Sun rise at School Hut
21st Sept. about 2am: Struggling with Peace
Jess who is normally settled at night, trashed around in her sleeping bag huffing and puffing.
TG: "What's up?"
Jess: "Am hot, just taking things off"
Jess soon settled down and both of us slipped back back into sleep. Sometime later Jess awoke again, restlessly bashing around her, again huffing and puffing with irritation.
I sighed: "What's up mate?"
Irritated Jess responded: "First I was hot and took some clothes off, now am cold and can't find anything!"
TG: "Do you need a hand?" - my question really was a knee jerk reaction, but really I wanted her to settle quickly .
Jess: "No, it's okay, it's all in my sleeping bag"
I rolled over continuing to listen to Jess finally find whatever she was looking for and once again settle down.
5am: Andrew and Leopold woke us up with a cup of hot tea. I stayed under cover, having felt I'd just fallen back to sleep. Jess got up and then again began to bash around the tent, cussing.
TG: "Okay what's up?" I asked irritated.
Jess: "I can't find the hat you gave me and I want to use it today"
TG: "How about using your white hat?"
Jess: "I can't find that either. They both got lost last night when I chucked everything off"
Jess picked up her sleeping bag and furiously shook it out. Then she picked up her mattress and bashed it down in frustration.
TG: "Looks like I'm getting up! Can you please calm down or go outside!"
Jess: "I've got to go to toilet"
TG: "Yes! You should definitely go. Please go!"
Jess' aggitation had passed onto me and I needed to shake it off. About 15 minutes later she returned, calmer after witnessing the sun begining to rise. It was amazing that soon after she found both hats! Ahh the power of peace.
Felix and Kevin with Amani
6am: The team was ready to aim for the summit. The porters' team would be split into two; 1/2 would head to Millenium Camp to wait for us the next day, the other half would summit with us and set up camp in the crater.
Sakimba was ready to take Amani to its final destination, but it was decided that there would be two new guardians for Amani - Felix and Kevin. Sakimba would need to carry kit for the crater camp if he was to continue up the summit. Reluctantly, Sakimba took two foam mattresses plus Jackie's gear. After a couple of hours, he felt sick and had to vomit. Disappointed, he felt he could not continue and had to offload his gear to Felix and one of the other porter's before returning to base camp. We were also disappointed that he would not be making the summit journey with us. For in the preceding days he was excited and embraced the whole mission of peace. If only yesterday were different.
Tyre Grandma pulled Amani to the peak
Amani needed the mission to get back on track and so he called Aunty Tess. Kevin had attempted to pull Amani, but Kevin was not a tyre puller and after all, this was Uncle Pete and Aunty Tess' mission. As Aunty Tess is Tyre Grandma, she cheerfully took over! Felix helped guide Amani along in case he ran away, but the terrain was fantastic for tyre pulling.
I was initially in front of our team, behind our guide Anthony, but found Jacob's endless chatter and Anne's spiritual "Oms" too much for me to continue listening to. I had not really shaken off the night/morning's transgressions and needed to talk to God sort out my own peace. I made an excuse and video-ed the group, sending myself to the back of the pack.
Going for the scrammble option
As we ascended further, my irritation moved to the terrain. Scree is only great when descending down a mountain, certainly not when walking up! Eyeing some rock faces, I stepped off the track and began to scrammble. Feeling rock under my hands perked me up, however the guides were not too keen about me climbing. Understanding their concerns, I reigned myself in and got back on the track.
The mundane scree terrain got to me, and with the lack of enthusiasm and breathing difficulties, I slowed right down and found myself 20 minutes behind the rest of the pack. Freddie stayed behind me, but with my negativity, I recommended he walk ahead of me. He instead pretended to play with his phone trying to get reception. I knew I had to deal with my negativity and so after a little chat with God, a song came forth and everything became better.
Jess had waited for me at Gilman's Point and although I was slow, I seemed to be gaining strength. Having gotten rid of the negative burden I was carrying earlier, the day just got better. The mountain was deserted and ours to play with.
Uncle Pete and Aunty Tess made their journey's end and Anne burried some earth crystals as a symbol of bringing peace to Africa.
