Kilimanjaro: Up to Mandara Huts, Day 1

Directly from my diary. Logged August 13 at 7:30 am

Today is the first day I’ve felt well enough, awake enough, and had enough time to write. I’ll probably need to write in installments to get everything in.

I was unable to get an Internet connection on the mountain which is a shame. Supposedly it’s possible, but no one at the cell phone companies I spoke with had any idea what I needed to do to get online.

As I feared, my group has two super-bionic power women. Renate, 43, is originally German but has been living in the U.S. since she was a child. She does TRIATHLONS. She crossed the U.S. from East to West on BIKE in three weeks when she was 20. Her next goal is Everest. Amy, 33, is an anaesthesiologist who runs MARATHONS.

Needless to say I was seriously scared when I learned all this. But both are very nice and I’ve enjoyed their company. When I haven’t been up to their pace they just move ahead and I keep my pole pole pace (slowly, slowly in Swahili).

Part of my problem has been overcoming my own psychology. I spent the better part of the trip until now constantly worrying about not being up to the hike up, especially because I was so ill the week before the trip. This was probably because of the mefloquine, the anti-malarial pills given to me by the Egyptian Ministry of Health. I’ve stopped taking these pills and will re-start on my way down. I’ve worried about my body’s ability to acclimatize. Ive worried about my overall fitness. I’ve worried and worried and worried and that wasn’t good at all. I am certain that part of what made me ill for the first day-and-a-half of the hike was all the worrying.

But what really got me sick – and I’ve finally realized this – was that on the way up Id stop frequently to drink water, orange juice, and snack (worrying about dehydration) and each stop was short. I quite easily started getting sick after a few stops but hadn’t realized the reason. What I’ve learned is that my body can’t be active and then have my stomach requested to process food and drink at the same time. It just refuses and makes a huge fuss. So now, starting from the last half of the second day of the hike, I stop less frequently and have longer breaks. When I stop, I first allow my body to cool down. THEN I drink gradually in small sips and eat gradually in small munches. When done, I continue to rest to let my stomach do its job. Fifteen to twenty minutes seems to be good for me and I have to make sure not to take in too much; just enough to sustain me. Since starting my new system I’ve had more energy and all the nausea and headaches have gone.

We started our hike on Tuesday, August 11.

We left our hotel in Arusha, which was very nice by the way, at 9am and

Peter shows Renate where to register before the hike

Peter shows Renate where to register before the hike

 drove to the Marangu Gate. We arrived early afternoon because we stopped along the way several times for toilet stops (I’ll get to that later) and to find a SIM card for my phone. When we arrived, our jeep was unloaded and the porters started putting their stuff together. We registered our names at the gate and hand lunch.

Peter, our guide, told us he was ready to have us meet the porters. So we went up the driveway towards the hike entrance to be met by EIGHTEEN porters and cooks. Eighteen for just the three of us! That makes 21 and with Peter, our guide, and Alphonce, our assistant guide, the whole group is composed of twenty three people. UNBELIEVABLE!

The 18 met us with song and dance. It was amazing. And it actually helped

The porters and cooks met us with song and dance

The porters and cooks met us with song and dance

 get my mind off all my worrying for awhile. The songs were mainly about the mountain and the different stops we’d make along the way, with hakuna matata chanted after each stop to tell us that there are no worries at all – we’ll make it! There were welcome songs with each of our names sung and on and on. It was really fun.

At the end, Peter gave each of us a wreath that he told us we’d wear and take pictures with on the summit and then frame with our summit picture.

And then we were off! (After a final toilet break for me, of course).

Getting to that, any sort of altitude makes me pee A LOT. I was peeing very frequently in Arusha and that’s only at 1400 meters above sea level. Wherever we went I was asking for frequent pee stops. It was ridiculous. At one point on the second day of our stay in Tanzania during a one-day visit of the city of Arusha, Peter actually had to call his daughter’s school to tell them we’d stop by to use their bathrooms. It actually got to that!

THEN I was encouraged by the REI people, the tour company I was going with, to take Diamox, which is a diuretic that is used as prophylaxis against altitude sickness. How could I take Diamox when I already had my own natural system of diuresis?

So I began worrying about dehydration. Note that I don’t worry about having to pee in the outdoors and that I actually find the whole thing quite interesting.

But since these were the mountain hiking experts, I decided to listen to their advice. And of course the result was that I was peeing even more frequently. Every half hour AT LEAST I had to stop.

So we started our hike through the tropical forest. It was absolutely gorgeous. The hike up is rather steep. The trail is wet because of frequent rains and dew from the trees. But it’s a good, clear trail and the views helped keep my mind off the effort I was exerting.

But around half way to Mandara Huts, I started getting sick. It started with a mild headache. I was also rather slow. But eventually I made it to Mandara Huts, at 2700 meters above sea level, a bit after dark.

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