Wednesday, June 29
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I woke up around 5:45 am, first to my alarm, and then to a light banging of pots and pans from the cooking tent. I had slept pretty well actually, was plenty warm, and felt quite well rested. I did have to venture in to the cold once overnight to use the bathroom, but it was nice to be greeted by the Milky Way snaking across the sky.

I put on my coat liner and pants over my base layer and stepped out of the tent. It was actually quite pleasant; Alan agreed, having come out only moments earlier. I grabbed my camera gear and went out to look for a good spot to watch the sunrise and to see the sunrise light up the mountain. After checking out a few other vantage points (I remembered from the night before) I quickly discovered that the best spot to see the mountain was up by the campsite of the large South African group. I did take a few shots of the crescent moon setting through the band of Venus before the sun came up, and then walked up the trail the short distance to be amongst the chaos of the large campsite. I set up (mostly) out of the way near a cook tent and was able to watch the mountain light up in shades of pinks, oranges, and reds as the sun came up. Turning around, we (I was now joined by Alan and Randy) saw a purplish red globe rising through the lower clouds. Overall it was a very nice sunrise.

We returned to camp before 7:00am and most everyone was now up and getting ready. I brushed my teeth, put in my contacts, got dressed and packed and was ready to head out. We had wanted to a leave a little early in anticipation of a long day, but without breakfast yet I realized that probably wasn't going to happen.

We sat down in the food tent for breakfast, and once again (like dinner the night before) had hot water for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate ready. We handed off our water bottles to be filled for the day as breakfast was served. It was a porridge of some type of grain (quite good), served with bread and jam, peanut butter, butter, eggs with tomatoes and cucumbers, sausages, and papaya. Not bad at all. We all ate and drank what we could as we had a long hike ahead of us. After eating, we collected our (filled) water bottles, finished packing, and strapped on our boots and gaiters (coverings for your socks/boots to keep dust and dirt out) in preparation to leave.

We left camp right around 8:30 am or so, a bit later than we initially wanted. We had all put on sunscreen in anticipation of a long hot day in the sun - especially as most of the day would be spent above the clouds.

We started by walking through a black volcanic ash that composed (and covered) a lot of the trail, coating our boots and gaiters, and making it clear how good of an idea the gaiters were (thanks for the suggestion Mike). The morning climb was fairly difficult as we climbed up to almost 3500m (11500 ft) for lunch - covering probably 6-7 miles (maybe a bit more) over 4 1/2 hours. We took plenty of breaks and it never seemed to be too tough. We were fortunate to be able to see the mountain for most of the morning hike, looming large on the horizon.

We hit the Second Cave camp for lunch around 1:00 in the afternoon. The camp was pretty full with other campers/hikers preparing to spend the night, but we were just stopping for lunch. We washed off a bit of the dirt and ash (it was everywhere) collected through the morning with some water given to us by our support staff. We then sat down for lunch, again with hot water ready. Lunch was served a bit later - fried fish with potatoes, tomatoes and cucumber, a vegetable dish with eggplant, cauliflower, carrots and onions (amongst others) in a red curry sauce, with oranges, watermelon, and papaya. It was all very good. I've been consistently impressed with the food at every stop, especially considering the conditions.

Mike had been struggling all day long and had fallen pretty far behind during the long morning hike. We were glad to see him make it into camp for lunch (albeit a bit late), and he explained that he was suffering from bad cramping in his legs which was slowing him down. After a salt water drink and a bunch of bananas (for sodium and potassium, respectively) he was feeling much better.

After eating (a lot for me - I was really hungry even after eating a big breakfast and a couple power bars on the trail) we had our water bottles refilled, reapplied sunscreen for the afternoon hike, and took off still somewhat full from lunch around 2:45 pm. The hike started with a short uphill climb of a rocky slope, a quick test for rested legs. After another semi-tough climb we continued on a pretty gentle uphill slope all the way into camp. Throughout the morning we had mostly been hiking in the Heather eco zone, but now the terrain had given way to a more desert like environment, not unlike our high deserts in Colorado, dominated by silvery bushes and low lying plants. This is known as the Moorland eco zone. We were well above the clouds now, with nothing but the Kibo and Mawenzi peaks in the sky. We rounded a last bend heading toward the saddle (the land between those two peaks) and could see our camp not too far off. After a quick break, we continued on, reaching camp just after 5:00 pm.

Rongai Camp 3 sits at just under 4000m (13000 ft) in elevation, and while it was somewhat warm when we first arrived, it became cool very quickly once the sun started to drop in the sky. We washed off with some water brought out for us and changed into some cleaner clothes, now that I was at least somewhat clean from washing the layer of dirt and ash from my arms and face. I took out my contacts and prepared the tent for the night and backpack for the next day. I grabbed the camera to take a few shots of the area around camp, including a very interesting cactus-like plant with softball sizes bunches of purple flowers.

I then started scouting a few locations for the sunset and sunrise. The weather was not promising for a colorful sunset, but I did take a few shots of the low sunlight streaming across the face of the mountain. On the way back to camp a Californian from another group had a few questions on how to use his new camera (he was a college student who understood video, but not still cameras) so I helped him out for a while and then joined the rest of the group in the food tent for dinner.

There were peanuts waiting for us this time, along with the usual hot water and drink mixes. A few small cups of hot chocolate helped warm me up, and soon dinner was served. Tonight it started with an exceptional cucumber soup, followed by rice served with chicken and vegetables (similar to the veggie mix from lunch), avocado, tomato, and onion salad, and carrots and green beans. All good, as usual.

Azizi had joined us for dinner this evening and we talked a bit about life in Tanzania. He talked about how Kenyans really don't like Tanzanians (rooted partially in border disputes over Mt. Kilimanjaro). He described why there are so few cars in the country - the government effectively doubles the price of the vehicle by charging taxes equal to the purchase price (e.g. if the car costs $2000 plus $500 for shipping/delivery, the government adds another $2500 in taxes for a $5000 total) - making something expensive for most to begin with completely impossible. He also discussed government corruption and how they relate to the infrastructure issues the country experiences, amongst other things.

Most of the group were pretty tired after dinner and headed off to bed, while Randy and I both grabbed our journals to do some writing in the food tent. We were joined for a while by a few of the staff finishing off the left over food, but they soon left after cleaning the table when they were done eating. We did some writing for a while by solar-recharged lights, then Randy headed to the tent followed by me a few minutes later.

Hike Start: Simba Camp at 2650m (8600 ft)

Hike End: Rongai Camp 3 at 3950m (13000 ft)

Hike Coverage: ~19 km (12 miles) distance, 1300m (4400 ft) elevation gain

>> View all pictures from today <<      

Moon at Sunrise (Simba Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Sunrise on Mt. Kilimanjaro (viewed from Simba Camp)

Sunrise (Simba Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

On the Trail (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Group Photo (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Back Row: Andy, Hilary, Alex, Yoko, Alan, Nikki, Kibaca, Ryan, Azizi
Front Row: Kim, Mike, Randy, Msafiri

Heather Eco Zone and Mawenzi Peak (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Moorland Eco Zone (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Sunset in Black & White (Rongai Camp 3, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Unidentified Plant (Rongai Camp 3, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

     More pictures from today:

Mt. Kilimanjaro (Black & White)
(viewed from Rongai Route)

Above the Clouds (Black & White)
(Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)

Lunch at Second Cave Camp (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Rongai Camp 3 (Mt. Kilimanjaro)

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