Ok, so I said I would give a more detailed acccount of our climb so here goes nothing…
Day 1 – The Dik Dik
Day 1 was actually a nothing day… we were picked up by Jonas, our tour guy and taken to the Dik Dik resort. This place was like a 5-star resort tucked into the hills near Arusha… it was immaculate. They gave us orange juice in wine glasses when we arrived and then sent us to our room… which, man… it was to die for. The bed was sleeping on a cloud and it was our first hot shower in almost a month. We felt like royalty. We had the most amazing lunch, sorted our mountain gear and then relaxed until dinner.
Dinner… wow, dinner was a 4 course meal… starter, soup, the most amazing main dish and a dessert that made you forget about all your life’s worries. And, to top it all off, dinner is included with your stay at the Dik Dik. Wooooo! When we returned to the room, we found out that somebody comes while you are at dinner to prepare your bed for sleeping (puts up the mosquito net, fluffs the pillows, etc.). Royalty, I tell you.
Day 2 – Head of Rongai Trail
Day 2 was for “acclimatizing”… I put that in quotes because John and I were actually at 2500m for the 3 weeks in Ethiopia and the trail head is lower than that so we didn’t actually need to stop there for the night. We stayed at another pretty nice place called the snowcap resort. The drive up to this point was pretty long so it was almost dinner by the time we got there. We pretty much just chilled, ate dinner and then went to bed in preparation for the first real day of climbing. Our guides have been really quiet so it’s been kind of awkward. We were pretty much isolated from everyone else…. really weird… maybe we stunk.
Day 3 – First Real Hiking Day
Today, we set up early in the morning. When we got to the actual trail head, our entourage weighed our bags and gear before we set out. It wasn’t until today that I realized how big our entourage was. For the 2 of us, there were 10 people! 7 porters, a cook, an assistant guide, and our main guide. It seemed like quite a production to get us up the mountain but I guess that’s how it’s done.
This first day was pretty short… about 3 hours and John and I were feeling great. We reached camp around noon and our entourage had already set everything up. The view was amazing, to one side, we could see Mawenzi Peak, and on the other side, you could see the top of Kilimanjaro (Kibo). I think we lucked out because we were told it had been raining for the past 3 weeks but we hadn’t seen any since we started our climb. We hung out around camp all day… I practiced my Swahili with some of our entourage and John read Don Quixote. Lunch and Dinner were great but still a bit awkward because we are always set out to a side to eat by ourselves. I kind of wish we could eat as a group so it wouldn’t be so awkward.
At night, we went to bed pretty early because it got dark fast… but we overheard some other Canadians (who we met along the way and were staying at the same site) talking about the stars. Wow, when I got out of the tent to see what the commotion was about….. WOW…. and I mean… WOWOWOW. Not only were there no city lights… we were 2700m high and near the equator… I can’t even explain what I saw. There were so many more stars than I could see at home… I mean, Orion’s belt was hidden amongst a plethora of stars I’ve never seen before. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sky felt like it was so close to us… man. I hope you get a chance to see it someday.
Day 4 – Camp 2
Today was a long day… we hiked about 5 hours before stopping at a cave for lunch. The hike wasn’t steep so it wasn’t that bad but the sun was really bearing down and frying the heck out of us. We took our sweet ass time too (“Pole Pole”=slowly slowly) so the sun really took it’s tole. Again, it was a really sunny day (no rain, yay!) so we couldn’t complain.
Lunch at the cave gave us a bit of a break before we headed on our way again. It was about another 2-3 hours to get to our camp. The porters, of course, had gotten there long before us to set up camp so everything was ready when we got there. These porters are amazing. They carry like 20kg on their heads/backs and they practically jog up this mountain. They could leave an hour later than us and arrive there 3 hours before us… simply amazing.
The night was pretty uneventful… the Canadians who were at our first camp were at this camp too so we chatted a little before dinner. Then we had our isolated meal and went to bed. It was hard to socialize with our guides because they were so quiet. I guess they just don’t like us…. hehe.
Day 5 – Camping Under Mawenzi Peak
Today was a much shorter day… we only hiked 4-5 hours but it was a little steeper this time. I finally learned to put on a long sleeve so my arms didn’t get fried as much but it may be too late… my arms are a light shade of dark red/purple. We went over quite a few ridges today… and as we peaked on each ridge, we hoped we were almost there. The days were starting to wear us down a little bit…
When we finally arrived, our crew was there to greet us. We didn’t have any effects of mountain/altitude sickness so we were feeling really confident about the climb. We were actually a bit tired but I didn’t want to sleep before dinner… bad idea. Our guide then told us that we would be taking a hike to “acclimatize” a little… I was in no mood to hike… my legs were tired and I just wanted to chill… but noooooo… we went on a hike. I’ll have to admit it was worth it though… Again, there were no clouds in the sky so the view was amazing. We could see both peaks clearly… and all the terrain in between. It was beautiful… and on the way down, there was this one little spot on the base of the Mawenzi peak that had it’s own little micro-climate. It was nice and green… lush… it was pretty cool… but I was ready to get back to camp. We had our isolated dinner and then hit the sack.
