(If you missed it – here is a link to my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 1)
The daylight began to slowly creep into our tent and as the beep, beep, beep of my casio digital broke into the crisp morning air on Day 2, I thought to my self, “Is it already 6AM?!” I had slept like a big dog, waking several times to the sound of tent zippers and footsteps to the ever popular toilet tent but I, myself, had been up and out of my own tent just once to visit the same. In my haste to reach the lavatory over tent ropes and rocks in time to wiggle and wrestle the zipper open (and closed after I crossed the threshold) I neglected to note the bright night sky, a follow-up from the first glimpse of the thousands of stars that we’d had the night before. Absolutely amazing! I stood outside for about 10 minutes looking up toward the heavens and basking in the wonder of Creation. Then suddenly, through the silence broke the sound of another zipper, which I must say was far less intrusive than the noise pollution of the acclimatization flatulence coming from other tents in the camp! Blinding one another with our headlamps, we exchanged a quick nod and went our separate ways. Me to my sleeping bag plus 15 degree liner, and he to the toilet tent where I could hear him wrestling agressively with the zipper…
To my surprise, I didn’t even feel cold. For me, this is a shocker and the next 2 hours before waking again were spent in toasty bliss! Breakfast wasn’t until 7am and warm water was brought to our tents for washing close to 6:30. Poor Matty! I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier so I could bandage my blistered and broken heels. Nothing like being woken by someone else’s alarm and then being kept awake by the crinkle of dressing wrappers and the sharp but beautiful sound of duct tape. My first concoction was a conglomeration of a padded, ultra adhesive dressing generally used for pressure ulcers covered with duct tape so my boot would slide easily if my heels started to lift. At this point, the morning of day 2, the back of my feet were reddened and bruised with only dime sized blisters. I had pierced them before bed but kept the skin intact as much as possible (as a nurse my advice is to never pop a blister so do as I say, not as I do) and applied iodine to dry them out and kill any bacteria creeping around the open area (iodine can kill healthy tissue so do not do this either!). I covered them lightly with a gauze pad and paper tape overnight to let them breathe. By the morning light of my headlamp, I thought they looked pretty good!
After an amazing feast of porridge, eggs, toast and fruit we were ready to hit the trail. We packed our dry sacks and duffle bags with the majority of our gear including sleeping bags for our porters to take to the next camp and our day packs with the only the absolute necessities we would need throughout the day. The porters were amazing carrying our huge packs, tents, and even our toilets at breakneck speed surpassing each one of us as if the gear weighed nothing at all! They busted their humps all day waking earlier than we did and while we were ready for bed by 7 or 8PM, our porters were visiting and laughing well after dark.
The necessities for most of us included a 3 litre water bladder, a 1 litre portable water bottle, wet wipes, high protein snacks and hard candies, a hat and sunscreen to shield us from the strength of the sun, a fleece for small breaks so we didn’t get cold, and rain gear for top and bottom as we were instructed to be prepared for a 99.9% chance of rain each and every day. I thought I was doing quite well with my new Osprey pack but head guide Leo thought it looked too full and heavy to be carried for the day. As we all gathered together for the morning brief, Leo looked at me and asked, “What’s in your bag?” I told him the usual and then he proceeded to shake his head as I emptied the bag onto the ground. I had all of the above plus a couple of extras… An extra thermal mid weight fleece, an extra long sleeved merino wool zip base layer, a short sleeved t-shirt, extra bottom layer, a large bag of M&Ms, extra dressings for my feet in case the existing ones came off, small bottles of Tylenol and ibuprofen for feet pain, an extra camera card and portable charger for my camera, iPhone in case of emergency, iPod and head phones for music, a few other miscellaneous items, a pair of trainers in case my boots killed my feet more than I expected, and of course my trusty walking poles strapped tightly in. Obviously the word, “necessities” means different things to different people…
Satisfied that my pack was bulk rather than weight, off we went into the sunny hills of Kilimanjaro. Up, up, up for most of the morning and then after our delicious hot lunch, seated at our dining table and a rest, we settled in to a nice pace for the gentle incline that still awaited us. With the exception of some rocky climbs and dips, the way was much easier than I anticipate – and much warmer!
During the trek not long after lunch clouds began forming around us and you could feel a chill in the air. We asked the all-knowing guide if we should stop and put on our rain gear. “Not yet” came the reply. So we continued on until instructed to stop to “Drink water” and “Put on your rain clothes.” I think we had had just begun to walk again when the rain started, then continued, then turned to sleet, small hail, then rain, and rain. I was again amazed by these guides, not only their awareness of the status of each one of us in the group, but by their knowledge of the mountain and the conditions surrounding us. It stopped before we reached camp but not before a good number of us discovered that their rain gear was not actually waterproof – or even water resistant! Note to future Kili trekkers… Test your gear BEFORE the mountain and understand that while rental gear is an excellent idea in theory, you cannot guarantee its quality. Some of our gear did not dry again until a week later back in the warm temperatures of Arusha. Zip-loc air tight plastic bags kept the other gear in our bags dry until then but the horrific waft released after seven days of dark and dank is one smell that can only be described as unforgettable.
Safely back at camp we were greeted with popcorn and tea (coffee, hot chocolate etc) warm water to wash and our dry clothes in our tents. After supper, some trivia, and a few laughs I was ready for bed. I had not been at all cold on the mountain, even while my face felt like it was being sliced by sleet and stung by hail, but the thought of curling up with my fleece underwear and heating pad in my fluffy sleeping bag with plus fifteen degree liner was like magic to me. I don’t think it was much past 8PM when I finished popping my blisters, swabbing with iodine, and dressing my feet. Ibuprofen taking effect. I readied my gear for the morning and hoping to get a head start on foot care, I set my alarm for 30 minutes before we were supposed to wake. That and the fact that I believe I was snoring before 8:30PM must have had my tent-mate wondering what he had gotten himself into. Poor Matty!
Up once in the night to the popular toilet tent, (I blame the Diamoxx diuretic effect) but otherwise I slept like a rock! The mountain air must be amazing! I don’t know how I slept so well. It might have been the 7 hour climb, or the deliciously content and full feeling I had after supper, or highly likely is the fact that I was warm all night… I know, it’s shocking! Being warm at night, in a tent, on Kilimanjaro, was the biggest surprise of the trip for me. At home I generally use flannel sheets, down duvet x 2, heating pad, and fleece pyjamas plus hoody. If warmth at night is positively correlated with walking 4-13 hours a day, sign me up! I’m ready for day 3…
(Here is a link to my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 3 and 4)