Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tales from Tanzania - Day 5 and 6 (Kilimanjaro)

The third day of the trek was supposed to be easy.  Well, not so much.  It was a bit easier than the previous day, but there's really no such thing as "easy" on Kilimanjaro.  We crossed a plateau (and you'd think a plateau would be flat, but nope, uphill all the way!), and made our way along some rocky trails and although this was a long day of walking, it wasn't too horribly strenuous.  The thing you hear most on Kilimanjaro is to walk pole pole (pronounced polay polay), meaning slowly.  Yeah, not a problem, because slowly was always going to be the only way I was going to drag my arse up that damn mountain!  But today was the day where I really found my pole pole pace and stuck with it, which was helpful in conserving energy.  Which I needed because this was the first day when we hadn't really had a descent built into our hike, so in the interests of acclimatizing to the altitude, after we reached the Moir Hut camp, we had to hike up higher and stay there for about thirty minutes before coming back down.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I didn't want to go on that hike, but in the interests of giving myself the best chance of making it to the summit, I dragged myself along.  And in so doing, discovered something very interesting - descending is more difficult than ascending.  Seriously, there wasn't one downhill surface on Kilimanjaro that wasn't horribly slippery, and the very real possibility of breaking an ankle or twisting a knee after already doing all that work was just unbearable.  So although I hauled myself uphill like a sack of potatoes, I picked my way downhill like the daintiest of  ballerinas.  It's hell on your knees (and your wrists, if you're using trekking poles, which I was), but falling would have been a lot worse...

The fourth day took us from the Moir Hut camp (13,580 ft) to the Barranco camp (13,044 ft) via the Lava Tower (15,190 ft).  Yes, you read that right - we basically spent the first half of the day climbing up, up, up to a very high point and then climbing down, down, down to a point lower than we'd been the day before.  Seems crazy, but again, it's all about the acclimatizing.  And when you are at the Lava Tower, eating your lunch, you are way closer to the summit than you have ever been and the sheer size of that damn mountain looming overhead is quite daunting.  But nonetheless, after lunch you slither your way downhill (again, verrrrrry slippery) through the spectacular and otherworldly Barranco Valley until you reach the camp.  By the time I got there, the mist had rolled in, and there was a slight drizzle, but that was really the only time we got even a little bit damp, we had spectacular sunshine all throughout the trek.  But that was the night where Altitude decided I wasn't really suffering enough and decided to fill my sinuses with revolting sludge.  And constantly re-fill them with more revolting sludge, no matter how many times I blew my nose, which was a lot.  A. Lot.  So, to recap at this point:  I'm filthy, I'm exhausted, I haven't slept in five nights, my eyes are nearly swollen shut, and I'm constantly blowing my nose.  I swear to god, I cannot imagine why couples climb Kilimanjaro together, because I promise you, you will never be less attractive in your entire life!!!

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