|AFRICA DAY 8 - MT. KILIMANJARO|
Saturday, July 2
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I fell right asleep the night before, but woke up several times to use the bathroom. The combination of the Diamox (slight diuretic) and the extra water I was drinking at dinner and overnight to help recover were mostly to blame. To be honest, despite being high up in the middle of the night, it was actually quite pleasant outside.
We got up at 7:00am when both my and Randy's alarms sounded off within seconds of each other, following shortly by a light tapping on our tent - the wakeup call from the staff. We gathered our stuff and I got changed into my hiking clothes for the day, and stepped out of the tent. My legs didn't quite respond as well as before, but otherwise I felt really good. My legs and feet weren't sore (but a little slow moving), I was hungry again (my stomach felt close to normal), and I had no lightheadedness or headache (though that was mostly gone by the time I went to sleep anyway the night before). I ate a full breakfast without issue, and took the other half of the Diamox pill to help with recovery.
Mike took off down the hill early to get a head start, followed by the rest of us around 8:30am. While we came up the Rongai Route, we were heading down the Machame route - also known as the "Coca-cola route" due to its popularity as the most commonly used route. The trail heads down into the saddle straight at the Mawenzi peak for a while, then turns to the southeast. As we walk through the "moonscape" of barren land and volcanic rocks we again have each of the peaks on our sides - Kibo on our right (West) and Mawenzi on our left (East).
The trail is reasonably smooth and carries over gently sloped rolling hills and we make good time. As we go down clouds are building on both peaks as they drift behind us, and for a moment it almost looks like Kibo is erupting again (its last major eruption was around 360,000 years ago) with the clouds billowing off of its top. We stop to take a quick break and a group photo, taking advantage of the nice views. Plants have also started to creep back into the landscape - small shrubs and flowers to begin with, but after cresting a ridge (yes - yet another one) the scenery changes. Almost immediately we are now surrounded by grasses and large shrubs, as well as these interesting Dr. Suess-ish trees. I'd describe them as a kind of Joshua Tree / Palm Tree hybrid. These are the Dendrosenecio kilimanjari - a giant groundsel flowering plant found only in this part of the world. As we head down the trail we encounter many more of these same plants amongst trickling streams and tall prairie grasses.
We reach the Horombo Camp (3780m, 12400 ft) around 11:45am, having just completed that aforementioned six miles that most groups usually do after summiting. This camp, being along the main climbing route, is well established with quite a few permanent structures. We eat lunch in one of them, a large A-frame building with fireplace and picnic tables on the main level and sleeping quarters above (many groups utilizing this route stay in the buildings instead of camping). After a quick and light lunch of potato/carrot/cabbage soup with oranges and pineapple on the side, we continue on our trek at around 12:30pm.
Our afternoon walk started amongst the rolling foothills, crossing both wet and dry streams along a very green and pretty section of the trail. There are uphill portions, but they are neither long nor difficult and are actually a welcome change from the otherwise constant downhill. At one resting point we met again the group from Dubai that had held us up before leaving Moshi. They told us the father and one son had made Gilman Point (neither had made Uhuru), but our guide later talked to theirs and found out they barely got past base camp before having to turn around - and no one had gotten anywhere close to Gilman.
The trail turned quite dusty, and we were all breathing the volcanic ash thrown into the air by our boots. Eventually the trail became both rockier and more downhill, and we started to see signs of larger trees and forests. We were also getting closer to the clouds, and shortly later we started to feel the humidity increase and temperature decrease. Around us were groves and patches of large deciduous trees; we were nearing the rainforest. Azizi, Alex, and I had gotten ahead of the group by a decent margin, and upon reaching a fork in the trail took a break to let the others catch up.
One way led straight to our camp for the night, while the other, via a short detour, led to the Maundi Crater - a small older crater formed at the same time as the Mawenzi peak when the floor of the hill collapsed. It was still pretty early in the afternoon (before 4:00pm) so Alex and I decided we wanted to see the crater. Once a few others had caught up we took off along the crater trail.
We took a short but steep trail up to the rim. It was no more than a couple hundred feet across, lined by moss-covered trees, and filled with grasses that reminded me of the heather found in the rough at the British Open. We took a short trail along the rim where Azizi showed Randy and me a viewpoint of the rainforest below us. After climbing down into, across, and back up to the rim of the crater we headed back down to camp for the night at the Mandara Camp.
The weather and ecosystem transition was incredibly quick. No more than a few hundred yards down the trail towards camp we were surrounded by towering moss covered trees, with lush green plants everywhere. The misty clouds were now also blocking the sun, making it quite dark. We had left the open and sunny trail only a few minutes ago for the dark and covered forest.
We got to Mandara camp around 5:00pm, dropped our packs, removed our boots, and changed clothes after washing off a bit. We met in the dinner tent with popcorn waiting for us. Dinner was served a bit later - the cucumber soup we had previously (excellent once again) along with rice served with the meat/pea/lentil stew. This was only okay - the peas were undercooked and crunchy compared with the rest of the vegetables. It was a little disappointing, but that's probably more of a tribute to how excellent the food had been on the rest of the hike.
My feet now had a few issues - the start of blisters on my right two toes of my right foot. I hadn't experienced any issues with my feet earlier, but I guess the 12+ miles and more than a mile vertical drop from today took its toll. My knees did feel good though. I don't know if it was the use of the trekking poles but they certainly didn't hurt.
After dinner the rest of the group went back to their tents while I stayed to write. I was joined later by Randy and Nikki doing the same thing. After writing for quite a while (I had an extra day to catch up on at this point) and outlasting Nikki and Randy, I answered nature's call before heading to bed.
Hike Start: Kibo Base Camp at 4708m (15450 ft)
Hike End: Mandara Camp at 2709m (8900 ft)
Hike Coverage: 19 km (12 miles) distance, 2000m (6600 ft) vertical drop
Heading Down (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Trail Through the Saddle (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Walking Towards the Clouds (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Group Photo (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Back Row: Andy, Ryan, Kim, Yoko, Msafiri, Nikki, Alex, Kibacha
Front Row: Hilary, Randy, Alan, Azizi
Dendrosenecio kilimanjari and Mt. Kilimanjaro (Machame Route)
The Trail (Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Randy in Maundi Crater (Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Into the Rainforest
(Machame Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
More pictures from today:
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