It wasn't easy, but I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!!! The whole experience took me a total of 6 days (4 going up, 2 coming down). There are about 10 differnet routes you can take to go up Kili that all eventually lead to the much anticipated Uhuru Peak. I took the ever popular Marangu Route.
Me at the Marangu gate
Stuff along the way...
When you first enter the Marangu gate, you are in what appears to be a rain forest. Complete with exotic plants, flowers and monkies. It is a trek of about 7 km until you reach the first camp, Mandara. Its not that bad of a walk. The only thing I take issue with are all the rocks. To be specific, the rocks on the road. It just makes the trek that much harder.
I arrived at the Mandara camp in the early afternoon. This is when I learn one of the most irriating local customs (or atleast when they are dealing with travellers), the food. The food is delicous. But its three 4 course meals a day plus snacks. Do they think every westerner is morbidly obese? During the entire trek, I did not finish a single meal.
I went to see some crater while at Mandara. I forget what its called.
I also looked at the small town of Rongai (there is also a Rongai route up the mountain). Just beyond the town, is Kenya. But don't worry mom, this the closest I ever got to Kenya.
After spending the night at Mandara, I head off for the next camp, Horombo. The surroundings of this part of the trek are vastly different from the previous one. This was far more serengeti-like. No tree is much taller than I am and the only animal in sight is the occaisional crow. Or at least I thought they were crows. One thing I really didn't care for about this part of the trek is how intense the sun is and the absense of any shade. Thanks to my years of dicipline in regaurds to sun, they only burn I suffered was on my right hand (my walking stick hand). Try keeping that in the shade! I ended up putting one of my winter gloves on it.
On the way to Horombo, with Kili in the background.
Anyway, so I see the camp in the distance and breifly toss the pole pole rule aside. I see the presence of shade the resides inside the cabins and haul ass up a giant hill of rocks. And that is when I wipe out and bruise both knees. I told you, rocks just make everythng harder. I guess pole pole is useful for more than just altitude. It is at this altitude, 3700 meters, that you are at level with the clouds. One of the biggest concerns with Kili is altitude sickness. It is highly reccomended that you spend an extra night at Horombo camp to better aclimitise. So that is exactly what I did. I rush to my cabin to see that I am bunking with two young nurses from Portland, USA that are on their way down.
Rose, myself and Heather with Kili in the background
They are fresh out of school and are taking some time off before working full time. I trade travel stories with the nurses before eating one more 4 course dinner and heading off to bed.
During my second day at Horombo, I went to see what are called the 'Zebra Rocks'. Probably the only rocks worth appreating in the entire trek. After taking a few pictures for myself, a climbing from Korea shows up, and apparently, Canadians are very popular with Koreans. To the point where they actually asked me if I would have my photo taken with them! It was like 'Do I resemble a famous Korean or something?' Anyhoo, after chatting with my fanbase for a little bit, I head back to camp. When I arrive at my room, there are two women from the Ukraine inside. They are on their way down as well. One is fine, but one is very ill. A little forshadowing to what my future may have instore.
So after Horombo, I take off for Kibo. This day is still very different from the previous two. Kibo is nothing but sand, rocks, and more rocks. No vegetation and very little wildlife. Lovely. I arrive at Kibo it is incredibly bleak. There is no running water, washrooms, or much of anything. So I unload my stuff onto my bed and start figuring out what I need for my final assault up this mountain. At this very moment when some french newlyweds walk into my room. While the wife has no serious signs of altitude sickness, the husband is very ill. I gave him some pepto bismal that I had with me, but it doesn't seem to help (I carry so many OTC drugs with me, I think I may have been a pharmacist or a junkie in a past life or something). He has to descend, and she goes with him. Its so sad when you put so much effort into a goal, and then have to bail out at the last minute.
Soon the cook comes into the room. I tell him, 'Look, you can feed me into unconsciousness any other time, but now is not the time for a major stomach ache.'. He responds by to my request by serving me one very large serving of pasta. The best he can do, I suppose. I try my best, but as I have said, I never finished a single meal while on this trek.
So this is it. The time where we seperate the women from the girls, the men from the boys, the Canadians from the pansies. I dress up in 5 layers and head off for my final asscent. A few minutes after I start climbing, its clear that people who put emphasis on cold it is are NOT Canadian. I ended up removing my beleclava and sweater within a few minutes. There is no way I can keep trekking in 40 degree heat. This is when I really start to dislike my guide.
From the very beginning, I felt that he pressured me to go too fast. Completely against the 'pole pole' rule. We'll be hiking up this mountain for at least 7 hours no matter what. If we don't go as slowly as humanly possible and take breaks, we'll tire ourselfs out. And I'm not going let that happen to me. So after 5 hours of climbing uphill sand followed by 1 hour of climbing over boulders in complete darkness (My flashlight went through 4 batteries in the first 4 hours), I made it to Gilmen's Point. I stopped and had a well earned Mars Bar. It was like eating chocolate brick with the cold, but it was still good. After comsuming chocolate bar at record speed and sitting a bit longer, I headed to the very coveted Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Next to actually reaching the summit, this part was my absolute favorite. With the sun coming up on my left hand side, the snow-covered crator on my right, it felt as if this mofo of a mountain and I were the only things in existace. Looking over the horizon, I can see that the clouds are far beneath me. It was indescribable.
On Feburary 6th 2008 at 7:35am, I set foot on Uhuru Peak. After placing my Canadian flag sticker on the sign(that read, 'Ashley Churchill was here 06/02/08) I pose for my photo op. I step aside and let the other climbers have their turns and soak up the feeling of being on 'The roof of Africa'.
So I start heading back down and it wasn't 10 minutes after leaving the summit that I starting feeling completely nautious and very queezy. It took me almost as much time going up, as it did going down. But of course, this wouldn't be my story without a little extra drama. During the three hours from Kibo camp to Horombo, where I am to spend the night, it rains. And rains hard. So I arrive at Horombo nautious, exausted, wet and freezing. I go to my room and there stand 5 middle aged men from various corners of the world. They are part of a cllimbing group that are on their way up. I stand there shivering while my porter comes to bring me my bag. One of them asks "Are you not well?" I explain that the descent was not too kind to me and I just spent the last three hours walking in the rain. From that second, they treated me as if I were their own child. 'You shouldn't be in those wet clothes, put on my sweater. ...Put on my beanie ...Take my enormous spaceman coat.' Within a few hours, I start feeling much better. Getting warm again makes a huge difference. By the next morning, I feel well enough to take on the 19 km walk back to the park gate. It rains most of the way. But I am far too motivated to get back to my hotel to care. Along the way, I notice that my lips and left hand are considerably swollen.
My left hand
My Right Hand
At the gate, I receive my certificate that says that I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I shower, have dinner, and fall alseep all in the course of 45 minutes.