22nd Sept: The Final Ritual
Symbolisms play a large part in most societies and we were no exception. The fairy tale ending should have been to finish reading peace messages together in the crater on the 21st Sept, with the Peace Flame lighting the way, but the toil of the long day and the journey saw many of us overcome by exhaustion. The only person who seemed keen to keep going was Uncle Nicholas, who despite having a lack of outdoor experience was still raring to go. However, our guides, porters and most of us were looking weary and thus would head to bed early. The colder night and the thin air affected all within the camp. Uncle Nicholas was in and out of sleep due to feeling cold in his "company" provided sleeping bag that was rated down to -15 degrees Celcius. (Personally I find these ratings must have been made by a polar bear and would recommend bringing an extra lighter sleeping bag or an Antarctic bag). However even though he must have been tired he was full of positive energy in the morning.
After feeling so good yesterday, over night my body and mind returned to day 3. As we rested, my thumping heart echoed in my head and I had to slow my breathing down to deep breaths. On the day we had started our Kilimanjaro journey, a man had died from AMS after reaching the summit. Had I fooled myself? A long night and a couple of urgent "fresh air/toilet" breaks followed. By morning I had another "bad ass" headache but was not alone and managed to move quickly behind a rock to throw up a concoction of hot chocolate and bile. Other team members and porters were also feeling heavy headed and appeared rough.
As I had problems trying to pull up the zip of one of my gaiters, I tried to enlist the help of one of our porters/guides. They were unusally sluggish. With a bad night's sleep, and the cold seeping into our bodies, they too appeared less coordinated. After a short struggle, Felix finally sorted out my zip issue.
No one in the camp wanted to read any more peace messages, preferring to depart the crater as soon as possible. However, now was not the time to think of ourselves, for Amani had carried the thoughts of thousands onto the mountain, packed in two cannisters Uncle Pete had bought for the job. In a quiet short ceremony, we buried the cannisters as a symbol of bringing peace to Africa, and perhaps for a future generation to rediscover or for you, dear reader, to leave your message of peace should you discover the cannisters on the mountain.
Queues to the summit
To Millenium Camp
As we left, Amani sang a song of peace as he skidded along on the scree. Coming out of the crater, we could see hundreds of people snaking up to the summit and were thankful of the decision not to leave at midnight as most groups do. For we had enjoyed a deserted summit and the tranquility of a mountain top.
Looking down to where we had to go was a trail of loose scree. It was time to take Amani for a run. Hate scree going up, love scree going down! Part way down was a strange looking sculpture on the slopes. On approaching, it was Andrew (our assistant cook and waiter) crumpled in a heap, with his cooking gear around him and his carrying poles stuck into the ground. He looked drained and said he had a headache (mine was nearly gone). So I gave him my nagalene water bottle (from the New York marathon) and an energy bar and continued gliding down the slope. After about 20 minutes, Andrew came bolting past me with his heavy load. Must find out the brand of energy bar I gave him!
Heading towards Barafu Camp
Feeling a little nauseous, I gave Amani to Uncle Nicholas to look after and soon found myself at the back of the team once again, with Felix opting to stay behind me. This must have been a plan by Amani, for some distance before Barafu Camp, another porter was struggling with an ITB strain and having walking difficulties. Additionally he had some of the gear that Sakimba carried part way up. I took the backpack he had and another porter from another team kindly helped him with his basket down a treacherous rocky slope until Barafu Camp. At an almost vertical slope, Felix took the spare back pack from me for the rest of the way to Millenium Camp. Barafu Camp is an ugly, busy, crowded camp and so glad we spent very little time there. The Northern Circuit is definitely the route to take to be able to appreciate the mountain without the crowds.
Andrew and his cooking pot
The route down was certainly not easy and our thoughts were with the other half of the team, as they would have had to make their way down the same path during the night. Some of the porters who returned with them, had no headlamps. Amazingly there were no injuries. We would later find out that they arrived at Millenium Camp about 22:00.
As we entered Millenium Camp, a beautiful campsite within the forest, we were greeted joyfully by the rest of the porters, and found the other half of the team had decided to continue on out of the park with a couple of guides and porters. Andrew had already prepared our lunch of hot soup and fried bread! He was feeling much better. I must definitely find out that energy bar brand!
