Friday, 11 December 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 10 of 10)

Wednesday October 7
What should be the shortest walk of the day usually becomes a difficult one because the toil of the past week and the strain and pain on the thigh and ankle muscles converge to remind me that I did not spend enough time on exercises to strengthen my muscles.

Gerald walked ahead with Ben, the assistant guide, while I walked behind with Yahoo and Notburga at a slower pace. The trek of the final day is mostly through dense forest, rich in vegetation, a variety of flowers, and bird species. The car was driven up a few kilometres to meet us before we reached the gate. We met only a sprinkling of climbers this morning unlike the huge crowds I saw on the last day during last year's climb.
As Gerald(left) and Yahoo (right) observe, Notburga registers her name at the offices of the Kilimanjaro National Parks Authority at Mweka Gate.
At Mweka Gate I indulged in a what might become a tradition with each successful ascent from Kilimanjaro: the consumption of the contents of one bottle of Kilimanjaro Lager. I read a report somewhere of someone seen wearing a t-shirt with an image of a bottle of Kilimanjaro Lager and the words: "If you can't climb it, drink it!" I have climbed it and drunk it for the second year running.

Posts related to this one:

Monday, 7 December 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 9 of 10)

With Gerald Hando (left), at the summit

Tuesday October 6 (continued)
With the energy boost from the Red Bull I surged past Yahoo, Ben and Notburga who had stopped at Stella Point for a rest. Gerald Hando was nowhere in sight. I careered past several other climbers dragging themselves towards Uhuru Peak.
Yahoo (left) with Gerald Hando taking a stroll around the summit. Mt. Meru is seen in the background.
I felt I was high on whatever combination of items they packed into one of those cans; I didn't want to stop lest I lost the momentum and as I approached Gerald, who had stopped for a gasp of air, I told him I would walk ahead to Uhuru Peak so that I could take his photo when he arrived. He insisted that we remain together, so I stopped.

With Gerald (left) and Yahoo (right)
We reached Uhuru Peak just before 09:30 a.m. and Gerald explained later that he was overcome with such emotion that it took some effort to retain composure. It is a feeling that I too experienced during my first climb, and appears to be something felt by most first-time climbers. One of the guides told us a group of climbers broke down and wept uncontrollably on reaching the peak.
Gerald powering up for the descent and for his show at Clouds FM, 'Power Breakfast'
One thing I do not recall seeing at the summit last year are monuments (crucifix type) of climbers who reached the summit but died in the process. Someone said there were several of those at the summit. I also noticed several along the Lemosho route. Most are of porters.

Yes, people loose their lives while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro just as countless others loose their lives while in their sleep. An estimated 10 to 15 people die each year on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Allen, the harmonica player and mountain guide (seated in front), joins us for a photo with an unidentified guide (in brown coat)
We took the customary photos and had left within 30 minutes of reaching the summit. Yahoo, who had joined us, walked ahead to meet Ben and Notburga who had remained at Stella Point for a rest before turning back towards Barafu Camp.

Later, we teamed up with Yahoo and my most difficult part of the Kilimanjaro trek, the descent, began. Gerald and Yahoo would rush down ahead towards Barafu and frequently had to wait for me as my thigh and ankle muscles strained to cope with the rapid descent. I had suggested that they should not bother waiting for me but Yahoo insisted they would keep me within sight.
A view of Mawenzi Peak taken during my descent
On reaching Barafu Camp at 1:00 p.m. I was extremely exhausted. I applied some heat cream on my thighs and legs and got some relief. We rested for 2 hours and embarked on a 6-hour trek from Barafu through Millennium High Camp (at dusk) through a rocky section to Mweka Camp.

Next: The last hop

Posts related to this one:

Friday, 4 December 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 8 of 10)

Tuesday October 6
About an hour into the climb towards Stella Point, I walked ahead with Yahoo and Gerald because it appeared Notburga was having trouble keeping up with the pace. I was worried she might decide to give up and turn back, but she didn't! Before dawn, she and Ben, the assistant guide, not only caught up with us but walked ahead of us and it took us considerable effort to catch up with them.

It was time for us to reflect on the Swahili saying: "Kutangulia si kufika." (Being ahead, doesn't mean getting there). Not the best translation, but it carries the meaning. From then on, we remained within sight of each other. She eventually reached Stella Point at around 8:00 a.m., a formidable feat in itself but Yahoo, noting that she had some difficulty with her breathing, suggested she should turn back, only a short distance before reaching the peak.

About an hour after we left Barafu Camp and throughout most of the slow trek during the night we kept hearing, periodically, the sound of a harmonica played downhill behind us. That someone had the energy to play a harmonica under those conditions not only seemed incredible to us (in fact Gerald, thought it an insult to those struggling up the mountain that someone else would have enough energy to both climb this steep section and also play the harmonica), but it reminded me of reading somewhere that as the Titanic was sinking a pianist kept on playing the piano until the Titanic - and the piano - was eventually drawn under the Atlantic Ocean. The sound of the harmonica evoked that scene on the sinking Titanic, a bad omen for our attempt to reach the peak.

The name of the harmonica player was Allen, a guide from Zara Tanzania Adventures, the same company that Yahoo worked for, who was leading a Spanish couple. We could hear him from a mile away because he spoke endlessly and when he was within hearing distance he spoke at us, but particularly with Yahoo. When he stopped speaking, he played the harmonica.
Mawenzi peak, just before sunrise
Day broke before we reached Stella Point and we had made such good progress that some of the climbers who seemed miles ahead were at a shouting distance and it appeared possible, as Allen had predicted, that we would surpass those who had started earlier. In fact we did on the final stretch from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak.

At about 4:00 a.m. before reaching Stella Point I suddenly became extremely exhausted. Midway through I had consumed the contents of one of my cans of Red Bull and Gerald also asked for one, but the energy from the Red Bull ran out about 40 metres short of Stella Point. In mountain distances, 40 metres can as well be 40 kilometres.

I paused, contemplated and did what appeared to be inevitable in the circumstances. I drank my second can of Red Bull, got an extra boost of energy and 'rocketed' towards Uhuru Peak.

Next: At the rooftop of Africa

Posts related to this one: