Finally we were getting closer to our main destination in Africa – Kilimanjaro. The mountain was not so „excited” as we were and were hiding in the clouds, which for us was the reason for additional concern. That evening we prepared our equipment for climbing. Using spare time, we had read again descriptions of our route and checked the weather forecast for the next 7 days: „Heavy rain” at 3300 m and the „Snow” from 4200 m. We have prepared for the worst …
1st Day – Jungle and walk in the rain
Route: Moshi (45 minutes driving) to the Machame Gate (1828 m), then walk to the Machame Camp (3020 m). Hiking time +/- 7 hours. Distance – 10.8 km. Environment – Montane Forest.
That day we met our guide and it turned out that we are a two-person „group”. After a quick breakfast and even faster briefing we went to the Kilimanjaro Park. Once we got to the place we had to register and have quite a while for lunch. During this time our guide chosed his team of porters and cooks. Around 11:00 we set off. Jungle shadow make the walking very pleasant, in the meantime we get to know people from other groups, who are also climbing with „Zara” Tours.
An Irish couple in one group and six Austrians in the other. After a while we realized that our guide „disappeared” somewhere. As he explained later he needed to stay and ensure our whole team left Machame Gate. Without worrying about it we marched further, after all the path was only one. During the meal break it started to rain but the rain was so gentle that hardly tore through the treetops, nevertheless we dressed in raincoats. After a moment the forecast for today has fulfilled, heavy rain … Despite this we did not care too much the road was still pleasant, who cares about mud and wet shoes?. In the evening we had a cloudless sky so we could admire the beautiful stars.
2nd Day – Fast, steeply and the first signs of altitude sickness
Route: Machame Camp (3020 m) to Shira Camp (3847 m). Hiking time +/- 6 hours. Distance – 5.2 km. Environment – Moorland.
After the first night in tents, we felt very well. We woke up before 06:00 and at 08:00 we were on our way. We knew that today’s day will be difficult. The route was much steeper than the previous day and constantly up the hill. After two hours of climbing up, Aneta began to complain about a stomach ache. We thought it would be a „little hunger” or a strap of backpack oppressive her stomach. The pain was
becoming more onerous. I took Aneta’s backpack to help her, but unfortunately nausea occured anyway. The guide told us it might be the first sign of altitude sickness and the best way to get rid of it is vomiting or taking medicines against nausea. Unfortunately we did not have such medication in our medicine chest. We had with us a half of pharmacy but nothing for nausea . Despite everything Anetka was very brave. All the time while climbing she was holding the pace and thanks to it we reached to the „Shira” camp where we could relax and enjoy a beautiful sunset behind the volcano Meru.
3rd Day – With head in the clouds on Lava Tower
Route: Shira Camp (3847 m) to Lava Tower (4642 m) and descent to Barranco Camp (3984 m). Hiking time +/- 7 hours. Distance – 10.7 km. Environment – Semi-desert.
The sun and cloudless sky since this morning. It looked like it is gonna be a great day but Aneta still have not been feeling well and from the moment we started trekking nausea came back. Luckily tourists from Austria have offered their help. As it turned out they have got rich experience after 35 days trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal. After less than an hour Anetka returned to full strength. We headed toward the „Lava Tower” at an altitude of 4642 m, on which we climb only for the high altitude acclimatization and then we have spend a night at a lower altitude 3984 m – Barranco camp. Before we arrived at the Lava Tower weather has changed dramatically and we reached our destination marching in the clouds. During the lunch break the weather hurried us up again, from the sky were falling balls of ice… The aura of cold and brief rain accompanied us throughout all day. In the evening we fall asleep with the sound of raindrops breaking on the tent ☔⛺.
4th Day – Time for the REAL climbing…
Route: Barranco Camp (3984 m) to Karanga Camp (4040 m). Hiking time +/- 6 hours. The distance – 6 km. Environment – Moorland / Semi-dessert.
It was raining all night long. We set off an hour later than was planned, just to let tents get dry in the sun. Beautiful weather, the sun comes out from behind the mountains and we begin to climb in every sense of the word. We have climbed on the shelves of rock so steep, in some places almost vertical, that it was quite scary to look down. To get on the top of that wall took us for about 2 hours. True appreciation for the porters who overcame the same route but with heavy luggage on their heads! Later on a part of the route was very easy enough. During a lunch time we have been already in the camp enjoying beautiful views.
5th Day – Lull before the storm …
Route: Karanga Camp (4040 m) to Barafu Camp (4681 m). Hiking time +/- 4 hours. Distance – 3.4 km. Environment – Alpine Dessert.
The last day of trekking before the summit attempt, we overcame the route an hour faster than we had planned, so we had „a lot” of time to rest. The weather was extremely variable. In a one minute it snows, hail, is frostily but in the next minute everything is melting in the sun and is quite warm. We have prepared the equipment and tried to get some rest – at midnight we go!
6th Day – Darkness… cold…. wind… and tears…
Route: Barafu Camp (4681 m) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m) then descent to Mweka Camp (3090 m). Hiking time +/- 7-8 hours, descent +/- 6-8 hours. Distance to the summit – 4.5 km and then descent – 10.8 km. Environment – Stone Scree and Ice-capped summit.
We woke up at 23:30, slept only a few hours, already dressed and ready to leave camp. We eat just a few chocolate cookies, drink a few sips of hot tea and start climbing. We begin exactly at midnight. It was a cloudless sky, the air temperature dropped to – 5 degrees and frost covered all tents, it was really „icy-chilly”. Several groups started climbing about half an hour earlier than we did. In the distance we could see only white, bright spots – flashlights of people climbing, looked like „snake of lights”. The first part of the way to the summit was easy. Two hours of climbing passed unnoticed. We are climbing pretty fast outpacing other groups. With altitude it gets more freezing and cold gets bigger becouse of wind, which accompanied us from the moment we walked out from the rocks.
All that time we were walking continuously without a break and we are starting to feel that this is the fourth hour of walking. From that moment begins fight with yourself and the cold. It was already very difficult. I had a headache and Aneta had no strength to continue climbing so we decided to take a break. Surprisingly our guide pulls out of a backpack thermos with hot tea! The best tea ever! But this is not the end of surprises after a moment he pulls out a plastic bag with a white powder. Saying nothing just poured on our hands a pile. We were amazed and asked him what is it? what we should do with it? He replied in all seriousness „Kilimanjaro Cocaine”, „swallow and drink some tea” he added. You should have seen Aneta’s face : D.
Of course it was just a powdered sugar, which quickly gave us the energy we needed. A break was not long, up to 5 minutes, and we were freezing. Aneta was trembling. We were already dressed in with all we had… and here again our guide surprise us. He gives Aneta an extra jacket and pair of gloves – even though she had already 4 layers of thermal clothing and two pairs of gloves – she gladly got dressed those clothes as well. Ready to move on. We are walking as a zombie, just small steps one by one. From those turns on way you can get sick – to the right and to the left and so over and over. Every time we raised our heads we could see the top of the hill. Behind the hill, lights of headlamp climber’s disappears. Each time we were hoping that this is the last peak… but unfortunately it wasn’t. I have a headache as the biggest hangover of world and breathing is more and more difficult. I’m beginning to feel sleepy…
Approximately on fifth hour of walking we reached the Stella Point. We didn’t stop even for a moment, knowing that we are now just an hour from the summit. When Aneta heard screaming people just a few meters away from her „congratulations Stella Point succeeded !!!” Tears flowed in to her eyes. She did not believe, she could climb up here, it was almost the top. The last hour is exhausting: oxygen deficient, low energy and our drinking water was frozen. We are going with only one thing in mind NOW OR NEVER. Around 6:30 am the sun arises from behind the horizon and we can see in front of us our goal – Summit. I didn’t suspect myself that this view will move me so much. Continuing climbing I smiled and cried at the same time. Suddenly all the problems related to altitude sickness no longer exist. We hug and congratulate with Irish couple who literally moments before us reached the summit. We take pictures and admire the beautiful sunrise.
– WE REACHED KILIMANJARO SUMMIT 5895 m !!!
On 02.02.2016 at dawn we have been standing on the roof of Africa.
But there is no time for rest and after 20 minutes spent on the summit we must descend. The descent to the camp took us two hours. It was rather quickly sliding down the gravel slope of the volcano than descent. In the camp we have just two hours for lunch and rest. Then walking down for another 4 hours to Mweka camp. The last few meters were a challenge for our legs.
7th Day – Goodbye Kilimanjaro 😉
Route: Mweka Camp (3090 m) to Mweka Gate (1641 m) and transfer to Moshi. Time trekking +/- 4 to 6 hours. Distance – 8.5 km. Environment – Rain Forest.
That day all of us wanted to get down as soon as possible. Despite of the leg pain after yesterday’s express descent we get up early and sett off. Aneta was almost running, knowing that in the hotel is waiting for her well-deserved shower and cold beverages other than water or tea, which we had had enough :p.
In the evening we celebrated!
Crown of the Earth „bitten” and who knows maybe it is just the beginning…
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Check out the full map of our trip to Africa in 2016! Wild animals, amazing views, adventure, challenge and beautiful beaches – all in just one trip!