Kilimanjaro – Day 02 – Big Tree to Shira 1

Monday 31st December 2018

Last day of the year and second day on the Kilimanjaro hike!

Here was the description for the day:


Here is the map of the Northern Circuit. On Day 2, we walked from Mti Mkubwa to Shira Plateau camp and went from the Lower Countryside Slopes zone to the Mountain Forests zone.
northern circuit map

The day started with some funny brekky. Spreading peanut butter on the white bread toasts, adding on top the omelette and sausage. And for some, why not, some jam or hot chili sauce too? On such a trek, you start making weird combinations of ingredients you would definitely not do at home!

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Antipas came to put our finger into the Finger Pulse Oximeter which monitored the amount of oxygen carried in our body, and then wrote it every morning on this piece of paper.

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Air contains 20.9% of oxygen, but the higher you go in altitude, the thinner the air gets, which means the less molecules there are of everything, including oxygen. So in order to get enough oxygen when you go high in altitude, the body starts breathing faster and deeper in order to get the same number of oxygen molecules into the blood as at lower altitude. Also the heart pumps more blood to increase the supply of oxygen to the brain and muscles, which increases the pulse rate. The oximeter helps to measure the pulse rate and the quantity of oxygen in the system, alias blood oxygen saturation level.

The higher you go in altitude, the thinner the air, the less oxygen molecules you breathe in. So once you start reaching 3,000 meters high, your oxygen saturation level can NEVER be 100%. But it has to remain above 50%. If it goes below that, then it means your blood is not working properly in absorbing enough oxygen to carry it to all the parts of your body. The pulse shows the heartbeat. The higher in altitude, the more the heart has to pump to get the oxygen into the body, so the higher you go, the higher the pressure gets as there is less oxygen, so it needs to work harder, faster to continue to get oxygen to the body. A normal heartbeat needs to remain between 60 and 100 heartbeats per second at rest. If it gets above 150, it is dangerous and needs to be heavily monitored, with people having to descend quickly as it could be a sign of altitude sickness.

Antipas also asked us a couple of questions. The first question was: ‘Your scale?’ which sounded like ‘Are you scared?’ to which the first few days we had a big laugh answering: ‘YES, I AM BLOODY SCARED!!!’ but the more you repeat the same joke, the less good it gets as any joke, so although in my head the joke would still pop-up even on Day 8 or 9, we got to answer properly. It is interesting that for some, 10 is the scale, or 9.5. While some would never be a 10, but rather a 9.8 or something, or some talk in full numbers. We all have actually different ways of assessing how we feel! Then the other questions were whether we would feel nausea, vomiting, and whether we had gone to pee and poo. Peeing shows that we drink enough water to continue hydrating our body, as water contains oxygen, it is a good thing to do in altitude to complement the taking of oxygen through breathing. Pooing was a way of checking we were eating and not loosing appetite but also that our body functions continued to work properly while going higher and higher.

We left Mti Mkubwa Camp around 8.30am. This time, the other assistant guide, Nesto, was leading the group and his pace was not as ‘pole-pole’ as the one of Juma the previous day, so I personally couldn’t keep up while the rest of the group could. Nesto and the rest went ahead while I remained at the back with Juma and Antipas. It made me quite nervous and I asked Antipas: ‘What if I am too slow, we will need to split the group on Summit Night? Maybe I will not make it?’ But he re-assured me that Kilimanjaro was a mountain for which you could arrive at the top at any time of the day. I couldn’t help thinking of Huayna Potosi I had attempted to hike to the top of (6,088 meters) in 2015 from La Paz, an attempt I had miserably failed, turning back in the middle of the night because I was too slow. Huayna Potosi is a mountain which doesn’t forgive your slowliness. You have to be on track to be at the top at sunrise, or you have to turn back if you are not. This is because you walk on the ice, passing near crevasses and by the time the sun rises, the snow starts melting, making it dangerous for anyone who is still hiking all the way to the top. Luckily, Kilimanjaro is not like this. It was great to hear this.

Our hike went through up and down hills, we saw a beautiful landscape, hilly and with magic clouds which kept moving around.

At the beginning of the hike, there was a bee on the thistle’s flower. I couldn’t help but contemplate it and film it. When we know that bees are disappearing all over the world, seeing one at work seems almost magical. Meanwhile, the group was observing…a small cute chameleon! Shame I missed that..but I was still happy to have spent some time with my bee. 🙂 What’s rarer? Bees or chameleons?

I arrived at the camp around 1.10pm, probably no longer than 30-45 minutes after the others apparently. Here we were now, at Shira 1 camp, 3,610m high.

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Signed up in the registry book.
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We had lunch around 2pm, soup, chicken, toasted butter bread, dry muffins and little packs of tropical and guava juice.

Then each of us retreated to our tent for a nap. Tough job it is to hike the Kilimanjaro as you need…to rest! As much as possible, each afternoon, so that your body keeps transforming and adapting to the altitude.

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Then I heard some singing and saw the porters of another group doing singing together with their tourist hikers.
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While observing them, I saw this little bird whose name I found in Henry Stedman’s book later, called a Streaky seed eater, a species of finch, native of Africa, pretty fluffy, not sure whether it was because it was a juvenile still full of fluffy feathers or just fluffy and fat because of the cold climate.

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I popped by in the kitchen and poked our guide, assistant guides, cook, and porters: ‘Hey, when do we hear those wonderful Kilimanjaro songs?’ Then Antipas said ‘Soon, we were just about to gather all together and call you guys!’. Then it was a great moment, probably one of the best, during which first everyone posed. To support our hike, we had one guide, Antipas, two assistant guides, Juma and Nesto, one cook, Shaman, and…20 porters! So many names to remember at once, it was impossible! I remembered the names of the three women porters, Maria, Katerina and Bassilissa.

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They told us their names first, one by one, and that was great to get introductions, we then presented ourselves too. Then they sang, and we tried to sing along. Oh Africa! What a vibrant music they have! What a rythm to it! What an incredible way of dancing with such spontaneity and such incredible body movements! Africa is the Queen of all continents when it comes to Earth music and dancing. Nowhere else will you ever see people have this under their skin. It always fascinates me. And the songs…Sooo beautiful. I will have to create a special article just about them. I was sooo happy to film them while they danced and sang, although I tried to sing and dance along so the camera was a bit shaky, haha.

After that, they came each one by one to great us one by one. Then everyone dispersed back to whatever they were doing before. We stuck around outside. The camp was quite busy with a few tents all over, quite spread though, and not as noisy or busy as the previous night. There was a scale so porters could weigh again their bags in the morning to verify they didn’t carry more than 20 kilos of company’s bags. We had a 360 degrees view of the surroundings and could see far far away in the distance in all directions. Mount Meru kept appearing and disappearing. And the clouds, oh the clouds. They kept wrapping the mountain and unwrapping it, playing illusion games with us, making things appear and disappear. It was beautiful. And that cloud game continued for the next 7 days. Clouds are just incredible on Mt Kilimanjaro! And we saw a tiny bit of a rainbow too!

For dinner, soup and bread and I can’t remember what else!

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Around 9pm, we celebrated New Year’s Eve the Spanish Way as Marta taught us that in Spain, you eat 12 grapes the last 12 knocks before midnight, and you have to eat them as each second is ticking. So we pretended it was midnight (after all, it was midnight somewhere!), and we used raisins instead of grapes we didn’t have and we did the count-down and ate our raisins. Happy New Year 2019! And then..well, it was 9.30pm right so.. we went to bed!

Next day, continuing to go higher in altitude!

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