold you can get crazy energy bursts once you’ve realised you’re almost at the finish line – kind of makes me think a lot of situations really are mind over matter. After reaching the clearing and collapsing into our tents I proceeded to have an alcohol wipe shower…it’s quite disappointing when your hands look clean, however the alcohol wipe comes out brown! By 7.30pm it was well past my bed time, and I managed to completely pass out.