Monday, June 13, 2011

Leila and Fayaz take on Kili - May 2011

May 23rd

 Less than 48 hours to go before we start our ascent to the top of Africa!!!  Fayaz and I are bouncing off the walls as we make the final preparations before we set off to Moshi, Tanzania.  We have made the final checks of our gear and have ended up with a small list of items that we need to get – mainly energy supplements.

The shuttle service that will take us from Nairobi to Moshi has also been confirmed.  We set off from Nairobi at 7.45am on our 8 hour ride to Moshi.  On Wednesday May 25th, we start our climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro!

We are on an adrenaline high as we prepare for the most challenging experiences of our lives.

More to follow from Moshi….!!!

May 25th- 

Finally at Machame gate! It is so misty that we cannot see anything beyond 50 meters. We were hoping to get a glimpse of the mountain on our way to the gate entrance, but to no avail. I guess we will first see the peak when we are actually standing on it! More to follow from our first base camp…

1st camp – Machame hut – check!

We started our hike with a zslight drizzle which faded quickly. We met a group of about 100 hikers from Mexico and the US that kept us entertained with their lively banter as they tried to teach the porters Spanish. Several of the hikers sang the famous local song ‘Jambo, jambo bwana…..’ as they climbed their way up. The hike was fairly easy with some muddy spots that I always ended up walking right into. 4.5 hrs later, covered halfway down in mud, we arrived at our first camp site. After checking in, we were welcomed with a hot cup of chai and freshly made popcorn. Shortly after, we had a hearty dinner that consisted of soup, steak, rice and fruit. We were still very energetic and excited as we both settled into what would be the most challenging 6 days to come. After appreciating the beautiful star-filled skies, we decided to call it a night. As I tried to get comfortable in my sleeping bag, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of what the next few days had in store for us.

May 26th

We were awoken by our ever cheerful server, Joseph, who had a bowl of hot water for us to freshen up with. After a delicious meal of Spanish omelet, sausages and bread, we set off for Shira hut.

2nd camp – Shira hut – check!

The hike from Machame hut to Shira hut was more exhilarating than day 1. Our hike was uphill most of the way, ascending up rocks and boulders. About an hour into the hike, we finally saw the spectacular view of the peak. It was absolutely stunning! It was partially covered in snow and glistened in the sun. It looked deceivingly close and I couldn’t help but laugh when Fayaz said that it felt like it was a stone-throw away. We stopped to have our packed lunch and continued our way up. We passed a short waterfall and I decided to take the guide’s advice and cool off by standing right underneath it. Boy was it cold! He had a good laugh at my expense as I stood there rooted to the spot. After hiking for about 3 hrs, we finally saw a bed of tents signaling our arrival at the camp.
After freshening up, we had some tea and biscuits. We had the rest of the afternoon to laze around. 3600 meters up and surrounded by vast openness, the temperature at Shira was close to freezing. We were almost always engulfed by clouds and when the sun set, the temperatures dipped to below freezing. We had a magnificent view of Mt. Meru and enjoyed the sun set as we wolfed down pasta with mince meat. After a hot cup of tea, we waited for the stars to appear before turning in for the night.

May 27th

We awoke to the cheerful voice of Joseph letting us know that our hot water bowl was ready. After a hot meal of eggs and chapatti, we set off to Barranco camp. After hiking up for about 4 hrs, we reached the Lava tower which stood at 4100 meters. We were able to get a quick glimpse of the entire tower before the top half got covered in clouds. The temperature at the tower was close to freezing and we had to layer up before sitting at the base of the tower to enjoy our packed lunch. We were quite surprised to see mice scurrying around at the bottom of the tower. Fayaz almost dropped his lunch when a mouse jumped on his back. We quickly moved to a spot further away from the rodents.
After lunch, we had a 2 hr hike down the side of the mountain. After hiking up for 4 hrs, the descent down to Barranco was quite welcoming. On our descent, we came across some interesting trees. My oxygen-deprived brain cannot remember the name of the trees. Barranco camp was located at the edge of the mountain with a beautiful view of the peak.

May 28th

The hike from Barranco camp to Karanga was by far the most adventurous and exhilarating. We started off by hiking up the side of the mountain, on all fours, as we hugged the rocks and boulders. One wrong step meant falling off the edge. We hiked up for about 2 hrs before coming down the side of the mountain to our campsite. Sleeping at a lower altitude was essential in helping us acclimate. We were welcomed by a hot lunch of fried chicken and fries. I don’t think fries have ever tasted as good as they did that day! At 4100 meters, the temperatures after sunset plummeted to below freezing. Even with three layers of clothing, I shivered in my sleeping bag as I tried to fall asleep. The guides and porters were busy listening to a live commentary of the Barcelona – Manchester United game on radio. Our guide, Ibrahim, was rather disappointed with the outcome of the game.

Tonight was the last full night of sleep before we make it to the summit.

May 29th

We woke up to a sunny morning with clear skies. We had a stunning view of the peak and enjoyed a hearty breakfast out in the sun. The hike up to Barafu camp took us about 2 hrs. As the name suggests, the camp is almost always freezing. At 4600 meters, the campsite is almost always engulfed in clouds. We were going to spend the rest of the day relaxing here before we started our hike to the summit later that night. After and early dinner, we managed to rest for a few hrs.

At 11:30 PM, we were awoken by Joseph to start preparing for the hike up to the summit. After a hot cup of tea and biscuits, we started our final ascend to the top of Africa. The wind was absolutely merciless and even with three layers of clothes, a ski jacket, gloves and a ski cap, we still shivered as we slowly made our way to the top. All you could see was a trail of head lamps as all the hikers made their way up. Due to the cold and wind chill, several hikers succumbed to the dreadful weather and decided to return to camp. Others were forced to abandon the hike due to altitude sickness. After hiking up for about 3 hrs, the exhaustion and cold began to sink in. Every step forward was a huge effort. Nikodamus, my guide, kept encouraging me to continue and after another 2 hrs, we finally reached the base of Stella which stands at about 5700 meters. The hike up to the top of Stella was slow and arduous. We finally reached the top of Stella at about sunrise and enjoyed the spectacular view of the glaciers surrounding the peak. I continued my way up and after another half hour, I was finally at Uhuru, 5895 meters high. On May 30th 2011 at 7:00 AM, I was standing on the highest point in Africa!

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