To Mweka Camp (3100m)
With food in our belly and air to breathe, we were feeling stronger and continued onwards towards camp Mweka. Amani was returned to me to finish off the descent for the day.
Heading towards Mweka
The constantly changing scenery, first from barren landscapes, to low grasslands to now wooded forests alive with twittering birds, kept our senses amused.
Mweka campsite was another crowded campsite, but at least being nestled in the woodlands, helped to create sections, providing some privacy to the different teams.
Tonight, our last night, porters, guides and clients came together once more for peace and songs.
23rd Sept: Back to Earth Life
Our final day on the mountain, and Amani called to Uncle Pete who had been struggling on the final ascent up the mountain peak. Uncle Pete hitched Amani on and flew off into the forests. With peace, comes joy and Uncle Pete was joyful to feel alive once again.
As we headed towards Mweka gate, young children were ascending to tout their wares to tourist. Many were inadequately equipted to climb the mountain and kids continually bartered with me to have my last bottle of water in return for chocolate and bracelets. Feeling sorry for them, I finally gave them my bottle that had journeyed to the North Pole, hoping that it would be well used by the children. James (guide) later told me that they will probably be mugged by an adult for the nagalene bottle which I was sad to hear. Close to the gate, village kids appeared asking us for money. We offered them peace.
The bus was first overloaded with people, but with Mary's wise insistence, the porters exited the bus to wait for a second bus. Mary's foresight probably saved us, as the bus slid along a muddy track, headed into a ditch and nearly cartwheeled over.
At the gate, it was with joy we were reunited with the rest of the team sadly without younger Nick who was violently ill the whole night. After tipping our team of porters and guides, it was time to head back to Arusha.
Mary dragged her trolley bag to the village
We abandoned the bus and walked down to the next village to take a local bus. It was a really excellent walk as we could enjoy a "cultural" walk through a village, that most tourists would have just passed by in a bus or coach.
We celebrated the end of the journey with lunch with the guides and said our goodbyes to Mary, Jacob and Gideon who were continuing their African trip with a cousin. The rest of us headed back to Arusha town.
24th Sept: Leaving on a Jet Plane
Uncle Nicholas left during the night back to England. We would later find out his journey took 3 days due to airplane incidences! Aunty Tess, Uncle Pete, Ann and Jackie headed off to Kenya for a retreat in a 5 star house, leaving Jess and I the last to leave Arusha. Our flight was not due to leave until 6am on 25th Sept.
As we prepared our kit, Jess' phone sounded off the whole day with messages from guides and porters wanting to meet her! That day, I became a chaperon, meeting and greeting love struck porters and guides. Thankfully we had the excuse of needing to go to bed early. However that night the Mexican haunted me as Jess' phone told me he had left a message.....but not only from him, also from the love struck ones wanting her to stay in Tanzania!
The next time we go on a trip together, I am killing her phone!
Amani and Opendu/Peace and Love to you all.
Next story is of the Gatliff Marathon - I got lost!!!
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!
Shira 1 Camp Site - and our team of porters
Same old opening.....had another rough night. What was it this time? Over tiredness and becoming anxious about sleeping!
Today AMS would come drift by me, knowing I was vulnerable and as much as I tried to push him away, he would soon overcome me. He would just abide his time waiting to strike.
Same old breakfast, a cup of hot chocolate and a piece of dry bread. I was beginning to feel weary but would not accept the weariness. Dehli belly, or should I call it Tanzy Belly, was still messing with my stomach, however my head told me I was fit enough to pull a tyre. After all what was a little tiredness. I've felt worst in the Hatfield McCoy marathon, having completed it with pretty much zero sleep.
Amani had called Kevin....
Onwards to Shira 2 (3950 metres)
Today would be a short day with only an ascent of 100 metres. As I went to pick up Amani, this time no one stopped me. I carried him to a flat part of the track and attached him on. As I began to pull and tug Amani over the rocks, he called to Kevin (guide), who decided we should carry Amani together. Kevin is a discerning guide, who could see when the "clients" needed help. I guess I needed help as I dragged Amani over rocks and sometimes flipped him over, and was thus told off by Uncle Pete not to burr the nuts on top. The nuts helped hold the screws that were securing the containers of peace messages.....or perhaps it was the Amani whispers telling Pete "things".
