Hello people, Alan here
It’s been quite eventful since the last blog entry.
Mt Kilimanjaro was in essence the reason why this entire trip evolved. A little over 8 years ago when I was 17 I travelled out to Tanzania with my school and amongst other things I tried to climb to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro at 9895m. I never made it due to an attack of altitude sickness and although at the time I denied it I always wanted to come back for another stab at the not insignificant active volcano. So after 8 years of dreaming last week I found myself back in the small town of Moshi at the base of the mountain along with Ian, an old school friend called Steve, my sister Mary and my uncle Don. The climb using the Machame route would take 6 days to complete, 4.5 days to the summit and 1.5 days to get down.
On the First day we were picked up from the hotel by our by Regie, our guide and driven to Machame Gate, the entrance to the Kilimanjaro national part at 1800m. From there it was all on foot.
The first day took us through a rainforest to a campsite at just above 3000m. The trail was well marked but progress was slow as we needed to walk very slowly to ensure that we acclimatised as best we could on the way up. Mary was having trouble with her breathing at the point but worked though it an before we knew it we had came to our camp just about the tree line. By the time we arrived at the camp site the 19 porters carrying our food tents and equipment had set up camp and put the kettle on. This was camping with style!
We were woken at about 6.30 with a nock on the tent and a cup of coffee and a bowl of hot water for washing. I wish that sort of thing happened when Ian and I were camp on the road. The days walk would take us up another 800m up the mountain to about 3800m above sea level. At this point all of us were beginning to notice that the air was getting thinner but throughout the day there were no signs of altitude sickness thankfully. The weather began to turn and we ended the day in the rain looking at the inside of a cloud. Don thought it looked allot like the Lake District in northern England. We hoped day 3 would give us getter weather but unfortunately we were about to be disappointed.
Day 3 would be an acclimatisation day the plan was to climb to a area called the Lava Tower at 4600m and the descend back town to just under 4000m for by the end of the day. As the air was getting thinner this is supposed to help our bodies get used to the high altitude but also get a chance to recover at the lover level.
The day started perfectly clearly with a perfect view of the summit in front of us, the sun was warm and we began with high hopes for a good day. Unfortunately that fantastic view didn’t last and we soon found ourselves looking at the inside of another cloud. It began to rain and just before lunch as we approached the high point for the day the temperature dropped significantly and it began to snow. According to our guide who had climbed the mountain over 300 times the weather we experienced that day was particularly bad for the time of year.
At the Lava Tower it was freezing cold but other than that I felt fine, everyone else talked of headaches and Steve and Ian began to feel nausea brought on by the altitude. We were all glad to get down to the campsite and crawl into some warm dry clothes and then into our sleeping bags.
Day 4 began with a quick assent to 4200m followed by a gradual decent to lunch at about 4000m before a climb to the camp at 4900m. During my last attempt on the mountain I succumb to altitude on day 4, and as it turned out, this time would be no different. It wasn’t long after the sharp assent to 4200m that I began to feel light headed, an early sign of altitude but by the time we reached the lunch spot it was as tho someone had just flicked a switch, I had a massive headache, I was vomiting regularly and I was so dizzy I could hardly stand. I didn’t even have the coordination to tie my own shoelace. If I tried to go higher the symptoms would get worse so after a talk with Regie and Mary I decided to throw in the towel, it was a hard decision to make, after all it was 10 years ago when I 1st decided to climb Kili but sometimes you just gotta know when you are beat.
As I began to stumble down to a lower camp the others began the assent to the night’s camp at 4900m. Mary decided to pull out at that point with breathing difficulties but Ian, Steve and Don began the summit push at about midnight that night. By about 8am they were standing at 9895m the top. An altitude with about 1/3 the amount of air as at sea level. I spoke to them afterwards and Found that despite the achievement Ian and Steve were suffering badly from altitude so at the time didn’t really have a chance to savour the moment, Don on the other hand merely noted a slight shortness of breath at the top!
I spent day 5 recovering at a camp just over 3000m and waiting for the others to get down from the summit before getting off the mountain at about mid day on day 6.
It was a challenge for all of us, Ian and Steve said it was an experience that they were glad to have completed but would only recommend it to their enemies. Mary and don said they enjoyed the experience but were a little disappointed that the bad weather meant that they never got to see any of the undoubtedly spectacular views.
I finished the mountain with a feeling of satisfaction. Last time I attempted the climb I blamed my failure on my lack of fitness. This time, due to the cycling, fitness obviously was not a problem and I still got to about the same height on the mountain. I figure I just don’t have the lungs for altitude. I will not say never but I don’t think ill be back for a 3rd time…..
Time will tell.
This blog has got quite long I won’t say much more, just that after the mountain we all went on a 2 day safari and saw quite a variety of large and small animals. Ian and I intend to begin cycling again in the next 2 or 3 days, it’s been good to have a holiday from the bikes but there is another 8000 miles of road and track between here and Cape Town that we are itching to explore.