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Day 1 - 31st January 2019
I have been waiting years for this day to come, and like every time something big is about to happen, my mind is so far away. A million problems, no answers, anxiety attacks at work and so on.
Usually, I don’t realise I am doing something special until I am in the middle of it.
This year I finally made it to Africa, and after a few days in Kenya, I arrived in Tanzania, ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
My health issues prevented me from training properly, and even though I have been practising the Wim Hof Method (read more about it here), I am worried about the cold weather.
Anyway, I am here, and so far so good.
On day one my guide William picked me up from the Hotel in Moshi, and after meeting the whole crew, we drove to Londorossi National Park Gate to register. It was quite a surprise: the team was not just me, the guide and one porter as I expected. Instead, I had seven people taking care of me. William explained to me that there are not fixed tests along the route and the number of people hired was to cover all the necessities. They had to bring everything, from tents to food. That was unexpected, and I am worried that this whole lot of unwanted attention is going to mess up with my need for solitude and independence. I cannot do anything about it, so I better suck it up and carry on with the trip.
After the registration, every porter had to go through a weighting zone. They should not carry more than 30 kg each; therefore every bag and every basket is carefully checked and weighted by the Park’s rangers.
With all formalities completed, we took off and drove to Lemosho Gate where the walk starts.
After a leisurely two hours walk thrush dense and lush forest we reached the camp in Mti Mkubwa, at 2.650m.
During the walk, I got to familiarise with my team, and even though none of them would speak proper English, we manage to communicate. They are accustomed to this job and would walk fast to get to reach every camp before me to make it ready by the time I arrive. As I said, too much attention.
I enjoyed the walk very much, and the rainforest I walked through was just spectacular.
Mount Kilimanjaro has five different climate zone. The first one, the Cultivation Zone, starts from 800m up until 1800m, and the area is dedicated to agriculture and coffee bean plantation.
The second zone is the rainforest, that ranges from 1800m to approximately 3000m. Tomorrow I will enjoy a bit more of the gorgeous and vibrant colours of the forest before reaching the next camp at 3.550m. It’s funny thinking I will walk through a different climate zone every day.
It’s tea time now. Chef Eli made for me some popcorn. Way too much attention.
Day 2 - 1st February 2019
The second day went by nicely and smoothly, the 7km walk took a bit less than 4 hours to complete. I enjoyed the last section of the green rainforest that thins out to give space to the third climate zone, the Mooreland. The area is characterised by low-growing vegetation, and I can smell different odours. The weather changed and is way chiller, but that didn’t stop me from jumping into the creek as soon as I arrive at the camp Shira 1. Well, I trained to spend time in cold weather, so why not take a dip in a cold creek at 3.650m altitude?
The camp stands at the centre of Shira Plateau, at the foothill of Shira Cathedral, the smallest of the three peaks present in Mount Kilimanjaro, that was formed after the third last eruption, around 2 million years ago.
Mawenzi is the second highest cone of Mount Kilimanjaro, extinct just as Shira, unlike Kibo, which is dormant but could erupt again.
Enough information for today, I better sleep because I have a long walk to do tomorrow.
Day 3 - 2nd February 2019
What a day. From Shira Camp 1 I left the moorland plateau behind to walk on lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the Western Breach. During the trek, I entered the Alpine Desert zone to reach Lava Tower, a 100 meters tall rock formation formed by lava erupted from Kilimanjaro.
I then descended to Barranco camp, at the bottom of the Great Barranco Valley. William showed me the route we will take tomorrow. We will have to climb a steep wall. I am afraid he was not joking.
Day 4 - 3rd February 2019
He wasn’t joking. Today I had to climb the monstrous Barranco Wall.
In the end, it was a pleasant experience, I went pole pole, as they say here (In Swahili it means “slowly slowly”). You don’t need any technical skill, just a lot of patience. It took around 1 and a half hours to climb the steep 257 meters cliff, scrambling up the wall watching every step.
The walk continued for another couple of hours till Karanga Camp, which is the last water point of the trek. From tomorrow the guys of my team will have to carry water for all of us that will have to last for two whole days.