...and when I had some flat ground Jess and Jackie had other ideas......
The place I gave myself to the mountain...
But soon that "Tanzy belly" would be back to taunt me and Sakimba would seize the opportunity to take Amani away from me as I had to "sight-see" too often, or perhaps Sakimba had seen something. My pleas of "please can I have my tyre back" were ignored. Sakimba would look after Amani for the rest of the day.
Only soon after, I began to feel a little wretched. I had increased my water intake as well as had increased the lucozade tablets I was taking. My head was not feeling well along side my gurgling stomach. I decided to crunch on a lucozade tablet and drown it with more water. A sense of nausea overcame me. Just as Jess had climbed over a steep pile of rocks, I ran to the side and threw up behind the nearest bush. Jess heard and swung round with concern.
Jess: "Aunty, you okay?"
TG: "Yes absolutely. Today I have given myself to the mountain. I feel much better.....so much better! Yahoo"
I felt a little lousy, my head felt hazy, my eyes felt tired and it reminded me of when I threw up before my first marathon after eating a bowl of oat porridge. I still made it round the course and then slept loads after.
The Caves: Trying to look happy...
I brushed off any further concerns, but AMS wanted to take my mind. I drank more water to push him away and slowed my pace to be just ahead of Anne and Jackie and of course sang a chirpy tune to change my frame of mind.AND I nearly succeeded until we closed in on another rocky out crop. My head began to go down hill. Mary was a little concerned about me and again I brushed off concerns with "Am just waiting to give myself to the mountain once more". The caves were beautiful, but I could not appreciate them. As I walked away from the caves with Jess and Mary, I could feel my being tremor.
"Mary and Jess please just keep walking forward and DO NOT look back!" I commanded
Mary and Jess looked apprehensive.
"Keep moving......" I commanded again and at that moment I could no longer hold anything within. Mary and Jess wanted to come back to help me.
"Yes - I give myself to the mountain....." I yelled signalling them to move on.
But I kept on vomiting for a good 5 minutes, and Kevin came to console me. I wanted to be alone as I threw out of me what ever was in me, which wasn't a lot! And when I was finally done: "Thanks Kevin, I feel so much better now. Just a spiritual ritual we all sometimes have to do".
Shira 2 camp site
Shira 2 was just round the corner and so was the dreaded lunch. I could not eat anything as much as I wanted to try. Instead I drank some sugary ginger tea and joked to the rest that I was trying to lose weight. Coca
leaves were on offer as a way to keep AMS at bay and I was given a little stash. I thought they were hot chocolate leaves and drank a cup of leaves stewed in some water. It tasted like chinese oolong tea. I was corrected that these were in fact cocaine leaves and could be bought from the homeopathy shop. I returned my stash back to its owner and gave the rest of the contents of my cup to someone else. Great, I thought
, well surely one cup would do no harm.
Top of the ridge
It rained a little but Jess and I still had to do an aclimitisation walk to ascend about 100 metres before dinner. So after about a couple of hours rest the rain stopped and Jess and I were taken for a walk by Kevin and James (guides) up a steep slope whilst the rest of the team read the day's peace messages. I felt better after the rest and the sweet ginger tea or perhaps it was the coca leaves, however I found I was moving very slowly and presumed my lack of eating was playing with my energy levels. But onwards we would go to what ever the level our guides wanted us to be at.
The top of the ascent was marked by rock cairns and sculptures (they have a name that I've forgotten). As we rested and looked across the valley, the clouds pulled apart and we were rewarded with our first sighting of the peak of Kilimanjaro glistening warmly in the sun. It was beautiful, but it was getting cold and we needed to be down for dinner.
Dinner! I forced a bowl of soup down and drank more ginger tea. I really needed to go to bed.
That night I fell into the abyss. I had drunken so much to ward off AMS that I had to fly out of the tent four times super urgently to relieve myself. I also found myself very restless and alert. Coca leaves are a stimulant and I am hyper sensitive to stimulants. A cup of coffee drunken in the morning can give me a headache and keep me up the whole night, and a can of red bull I drank once at 6am in the morning kept me awake for the next 2 days!