Day 6 – School Hut
School Hut is the name of the camp that we stayed at. There is a small hut up there… not that we stayed in huts. I guess I should mention that we have been staying in a tent the whole way so we are extra lucky that there has been no rain. Today’s hike was actually pretty flat because it was pretty much crossing the ridge from Mawenzi to Kibo… it’s kind of desert-like but man, it’s quite exhilarating getting closer and closer to Kibo. We were over 4000m now and still feeling awesome. The sun was shining, no clouds in the sky, and it was the perfect temperature. John and I must have really good Karma or something right now because it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The day was long… we got to our lunch spot pretty tired. I had lost my appetite a little so I didn’t eat much and then it was time to get to the school hut. From our lunch spot, our camp looked pretty close…. but daaaaammmmnnn, that was a long hike. It took us another 3 hours to get to the camp. It was pretty high up (we were in the snow). I, at this point had a small headache and John’s chest was a little tight. Nothing big though. We decided not to take the Diamox until it was absolutely necessary. As we sat down for dinner (5pm), our guide told us the exciting news that we would start hiking at 11:30pm…. that’s right… in the pitch black darkness (this is so we summit around dawn to see the sun rise).
So, we took a short nap (or tried to) and then we bundled up to set off.
Day 7 – Summit Day
So, midnight… we are climbing in the dark… it’s cold and snowy. Our guides are decked out in winter clothing too. Surprisingly, it’s not that cold. The hike is tough today though… we are tired, John’s chest hurts, I’m a little nauseous, and we haven’t eaten much. Each step is quite draining and my mountain sickness is getting worse. “Pole pole”… step, step, step, baaaaarrrrffffff. Yeah, I tossed my cookies… 6 times to be exact. The first few times wasn’t bad but as we got closer and closer to Gillman’s Peak, I was wretching pretty hard. At one point, I didn’t think I would make it. I even asked for my diamox but our guide failed to tell us that we couldn’t take it after a certain altitude…grrr. So, I plugged on… a little angry but still determined. 6am… I summit Gillman’s point… WOOOOO. The view is unbelievable… the sun is just coming up behind Mawenzi peak, we are on top of the clouds and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Damn.
I think the adrenalin was renewed at that point because I felt great. We took some photos and then decided to continue onto Uhuru peak (5895m). Our guide said it was only 1.5kms away… but daaaaammmmnnnn… that was the longest 1.5kms I’ve ever experienced. We walked along the most beautiful ridge flanked by glaciers and fresh snow in the crater….
3 hours later… we summited!! I heaved a few more times but it was so worth it… to be able to say I conquered this mountain naturally is just so…. like… yeah… damn. I can’t wait to frame my certificate and print some of these pictures. For all you out there reading this blog… this is something you should try and do.
Anyway, we summited around 8:20am… so there was plenty of time to go down. We hiked back down to Gillman’s point…the sun was out with full force now and it was starting to get really intense up there. At Gilman’s point, we decided to take the “Canadian Way” down the mountain (we had run into that group of Canadians from before)… that’s right, we slid down half the mountain on our butts!! It was soooooooooo fun. We could get going pretty fast of some parts but the sun was so hot that it was melting the snow just enough so it wasn’t too too fast. It was super fun and super fast to get back to Kibo camp.
However, when we got to Kibo camp, we found out that we weren’t sleeping there… we were to hike another 3 hours to get to Rombo camp. Siiiiggghhh. That was a long 3 hours and I got burnt more because I wasn’t totally prepared to hike more today.
When we finally reached Rombo, we relaxed for a bit… John slept… I couldn’t really sleep even after hiking like 17 hours…. weird. We had our last dinner (where the guide awkwardly mentioned tipping) and then hit the sack.
Day 8 – The Descent
Well, this morning was super awkward… our guide lined everyone in our Entourage up and told us to tip them one by one. It was really awkward and the people didn’t seem too happy… we thought maybe we tipped too little but we found out later that we tipped more than most people did. The worst part was, the guide told us that we didn’t tip him enough and he made the hike down quite unpleasant. He pretty much made me run down that mountain… telling me to keep up with him. That ass… haha. Either way, we made it down pretty quick and got our certificates at the bottom.
We had a drink with our crew and then headed back to the Dik Dik with a few of them. There, we had more drinks to celebrate and then that was it… our journey was done.
I guess as a reward, we got one more night at the Dik Dik… wooo!
Day 9 – Doesn’t Really Count
Day 9 doesn’t really count because it was just Jonas picking us up from the hotel and taking us into Arusha…
And that is the end of our Kilimanjaro Journey… hope y’all enjoyed that.