Kilimanjaro Day 2: The Moorland Roller Coaster

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Start: Forest Camp 2650m (8,700 ft.)
Stop: Shira I Camp 3610m (11,841 ft.)
Distance: 7km (4.9 miles)
Gain: 960m (3,141 ft.)

The rain dumps all night as I try to be strategic about when I leave the tent to go pee. My tent mate Katelyn rolls out about 10pm for the toilet so I do the same. There are two toilet tents for us to use. Yes, porters clean these and then carry them from camp to camp. We are truly lucky to have such a luxury.

Up again for the toilet at 530am which works out so I can take my thyroid hormone long enough before breakfast. Porter Mwita comes to our tent at 6am to offer tea and coffee as well as a warm bowl of water with which to wash. I’m to breakfast by 630am and luckily the rain seems to be lightening up. Breakfast starts with piping hot porridge followed by bread, eggs, fresh fruit, mystery meat that I guess is sausage, and crepes. After breakfast is our morning health check. We emerge from the mess tent and the porters already have several of our tents down and our gear all piled on a tarp. We’re suppose to start hiking by 7am but we don’t make it. I wait with Future about 10 minutes as people are brushing their teeth and scrambling to get ready.

We head up through more rain forest as the rain continues to drizzle. The speed is pole pole. Pole pole in Swahili means slowly. And they’re not joking. We soon emerge into the moorland forest type with giant heather, thistle and even protea. The long reaching flanks of Mt. Kilimanjaro stretch before us as we climb and descend through the fingers of the Shira Plateau. As I approach the top of each mini climb I look out and see the stream of porters heading up the other side. As we rollercoaster through these mini valleys the trail has turned from a strolling trail to volcanic boulder stepping and maneuvering. Nature’s perfect stairmaster. We slowly pull ourselves up and over these boulders and it sure seems that the slow pace makes the muscles strain even longer over the task. At this pace though, it’s easy enough to chat with guide Emmanuel who’s bringing up the rear with me.

We take a snack break with views in all directions. After breakfast I took both doses of my Diamox, which is a medication that can help stave off altitude sickness. I guess it makes you pee a lot but it’s hard to tell if it’s the Diamox or all the water that I’m drinking. Shuffle in food, take picture of view, try to find somewhere to pee and then we’re off again. There’s still a lot of up before we push onto the upper flats of the Shira Plateau. The elevation change between camps today is over 3,100 feet but we’ve definitely climbed more than that given our rollercoaster terrain. In the distance below us, tents dot the horizon in Shira I Camp. We don’t quite make it to camp before it’s raining on us again. As we approach camp, several porters come out to greet us and offer to take our packs. We insist that we’re ok and roll into camp about 130pm. We haven’t seen Ed or Jun Kyu since the morning and hope that all is well with them.

We’re again escorted to our tent and then provided with a bowl of warm water for washing. Then it’s time for hot chocolate and a massively yummy lunch.

Our 4pm acclimation hike gets canceled because of poor weather. But somehow the sun comes out and it’s really beautiful. I don’t like being trapped in the tent so I’m happy to wander around and take pictures. Plus, my air mattress that’s provided by Peak Planet is mostly flat so it’s not super comfortable for relaxing. Porter and tent master Joseph, works on it and blows it back up. I did bring my own air mattress just in case but I’m content to use the provided one for now.

Tea and snack time. Caspar asks me about my rain skirt and all in good fun, he’s laughing at me too. Health check. My blood pressure reads normal at 121/74. And then another great dinner. We get a little lecture about if the porters meet us down the trail that we should let them take our packs. Otherwise they might think that we don’t trust them. Of course, the thought would never have occurred to me. Instead I think of how hard they’ve worked and me carrying my pack another tenth of a mile is no big deal. And then the threatening truth is laid down. If you never let them carry your pack, they may not be there for you on summit night.