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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Reaching the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro - Page 2

Written by Carolyn Bonello
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There is something about volcanoes that fascinates me, and finds me craving to conquer their summits to be able to satisfy my curiosity and peer down their crater rims. Having climbed Mount Etna (3350m) in Sicily and Gunung Agung (3142m) in Bali, (Cotapaxi (5897m) in Ecuador was weeks away but the trip was cancelled at the last minute), the time had come for something African – Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania was the next conquest. At an altitude of 5895m, it is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, and I promised myself that one day soon I would have my picture taken at the summit, Uhuru Peak.

 

We were then introduced to the guides and porters who would be accompanying us on the trek (and without whom this could not be possible). A total of 51 staff stood in a very smart, long line, each stepping forward when called by Seamus and introducing themselves politely. Gaudenz was to be our chief guide, helped by seven assistant guides, who then would liase with the rest – porters and cooks. We were each assigned to a porter who would carry our bags for the whole trip (hence the importance of the 20kg max rule!). Mine was a young man named Joseph - he spoke very good English and I learnt that he spent months on end doing back to back trips, to take money back to his family. Throughout the trip we grew to be buddies, and at the end of each day he would hang around my tent hoping to acquire an extra Mars bar I might have, or a t-shirt or maybe a pen!

The Machame route – off we go to Machame camp (3000m)

There are several routes to the summit (www.kilimanjaro.cc/kroutes.htm), some longer than others. We chose a longer, scenic route, the Machame route, also known as the Whisky route, which takes a total of eight days – six up and two down.

 

Bursting with excitement and a little bit of apprehension, camelback full of fresh, cold water tightly strapped to my day pack, virgin trekking boots itching to be used, wooden walking stick in hand, I stood at Machame Gate, the starting point of our trek and, with the rest of my group, waited. A sea of porters carrying our not-so-light bags, sacks of food, barrels of eggs, tents, mats, all unbelievably balanced on their heads and hypertrophied shoulders, sprinted past us and disappeared into the dense vegetation, only to be seen again at the end of our day’s trek.

 

Reaching the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, travel Africa, travel tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro climb, Tanzania, Uhuru Peak, Marangu Hotel, Moshi, Shira plateau, Machame camp, Barranco Camp, Barranco wall, Karanga valley, Barafu camp, Stella Point, Mweka camp, www.maranguhotel.com, Carolyn BonelloLed by Gaudenz, we took our first steps into the Montane rainforest, initially a messy, muddy trail surrounded by dense vegetation. A relatively easy walk, we had to follow the golden rule – ‘pole pole’, which in Swahili means ‘slowly slowly’. This rule is crucial and fundamental to anyone who seriously intends to reach the summit. Five hours and a little bit of sweat later, we reached Machame camp at 3000m, our destination for the night. A lovely whiff of food filled the air, as our porters busily prepared our supper, having already set up our tents, with our rucksacks placed outside, together with a basin of welcoming hot water to ‘wash’ in. Totally impressed at the efficiency of these porters, we were even more surprised at the tables they set up, complete with starched tablecloths, stainless steel cutlery and napkins, ready to feed us a fantastic dinner of vegetable soup, chicken, mash and watermelon.

Up to Shira plateau (3840m)…..

After a night of extreme nausea and uncomfortable squatting behind frozen bushes, we woke up to clear blue skies, fresh air and a steaming mug of tea and warm honey bread outside our tent! A procedure which was to become an automatic daily ritual followed, and it consisted of rolling up our bulky sleeping bags, frustratingly trying to stuff them in their little bags (we perfected this by around day five), then strapping our sleeping mats to our rucksacks, followed by filling our camelbacks with boiled water, slapping on heaps of sunblock, preparing our daypacks, grabbing our walking sticks and then, totally laden...having to remove everything to answer nature’s call!

 

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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