It has been a dream for me for a long time to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. This time the dream was about to be true. The world’s highest freestanding mountain with its 5895 meters was in front of me. The dormant valcano was within my reach. On our first African trip in 2007 we started with visit to Serengetti and Ngorogoro, as I described in an earlier post. The next to visit was the great mount Kilimanjaro. I described that as well in an earlier post, but this time I’ll try to go even deeper (higher?) and of course have much more pictures.
We chose the Machame route, even called the whiskey route. It is a little bit harder than the easiest one, but still quite easy. We chose to walk it in six days. It showed to be a little of a planning miss, but we still didn’t know it yet. There wewre a lot of people at the gate, some tourists, some guides, some porters. Going to Kilimanjaro you must have a guide and at lest two porters, whether you like it or not.
Out guide, Moses was a student and he loved Kilimanjaro and Tanzanian nature. I understand that. We saw our porters with our bags for just a few seconds and then they ran away. I mean ran. With about 20 kilos on their backs and another 20 kilos on their heads they ran to prepare meals and campsite for us. That’s luxury.
We started walking throgh the rainforest. It was green, thicks and very moist. At obe time it also rained. The plants were a little bit bigger then we are used to. The dark was a little bit darker and the rain a little bit wetter. The feelings were on thr edge and the expectations on top. One of the first words we learned was Pole, pole, meaning Slow, slow. We were not supposed to run. We were supposed to walk slowly, to get used to the height and the thinner air.
The higher up we got, the thinner the air, the thinner the soil, the thinner the trees. First we got out of the rain forest and came to area with smaller trees with white moss hanging from them. Later we got to tall bushes. At the first camp were only large bushes. We arrived at the campsite in the afternoon and before meal we were welcomed with nuts, pop-corn, hot chocolate and tea.
The meals at the campsites were large, simple and quite good. There were lots of rice or pasta and most often chicken. Lots of carbs, so we could walk and walk and walk.
The second day we kept walking. There was not much talk or anything else, just slow walking. There are a lot of tourists on the mountain. We saw many of them at the campsites, some on the way, further up in front of us. They were probably behind as well, but we didn’t look back. Walking and not talking makes you forget the world, so I was not aware od other people. That’s good.
The next day was foggy and misty. We felt tired and didn’t sleep so well. I think it was the height. My heart was beating really fast and when I slept, I slept very light and woke up easy. Not a nice feeling. Good that we had some time to get used to the height. When we woke up in the morning the tent was covered with frost. It was cold during the night. We were getting closer.
In the morning the clouds went away and finally we saw it, the great Kilimanjaro. It was so close and so far away at the same time. And we still had few more days to go. It felt better in the morning with the sunshine. I had a headake, almost as a hangover. I guess it was the height as well.
This day we walked higher then the days before. We got up to about 4200 meters to the Lava Tower and down again. The Lava Tower looked pretty cool. t was a tower in the middle of otherwise flat terrain. Except the mountain of course. The environment felt hostile. It could be because of thr moist and fog that got back. I think that could be the clouds that we were walking inside. The toilets at this place were also really ugly. They were stinking a long way and a lot of people chose to go and do whatever outside the toilets, which made this place even worse.
After seeing the Lava Tower we walked down to the Barranco camp. It was a beautiful place with the view of the mountain and it’s snow on one side and the town of Moshi far down on the other.When we got there it was cloudy, but later the clouds blew away and the night with milions of stars was beautiful. I slept a little bit better now, but my heart was still beating faster then usuallt to compensate the lower level of oxygen.
In the morning we started out just after breakfast and had the touthest day so far. We went to the Barranco Passm where we almost had to climb, looking down in a steep hole below us. The guides told us not to fall. Thanks!
We walked and walked. This day was very long. Some groups decided to stay after a little more then half way. We only had our luncg there and kept on going. It was raining and it was cold, but we didn’t care. It just put one foot in front of the other. I was feeling tred, but quite good, but my friends were feeling the height sickness and they couldn’t rat so much. Not so good if you have to walk and walk.
The lava ground that we were walking on was not very stable, so we had to watch our steps and walk slowly higher and higher. In the late afternoon we reached the base camp. The tent were up already and we literally fell asleep on the spot. No energy left at all. We were woken after an hour or two to have dinner. It was a huge bowl of pasta that we just ate and fell asleep again. Energy need was enormous.
The guide woke us up at midnight. Now it was time to go. It was time to reach the top, to do what we came for. I wasn’t feeling too well. I felt like I had too little clothes, the warm clothes were too thick and too warm and most of all I was tired and wanted to sleep. And we started in the night. Every step was harder then the previous. We reached the snow and beyond. Every step I had to rest. Every step I closed my eyes and almost fell asleep. The decision to go back was not easy. It was the hardest decision on this trip. I told the guide that I may come up, but then I would not get down. Not alive. He tried to convince me, he told me: I will carry you! But I went back down. Just to have another chance. Was it the right decision? I think so, but I regret it every day. Well, well, next time!
The same day we came all the way down. Down to the jungle, thw way that took almost six days up, took half a day down. Down in the rain forest we saw monkeys with white fluffy tails, we were back. Maybe we didn’t reach the top, but we managed to get there and back alive and the Kilimanjaro was as ours as it could be. This time. And next time I going all the way to the top.
Kilimanjro National Park became a world heritage site in 1987. Link to the site: Kilimanjaro National Park.
My grade to Kilimanjaro Natiomal Park is still five out of five, what else.