“Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes, galloping hard on the plains”
I didn’t sleep for the whole night. Getting up at 4 am and off to Schuman to get the 1 and only cab available at that time. Short flight to Schiphol and ready to board the airplane direction Kilimanjaro. Airplanefood has become quite good actually. Or maybe it is just me that likes this crap. I flew over the Sahara desert, watched Alice In Wonderland. It was getting dark outside, almost there. The same night I arrived at Kili International Airport, and Charles, one of the drivers, picked me up. He didn’t stop chatting for the whole 1 hour drive to the hotel. Off course I was his first and best friend from Belgium. Taught me some words in Swahili, ‘Jambo’ (hello), ‘Karibu’ (welcome) and ‘Ashanti’ (thank you). Great, that’s all I’ll be needing here. Checked in the hotel, had dinner and went to sleep. Welcome to Africa!
I got up early to fix my ride to visit Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro National Park. The prices for safaris are outrageous, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and this was the time to do it. I met up with Boris from C&W Germany to split the costs. After some bargaining we fixed a 2 day safari and off we went. Lake Manyara was only 190km from Moshi, but it almost took us 5 hours to get there. Speedbumps every mile and you know, relax, it’s Africa. I could get used to this life. I think I saw 1 traffic light on the way. The park was beautiful, not too much people. We saw a few impala, giraffes, warthogs, elephants, zebras, hippo’s and so on..By nightfall we returned to our lodge for a good dinner. Ready to go to sleep, with a mosquito net.
We got up at 5:30 am to meet our driver at the gate of the lodge. We passed a lot of small villages and towns, Arusha was crazy. I love Africa. After getting our permit, we entered Ngorongoro Crater. We went down and already saw 2 cheetahs, unfortunately they were far away. Also saw 3 lions, they are so lazy. Felix was our guide, nice guy. “We go now?”. The gamedrive last for 5 hours, spotted some rhinos too. We got out of the Crater around 2 o’clock, it was quite a drive back to our hotel in Moshi. I met up with Nicolas and Carlos and went to this great Indian restaurant called El Rancho. What are the odds ? Pole pole means, “relax, chill out’ or ‘slower slower’. So waiting for 1h30 to get some rice and curry is absolutely normal.
Woke up around 8:00 am and met the 3 UK peeps from C&W. After breakfast we spent all day in Moshi, shopping, relaxing. Organisation is nowhere to be found. But nobody could care less. And apparently, pasta takes as long to prepare as curry and rice. The team is almost complete, we are only waiting for Italy. Tomorrow is the big day, no shower, no bed for 8 days. But I am really looking forward to it. It is important to have some rest now, chilling by the pool, drink and eat well. I already want to stay here.
The big day has arrived, I am finally going to climb Kili ! I took a strong breakfast, drank a lot and off we went. We left the hotel, it was another 3 hour drive to the gate. Most bumby road ever! I hit the roof of the Land Cruiser twice. It was quite a long day, all our bags had to be weight, everbody had to sign in, filling all formalities, etc..After all the administration, they dropped us at the starting point of the Lemosho Route. The first 2 days we were lead through this magnificent rainforest, epic. Today was an easy day, it was only a 3 hour climb to the first base camp, in the middle of the forest. It was already getting dark. Hungry, tired, a small headache. But nothing to worry about. I slept so well, but when early morning nature called, I felt really dizzy when I got out of the tent. And we were only at 2600m. Not a good sign. Took half of a Mars bar and lotsa tea. Once the climb started, I felt better.
So we took off for a 6 hour climb to the next basecamp. After 2,5 hours we left the rainforest behind and entered the moorland of Kili. Few trees, dustier and more rocks. I am feeling good. Until today, I haven’t seen the top of the mountain. She was hiding in the clouds and as the locals say, she’s very shy. Once arrived at camp, the sun came through and saw a glimps of Kili. I just had a couple of Tanzanian black tea cups, no headaches so far. It’s almost 17:00 pm and we are at 3500m.