A short walk and a scree run down to the crater, we were cheerfully greeted by Salim and Andrew. Andrew served us some hot soup and popcorn. We were happy to have the team all back together again.
Unfortunately some of our team members were feeling the stress of AMS and decided to head back down to Millenium Camp to ease off the headaches and nauseous feelings. Left were Andrew, Leopold, Salim, Felix, Kevin, James, Aunty Tess, Uncle Pete, Anne, Jackie, Nick and myself to face the cold and altitude of crater camp. Tonight we camped in the crater and I would have a new tent buddy to keep warm
Last story tomorrow.
So despite the thin air, I now focused on completing each bend as we made our way to Gilman's Point. With a song in my head, I soon caught up with Uncle Pete who was suffering badly from AMS. Each step he took seemed torturous but he knew that each precious step brought him closer to the peak.
Tess and Pete pulling for peace
when we were allowed. Freddy's mission for us was to have a 100% success rate upon the mountain; ours was to deliver articles of peace upon the mountain; and mine was to document Tess and Pete's final peace journey.
Today Tess wanted Pete and myself to drag the tyre together as a team. However, I felt my role would best be kept to taking pictures and video-ing and although they were first disappointed, later understood my refusal. After all this has been their 13 year journey. Yes there might be a movie later next year!!! Although am not too sure on the sound :-(
As the expedition continued and with time in our minds, for some the masks began to crack. An expedition is like a 5D movie, our minds can drift and wander along the dark corridors wrestling with balancing troubles back in the real world. We could either use the expedition as a respite or bring our problems to the mountain and leave it there. After all we've only had to walk or debate with Jacob on politics and culture. Our only real burden has been to drink enough and look after a lantern and a tyre
Directions to our next camp site
As we ascended further towards School Hut camp (about 4-5 hour walk), I found myself slipping behind, firstly due to diverting into my own world, and secondly from finding the air a little thin. Felix stayed with me, keeping a couple of steps behind. He was unusually quiet. Both Freddy and Felix were managing the teams of porters, guides and clients, and it seemed that both needed a recharge; Freddy more so than Felix. Freddy's eclectic lifestyle sees him away from his family for long periods of time and I could only sense a missing for his child and wife as his mind reflected home every so often.
As we ascended further up the mountain, the mist rolled down, hugging us and reducing visibility to 50 metres. By the time we arrived at School Hut, just as we entered into the "signing in" hut, it began to hail and then snow. The weather had changed and so soon would the mood in the camp.
Nick draining the water from tent!
Sakimba pulled Jess to one side and presented her with a carved necklace and bracelet and appeared slightly nervous as he placed his gifts round her neck and wrist. Jess seemed delighted with the gifts and Sakimba became a little coy which we all brushed aside as he had given all of us a bracelet for friendship.
We were called over to our mess tent which was now falling apart, to have late morning tea. Our tent had earlier on showed signs of wearing when the door would not close and now it had a torn roof. As water and snow fell through, a couple of the porters threw a canvas cover over the top of the tear as a temporary measure. As the weight of snow and water threatened to cause the canvas to fall through the hole, Nick (Mr Cosmos) volunteered himself to monitor the situation.
Reading peace messages
Mountain Madness Melodrama
After lunch we interviewed Sakimba, on why he decided to come on the expedition as he was not on the original list. He wanted Amani with him as well as Jess to sit with him for the interview. In fact he insisted Jess sit with him, which she obliged, and he put a blanket over both of them to keep them warm. Amani had no choice in the matter. Jess courtesly smiled throughout as Aunty Tess interviewed Sakimba.
We then moved on to interviewing Freddy, who brought his "brother" Felix in case he had trouble expressing himself. Freddy had no problems expressing himself nor of the outfit he was working with.
Whilst we were videoing, Aunty Tess also wanted Sakimba to sing the Masai song that he had earlier sung to welcome her new grandchild into the world. Sakimba again wanted Jess to be by his side for the singing, but this time she was reluctant to move from her sitting position and he was persuaded to remain in the "best" location for the filming. He decided he needed to put on a pair of sunglasses to sing his song (as all rock stars do!). As Sakimba began to sing his song, Gideon and Jacob began giggling, trying to stiffle their laughter. Unfortunately they were having a fit due to the absurdness of sunglasses and the song. Jess wanted to follow suit, but managed to contain herself. At the end of the song Sakimba burst out:
"I am sorry that I have not sung this song well but this is a sacred song".