As the night continued and I tried to relax, my heart was beating hard and fast, reverberating in my head. I tried to deep breathe to slow my heart down, but this was going to be a long night. After the third time flying out of the tent to relieve myself, my nose began to bleed. Crap I thought......well at least I wasn't having to do larger dumps any more as there was nothing in my stomach to dump out! I wanted to sing a song to entertain myself using my heart beats as a metronome, but did not, so I would not disturb my sleeping buddy. All I could do was to try stop my nose bleeding and listen to my heart thumping itself silly. Dawn finally broke and I listened to the sounds of our entourage waking up to prepare our breakfast. A sharp pain was ringing in my head. My head was "properly hurting" and I was now suffering from the "worst ass" headache I have ever experienced.
Story to be continued over the weekend........
15th September 2011: Mti Mkubwa (big tree) campsite, (2750m)
Yes it should have been a good night's sleep, but how could one be expected to sleep with the excited chatter of porters, guides, and other campers that joined us in the night. This camp site was busy with at least 2 other tour groups and their team of porters and guides.
6:00am: Leopold and Andrew gave us an early morning wake up call, serving us with hot drinks and later on bowls of hot water. Breakfast would be served by 6:30am and we had to ready by 7am for a 6-7hr walk to Shira 1 camp site. This would be a routine that would be repeated every morning, and every morning I would wish to stay in bed longer, however Jess would get up when the bowls of hot water arrived for us to have a wash. Then in military fashion, she would be up, dressed and packed. I on the otherhand tended to have "stuff" out and was a little slower in packing up. This morning, Jess was getting a little worked up pushing her sleeping bag back into its stuff bag. I listened to her struggle for a while before finally deciding it was time to drag myself up from bed and help her shove her sleeping bag into its bag.
Mornings - are my least favourite part of the day especially if I've not slept well. However the group were in a chirpy positive mood and thus would force me to be in a better frame of mind. I was not terribly hungry but made myself drink a cup of cocoa, eat 2 pieces of dry bread, and watched the rest of the group merrily enjoy breakfast.
Mti Mkubwa camp (2750m) - Shira 1 camp (3850m)
07:30am: We were slow to be ready and some of the group had not completed their packing. Porters were waiting to pack up our tents so that they could run to the next campsite. I again tried to take Amani the tyre, but Jess seized her opportunity, wanting to do her part now, in case she did not feel up to it later on. Uncle Pete gave Jess a pulling strap to tow Amani, but Jess was happy carrying him. On the otherhand, my soul sister Aunty Tess was not happy that everyone was carrying the tyre. Back in the UK, we had discussed that multiple people would pull the tyre together up the mountain and thus the strap line on the tyre "Pulling together for Peace". But this was not practical given the narrow paths and the group wanted to help take the tyre up the mountain, just not in the idealistic manner that we had perceived. Tess and I are masochistic and we would have dragged that tyre all the way up the mountain. But Amani knew he was special and would convince others to carry him.
Aunty Tess would try to rectify the situation herself and take command over Amani. However Amani whispered to the closest guide and soon James (guide) could not help himself, and found himself carrying Amani. Aunty Tess would ask James to put Amani down, but James could not resist the urge to pick Amani up and carry him. For Amani held the messages of peace from thousands around the world.
Unfortunately today my stomach was a little quesy and upset and I had hoped that since we were carrying peace, peace would be around to sit quietly and contemplate the world. Instead with streams of other tourist groups and porters passing by, it was diffficult to have some "poo" time and I needed to have a number of "poo" times. Just when I thought it was quiet to let things go, another team of people would come streaming by and I'd find myself quickly pulling my shorts back up to hide my modesty.
Our walk would take us through the Podocarpus forests, into the Juniper forests and out into the heath zone where we would have lunch. I had to force down some bowls of soup and bread. Unfortunately my stomach was not happy with what I was eating and it got rid of what I put into it within an hour. Thankfully it was great scenery, and despite there being other groups around, I found some solitude.
After lunch there was a swap over of duties to carrying the lamp. However Aunty Tess wanted to continue dragging Amani on the dirt track and again Amani would whisper to someone behind. This time it would be to Sakimba, a maasai warrior the team had picked up from their first aclimitisation trip a week ago. Sakimba is a proper warrior, having killed a lion to be granted that honour. His name means "peace" in the maasai language and he quickly developed an affinity to Amani, much to Aunty Tess' frustration. But Amani needed Aunty Tess to let go of any idealistic staunch ideas, and allow the group to interact with Amani freely. For if she did not, it would soon become an egotistical conflict. At this moment in time, Sakimba appointed himself as the bearer of Amani.
