Climbing Kilimanjaro Nearly Killed Me: 2

September 2-7, 2007 - 2 days into the climb  

Plush accommodations on the trail

Plush accommodations on the trail

Part 2 of a 4-part series

When a ranking of “10” is, well, rank.

As it turns out our gang of 5 was traveling alongside an expedition consisting of just two British men, Mike and Rob. We caught up with them each night at a shared camp ground. While we were a bunch of Americans traveling with EmergenC and Clift bars, each night they dined alfresco under the setting sun. They had even brought bottles of wine to drink the night after the summit. It was all very “Out of Africa” and British Empire. They were actually quite delightful, two brothers-in-law making the climb together and having a jolly good time. We had it pretty good ourselves. Each morning we were awaken with a hot cup of tea and a warm basin of water to wash up in. Then we had a hearty breakfast of eggs and rice and fruit, while the porters broke down our tents and hit the trail.

The mighty mountain...still far away

The mighty mountain…still far away

The cook was the last to leave, since he had to do the dishes before heading out. And remember, all water needs to be carried up the trail. Really, our level of comfort was incredibly plush given the conditions. So for 3 days we walked “poli poli,” meaning “slowly” in Swahili. We literally placed one baby foot in front of another. Each morning we walked for 4-5 hours, then broke for lunch. Followed by an afternoon hike of 2-3 more hours, followed by tea time, and then an acclimatization hike up and back on the trial for another hour or two, before we were finished for the day. We then rested in our tents until we feasted on dinner.

We usually went to bed at about 7:00 pm, mainly because our mess tent was where the porters slept at night and they couldn’t go to bed if we stayed up playing cards or talking. So after dinner we retired to our individual tents. I ended up telling myself stories and laughing most of the night. It’s great when you can be easily entertained by your own (half)wit. We felt a little guilty about each having an individual tent, until we figured out that it was part of a scheme to employ more porters. More porters = more money for your family since you tipped according to the number of people on our hike. That eased the guilt a little.

Out of Africa outhouse

Out of Africa outhouse

We also had a rating system for the out houses. As the number neared 10, you were better off going outside in the bush, rather than risk your luck in the latrine. There were at least 30 of us (3 porters for each hiker + lead guides + assistant guides + cook) for our group of 5 plus the 2 Brits, so those toilets saw a lot of action. And make no mistake, altitude plays with your insides something fierce (and not in a good way). I wasn’t inclined to leave my tent in the middle of the night, so I would hang my fanny over the rim of my tent door and pee freely.  This worked for me, but maybe not so much for Scott, since his tent always seemed to be slightly downhill from mine and therefore woke up to a bit of dampness outside his door. So un-ladylike.

Read the next installment:


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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 5th, 2009 and is filed under Africa.

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