Kilimanjaro: Day 5 – Down to Horombo

Directly from my diary:

I had an uncomfortable nap. I woke up at 1pm, having slept only for 45 minutes, and sat in my warm sleeping bag writing my diary. I eventually got up, washed, prayed (sitting as always), and dressed for lunch.

Lunch, as usual, was perfect. We had to hurry because a group that had just arrived needed our room so we quickly packed and left.

Both Peter and Alphonce offered to carry my day pack but I told them I was feeling stronger and would carry it till I felt tired. I did feel tired about an hour later and Alphonce took it from me.

Although long, the walk was easy compared to what we had just done and we were all cheerful. We discussed some of the things  we’d heard about other groups.

An Israeli father and son team were shuttled down from Kibo the night before, we had heard. The father had gone blind, probably an effect of altitude sickness.

A mother and daughter team from Wisconsin we had met ended with the daughter only summiting. Apparently the mother, who looked like she was in her late 50s, saw the trail of lights going up the mountain, clearly showing how steep the mountain was and decided not to go.

We wondered about all the others. We laughed about Alphonce pulling Amy down the mountain and at ourselves for being such spoiled brats asking Alphonce and Peter to do almost everything for us. We were in a good mood.

Amy also gave her day pack to Peter and it eventually ended up being carried by one of the men who served us at meals.

Renate was as always our power woman.

We reached Horombo just before sunset (around 6:30pm). It was beautiful and felt like home. We registered and were given the same hut we stayed in on our way up. We were overjoyed. We washed, changed, toileted and had dinner.

As he had done throughout the hike, Peter put his little contraption on each

Peter's gadget

Peter's gadget

 of our index fingers to check pulse and oxygen saturation. This was always a fun time of the day – done always after breakfast and dinner. The numbers on the contraption never stood still. They would continuously go up and down and Peter would always wait to see a number he liked before writing it down on his sheet. Amy’s fingers took a long time to register anything. Both Amy and Renate especially had good heart rates (they are both athletes). I usually had a high heart rate but very good oxygen saturation. This night my heart rate was particularly high at about 110 beats per minute, which was understandable because I was so sick all day and we exerted a lot of effort. But Peter wouldn’t have it. He refused to register any of my numbers and said we’d try again after the others. When we tried again the numbers were still the same so Peter reluctantly wrote them down. We had fun teasing him.

That night we were supposed to give Peter the tips for the staff. We were confused by the guidelines we were given so Renate spoke with Peter and figured it all out. We’d each pay $345 and Peter would divide the total among everyone. We decided we’d give him the money in the morning. We went to the bathroom then to our hut, slid into our sleeping bags and had the first restful sleep any of us had since we started. None of us got up once for the bathroom! We were all finally acclimatized, comfortable, tired and happy. We woke up early next morning.

Kilimanjaro: Day 3 at Horombo

Directly from my diary logged on August 13 in the evening:

I woke up this morning with a minor headache and have had one most of the day today. So I’m now focusing on re-hydrating myself.

Our morning ritual is:

7:30 am (times change according to the day’s itinerary) is “knock-knock”, where two cooks wake us up and offer a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. I’ve been choosing hot chocolate.

8:00 am: “washy-washy” (Peter’s terms) when we’re given water to wash up with. I haven’t been using this option in the mornings.

8:30 am: breakfast.

Breakfast today was a ground millet soup (something quite similar to cream

Breakfast at Horombo's!

Breakfast at Horombo's!

 of wheat), an assortment of hot drinks, bread, butter, peanut butter, marmalade and other stuff. And there’s always one form of egg or another but I have eggs boiled specifically for me because I’m really not enjoying fried food.

After breakfast we put our day packs together and hiked up beyond 4000 meters (Horombo is at 3720 meters) to Zebra Rocks. This is to help us get acclimatized. It was a steep hike but lasted only about an hour up and was enjoyable. Zebra Rocks is a cliff in the mountain where rain and run-off carry minerals and calcium that then dries on the rocks giving them a striped black-and-white color that is very beautiful.

We stopped there, rested and had freshly made popcorn (compliments of the cooks) and biscuits. It was windy and cold but we were well insulated. Others had piled up rocks all over that area – we were told as a symbol that they’d been up there.

So I went about piling up an Amy/Renate/Nadia pile. We all had pictures

Renate (left), Amy (middle) and Nadia (right) pose in front of their special Zebra pile

Renate (left), Amy (middle) and Nadia (right) pose in front of their special Zebra pile

 near our pile and with Zebra Rocks and headed down, which probably only took about 20 minutes.

An hour or less later we had lunch: pumpkin and carrot soup, a rolled crepe with spinach inside, french fries, lemoned chicken, cole slaw, and pineapples for desert. I have no idea how all that food is carried up this mountain. Actually, I do: on the porters’ backs!

I’m told the kind porter who carried my day pack yesterday fell ill. Peter believes it was malaria from an earlier trip to Dar-es-Salam. He was sent back down the mountain.

