This morning I set my alarm for 5am, I’m a punctual person by nature and I hate being late and feeling like I’m holding everyone up. So since it takes me forever to pack everything up I needed that extra time. To this day, I still don’t know how everyone else was able to get up later and still be packed and in the mess tent having breakfast before Lucretia and I. I think there was some sort of time vortex on Kilimanjaro that no one told me about. That being said, I there was one day (possibly the last day because I wanted to get off the mountain) when I wasn’t the last person at breakfast.
Breakfast of champions
It’s only day 3, but it feels like day 67. I never want to hear a zipper again and I never want to sleep in a tent again. Camping is so undignified (“On The Mountain Jo” wrote that. “Present day Jo” acknowledges it makes me sound like an entitled princess, but it was how I was feeling at the time - so don’t judge me! - You weren’t there, you don’t know the struggles I went through!!!). Everything takes 2x longer than it should and that’s without the fatigue of altitude sickness.
Today we got a glimpse into what altitude sickness is like. I didn’t feel too may effects from it, but a few of our climbers felt tired and nauseous and threw up later in the evening.
All of our duffel bags on the tarp before setting off
Getting ready to leave camp for the day
We headed off shortly before 9am and our walk was via the Temple of Karen’s (see yesterday’s post for what that was!). We decided to create our own and leave it there for the next set of adventurers to witness. All 9 of us placed a stone in chronological order. Mine was the 3rd from the bottom. We managed to get a photo of us with it, it fell down just before we left, but we didn’t take it as a bad omen!
Kili9 and our cairn
Some of the porters carrying literally everything we needed
Walking towards Lava Tower
It took us about 5 hours to get to Lava Tower which was only a 5 mile walk and an elevation gain of 4,000ft. Lava Tower is at 15,387ft elevation. Our kitchen and mess tents were set up for us so that we could have a cooked lunch to sustain us for the rest of the hike to Barranco Camp where we were staying that night. To my delight (but no one else’s) we had scotch eggs!! Hard boiled eggs encased in ground meat and fried, I’ll be honest, they tasted better than they looked, we called them hairy balls, or was it just me that called them that in my head? One of the things with altitude sickness is that you lose your appetite, so I had to make sure to eat enough and Abel reminds us at every meal to “eat, eat!”.
At the gate sign at Lava Tower
Hairy balls (aka Scotch Eggs)
It was pretty chilly, I remember having to close the “windows” on the sides of the mess tent.
There was some tired people in the tent at lunch!
The fatigue of the altitude and walking for 5 hours was settling in at lunch
After about an hour, we were on our way again, we were going down to about 12,795ft elevation to Barranco Camp and it took us about 2 1/2 hours to walk 3km. January took my backpack shortly after starting, everyone else had theirs still. I guess I looked weak! I didn’t feel like I needed it taken, but January told me to be flexible and honestly, I just took every bit of advice I was given, since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. So, I put up a little bit of a protest and then relented. Actually, it was a good reminder for me in life in general: take help when it’s offered and don’t do everything yourself. As an independent person, it’s a really tough thing for me, but this year I’ve tried to lean into it. I don’t need to do everything myself and actually, sometimes you get further when you don’t.
January wearing my backpack on the front (his on his back)
I asked January what he meant by being flexible, this was his answer:
“Be flexible in life means that you can change your plans and adapt to new situations easily, For example you plan to carry your backpack from the gate to the top then you find out in order to reach to the top of Africa i have to change my plan and accepting the help and adapt.
I think we can all learn from that.
I was also reminded how teamwork, community and working together is so important. And I’ve been blown away by the Parkinson’s community, it’s really tight and we’re all working towards the same thing: finding a cure for PD.
Laura had a little flag attached to her bag with a photo of her and her Dad who passed away from PD a few years ago
Alex had a little fox attached to his backpack (for Team Fox)
And then there’s the 33 guides and porters, for just 9 of us. They fed us, put up the tents, guided us and got us ready for our days of hiking. We couldn’t have made it without each and every one of those strong men and women who put their lives in danger for us (and dangerous it was, if we ever needed a reminder, it would be the next day - more to come).
The 9 of us shared food, water bottles, medicine, anything we had doubles of that others might need. There’s a level of bonding that happens when you’re put in extreme circumstances. That kind of bonding comes fast and hard (that’s what she said) and it’s just so uplifting to know that I know I have 8 new family members that I can ask anything of. And our new extended family in Tanzania.
Each day, as we start to approach camp, if the porters have set up the tents and are waiting for us (which was every day because we were so slow!), they would come and meet us on the trail, take our backpacks and walk the rest of the way back with us. Once at camp, we would be welcomed with singing and dancing. This would happen at every single camp. And the porters would brush off the enormous amount of dust from our pants, gaitors and boots, making them look like new(ish) again. This was so helpful, the sheer amount of dust was extraordinary, so much so, that we all developed coughs from inhaling it and I started to get some nasal allergies too. Little touches like these welcomes made us all feel really special.
We went through some stunning scenery and although it was misty when we arrived in camp, it cleared fairly quickly and I got a beautiful photo of the mountain.
Barranco Wall in the clouds
Barranco Wall as the sun was setting
These 2 photos were taken within 30mins of each other.
Walking was pretty tough today. Whenever I felt the dull ache of a headache coming on, I drank water. I think I drank about 5l and I stopped around 6pm, just had a few sips with dinner. So that helped not pee twice through the night unlike the previous night!
We are stopping every twenty mins or so to pee, I think it’s a mix of the cold, the diamox (altitude sickness medicine) and the amount that we’re drinking.
At dinner (zucchini soup, pasta and vegetable or beef curry - it was all really good), Abel said that we did well today and he’s had groups where half of them have been vomiting at Lava Tower. Laura and Connie both threw up at Barranco Camp and they had their oxygen levels taken to make sure they were ok and could proceed. Abel said tomorrow should be easier.
What we climbed today, in terms of elevation is what we will be doing on summit night. Only add in colder and pitch black and it will be a much steeper incline.
So we’ll see!
We always seemed to be the last to camp and the last to leave, and we were slow. That meant that we didn’t have much downtime at camp, but it meant that we had the mountain to ourselves, we barely saw any other groups. And looking back, I’m really happy that is the Mount Kilimanjaro that we experienced.
We had the mountain to ourselves
There’s something to be said about disconnecting from the internet. I had my phone with me all the time as I was taking photos and video and writing these updates, but I was surprised at how I didn’t miss having internet access. There really wasn’t any downtime (see above!) and I was enjoying the company of everyone, getting to know everyone a bit better.
Oh and I found my protein bars when I unpacked at camp, so all is well again!
Tomorrow we scale the Barranco Wall.
We have put together a GoFundMe (read some of the porters stories) and Amazon Wishlist for the porters so that we can get them the hiking and camping equipment they need to keep them safe and uninjured on the mountain. We would love your support.
Day 1: Morum Barrier Gate to Shira 1 Camp, Wednesday August 9th, 2023
Day 2: Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp, Thursday August 10th, 2023
Day 3: Shira 2 Camp to Barranco Camp via Lava Tower, Friday August 11th, 2023
Day 4: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp, Saturday August 12th, 2023