I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked, but on the plus side I still hadn’t developed a headache. The clouds had disappeared lower down the mountain, and the African sun was pulling no punches; it was scorching!
Kibo is now visible at last with the glacier crowning the peak, finally seeing where I am heading gave me extra energy to compensate for the lack of sleep. The trail up to midday was nothing too strenuous, however it is very dusty, far worse than the Himalayas. My snood was put to full use, and it is a must have for this trip. The low Oxygen is certainly noticeable now also, but it didn’t hinder nor make the morning difficult.
Once we emerged above the rainforest, we could see that we were above the cloud level. In the distance peeking out of this vast white fluffy carpet, stood Mt. Meru, in Kenya. For lunch we stopped at a group of boulders to eat our sandwiches. I perched on one, enjoying a cool breeze that picked up. It had been so hot to this point I had consumed all the water in my backpack bladder, all I had left was half of the contents of my water bottle.
I relaxed in the sunshine with Meru in the distance. White Collared Ravens were also interested in my lunch, watching me attentively for any crumbs or scraps I’d throw their way. At the shout of “Twende Twende” (Let’s go Let’s go), lunch was over, and we donned our packs to make the last 2 hours to Shira Plateau.
The incline from this point increased suddenly, the route became more difficult to navigate as it became rockier and more unstable. The dust seemed to thicken, and I was caked in it. I developed a headache and my sinuses felt tight, my throat was extremely dry, likely due to the dust rather than altitude.
As I trudged on, I noticed that the moon was still visible in the sky, and it looked odd. It took me a few seconds to figure out why, and it was because I am now in the Southern hemisphere. The first time in my life have gone below the equator. The moon to me is upside down!
The sun didn’t relent, and I was thankful to reach the Shira Plateau (3962m) where it was a gentle stroll to camp. Moses welcomed me and offered to carry my backpack to my tent. As soon as I sat down, I kicked off my boots and gaiters. I immediately grabbed the pack of baby wipes for a “Whore’s/Corby wash” (if you don’t know what one of these are, check out my Himalayan Adventure blog).
I took some ibuprofen and applied some tiger balm for good measure. I then just admired the view from my tent out over the valley I had just climbed, however it is now blanketed with the clouds; but Meru was still visible.
I took a stroll around the plateau to visit the ‘Shira Cave’. On the first ascents of Kili, the cave was used as a shelter, however it has eroded from the years of use, reducing it to a fraction of its size. It is prohibited to shelter in it now, but I still got a picture inside!
On the way back to camp I got chatting to one of the guides, Samuel. He was telling me how much the glacier has receded over the 10 years he had been working as a guide/porter on Kili. A clear sign of the effects of global warming; he told me that there is now a lack of water travelling down the mountain, and it’s affecting the eco systems of the rainforest that covers most of the national park.
He also gave a bit of background on the Porters. For each group that climbs Kili, all the porters are from one tribe. So, each group will have a unique tribe to carry their gear. Every night at their camp, they would all dine, sing and dance together.
Once I returned to camp, it was time to answer the call of nature. This was a funny moment for me. For all the camps on the plateau, unless you were with the posh party that had their own toilet tent. We all had to share two long drops. One had a porcelain toilet over the hole, next to it, was the standard hole in the floor, squat type; plenty of these in the Himalayas.
There was a long queue for the porcelain toilet, that was in a right state having visited that one earlier. There was no queue for the hole, clearly these trekkers weren’t that well-travelled! I gave the line a quizzical look then walked past them all and entered the vacant toilet.
I then went to the mess tent for dinner before returning to my tent to catch the sunset. The clouds had moved up causing the summit of Meru to look like a shark’s fin, piercing a fluffy white sea to a golden backdrop, as the sun sank below the surface.