Tuesday 1st January 2019
Happy New Year 2019!!!! Whoohooo!!!
Here was the description for the day:
We woke up at 6am, with Peter bringing to each of us a steaming cup full of ginger tea, as every morning, which was a very nice way of being woken up. The cup was not drinkable until half an hour later, which was the time it took me every morning to get ready. My routine looked like this: Grab the bag of batteries I had slept with to keep them warm, and put the batteries back into the camera. Deflate the pillow, pack it away. Remove night clothes and put on bra, shirt, jumper, socks and hiking pants. Put away night clothes. Grab the +15 degrees liner, roll it, pack it away. Deflate the Thermarest mattress, pack it away. Pack everything else away with a dry bag storage colouring system to not be searching for stuff all the time. Then once ready…I could finally drink the ginger tea for a short pause and then get out of the tent!!!
This morning at 6.43am, we had a clear view of the Kilimanjaro. It felt like our first real one. What a nice moment. It looked close and not that high, but what an illusion! 🙂
The sun was just starting to light up the valley and the shadow was slowly receding.
One of the first thing we did each morning when getting out of our tents was to drop our big 109 Litres dry bags onto the tarp, alongside our day packs and then head to the dining tent.
We started walking at 7.30am. Antipas was leading the walk that day and he ensured that we walked ‘pole pole’ (slow and steady) or even more than pole pole, something like ‘pole pole POLE POLE’. For me…it was heaven! That’s my pace, yeah! 😀 For the others, well, they didn’t complain loudly but they were probably a bit upset. Oh well. We had all the time in the world, right? Why would you want to arrive fast at the next camp when there is nothing special to do there, why not take your time? At the same time, I can understand that when your natural pace is to walk at a faster pace, having to force yourself to walk extremely slowly, no matter the reasons, could be quite frustrating.
We left the campsite behind and each time we looked back at it, it was getting smaller and smaller. There was a funny cloud line above the Kilimanjaro while we walked.
The landscape was great, a huge plain of bushes and rocks, and trees covered with lichen. The clouds kept moving, it gave the impression that there was an army of cloud, surrounding us from all sides, slowly coming after us!
Here is a short video of the surroundings and clouds movement while walking on the Shira Plateau towards Cathedral Point, it shows also how slowly we were walking!
We arrived at the bottom of the short walk up to Cathedral Point (3,800m) at at time when there was no one. We dropped the small day packs and hiked to the top. A lot of fog had just come in and we couldn’t see anything but it created this mysterious, eerie and magical atmosphere which I really enjoy each time I am in a fog. By the time we had descended back from this short walk to Cathedral, there were more people down there about to hike up to it.
From Cathedral Point, we resumed our walk towards Shira 2 Camp. We arrived at a spot where there were lots of cairns. The fog continued to make the place very mysterious. I couldn’t help thinking that each cairn might represent each soul which perished attempting to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. It gives the chill to think that 1,000 people each year are evacuated and roughly about 10 people each year die. We lingered around there for a while, creating our own cairns too. Then we had a surreal vision of an ambulance car driving away, so while we thought we were walking in nature, there was actually an emergency road not too far. I am glad to believe in signs only when I want to, as I wouldn’t have wanted to take both cairns and ambulance spotting as a bad omen!! Better not be too superstitious on such a hike! Then we saw the Helipad spot and a sign warning people to beware of altitude sickness signs. At the same time, it reminded me why we had signed up for the longest hike on the mountain, 9 days, not 5, not 6, not 7 and not 8, yep…9!!! The main reason was to get our body the longest time possible to acclimatise before the Summit Night, a long bloody 7 days and for that reason only! Most of the day hikes we did before the Summit night could definitely have been condensed easily. Yes, of course, it is possible to do it in less time. But you increase the risk of getting stronger headaches, more nausea, more diarrhoea, more vomiting, more loss of appetite, more loss of sleep and in particular the risk of having a too serious altitude sickness on the Summit Night forcing you to descend for security reasons, what a shame when you have trained hard and come all the way for that! So if you can spare a few more days in your life to do this hike, why not do it? Why would you make it difficult to your body when you can simply add a few more days in to acclimatise it better and in the process, do an internet detox, slow down and enjoy the nature around you?
We arrived at Shira 2 camp around 12.30pm so after a slow and steady 5-hour hike from Shira 1. There was some sign about a meteorological station monitoring the weather on Kilimanjaro. We registered in the registry book, went to our tents for a rest for 30 minutes and then had fries and chicken for lunch.
In the afternoon, I had my first ‘Kilimanjaro shower’! So what is a Kilimanjaro shower, hey? It is about asking for 1 litre of boiled water poured into one of these buckets porters have. Bring to the hike a washcloth. France has great ones, we call them ‘gant de toilette’, alias ‘toilet glove’ which you put on your hand. Pour some cold water in the boiled water until it doesn’t feel too hot (or wait a bit until it cooled down but pouring cold into it means you actually can use a bit more than 1 litre). Strip naked in the outside antechamber of your tent, dip the glove into the hot water and start with the cleanest part, such as your face (heaven!) and then keep dipping it, wringing it so that it is just humid enough but not dropping water all over, and then rubbing your arms and legs with that hot water humid glove and dipping, wringing, rubbing again. You can finish by immersing in your feet to wash them with a tiny tiny bit of wilderness washing liquid if needed then rinse. Then you dry yourself with a quick-dry micro-fibre towel then once dry, use baby powder all over your body and rub it in, it smells good! I never use baby powder in my everyday life but there, it is very nice. And at the end, you didn’t use any of those disposable wipes…and..you feel your body is less sticky and fresher! Almost like if you had a shower! And this with..just 1 to 1.5 litre!
In the afternoon, we had plenty of time to rest. I had a very nice 30-min nap and otherwise I progressed the reading of ‘The Lion’ written by Joseph Kessel which I read on my Kindle on my phone, turning on the phone each day just for that read then off again. I really enjoyed reading this book while on Kilimanjaro because although it is about a little girl and a lion in a National Park in Kenya, during the entire book, the narrator constantly refers to the Kilimanjaro mountain and snows of Kilimanjaro as a background to the story. Being hiking on it and going to the summit felt like the perfect time to reading this incredibly beautiful and poetic book again.
In the evening, I saw this bird when getting out of the tent.
We had dinner around 6.30pm.
Then we each retreated to our respective tents as it was cold outside while quite warm once you are in your tent and sleeping bag. With Martha, we started asking for our Nalgene bottles to get filled with hot water before to sleep to transform them into hot bottles and it was sooo nice to put that into the sleeping bag! 🙂
Next day, off to Moir Hut!