He grabbed Amani and dashed out of the tent.
I felt terribly embarrassed and after a short interlude to speak with Aunty Tess, went out to find him in the porters' nest, to smoothe things over. After a little search and asking other porters if he was okay, Sakimba came out. He first held my hand asking to see Jess as he wanted to speak with her and then wrapped me in his wrap with him, at the same time hugging me. He was a little strange but said he was okay and so happy to be part of peace. So I made my excuses as I needed to interview some others within the team.
After dinner, the guides came in to see us to discuss the final assault and about splitting the team into two groups - one fast, one slow. As guides and clients discussed and negotiated the final logistics, Sakimba entered. He stood at the back of the tent swaying and a little off balance, trying to use the flimsy tent sides to keep himself standing. His disruptive manner was affecting the other guides and perhaps sensing this, he went to sit on the floor next to Jackie and Anne in front of the door. Jess had disappeared for a quick break and when she entered back into the tent, she nearly stumbled over Sakimba. She quizzed Sakimba asking him if he was drunk. No further exchange was made, and he soon left the tent to allow the guides' discussion to continue.
Everyone wanted to be in the slow team so Freddy accepted us as one team, where I would be second after Anthony (guide) to slow down the pace. Rather than the standard mid-night departure, we decided we wanted to leave at 6am and forgo the morning sunrise. This would prove provident to ensure we could truely enjoy the mountain peace.
After the meeting broke up, I went outside to head on back to my tent. Sakimba saw me and grabbed my hand, proclaiming his love for Jess and that he needed to tell her. He did not seem to be himself and could only guess he was a little intoxicated. I decided to protect her and tell him that this could never be between him and Jess, and that he needed to listen to the head guides in order to establish peace between himself and them. Felix seeing Sakimba, grabbed my other hand to pull me away and tried to interrupt the conversation in a bid to protect me. However I needed to finish my discussion, and realising that I was supporting their leadership he allowed me to carry on without further interruptions.
Sakimba left dejected and so I turned to have a brief discussion with Felix about the shenanigans but could feel his irritation about the whole situation. I headed back to my tent, where Jess was already tucked into her sleeping bag and as I prepared for bed, we could hear heated exchanges from the porters' quarters. Perhaps they were yelling at Sakimba to get rid of the tyre, or perhaps they were drunk playing poker and arguing over money. We would never know.
The enchantress Jess had cast a spell and I was none too wise, but soon that spell would be revealed!
The final chapter will be written soon as I have a marathon this weekend. I have been a bad tyre girl and not been for a training drag for over 2 months. Will see what I can do without training for 50kms!
Today was a day to relax, for tomorrow was the final ascent to sit upon the roof of Kilimanjaro. With not much to do, we decided to read peace messages before lunch. Guides and porters once again gathered into the mess tent to read peace messages and again shared their own messages of peace. Once our readings were completed, Andrew (one of the waiters and assistant to the cook) was called back in to lead us all in singing the customary Kilimanjaro theme song before serving lunch.
Flying with the crows
19th September: Flying with the Crows
Last night Jess fed me an Ibruprofen as a precautionary measure. Throughout the night another headache threatened, but I sipped water when it did. By morning I had a mild discomfort in my head but nothing to whinge about. Nose bled as usual and would bleed every night on the expedition, continuing for a week more after arriving back in the UK. But the system was recovering from the vile night it had two nights ago, and was able to fuel up at breakfast.
Before heading off Anne fed me my daily dose of a homeopathic sugar lump to keep me sweet :-) and as I got my gear together, Sakimba pulled me to the side and placed a bracelet on my wrist.
Sakimba: "This is for power for the rest of your journey"
With the care I was receiving from all teams, I would be able to fly up the mountain.
The teams appeared to be in harmony today and there seemed to be an air of excitement from both our porters and us. For a change we were all packed and ready to go. For the past number of days, they have had to hang around for us to get out of our tents. Sakimba at the ready, decided he would look after Amani as the route to Third Cave Camp would be rocky. Barriers had been broken and our peace mission was now a total team mission. Porters were now calling for Amani and Pendu (peace and love) as we climbed up the mountain.
