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.

Kilimanjaro: At Mandara Huts (end of day 1)

Directly from my diary. Logged August 13 at 4:40pm

When I reached Mandara Huts (after dark on August 11), I was very pleased and excited to have reached my first goal. I suppose along the way I wasn’t certain I would.

I forgot to mention that Amy and Renate had gone on ahead of me at a much faster pace. And Peter had sent a porter ahead of all of us early on to a reserve a small hut for Amy, Renate, and me so we’d have privacy rather than stay in one of the 24-person huts.

So I arrived, registered my name, and went to our hut.

I arrived and registered at Mandara a bit after dark

I arrived and registered at Mandara a bit after dark



The huts are triangular in shape, I suppose for the rain to slide off. Ours had four cots. Most small huts do. There is one cot on each side and on the third side two cots lie one above the other. Amy took the high cot, Renate the one below that and I had one of the side cots. Each cot is a little wooden rectangle with planks underneath, raising it above the floor of the hut a bit, and a mattress and pillow on top. You just throw your sleeping bag on top and you’re ready!

On the fourth cot we all threw our day packs and duffle bags. That cot was our really messy cot. Above each cot is a small wooden shelf. Here’s what I have on that shelf as of this moment:

My toiletry kit (so it’s readily available for my many pee runs), my head lamp (so I can see at night during my pee runs), toothpaste and toothbrush, 1st aid kit (so I can find my Diamox easily), anti-fungal powder (after wearing heavy woolen socks non-stop for three days I have athlete’s foot; I wear socks even at night while sleeping to keep warm), and some tissues (my nose normally runs when it’s cold).

On my cot with me – in addition to my super-warm sleeping bag – I have my down jacket and wind jacket (to put on and off easily during the night when I need to pee), water (to keep it warm next to my body), fleece jacket (for warmer times of the day), a book to read, my camera (to keep warm), and my passport/money pouch.

At Mandara Camp, I immediately started changing into dry camp clothes and was rather rushed about it. That was a bad move. I should have given my body time to cool down first. My headache that had started in the latter half of the hike up began getting worse. Since we arrived past dark, dinner was immediately ready, so we hurried out to the dining hall. Our cooks had laid out the food on one of the tables and poured me my soup. I just took one sip and that was it. I had a pounding headache and was very nauseous. I couldn’t even think about food. So Renate took me to our hut and I was instructed by everyone to sleep. I took two Panadols and lay down. They told me they’d bring me some food in case I felt up to eating later that night. I was so worried about praying Maghrib and Isha (I prayed Zuhr and Asr at the mountain gate before the hike) that I half-heartedly did tayamum on the cabin floor and prayed lying down saying the words but making no movement at all. Moving anything hurt. Then I slept for four hours and woke up at nidnight feeling mildly better. I had to pee (of course) so I layered up and looked for a nice dark spot near the hut. There was no way I was going to walk all the way to the toilets.

Throughout the night I tried different peeing spots and eventually decided my favorite spot was just to the side of the hut where the night shade made it particularly dark. Of course anyone could have come out of their hut with their headlamp on and spotted me, but I really could care less. It gets to that, you know.

During one of my pee breaks that night – while I was peeing further away from the hut near the forest – I suddenly heard a thump followed by a yell in the direction of our hut. It was Renate. She had missed a step (the steps to our hut were narrow, wooden planks with holes in between) and fell all the way down to the concrete slab below. I zipped up and semi-hurried over. She was fine. She was too tired to check her injuries but she woke up in the morning to a stiff back and neck and a small wound on her knee.

After my first pee I did my best to drink water (hydrating oneself is important at high altitude) and eat. I could only manage to eat pieces of breat and potato and a bite of fish. Each time I woke up, I tried to eat another bite. It was hard work but I knew that’s what I needed to do.

By morning I was feeling only a bit better but as I started getting up and

I (left) can barely support myself as we take a picture at Mandara before we start the 2nd day of the hike

I (left) can barely support myself as we take a picture at Mandara before we start the 2nd day of the hike

 slowly moving around in the fresh air I felt relatively better. I ate a small bowl of oatmeal, which was an achievement. We packed, met out on the green and did some stretches.

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.