I soon dropped behind the rest of the group to "look at scenery" but kept up with Anne and Jackie. Having to do nature's call often from trying to drink 2 litres of water, meant that I observed a lot of scenery. I also observed a lot of toilet paper and wished tourists were made to be more responsible. The American nature parks have a saying "Pack out what you pack in and leave no trace". That includes toilet paper being "packed out" of the parks with images of animals getting wrapped up in the debris. It would be good if Kilimanjaro adopted the same stance.My head was feeling heavy and the sky seemed to reflect the feeling in my head. Black clouds loomed above us and soon rain began to fall. First gently and then poured out of the sky. Soon the path ways became rivers
and our gaiters and rain proof boots would not hold out the flooding plains. Despite the pouring rain James and Raymond steadfastly continued to look after Jackie. Anne and myself found ourselves moving a little faster, but then slowed again to allow Jackie to catch up. As we approached Shira 1, the rain slowly petered out and we arrived with very wet feet. Aclimitisation, Oms and Peace MessagesThe late afternoon smiled again and the waters were quickly sucked into the thirsty soil. Thus we (minus Aunty Tess who needed to prepare the peace messages) had great weather to do an aclimitisation walk up a hundred metres, complete with 6 rounds of "Oms" (a meditational sound). Admitedly there were some of us who could not maintain the statis of allowing our minds freedom with the single sound of an Om (me included). Between fits of giggles we would complete our Oms and do a couple more when joined by Jackie and Anne. However the Oms did its job, and the group went back down to camp for dinner looking more refreshed than when they had started. Dinner - again I struggled to eat anything substantial. My head was tired and would welcome an early night for sleep, however tonight we (minus Jacob and Gideon) would read the first offerings of peace messages, joined by Felix and Sakimba.
The messages were mostly written by children, and was a real insight into what concerns schools have higlighted to children Most were about global warming and war. After about 200 messsages we called it a night.....and what a great night it was, to see the sky lit up with millions of fairy light. Normally I would just watch the sky for shooting stars, but my head told me it would be sensible to go to bed and watch for shooting stars on another night.The next write up will be on Wednesday 26th October
14th September: Sleep Illusions
It should have been a good night's sleep but again it was fragmented with Jess' phone once again telling me "the Mexican" had sent a message and then later into the early morning a car alarm constantly sounding. I could only lie there praying for the owner to sort it out sooner or for someone to just burn or steal the car. I tried to mentally silence the car but my tyre moving powers failed me! Thankfully after about an hour the alarm was somehow silenced. As for Jess' Mexican....well we had a power cut when she was charging her mobile. Power was re-instated in the early morning and as her mobile charged up, the messages also came charging through.
After 2 days in Arusha, it was time to climb the mountain. There was concern amongst the team members about the shadowy figure of AMS. I knew I was prone to it. I have had symptoms:
- the first time I went up Snowdonia (Wales), I had a horrible headache and found it hard to move;
- Ben Nevis (Scotland) a taller mountain was totally fine although had ascended it slowly with my cousin;
- Kinabalu (4200m), we moved up fast and would not listen to our guide who told us to slow down, I suffered with a terrible headache and threw up;
- Mt Blanc I was fine but again had moved up slowly.
Ridges and climbing rock faces to get up a mountain are more my thing......on the other hand walking up a mountain.....well this one was honouring my promise to Tess. Thus my strategy to get to the top would be to take it slow and easy, at my own pace, as I would do in a marathon and it was a break from the fast paced life I seemed to be leading.
08:00 The team of porters and guides who were based in Arusha came to the Outpost and greeted us with a song about Kilimanjaro before collecting our baggage. The singing and dancing was much appreciated to bring a positive mood to the team, however it was time to get on the road to Kilimanjaro.....
The Road To Kilimanjaro
Of course we had to have a break down! Jess and I were in the same car!!! Always good for an excuse to stretch one's legs. We would finally enter the park to register and be greeted with planks of notices, warnings and advice.