From Buffalo Camp we climbed up to the top of 'Buffalo Ridge' and crossed numberous ribs and gullies. I attempted to film James helping Jackie as he carried her down potentially tretcherous rocky slopes. Her ankle had not worsened and seemed to improve slowly as the trip went on, however James appeared to enjoy giving her a helping hand and being her personal guide.
The trail continued eastwards and led us through a landscape that had increasingly sparse vegetation to eventually reach Third Cave Camp (4100 m)
Sakimba relaxing after sorting out his blister
As we approached the camp site, our team of porters seemed truely happy to see us. They welcomed us and helped us unload our day packs to our tent home, despite having carried our tents, bags and food AND had to do an additional 5km down the mountain to bring plenty of water up to our camp site as the water well at the site was dry.
Sakimba sat in a cave washing his foot due to a blister. Both Jess and I tended to him providing him tape and blister pads. Though a porter, Sakimba integrated with us much more so than any of the other porters.
Our tent homes
The porters were part of our team and felt like servants. One of the porters would later tell me that the porters were not supposed to talk to us unless spoken to, so last night was a break through towards integration and relaxing those boundaries to allow more interaction between "porters" and "clients".
After a quick aclimitisation walk up a couple of hundred metres, I decided to run back to camp disregarding the teams concern about the potentially ankle breaking ground. I wanted to fly like a bird. Jess and Uncle Pete decided to follow in pursuit. It was fantastic to allow the legs to run.
Before dinner, a team of porters joined us to read peace messages, as well as deliver their own heartfelt peace messages that they wanted the world to hear. One message was clear: "We want peace and we want to be treated with respect and equality".
The porters earn $5 USD a day plus tips and rarely have the chance to integrate with clients due to this unspoken rule about not talking to clients unless spoken to. But right from the start our team interacted with the porters with Jess and myself teaching our team "Mamjambazi" and "Poa" - street words we learnt from the market trip we had with Eddie back in Arusha. Today the porters changed the calls to Peace and Love or as they say in swahilli Amani and Pendo.
After dinner, the team felt that as I was feeling better, that I should sing them a good night song. Of course since we were camping out under a million stars there was only one that could be sung.
And so we rocked the camp to sleep!
Today perhaps we were all high on sniffing altitude, but tomorrow a jealous rift would occur amongst some of the porters and the guides.....and only holding onto the thoughts of Amani would help the entire team carry on.
Celebration for Aunty Tess
18th Sept: Celebrations
With my team's positive mental attitude spurring me on to feel better, I finally had a better night's sleep, with only one nature wake up call. To kill off the mild headache I still had, Jess fed me an ibrupofen and Anne fed me a homeopathic sugar lump called China to help with rehydration. I also implemented my new rehydration strategy to drink at least 1 litre of fluid in the morning before setting out, drink moderately in the afternoon and only to sip small amounts during the night.
@07:30am: Aunty Tess' excited voice filled the camp site as she received news from her son that she was now a grandmother for the third time. As we set out, our Massai warrior, Sakimba, quickly climbed to the highest peak in the near vicinity of @ 400 metres above our camp to shout words of joy to the Gods for the birth of Aunty Tess' new grand-daughter.
Freddy did a quick check on my health, and I suggested maybe I was about 80% better as I still had a mild headache that was clearing. He suggested that my bag be carried by one of the guides, which I stubbornly refused. I wanted to reserve that offer for only if I were weak and dying!
It soon became apparent that the barren terrain was ideal for tyre dragging but Freddy banned me from doing anything more than walk.
Me: "When would it be okay for me to tyre drag cause I feel okay?"
Freddy: "When you can say you feel 120% better"
With such perfect terrain, I could not help but long to drag Amani. I was sure he was whispering to me that he wanted a change of scenery from Sakimba's guardianship. I would just have to persuade Freddy that I was good to go. It would only be a matter of time when my head would feel as clear as the sunny day and my energy levels would be fully restored. After all Anne had also given me a sip of holy water before setting out. How could I not feel great today?