To be continued…
“You can never conquer the mountain, you can only conquer yourself”
I wrote this from Shira II basecamp, 3800m, it’s cold and windy, and the stars are amazing. Camp is set up, the food is good, just had baked potatoes with vegetables. You lower your food standards pretty quick here, but I can’t complain. I am drinking so much tea here, it really keeps me going. No headaches or other complaints so far. Only my summit day socks are wet. Which basically sucks. Still have a few days to dry them. Getting late again. Well ‘late’ is relative, since the sun sets around 6:00pm and we go to sleep around 9:00pm. Reading some pages in Lord of Chaos. The mist is out and Satyricon is on the iPod. Got a long day tomorrow.
Last night was cold. It is difficult to sleep here. I get the weirdest dreams. Crazy pursuits, about people I haven’t seen for ages, old wounds and long lost forgotten dreams. But the sun is out. You wake up with this amazing view on Mount Meru. The clouds are beneath me. I want to walk on them. Wrapped up camp again and we were on our way to Lava tower, a 4600m check point to acclimatize for an hour, and then continue to the next basecamp. The climb itself was not that hard, but long and tiring. Almost 7 hours to Baranco basecamp, 4000m, in the shredding sun. I felt so sick when I arrived there, tired and headache. Not sure if this was due to the altitude or being exposed to the sun whole day. Anyway, I felt like crap. Took a nap and drank a lot of tea, after dinner I felt better. It’s 20:30pm now, putting on my North Face baselayers and ready to sleep. Over and out.
At Karanga basecamp now, around 4000m, only 1 day to go to high camp and summit day. Weather is good, feeling good, just had chips with vegetables and French toast. Still going strong on the tea and Milo combination. Big black birds are flying around, listening to Immortal. Everyone is doing fine today, and should be ready for tomorrow. The views are amazing here, I can’t even catch half of it on camera.
We just arrived at Barafu high camp, altitude 4600m. It’s 13:20pm and no headache. I am looking forward to summit day/night, but also a bit nervous. The tought you must get to the top of the highest mountain in Africa in 12 hours races through my mind. We were going at a very slow pace today, but that’s ok. It’s misty again, almost ready to put on the down jacket. Very happy about the equipment by the way, looking forward to layer all up. Finished dinner around 7:00pm and ready to go to sleep. I have to get up in 4 hours.
Rhys, the expedition leader, woke me up at 11:00pm, so technically it’s still Friday. I had some biscuits and tea, and off course, the already (in)famous porridge. This is it. Time to go. We set off a little bit before midnight, at a steady but very slow pace. The air is so thin, -15°C and dark outside. You just can’t go any faster. Suddenly, after 3 hours and on 5100m, like they say in mountaineer terms, I ‘hit the wall’. I felt so bad, sick, halucinating, the altitude caught me. There are parts of that moment I can’t even remember. I recall Rhys saying to me, if I wouldn’t get better I had to go down. Crap. Those words come like a sledgehammer. I have never experienced something like this. And there were still 6 long hours to go..It was so tiring, every step hurts, but you are thinking of only 1 thing: get to that summit. But at least my socks are dry. 6:00 am, the sun is coming up on the east side. It gave me such a moral boost. “You are going to take that picture” – thanks Harry. The path to Stella Point was hell. Really hell. Hell. Hell. An hour for 50m. Terrible. Every 5 minutes there were people coming down, sick, throwing up, almost unconscious, swollen faces…and you really don’t want to be one of them soon. Finally, I reached Stella Point, at an altitude of 5740m. The first peak of Kilimanjaro. I still had an hour to go to Uhuru Peak, at 5895m. I just have to go. Now. Through the ice and snow. The only thing I could think of when passing the magnificent glaciers: ‘I have to take a pic of one of those on my way back’. Finally, around 9:00am, I was there. I made it. I was on a mountain. What a feeling. Top of the world. I never ever had to go this deep, I’d rather run a triple marathon instead of doing this again. I never had to push my limits this far. I spent 30 min. on the summit and then there was the way back. 3 hours down to Barafu high camp, sleep for only 1 hour, get your bags ready and head for another 3 hour climb down to basecamp in the jungle. Yes, we are still Saturday.
Woke up early, a final 3 hour walk down where our bus was waiting for us. Saying goodbye to the locals. Final window shopping (litterally). 1 hour drive back to Moshi. There it was: the hotel. A shower and a bed. Veggie rice and curry. Chilling by the pool. So good. This was it. Kilimanjaro 2010. I did it. What’s next ?