Sorry it's been so long. I got down from six days of climbing Kilimanjaro last Friday and have had a hard time getting on the internet since then. Or rather, I've had a hard time finding an internet connection that will allow me to access my blog account. I finally found one at a rehabilitation centre for the disabled in the village I'm staying in outside Arusha. Unfortuntely, Steve, who has all the pictures from Kilimanjaro and the week before, had to go back to Dar es Salaam for work early this morning, so the pictures will have to wait for a later date.
In the meantime, I'll tell you a little about my experience on Kilimanjaro. We arrived in Moshi on Friday Feb 29th, and spent most of Saturday shopping around for a good tour company. We finally settled on one called Crown Eagle, because they offered us a reasonable price and were very professional.
On Sunday morning, we left on a six-day trek up the Marangu Route, a winding but scenic variation on the traditional way up. It was a beautiful hike. Although it rained consistently for a couple of hours every day at about 2:30, we generally had good weather and gorgeous views. And we did our best to be at camp and in the tent by the time the rain started.
There are several species of plants and trees that grow only on Kilimanjaro, so there were times when the surroundings felt very foreign even for Africa. The static electricity in the air often made lightning strike even though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was fascinating during the day, learning about the vegetation and weather from our guides Losobo and Ezekiel. Once we were above the rainforest, teh nights felt a little eerie, as if we were at the bottom of the ocean.
The food was also amazing! We had four porters and a cook with us (who all carried huge loads on their backs and heads in a most incredible display of strength and fitness) and we had huge meals every breakfast lunch and dinner ready prepared. Things like pasta, chicken, ragu, potatoes, spanish omlet, sausage, fruit. It was like a five-star hotel. My only regret about that situation is that we didn't get much of a chance to connect with our porters, even though we camped with them every night. They kept their distance from us and treated us like very important guests at their restaurant.
On the fourth day of our trek, we circumnavigated the mountain so we could approach the summit from the other side. We climbed down into several beautiful valleys with rivers and waterfalls, and up the side of a canyon at one point, which was slippery with ice, but otherwise really fun! We finished the day at about 4600 meters. At this point I was feeling less than well, but I passed it off as symptoms of the stress on my body and the altitde. I had no headache or any of the common reactions to altitude, so I just brushed it off.
That night, the guides woke us at 11:30 for our overnight ascent. I had overheated in my sleeping bag and I was feeling a little weak and feverish. I was very slow to start. All the same, I pushed on for about three hours up the steep zigzagging path in the freezing clod and wind. I had to stop every now and then to catch my breath, at which point I would get very sleepy and almost pass out. When the guides asked me how I was, I lied and said I was just a bit tired, that I'd get better if I kept going a bit more. Eventually, Steve suggested maybe we should go down. I fought it, cause we had come all this way and payed all this money and we were so close. Maybe an hour and a half from the summit. The guide looked at me, and told me that the insides of my lips and gums had changed colour and my pupils didn't dialate when he shone his light at me. He told me I had Altitude Sickness and I had to go down. I didn't want to, but my body really did. When I argued, Ezekial asked me which was more important, the money or coming down alive. So I went down.
I convinced Steve to continue to the summit, although he didn't want to. I think he's glad he did. His pictures are pretty amazing. I wish I had made it to the top, but I also think that I made the right choice. That night, a man died on the summit from Acute Respiratory Edema, because his guide had not recognized the symptoms of Altitude Sickness.
When I got down, I did some research. I learned a lot that I wish I had known before about aclimatization and keeping your body healthy while you climb. Things like how much water to drink and how much weight to carry. Kilimanjaro was an extraordianry hike, and maybe another day, I'll have a chance to do the last 500m.
So, that concludes my Kilimanjaro adventure. This week, I am staying near Arusha with a girl I know from working at MEC. She is teaching English in a small village, and today I went to visit and help out. School is very different here.
I'll be in Arusha for the week, then off on a Safari with six other young English Teachers from the area. We'll be going to Ngorogoro crater and the Serengetti, so I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about after that.
Until then, hope you are all well and thanks for reading!