Asking enough and showing that I could keep up with the group, was enough persuasion for Freddy. By 10:00am I was happily dragging Amani and he also was easy to drag unlike the previous days when he got stuck on jagged rocks and jutting roots. The conditions were so perfect, I had to run down a hill with mad enthusiasm. For a bit of fun, Amani wanted to behave like a tyre and jumped onto his side to partially roll down the hill, before landing upside down with laughter. Uncle Pete, concerned for the peace cannisters that were in Amani, told me off for being so callous but the team were happy at seeing a new lease of life in me.
As is typical with my soul sister Tess (we have a knack of being quite similar!), she soon also longed to take over dragging and asked to take over. I promised that she could have him after an hour. I just needed Amani long enough to do a work out but short enough not to concern my team mates. After a number of hills, we changed over and had a short tense moment when it was thought that the peace cannisters had somehow fallen out of the tyre perhaps when Amani rolled down the hill. I briefly felt guilty but could not believe that could have happened as Uncle Pete would have ensured that nothing but his iron grip would have loosened those cannisters. Thankfully, that was correct and Aunty Tess laughed about having a "senior moment".
And now for a musical interlude whilst you read the next part.
Buffalo Camp (4145 m): Peace Together
After approximately 4-5 hours from Shira Camp site, we arrived all together at Lava Tower camp site. An impressive camp site nestled on a ridge and my favourite camp site of the trip. There would be no other expedition teams that would be able to join us.
I went into the mess hut to find everyone slumped on chairs. Aunty Tess wanted to read peace messages in the interim before dinner. However it was time to get the "We" and "Them" together.
Me: "Hey all, this is a beautiful spot and a perfect day to read peace messages outside. How about we ask our team of porters and guides to join us outside?"
I was met with an indifference. My team mates were looking tired and lethargic and some looked ready for a short afternoon kip. But today was a day of change when we would behave more like a team. After a little more persuasion, Aunty Tess agreed. So I ran out of the tent to find Freddy and Felix to ask them to round up the troops. 41 porters and guides quickly came out, even though they too must have been tired from having heaved all our equipment and food up to the camp site. The air was filled with anticipatory excitement about the crazy clients and their "mission"!
Freddy: "So where is your team?"
Me: "Err they are getting the peace messages ready and dividing them so they can be distributed"
My team did not fail me and were soon out distributing paper with sets of messages to the waiting crowd.
We + Them = Us
As Aunty Tess, lit the peace flame, Mary and I attempted a rendition of "Make me a Channel of Your Peace" and managed to get the rest of the troops to join in. (Thank you Sharon D (TG2) for this message). A thinly veiled mist descended upon us, temporarily dimming the light, and further adding a little more atmospheric magic. We were now a team of peace messengers reading messages of love and peace from thousands that had emailed us their thoughts, concerns and prayers.
Today was a turning point and there was renewed energy not just within our team, but also within the team of porters and guides that were with us. At the end of the readings, the mist and clouds cleared to reveal a magnificent mountain scenery and the sun came out to smile on us. The team of porters and guides ended the session with their theme song...
"Jambo – Jambo Bwana, Habari Gani?? Nzuri Sana, wageni mnakaribiswa, Kilimanjaro hakuna matata…boom boom…" and Uncle Pete went off dancing into the distance with Freddy!
That night, Freddy came into our mess hut to announce his appreciation and confirmed the renewed vigor his team had as well as encouraged us. To end the night we were treated to the distant city lights of Kenya under a wondrous clear starlit night.
Tomorrow we would have to walk for about 8 hours, and the team were determined that tomorrow we would start out on time as we had a habit of starting at least 1/2 an hour later with porters waiting for us to get out of our tents!
Next write up to be hopefully completed by the end of the weekend!
Today was an acclimatization day which meant we were supposed to walk up the mountain for a couple of hours and then return back down to camp to rest for the day (climb high, sleep low). As Jess got up and prepared herself for the day, I rolled over on my sleeping mat holding a bloody tissue to my nose, groaning that my head hurt and my nose was bleeding. My heart was still pounding away with metronome timing. Was sure I could hear a song but with my head feeling like it had been smashed against a wall several times I was too weak to belt one out.