I spent the afternoon resting and wandering around, dreaming about the wonderful sky I saw last night. I have been waking up in the middle of the night fighting the freezing temperatures to do some night photography. I don’t have my tripod with me, but somehow I managed to take some decent shots.
Day 5 - 4th February 2019
After watching a beautiful sunset over the valley, I slept like a baby, and woke up refreshed, ready to reach Barafu camp. Four hours walking through the dry and stony desert with a majestic view of the top of Kilimanjaro. It seems so far away, and it is hard to believe tomorrow I will be standing there, on the rooftop of Africa.
Day 6 - 5th February 2019
The big day is over. I loved it, and I hated it hate it at the same time.
Today I walked for 15 hours.
I woke up around 11.30 pm last night, and after a quick meal, I headed to the starting point of the ascent. Today I was going to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The base camp was packed with groups of people from all over the world. It seems I was the only lonely wolf who dare to try this experience by herself.
At 00.30 am we all headed to the summit track, like a herd of sheep, one after the other, on the narrow trail with headlights lighting our steps.
We were in the middle of the night, it was pitch black. I could have a feeling of the difficulty of the walk measuring the angle of the luminous trail left by the trekkers before me, like a firefly thread, heading up at a 45º.
It was freezing, and unfortunately, I listened to my guide, that against my will made me wear all the clothes I had with me. That resulted in an excruciating uncomfortable 8 hours hike. I was hot all the time and given the number of layers I had to wear every step was a pain the arsh. I was barely able to move, sweating all the time, and having breaks to pee was a nightmare. It took me an average of 7 minutes to do so.
My snail pace was irritating the people behind me, everyone was passing me, but I couldn’t care less. I had to go as slow as I could, because of my heart condition. I have a mitral valve prolapse since when I was born, and because of that I have lived in a horrible bubble, forced by my paranoid parents to avoid any possible physical activity.
The doctor advised me that because of that I am more prone to have altitude sickness. During my trek to Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes I never had problems, also because I had plenty of time to acclimatise, but here, the ascent is rapid. After a couple of hours, I started to have a mild headache that lasted the whole day.
I sucked it up and carried on, and in 7 hours I was at Stella Point, the rim of Kibo crater at the 5.756m altitude. From there, another 170m climb would take me to the top. The 1km walk took almost 1 hour, following the rim of the crater. I was exhausted, I climbed all night long, but my mood was so up high because I was about to reach the top of Africa. I walked, pole pole, slowly slowly, until I made it.
And I was happy.
Once there, I walked around a little bit like a zombie; I wanted to breathe the air, to feel the spirit of the place. I took the ritual pictures and sat down for a few minutes. It was -10º, but I was boiling underneath all those layers.
On the way back I enjoyed the view of the thousands years old glaciers. The Eternal Ice or Arctic Zone is the last climate zone of Mount Kilimanjaro, although things are changing. The size of glaciers are decreasing and will probably be gone for good in a decade.
After a short break, I headed back to the camp. The descent was harder than I expected, the track was very steep and incredibly dry and slippery. I hurt my feet countless time; I had to strip and remove lots of layers, that means I ended up carrying everything on my back, which wasn’t fun.
Once at the camp, I packed my stuff quickly and headed to the last stop.
The guys set up my tent and cooked for me a huge amount of food I cannot finish; I am about to pass out.
Day 7 - 6th February 2019
I passed out and slept like a baby. My last night in the mountains.
I woke up early and walked into the forest, while everyone was still sleeping. The smell of the mountain was so fresh.
In a few hours, I reached Mweka village, and from there a driver took me back to Moshi.
My team left and all of them went back to their villages; I could not have made it without them. The company I booked the trek with, Absolute Africa, really thought of everything I highly recommend them to whoever wants to try an adventure in Africa. They have a huge range of tour and activities to choose from.
This trip has been a big achievement for me, I walked more than 70 km in seven days, up to 5.895m.
Now in my hotel room, I look at the pile of smelly clothes I have to wash, admiring my dirty nails, thinking I did very well.
It’s time now to get ready to meet the big 5.