Mount Kilimanjaro, September 6th

I woke up at 4:30 am.  Rolling over, I decided to stay in the warmth of my down sleeping bag for another hour.

Facing the tent wall, waiting for the sun to come up, I let my mind wander.  Oh, how I wish I could wash my hair that is covered in dust!

I thought about when I was little, how much I hated washing my hair because the shampoo stung my eyes.  I remembered on the rare occasion that my father was home, he would put an ottoman on the bathroom floor, butt it right up against the side of the bath tub, have me lay on the ottoman on my back, with my head hanging over the bath tub.  He would then cradle the back of my head in his one hand, and with his other hand wash my hair.  He would even fold up a small towel and cover my eyes with it, so that water won’t spray into my eyes.

I thought about camping with my friend, Karen, at Galiano Island a few weeks ago.  I remembered waking up one morning to see the sun filtering through the tent walls, filling the inside of the tent with light, and how it made her blonde hair shine so vibrantly like it was alive.

I thought about how lucky I was to be married to my bestfriend, who was lying next to me.  A few years ago, Cliff would have never agreed to climb Kilimanjaro with me.  I don’t know what has changed, but he seems to be more willing to try new things now than ever.  We have influenced each other in opposite ways.  I’d like to think that he has enjoyed the adventures I’ve dragged him into for the last few years.  By the same token, he has a great calming effect on my impulsive nature.

I eventually got out of the tent around 6 am, just as the sun was rising over Kenya.  It was 4 C, but felt much colder.  The sky turned from black into a dark purple, then various shades of orange and pink, and finally lit up as the sun came above the horizon.

This turned out to be a fairly grueling day of 8 1/2 hours of hiking, gaining almost 4,000 ft in elevation.  The gorgeous morning began with not a cloud in the sky.  It was about 25 C when we set off at 9 am.  We hiked on an exposed dusty trail on a constant incline, with view of Mawenze and Kibo the whole time.  From Simba Camp, the top of Kilimanjaro really didn’t look very far.  I learned later that looks are deceiving.

We stopped at 2nd Cave for a picnic lunch, and began the afternoon hike.  By this time, clouds rolled in and wind started to blow.  It dropped to 18 C.  At least the hike was through a more varied terrain in the afternoon, allowing us to rest our legs on the flat spots.  There was miles of burned ground from fires, filling the area with small charred brushes and a golden grass.  The sun was trying hard to shine through the clouds, diffusing its light into a beautiful glow.

I developed a headache after lunch, and it lasted all afternoon.  This was when I knew that the effect of altitude was starting to set in.  We reached our camp site in the shadow of Kilimanjaro–Kikilawa– at 5:30 pm.  It is roughly 12,000 ft high.

Half of the team didn’t feel like eating dinner this night.  Losing one’s appetite is a typical reaction to altitude.  Aside from my headache, I was feeling just fine.  I ate enough to make up for everyone else.

It was a very cold night.  Frost formed on our tents.  I was exhausted from the day’s hike, and slept like a baby.



The toilet situation was of great interest amongst people I’ve talked to about Kilimanjaro.  Here are a few pictures (a pit toilet hut, inside the pit toilet hut and yes it smells bad, and a privacy tent with a portable toilet set up by the porters at every camp site):


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