Jess was a little unsure how to react and thought to ask me if I would make it for breakfast. I tried to force myself up but lightheaded-ness forced me back down and the thought of eating breakfast made me feel badly nauseous. My head and body were now in sync. Both wanted me to rest and my "will" told me to drink a litre of water to ease the head.
Me: "Jess I'm going to stay in bed because today is a rest day. Can you do me a favour and call Freddy"
Jess: "Ok let me leave you a pop tart as maybe you might find that easier to eat"
Freddy was the senior guide and we had all promised him, at the beginning of the trek, that we would let him know if we felt bad. It was time I honoured that promise. Minutes later Jess came back with Freddy and Felix.
Me: "Freddy, nice to see you. I feel like crap. I've had no sleep and I have a very bad head. I need to stay in bed and sleep for the rest of the day. I will be fine tomorrow. Are you okay with me staying in bed and not doing an acclimatization climb today?"
Freddy agreed and fed me 1/2 a diamox, a drug that is used to help relieve the symptoms of AMS, promising to come back in an hour to see how I was feeling. So I gave him a big hug and when he left, it would only be a matter of time when the rest of the team/entourage would know that I was suffering.
As our tent was at the side of the dining tent, I soon overheard my concerned team mates talk about my foolishness of having pulled a tyre yesterday and pushing myself too much. Some sounded disappointed that I was the first to be hit. I could have pretended I was not that bad, but we had promised before we first set off to be honest with each other. I had learnt years ago, whilst doing a 100 mile trek on Lake Winnipeg that only the foolish pretend everything is well. On that trip, I first had problems with my hands, then my fingers got frost nipped and hadn't told my buddy that there was a problem. When it came to lighting the stove I couldn't feel the matches and duly burnt my fingers as well as nearly burnt down the tent!!! The North Pole showed me that those who pretend to be well, so as not want to appear weak, were eventually sent back to base due to frost bite. So I was happy to show that the so-called "strong" Tyregirl is human!
Before the team left for their two hour acclimatization walk, three wise sisters came to visit me:
1. Mary came with a bag of brazil nuts for nourishment;
2. My soul sister Tess came with some drugs for anti-nausea and I was easily persuaded to take one of them;
3. Finally Anne, my carer for the rest of the trip, fed me some "china", a homeopathic remedy to aid re-hydration.
AND when the team team left I had a nagging feeling there would be no rest. Instead I received a steady stream of concerned visitors (guides):
- 30 minutes later, Freddy came to check back on me as promised.
- About 15 minutes after that, Anthony came to check in on me.
- Some time later, Felix came to check in on me and then later Kevin.
Between visitors and a thumping head, I reassured myself that it would be fine to not ascend any further. It was all about what each could take away from the journey. I just wanted to do nothing and rest and perhaps later go for a slow stroll somewhere. Finally just when all appeared to quieten down, the acclimitization team came back far too soon buzzing with talk.
My concerned buddy Jess popped her head in to see if I would have lunch. I was feeling a little better, but lunch - no thank you. I was still nibbling on the top of a whole pop tart.
About 2.30pm: Jess returned after lunch
Jess: "You know, you can't be ill, who's going to look after me?"
Me: "I want to give you independence now. Just tell my mother I love her if I don't make it."
Jess: "You promised to look after me!"
Me: "I know but it's all about the journey. You'll be fine."
After a little more cajoling, it was time to get up for a walk. Laying around in bed the whole day would only make everything worst and although I still had a bad head, it did feel better. Jess accompanied me to walk round the ridge that over looked the camp. The views were magnificent and the little exploring we did breathed energy into me. The grey clouds in the sky appeared to part and disperse as if reflecting my own head.
By the time we headed back to camp, I felt almost well and joined the rest for dinner who had completed another set of peace messages. I forced down 4 bowls of soup, then Uncle Pete insisted that I "get some spaghetti down". He was right, I had to try eat some solids and so took my spaghetti away to eat in my tent so I could retch in peace. After half an hour I returned triumphant that I finally managed to eat some solids. Today would be an early night for me.
My lesson for this day was to reflect on the teachings from my North Pole buddy who used to drink a litre of water before setting out. Drinking more early in the day and less in the evening helped reduce my numerous urgent nightly toilet trips.
Tomorrow would be a brand new start. I was coming back!