- had to have their bags checked to ensure they had the right gear for survival on the mountain otherwise they would be barred
- the bags they would carry had to be weighed to ensure they were not overweight
- and then finally they had to register in.
Mary counted that our team of porters had expanded to 35, as well as our guides to 6. They would be with us for the full duration of the 10 days carrying all our equipment, food, and luggage. We were expected to do nothing but carry at least 2-3 litres of water, snacks and simply walk. Even then, if you required it, guides and porters would carry you up the mountain. This was a totally new experience for me and one that I felt uncomfortable with.
From the registration point, we returned to our 4 wheelers, back onto a lumpy track. It was a shock to see that our team of porters would not receive a ride to the start point and in fact would have to make their journey by foot carrying what ever loads could not be taken on the 4 wheelers.
Of course our vehicle did not make the entire journey and so we found ourselves changing to the vehicle that had managed to make the entire journey and had dropped off the other 1/2 of the team to the start point.
About 14:30: By the time we had arrived at the start point, porters drenched in sweat, carrying equipment and food were also arriving. Many of these guys were young, in their early to late 20s so had the energy and strength! I wondered if they had bet each other on a race to the start.
We were encouraged to sit and wait for lunch at a table, however the dark clouds that had loomed in the distance as we drove to Kili, were now over head.
Let The Ascent Begin
Droplets began to fall, first in slow motion, an advance warning, and then the rain music began. The porters who had mushed up as fast as possible to the start point, some hauling up pieces of a tent, now had to quickly put up that tent in the now light falling rain. Once the tent was up, we were quickly herded into the tent. The rain began to fall harder and quicker and soon we had a down pour. Here we were gathered in the safety of the tent, whilst the porters and some of the guides huddled outside under the forest foliage to stay as dry as possible. The discomfort of "We" and "Them" would be something I would be keen to break down. "We" were a team and that included "Them".
When lunch arrived, again the food smells made me feel slightly quesy. I could only guess that the lack of sleep for the last 1.5 weeks was starting to take its toll on me but I still had energy and I knew I was strong enough to keep going. I forced down 2 bowls of soup and a piece of bread. By the time we had finished lunch, the rain had stopped and we were all ready and keen to get going to the first camp site. But before we could begin the trek, we would introduce the rest of the porters and guides to the final members of the group - the Peace Flame and Amani. Anne opened the walk with a prayer and Tess continued with more words of peace and love......which was hurried along by Freddy as time was getting on and so was the light. So a final closing song from the rest of the porters to celebrate the start of our ascent up Kili.
About 15:30: As I went to take Amani, Jacob halted me....."Hey we agreed we would be the first to take the tyre". I was confused. I don't remember any conversation taking place, but was happy to oblige since I was also in charge of taking video footage with a vid cam that I was not really familiar with!
The Forest Walk
I started off at the rear of the group taking some final video footage for the day. Felix decided to stick with me, to be my personal guide. He was chatty and it was okay for the first couple of hours but when I am out in nature I like to hear nature, feel nature, be with nature. He began to remind of a runner who stuck with me for 4 hours in a marathon, chatting non-stop and who I had tried to get rid by slowing down and had encouraged him to carry on, but he slowed down with me. It was only when I met some friends along the route that I could persuade him to talk to them and not to me. (thank you my friends!!!). Felix would continue his chatter until we had caught up with Jackie, who was taking it cautiously to protect her ankle, and being held by two other guides who would personally care for her for the duration of the trip. Anne was slightly ahead and now I could dissapate the energies of my chatty guide to the others.
As darkness began to sneak in, I walked ahead in front of Anne. In the twilight, the shrubs and trees gradually became grey outlines and the birds sang a final chorus for the night. The guides advised us to put on our headlamps. Having good night vision, I held off putting on my lamp, wanting to retain a wider vision. As night embraced the forest, the faint moonlight through the trees made my path just perceivable. Felix again asked me to put my headlamp on, instead I gave him my headlamp. He refused to take it/switch it on. He stumbled on a root and I gave him to take one of the walking poles I was not using to help him anticipate any foot level obstructions. He took it happily.
About 20:30: We arrived at camp 1 amongst a flurry of activity and a porter greeted me to show me to my tent that I would be sharing with Jess. Dinner was ready and so were the rest of the starving team members. Again I had to force some food down. All I really wanted was a good night's sleep and I hoped that this would be that night.
