Friday, January 18, 2019
Start: Shira II Camp 3850m (12,361 ft.)
Stop: Barranco Camp 3900m (12,800 ft.)
Distance: 10.2km (6.3 miles)
Gain: 2,790 ft.
Loss: 2,350 ft.
Luckily my stomach seems to be feeling better and I didn’t have any mad dashes to the toilet last night. Around 2am I awoke and my toes were cold so I put in a new pair of feet warmers and fell right back to sleep. After breakfast, we finally get to meet the crew of porters. We emerge from the mess tent and there they are all lined up in a giant semi-circle. The moment could not be better planned. The porters sing as the sun peeks out from behind Kilimanjaro. My heart fills with so much joy and the voices of these amazing souls easily carry me all the way to the Lava Tower.
Just before we hike out, we learn that Papa Simba (Ed) is not going to continue hiking with us. It seems that his blood is not carrying enough oxygen which I can imagine makes the hiking virtually impossible. It can’t be easy for him to end his climb but he seems to be handling the decision well. We all give him hugs and wish him the best. And just like that, we’re now a group of seven. Guide Emmanuel escorts him off the mountain.
The morning climb to the Lava Tower follows a gentle gradient. It’s easy hiking and I’m happy with my selected layering. Patagonia hooded sun shirt, Icebreaker fleece, Patagonia Houdini wind jacket. Easy to unzip while hiking and warm enough when zipped up during breaks. The sun is shining brightly and the hooded sun shirt paired with my trucker hat easily protects me from the intense rays. It seems like I get in trouble for taking pictures while hiking and Caspar takes my phone from me and takes some really great pictures of all of us while we’re hiking. Our group tends to fracture slightly until Caspar places Mama Simba (Jackie) in the lead. Then we’re all locked in, managing the same pace. On our way up, we hear that Papa Simba has already made it safely back to the hotel.
We ascend into the Lava Tower clouds for a hot lunch. Yes, some of the porters have gotten up early, hiked up the mountain, setup up our mess tent with table, chairs and real dishes and fixed a warm lunch. Also, there were some porters that left Shira II at 4am, taking a more direct route to Barranco Camp in order to get us a good campsite. We have about a half hour for lunch and then it’s time to book it down the mountain. The hope of making it to camp before it rains is dashed as sprinkles start to fall from the sky.
We follow the water drainage down so basically we’re just hiking down a creek with giant boulders. We stop for a pee and since the rain has stopped I take off my hot rain jacket. As if this action has summoned the rain gods, it immediately starts to rain. We’re already on the move so I roll down my rain skirt from my waist and pull out my umbrella. I huddle under it as best I can, not wanting to stop again to put on my rain jacket. Ignas leads us down into what he jokes is Jurassic World. The Senecio trees (would you guess they’re in the sunflower family?) definitely transport us to another dimension and I wouldn’t be surprised if a dinosaur runs by. Ignas again shares cool information about our scenery.
The rain stops just as we arrive at Barranco Camp and our porters once again escort us to our tents. Mwita brings a bowl of warm water and for the first time I actually use it. I pull out my quick dry towel and wash my face, letting the warmth soak into my pores. I’m so inspired that I even brush my hair and watch as my golden strands float away on the breeze. I floss and brush my teeth before putting lotion on my wind-tanned hands. I change clothes and feel like a new person just in time for health check and dinner.