Ok, so we’ve been hiking for about 678 days or something. We’re getting tired, mentally and physically.
What we have basically been through is 6.5 days of a hiking boot camp.
1.5 more to go.
This has been the daily routine:
Wake up after an uncomfortable and cold night’s sleep on a wafer thin sleeping pad. Unbathed. Eat breakfast. Try to poop without being fined. Hike uphill for six hours. Uncontrollable nap. Soup. Repeat.
The novelty has worn off, people. This is taking forever.
And we haven’t even touched the actual mountain yet!
Only on the very last day (which we begin at midnight) do we actually climb Mt Kilimanjaro. The other days are spent in the foothills, acclimatizing and circling the mountain like a lion hunting a zebra.
We’re comin’ for ya, Kili!
For each meal, we huddle in the meal tent to escape the cold and talk about important subjects such as when/how/where we last evacuated our bowels.
FYI, they fine you if you poo outdoors anywhere but inside the designated outhouses. Unless you do it at the top of Kili, in front of God and everyone. More on that later.
I don’t know what I expected on that final day of climbing. More of the same, probably.
This was NOT the case.
After a few hour nap, we were awoken around 11 p.m. for tea and our Camelbak’s to be refilled with boiled drinking water (the daily routine).
It was, of course, the coldest we’ve felt so far since we were about 15K feet up.
It was also windy as we began our descent at around midnight.
It was the coldest I had ever experienced, that’s for sure. It affected us all pretty greatly.
One of us lost the feeling in our fingers and a porter had to help drag him/her up the mountain for an hour or so.
One of us had several mini panic attack’s that they weren’t getting enough oxygen and wondered at which point it would run out completely.
None of us took any pictures.
All but one of our group had been taking Diamox for altitude sickness and, for the most part, it worked. I just kept waiting for it to stop working.
At a certain point, my brain stopped working. I was on auto pilot.
These were extreme conditions. We were all moving at a snail’s pace. Everytime I coughed, the porters would slow everyone down.
As I looked up the dark mountain, I could see the eerie trail of headlamps from groups of people ascending just as slowly as we were.
This was a death march.
I never thought I’d turn back but I feared how long I would slow the group down by my constant breaks. I hadn’t trained nearly enough for this shit.
It took about 7 hours to reach what I thought was the summit.
We first reached a false summit.
Now, I knew there was Stella Point before there was the actual tippy top Uhuru Peak.
I figured Uhuru would be around the corner or something.
The entire way up, our guide kept telling us two things: “Pole, Pole” meaning “Slowly, Slowly” and “Almost there”.
Well, when I saw Stella Point, I kinda turned off my engines.
Phew! We made it! All done. Just have to find this blasted Uhuru chic and we can check this crap off the old bucket list.
“How far is Uhuru from here?” I enquire.
“About one hour.”
“WHAT?????????????????” I probably whispered since I had no breath to scream bloody murder with.
This became impossible news to hear for two reasons.
One, I was spent. Done. I had expelled all my energy and resources and was going to need to be wheelbarreled to this damned Uhuru Peak.
Two, I had been holding in some serious bowel cramping for the past 4 hours!!
When I asked “Is there a bathroom at the top?” I was told yes.
We were often told lies by our guides throughout the trip. “What’s tomorrow’s hike going to be like?”
“Easy day, mostly flat.”
It would be just as tough as the prior day. Mostly uphill.
“Where’s camp, are we almost there?”
“Yes, just around that corner.”
That corner takes another two hours to get to, apparently.
So, I shouldn’t have at all been shocked when there wasn’t a pristine porcelain toilet seat waiting for me at the top.
I won’t go into any gory details but I was led to a very shallow rock formation which basically covered my lower half as I squatted and did my thang.
My torso and head, clearly visible and perhaps TWO feet away from passersby.
Streams of people passed, clearly seeing what I was doing and trying very kindly to revert their eyes.
I had no choice. I was an animal at that point.
Thank god I was able to grab some TP from someone beforehand or it was going to be a very uncomfortable 7 hour hike back down.
After that humuliation was over, I continued my slow crawl up to Uhuru Peak, trying to enjoy the insanely beautiful glacier formations on both sides of me. This was so incredible but I couldn’t really look anywhere but ahead.
Due to the altitude, we were all having minor hallucinations. The glaciers were blinking at me. Everyone’s headlamp lights were swimming around their heads and one of our party saw an old friend who was not there.
The rest of my group was at the Uhuru Peak sign for a good 20 minutes before they were about to be forced to leave (so everyone else in line could get their picture taken) when I shuffled up just in time.
“Sander!!” Captain yelled.
That’s how I knew I had made it.
Due to health reasons, you can’t stay very long at the top.
After a few pics I dumped my grandmother’s ashes unceremoniously on the ground by the sign.
I didn’t care who saw me.
As Toto’s immortal “Africa” sings “I shat my pants, down in Africa”
After you do that, you just don’t care as much about what people think.
3 hours to the first campsite for a few hour nap. Then 3 or so more to our final campsite. Then we all passed out.
At dinner time, we enjoyed a highly awkward tipping session where we learned we had budgeted for only about HALF of what we were supposed to tip everyone! Very unpleasant, indeed.
The next morning we had several more ENDLESS hours to go before we reached the bottom where eager locals were waiting to hock us their wares.
We signed the book (which we had to sign at the arrival of each day’s campsite) and got on the bus for our 3 hour ride back to our lovely hotel.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and next morning relaxing by the pool, enjoying Fantas, watching soccer and bad African soap operas, dreaming of Subway sandwiches and dreading the 27 hour flight back home.
Well folks, that’s my trip. In a nutshell.
It was the hardest thing any of us had ever done (or perhaps ever will do) and I will never forget all I’ve seen and accomplished and devoured.
“Uh…I don’t know who I would recomend this trip to!?!?”
NO PICS TAKEN OF THE ASCENT. TOO COLD. TOO DARK. TOO TIRED…………………