Next write up will be completed by the 24th October.
13th September: The Tour
For the last couple of days Jessica has been eating more than me! Yes this is a big deal as I normally finish my plate and then consume her half meal that she typically cannot finish (well she is wee lass). From the flight to now in Tanzania, I've had a general lack of appetite and an unappreciation of food smells. In fact today the food smells were making me feel a little nausea. I blamed this on another bad night's sleep and a general feeling of tiredness. Jess' phone had been sounding off during the night about messages from the Mexican and from Uncle Wayne. They had sent their messages at midnight UK time which meant we received them at 2am Tanzanian time. Additionally, although I had turned the mattress over and placed the thinner side at the bottom of the bed, my bum sat in a part of the ditch AND despite placing my head up to the "absolute" top of the bed, my feet still hung off the bottom of the bed. This morning, I felt I had a big bum. So although Jess had offered to exchange mattresses, I managed to secure us a room change to a much larger bed, a far better mattress, and a nicer room.
Jess and I spent the morning sorting out what we would actually take to Kili, as we were told that each porter could only carry a maximum of 15kg of our gear. In addition, they would also have to carry their own kit to survive the mountain plus anything else if any porter's went down (more in another story)! Thus we ended up leaving a full bag of gear behind. After all the night before leaving the UK, both of us had done last minute packing and that kind of packing often results in too much gear.
15:00: Today was a rest day for the Meru team members to get their laundry done in preparation for Kilimanjaro. None of them were that interested in "going out on the town", so Jess and I decided to exchange some dollars to the local currency (Shillings) and check out the local stores for snacks. As we exited from our hotel road onto the main road, a local called Eddie intercepted us who wanted to sell us some paintings that he had wrapped in brown paper, but neither Jess nor I were going to bite at this time. He chatted to me to find out where we were going and if we knew which way we were going.
TG: "Yes we are going into Arusha town"
Eddie: "Oh if you want to go to town it is left"
Darn - found out! Jess and I had started walking in the wrong direction and Eddie had corrected us. He would now be rewarded with a chance to sell himself further.
We went into the first supermarket along the road and as it was near the hotels it had tourist prices, thus we decided to find another supermarket. Really this was the "girl" in me saying I had to look at all the supermarkets and their prices before I actually bought anything! After all we had time to kill. Eddie had waited for us outside the shop and at this point he decided to be our guide warning us that we should not walk along this stretch of road at night by ourselves. (This would later be confirmed by the hotel receptionist). Below is a little tour of Arusha town.
Eddie wanted to show us more places - museums that were across the road from the freedom monument and a masai market with handicraft that was also apparently close by. He was proud of his city, but we really needed to head back for a meeting with the rest of our team and the lead guides from Team Kilimanjaro, so Eddie escorted us back to our hotel. Of course, as expected, he sold us some paintings with a whole lot of bartering involved. He had started with $120 USD and I had started with $40 USD. But as he did look after us, I relented and bought 5 batik prints and one painting for $60 USD. One of the others in our group had bought his batiks for $5 a piece, but I had no regrets it was still a fair price. Eddie had sold himself well during his 2.5 hours with us, being our guide, protector and teaching us some words in swahili that would give us some kudos with the porters.
We were late, and quickly entered into the hotel, to find the rest of the team members organised around a table waiting for us and the guides from Team Kilimanjaro. They soon arrived and the faces of the group dropped when they saw Felix (the Meru guide they were not happy with) enter. The mood of the group changed to a mixture of emotions. Frederick (or Freddy) was to be our lead guide and Felix would be his senior assistant guide. As both Freddy and Felix briefed us on expectations and checked Jackie's sprained ankle (that was rapidly healing due to Anne's care), members of the team decided that what ever happend on Meru would be left on Meru and forgotten. After all everyone deserves a second chance to prove themselves.
We were already told that Freddy was Team Kilimanjaro's best, and he would quickly show himself to be an excellent guide/co-ordinator of our team as well as for the team of porters, guides and cooks that would support us up the mountain. Felix would ensure he did not make the same errors and would prove to be a really good assistant guide to Freddy.
Tomorrow our journey up Kili started and I hoped for a better night's sleep.
Next installment will be written up by 17th October