We were driven from Moshi towards Arusha and then headed for Machame on our way to the starting point. I was disappointed cloud cover prevented us from having a clear view of the mountain. After registration, the Kilimanjaro Park rangers inspected our porters' climbing gear. Our group consisted of 9 porters, lead guide Yahoo, and his assistant, Hamisi.
Many of Kilimanjaro's porters work in difficult conditions and carry heavy loads with tents, sleeping bags, food, and water to ensure that climbers reach Uhuru Peak in relative comfort. However, their poor working conditions sometimes endanger not only their health but their lives. We heard stories of porters who died because they were inadequately clothed.
We were dropped at the end of a rough road at the edge of a thick forest to begin our climb, the kind of road made for offroad vehicles. We began what to me was the slowest walk I have ever walked since I learnt to walk. Yahoo, in front, set the pace during the four-hour trek. Later, when tackling the toughest sections of the climb I understood how important it was to set a slow pace to maintain steady progress. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We spent the first night at Big Tree Camp, in the company of Black-and-white colobus monkeys.
The greatest difficulty of the first night is sleeping early. I spent tortuous hours trying to sleep at 8, but only for the first night. In the subsequent seven nights I was so tired from the day's walk that I could have slept at midday. The other test was trying to fall asleep in a sleeping bag. Try to imagine being rolled up in a carpet and falling asleep. Towards the end of the climb I had said so much against sleeping bags that Le recommended I look up an Australian version that offers more room.
Surprisingly as I tossed and turned I could hear someone snoring in the next tent.
Wednesday 20 August 2008
Today, I believe I accomplished the longest walk ever. I suspect not even Nelson Mandela whose autobiography is titled Long Walk to Freedom, has taken a longer walk. Except for a one-hour lunch break at Shira One Camp, we walked from 7 in the morning until about 8 in the evening, encountering a steep climb early during the day as we moved out of the forest and onto the Shira Plateau.
Though never bothered by the cold, I suffered from a shortness of breath which Yahoo said was a symptom of altitude sickness. He said the accute symptoms included the tongue turning green.
Next post: To Barranco Camp and the "breakfast climb."