Hello again, and welcome to the wet, wild African adventures of ActiveSteve and Cantrailia! The blog post title pretty much sums up the entirety of what this post will be about, but when have you ever known me to keep things short and sweet? Of course I have a few more things to share with you about the day, so you’ll just have to read the whole thing anyway. To get you started, I of course once again urge you to check out the map that I made of the day’s trek, as well as the set of pictures posted over on flickr. When you are satisfied that you have an idea of what we as a group were up against for this particular leg of the journey come on back here and read the rest of the post.
Now that we’d gotten the first day of hiking on Kili under our belts, we were really starting to get into the swing of things. As alluded to in the last post, the camp routines were pretty much the same every day. We’d first get woken up by a helper porter, and would then get a bit of warm water to wash up if we’d like (ok, I’ll be honest now… I seldom did :-). After that, it was the stuffing game while we packed up our sleeping bags and mattresses and all our gear into the duffel bags for the porters. Once packed, we’d head over to the mess tent for breakfast, dropping off our bags on the way, so that they could be picked up by the porters who would take off early for the next camp. Breakfast was a pretty quick meal, with a variety of things like porridge (I got tired of that pretty early, but Deborah seemed more than willing to eat my share, and Sarah seemed to like it as well… I don’t know about these Aussie’s and their runny porridge). We’d also sometimes get treats like eggs, bacon, then of course toast and plenty of warm drinks. I took to drinking mainly tea all day when we had warm drinks. Then, we’d be given some trail snacks (pack of cookies and a little bit of chocolate).
Once the meal was consumed, we’d do any last minute gearing up, put on our daypacks, and basically get in line to start the trek for the day. Naiman would give us a short briefing about how we’d spend our day, then it was time to start the Kili march. On this particular day, we left camp somewhere between 8 and 8:30 in the morning. Yup, since we went to bed early, it was no problem getting up before 7am each day, even for me 🙂
Today’s hike looked like it would be a fun one. We were continuing our gradual journey up the mountain, starting out at Simba Camp at about 2,600m, and wrapping up at Kikelewa Camp (where Kikelewa Cave, aka 3rd cave, is located) at 3,700m. Along the way we’d be passing by a few caves (inspirationally known as 1st and 2nd caves), and also climb out of the forested area into the higher alpine with more modest undergrowth. In theory, this meant we might be able to see more of the mountain today. Of course, that would require the sky to not be full of clouds. Umm. Yeah. So, we had clouds. More time to just enjoy the walking, right? Well, I loved it for sure, but it’s always more interesting to have good views. My main view would consist of watching the heels of the guide in front to make sure I didn’t walk on them 🙂
Although things were cloudy, the walk was quite enjoyable, and we took our time moving along, stopping once or twice on our way to 2nd cave, which is where we’d stop for lunch. Some groups stop for the day at 2nd cave, in order to acclimatize. However, as a result of our advanced hike on Meru, we merely stopped there for lunch then kept going. Hopefully that would mean a more thinned out camp this night. We got to 2nd cave in about 3 hours. Pretty quick in comparison to the other groups, and as it turns out, that would be a good thing. Our awesome porters had set up the mess tent and cooking tent (along with our ‘toilet tent’) and were busy preparing our lunch. We took off our packs and moved into the tent.
That was of course pretty much the precise moment it started to rain. We felt lucky that we could eat lunch dry and comfortable, but realized many other groups wouldn’t have that good fortune. We hoped it would be quickly over, but the rain continued throughout our meal. Even though it was almost 2 hours before we left again, the rain hadn’t abated. Of course, we’d all donned our wet weather gear in the tent before heading out, so once again, we were fairly comfortable. We had about another 2.5 hours of hiking in the afternoon ahead of us, and were optimistic that the rain would break before camp.
Oh dear, how wrong we were. The rain seemed to intensify with every meter of elevation we gained. I truly could not believe just how hard it was raining at one point. In fact, this was the one part of the trip where I [only momentarily] lost it with respect to the weather. We were trudging along the river, err, I mean path, and the rain seemed to hit me with all it was worth. Well, I unleashed a stream of invectives generally aimed at mother nature in my head. Finally, I screamed “Bring it on!” as my last act of defiance for what I thought was unfair treatment of us. However, at the end of the day, this was all great character building. I knew the peak would be that much sweeter after the suffering we had to endure to get there. Reminds me of the latin slogan we had in my high school. “Palma non Sine Pulvere” which we translated to “No Success without Struggle”. Full description of this Latin proverb found here.
All this rain had other consequences as well. Normally, on this trek, we’d cross over a few little mountain streams. You know, the kind you just step over. Well, due to the heavy rains, and the fact that it all flows down from the top, we were faced on a couple occasions with very swollen rivers. Had the water risen much more, we’d have almost no chance of crossing. As it was, on one of these dicey rivers (almost at the camp), one of our dear party (Mike), managed to actually in and get totally soaked. He was lucky it wasn’t worse. He also witnessed a poor porter struggling to cross, and ending up dropping the load he was carrying into the fast-moving water. Completely soaked, he couldn’t even lift if out alone, so Mike helped him. I would imagine that some poor weary hiker received a rather wet surprise when they got their gear at camp!
Once over these rivers, we finally made it into camp, and rain finally seemed to let up just a little bit. Of course, our dear porters had done the unenviable job of needing to choose a camping area which wasn’t flooded, then proceed to get the tents up without getting them totally soaked on the inside. They were [mainly] successful, and for that I am grateful. We chucked the goods into the tent and crawled in, soggy, to try and relax for a little bit. It was then that we finally received just the slightest concession from the mountain goods. As we were in the tent, feeling miserable about the weather, and wondering if we could endure it for another several days, the rain stopped completely. What’s more, the sun came out! I’m talking about full-on sun! The kind that had me racing out of the tent, and proceeding to spread gear all over available rocks and shrubs in an attempt to dry it. My boots were priority one, as they were 100% non-waterproof 🙂
We were also treated to a splendid view of both Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as Mount Mawenzi (the secondary peak to Kili). It was a truly spiritually uplifting time, and made me feel much better about the hiking. All was quickly forgotten as we warmed up and dried out. The tea and snacks tasted that much better, and were enjoyed while wandering around camp a bit snapping shots. Mike was particularly happy for this change as a result of his recent unwanted swim. Although clouds and fog did roll in intermittently for the remainder of the day, the rain stayed away. We had our supper, and discussed the next day’s itinerary. Things were so nice that Deb, Jody and I even pulled out the Battleship again and played a bit of that venerable navy strategy game for a while. If memory serves me correctly, this would have been the only game that I lost on the entire trip, although we never actually completed it!
Eventually, it was time to crawl into our bags and sleep. After all, at 3,700m, the air gets a little brisk at night, so it made sense to just go to bed. Especially after the porters bring you your drinking water for the next day. Since they boil all the water, we got nice hot bottles to stick in our sleeping bags to keep our feet warm. Nice little fringe benefit. Before actually going to bed, I waited for the really bright, near-full moon to pop up in the sky. I took a few interesting shots of Kili and Marwenzi using the special ‘night sky’ feature on my camera. They turned out pretty cool.
All in all, the ups and downs of that day make it a pretty memorable one. I was already looking forward to what the next day might bring us (although I’d be really glad if they brought me relief to the GI issues I’d been having all day…). My thought of the is probably fairly easy to guess. Rain will always pass. So too will suffering and misery. You just have to stick it out. Pretty similar to what I thought on Meru, but crystallized even further on this day. See you all tomorrow, another bang-up day on the mountain!