Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tales from Tanzania - Day 4 (Kilimanjaro)

So I started the second day of the Kilimanjaro trek exhausted from not having slept the night before, but at least I had one thing in my favour:  I'm used to it.  I've been an insomniac for years, I've tried everything to fix the problem and nothing (aside from strong pharmaceuticals) works.  And since it's not a good idea to take sleeping pills at altitude, for the very good reason that you might not wake up again, I just had to suffer through it.  C'est la vie - tired is not the same thing as sick, so you have to keep on going.

And this was a tough day - our hike kept us in the beautiful rainforest for about an hour or so, then we got into the moorland.  Still beautiful, but in a slightly austere way, with heather shrubs taller than your head and steep, steeeeeeeeep slopes.  In fact, I think I can sum up the second day quite quickly: up the rocks, down the rocks, up the rocks, down the rocks, up and up and up and up and up and up and up the rocks, slight flattening of the path, and then down and down and down and down.  We stayed that night at Shira 1 Camp, which is at 11,500 ft, so we were already at a substantial altitude.

Speaking of altitude (and I am going to capitalize it from now on, as if it's a person, because Altitude is a bit like the Norse god Loki - capricious and sometimes malicious, and you never know what it's going to do to you), my personal experience with it was not at all what I had expected.  I had expected terrible headaches (which I never got - a couple of small twinges, but nothing bad) and major nausea (nope, not once).  But what I got instead?  Difficulty catching my breath after exertion (and since you're exerting yourself the entire damn way, that was no picnic) and swelling up like a boiled bratwurst.  Seriously, I couldn't believe it.  I thought my feet might swell a bit, like on a plane, but they weren't the problem.  My fingers swelled, my bosoms swelled (all right, you cheeky monkeys, that would normally be a good thing, but not in this case), my face swelled and worst of all, my eyes!!!  Are you kidding me?  I was prepared to be cold, I was prepared to be filthy and I was prepared to be exhausted, but I wasn't prepared to be ugly -  jeezus, not the face!!!  But sadly, this turned out to be the case - from the second night onward, my eyes were swollen so badly that I looked like a Shar-Pei and it was an effort just to keep my eyelids open against the ocean of fluid pressing down on them.  Thanks, Altitude - thanks a lot...

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