All 12 of the group reached Uhuru Peak!
15.03.2011 - 20.03.2011 -10 °C
Wow, what a week! Apologies that this entry is posted a week late, but it's been so, so manic!
As the title says, every single member of our group made Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro! A massive well done to Ian, Olivia, Stacey, Chris, Claire, Lucion, Alex, Dan, Rhonda and Eric! And in the words on Tim Westwood, "a big shout out" to all our our guides and porters, who carried six days worth of food and shelter for a group of twelve people - no mean feat.
The first day of trekking took us through the dense rainforest, from Machame Gate (1800m) to Machame Camp (3000m). Here, we were greeted by rather hideous toilets, but also a spectacular view of the summit.
Day Two of our trek took us from Machame Camp (3000m) to Shira Hut (3800m). The rainforest morphed and gradually diminshed until, at the campsite, there were very few trees left. My camera was knocked, meaning that I had a black smudge across my lens - not ideal considering it was less than a week into the trip! By this stage, fleeces and trousers were needed to battle the cold at night time.
On Day Three we climbed to Lava Tower (4600m) but descended again to Barranko Wall (3900m) to help combat altitude sickness. A few members of the group were feeling slightly ill - headaches being a common theme - but Olivia's dubious fix for this was to lay on your back with your feet above your head. Yes, we looked like prats, but it worked! She even manged to fix my camera too! Not just a healer of people, but also of technology! Our camp that evening was located directly at the foot of Barranko Wall; an imposing sheer cliff face!
Our fourth day took us to Base Camp (4600m). Clambering across Barranko Wall was such a great adventure, yet the torrential downpour soon deflated spirits. After a full eight hours of walking, we arrived exhausted at base camp with the knowledge that after only 3 hours of sleep, we'd be up again at midnight to begin the long, seven hour slog to the summit!
Waking up at 11pm was not ideal. The fact that it was below freezing and pitch black ensured the group's resolve was severely tested. Claire persevered despite illness and Dan practically collapsed on his poles at every break. My body screamed for oxygen all the way from Base Camp to Stellar Point, a full five hours of walking. When I looked for a resting point above, all I could see were embers of headtorches in the far distance, confirming that we still had a long way to go. The monotony of following Dan's footsteps forced my body to switch to auto pilot, plodding away for hours on end.
As the Sun was rising, Stellar Point came into view. We were told that if we made it this far, the summit was a relatively flat 45 minute walk away. We were not going to allow anybody to turn back if they got this far. As I clambered onto Stellar Point, I was met by jubilant scenes of Mndeme, Idi, Mohammed and Hassan (our porters) performing a celebratory jig. Behind a smiling face, I was struggling to hold back the tears of joy. We were almost there!
The Sun, singing and dancing seemed to give me a second wind, resulting in a surge for Uhuru Peak. Despite almost being at the roof of Africa, the only thing playing on my mind was that I'd agreed to strip at the top of Kili. Olivia wasn't going to let me back down, yet I all I could think was "it's minus ten degrees up here - what on earth possessed me to agree to this crazy bet on Day Two?!?!".
A short five metre sprint to the sign was followed by frantically pulling off my clothes - with the exception of the 'trueLAD' t-shirt, of course. The euphoria of reaching the summit somewhat masked the pain, yet strangely it was only my hands that were cold...
High fives and hugs were exchanged as each member gradually made the summit. The views were breathtaking. A blanket of cloud lay beneath us as the Sun shone across the horizon. This was it. After hours on end of walking we had made Uhuru Peak. The summit of Africa. The world's tallest free-standing mountain. How good does that sound?!
As it was bitterly cold, we weren't allowed to stay long and we were soon beginning the bone-jangling descent back to Base Camp. Stringer somehow got lost on the way back and confessed "I was about to crack into the Disorano". As if a swig of alcohol would solve all his problems...
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived back at base camp, ready for a well earned hour or two of kip before yet another four hours descent. I flopped into the tent, not even bothering to shut the door. On the verge of sleep, I felt something brush my foot. The door? The wind flapping? No, it was a bleedin' mouse. Stringer and I leapt up like a couple of pansies and screeched for help from the porters. Strangely, our ingenious 'bird trap', composing of a carrier bag with nuts in, didn't go entirely to plan. Eventually, after much scrambling around, Mohammed scooped the mice out of our tent allowing us to go back to sleep - although this time we made sure to shut the door.
An hour later, we were woken yet again, but this time it was to descend to Mweka Hut (3100m). An aching nausea had hit me by now, putting me off the food, even though I was chronically short of energy. However, as soon as we set off towards Mweka Hut, I felt better with every metre descended. Spirits were soaring by now, confirmed by the fits of laughter after Eric's proclamation that someone had slept in his sleeping bag whilst we were at the summit!
Our final day on Mount Kilimanjaro took us back through the rainforest, where we were lucky to spot monkeys, chameleons and a two-inch thick river of ants stretching from one side of the path to the other. The two and half hours flew by and we were soon back at Springlands Hotel scoffing food and gulping down cold beers. Following a long winded process, we eventually said goodbye to our amazing guides at the tipping ceremony, where all 12 of us were presented with gold certificates.
The pool, which everyone had looked forward to jumping into all week, was so refreshing and provided much entertainment - especially after Chris' shocking revelation! After much deliberation, we decided to eat at Cafe Salzburg - an Austrian themed restaurant in Tanzania selling Chinese and Italian food. If anybody can work out the logic behind that, then please let me know!
Even though I've only known these guys for a week, it feels as though they've become some of my closest friends. I'd just like to say a massive well done for reaching the summit and an even greater thank you for making it the best week of my life!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. The safari blog will be up soon!