After lunch we came back to our hut. I packed my bags for the next two days. I put together, in separate bags, the outfits I’ll be wearing on the next two hikes: up to Kibo and then to the summit. I had all my clothes stored in large zip-lock bags to keep them dry in case it rained and also to compartmentalize everything and make it easier to find.

I then slept for 20 minutes and started writing in this journal.

I should probably mention that between lunch and now (about four hours) I’ve been to the bathroom twice. I’ve been drinking lots of water to keep myself hydrated. As opposed to the bathroom in Mandara, the ones here at Horombo are horrible. There are three stalls for women. Two have normal sit-down toilets (without seats). One doesn’t flush and the other leaks so there is a huge puddle on the floor. I’ve been using the third: a hole-in-the-ground baladytoilet. It was in a semi-acceptable state yesterday but today it’s all clogged up with poo and toilet paper and flushing just makes it worse. I added to that pile by pooing on top of it. Ewwwwwww!

Dinner tonight: tomato soup, spaghetti bolognese with peas, carrots, and oranges for desert.

Peter told us a 15-minute joke (he calls them smiley stories) that none of us wanted to hear but he’s been wanting to tell it to us since last night so we had to be polite and listen. We checked out the stars, which you could almost touch, and had our last bathroom break before going to sleep.

Kilimanjaro: 2nd day of hike up to Horombo

Directly from my diary logged August 13 in the evening.

We started the second day of our hike on August 12 around 9am.

Peter arranged for a porter to tag along and carry my day pack because I was still feeling weak and sick. I was very appreciative. As we walked I felt better and better. The walk from Mandara to Horombo went through a bit of tropical rain forest followed by moorland.

Peter stopped frequently in the beginning to show us different plants. He also caught sight of a Colobus monkey and we all stopped to take pictures. Peter turned out to be an expert at making the grunting noise the monkeys make and he made calls to which they would respond. He also made some movements to get them to jump from tree to tree. There were probably two monkeys but we could only see one really well.

Meeting the Colobus monkey was definitely one of the highlights of my trip

Meeting the Colobus monkey was definitely one of the highlights of my trip

During the hike I started getting sick again after one of the breaks in which I drank and ate. Amy and Renate went ahead with our assistant guide, Alphonce, and I stayed behind moving pole, pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili) with Peter and my porter. At one point I just had to sit down and do nothing. The sun was piercing hot and I felt I may be getting a heat stroke.

I lay down for about 5 – 10 minutes on the rocks on the side of the trail. That made a world of difference to me. During that break I only drank some water. And it was that break that made me realize what I was doing wrong. 

I continued on – stronger – to the half-way point where we found Renate and

The second day of hiking takes you through moorland. The tree groundsel is one of the most beautiful images along the hike.

The second day of hiking takes you through moorland. The tree groundsel is one of the most beautiful images along the hike.

 Amy waiting. They had just finished their lunch. The cooks actually had a cooked lunch for us! Amy and Renate wished us luck and moved on with Alphonce. I lay down on the metal bench and rested awhile. I then began to eat slowly.

We had tomato soup and pasta with tomatoes, vegetables and red sauce. We also had beef stew, some salad and fruit for desert. I was unable toeat the salad because I couldn’t stomach the idea of a mayonnaise dressing, but I ate small portions of the rest and felt very good afterwards. I rested so I could digest, peed in the bush, and got up and started hiking again.

Peter and my porter said they’d catch up. I really liked hiking alone. I also had lots of energy and a good pace. I set a goal of one hour. Two hours remained till Horombo Camp, I was told. I stopped at 5p for some water, now following my 15-minute break rule. Peter and the porter had caught up but remained behind again as I moved on. I was using both trekking poles and lovin’ them.

After another hour, Horombo came into view and I was overjoyed. This was partially because I managed to reach my second camp, but more because I was feeling healthy at last.

The view was amazing. We were above one cloud layer and the sun was

Horombo at sunset

Horombo at sunset

 setting. The camp was abuzz with campers and porters. I registered and went to our hut, which was very similar to our hut in Mandara.

I was going to be smart this time so I rested first then slowly began to change into dry clothes. I purified myself from the provided water pail in preparation for prayer and prayed sitting down. I started praying while standing and found that the up and down movements were very dizzying. I rested more, went out to take some pictures, back to rest, and eventually it was dinner time. For the first time on the hike I ate a full meal: sweet corn soup, rice and beef stew, broccoli and cauliflower, and apple in a cream sauce. We really have been getting gourmet meals on this hike and they are really yummy!

The sky that night was clear and the stars were so close you could touch them. You could see the whole Milky Way up here.

It was freezing cold (I have no way to know actual temperatures) and we went back to the hut and slept almost immediately. I slept very well. I only got up twice that night to pee (a major improvement on my about-ten-times the night before). I had decided not to drink too much water that night so I wouldn’t have to pee in the cold. Again, I just decided to pee next to the hut’s door and couldn’t care less if anyone suddenly opened their hut door and saw me. They’d just have to deal with it.