The amazing thing about Kili is that you basically pass through four seasons and at least 4 different surroundings. By seasons I mean within the space of 5 minutes you can go through an extreme downpour or be boiling or even be freezing cold. For that reason your day pack has to be somewhat flexible. Your daypack HAS to have your rain equipment and by that I mean your rain jacket, waterproof pants or/and a poncho. After the second day I even had a sweater around my waist all the time. By the different surroundings I mean that day 1 was a rainforest, day 2 is the moorlands, day 3 is a semi-desert, day 4 is an alpine desert, day 5 is Stone scree and day 6 is snow capped summit and day 7 is forest again.
So along with the fact that after about the third day you are alongside clouds and can see Mount Meru and the other parts of this gigantic mountain you are also changing surroundings everyday. Mount Meru is another mountain in Moshi that is known for its beautiful scenery – it is also much steeper than Kili but is about a 3 to 4 day hike if I am not mistaken.
The most beautiful thing in my opinion was seeing Kili’s peak. Because it was not always visible when it came into visibility it was truly beautiful. It was during the nights that it was really gorgeous but I was always too lazy to bring out my camera and come back out and take a picture – I figured I would google it. – they probably would have a better picture too.
In terms of wildlife – I didn’t really see much – I saw mice and rats a few times and a couple of birds but that was about it.
Our walk from karanga to barafu was not that strenuous. It was a 3 hour hike and then we got to Barafu. Barafu itself means Ice. As we climbed up and signed in we saw that we were right below the peak of this amazing mountain that we had been climbing for 5 days. We could see the path that we would walk along but little did I know that what I was seeing was just the tip of this iceberg. This camp site was much smaller than the rest and we all knew we were here to climb this peak at midnight. This campsite was also much colder than the rest. We got in and because I hadn’t slept so well the night before I got some good sleep between 12 and 3. Then we had our tea around 4 and our dinner at 5 so that we could get some rest. We were told that we were to be woken up at 11:00 pm and we would be served tea and biscuits and start our ascent at 12 :00 am. When I had heard other people who had climbed kili talking about summitting at midnight – it seemed so legendary and dramatic and now that it was my turn – I kind of dreaded waking up in the freezing cold in the dark of the night and summiting – the sun always did good to me. Freddy came to the tent to debrief us like he did after every dinner and reminded us not to think about anything and just get some rest.
The scenery was gorgeous – we were surrounded by cliffs and the clouds were literally beneath us.
I did get some good rest between 6 and 11. At one point I needed to get up to go to the bathroom and the bathroom was closer to the other end of my tent and thought about exiting from there but then I remembered that we were surrounded by cliffs on that side and opted for the normal way out J. When I came out I saw that it was snowing outside J. Weirdly enough it was a pleasant surprise being surrounded by the snow. At 11 James came to wake us all up.
Today all we needed to pack was our daypack because our stuff would stay in our tent and the porters wouldn’t come up with us but we would all come down and pack our stuff and then descend further after getting to the top.. I wore every layer I had and that was about 5 on top along with my jacket from Canada and about 4 on the bottom half. We were given tea and biscuits and I took a pack for the road. I don’t know why we were only given tea even though this was said to be the toughest part of the climb – anyways..
We all had our head lamps on and started walking towards our UHURU peak. We walked in zig zags as in from left to right and right to left and not straight up this peak. After about half an hour we had to climb up a ridge. It was steep – at least 70 degrees and the altitude was starting to get to me . I would feel like I was zoning out and feeling a little light headed and dizzy. That’s not always the best feeling to have when youre on a 70 degree ridge and even though I was amongst the few who had gotten sleep in the last day I was starting to feel sleepy. It wasn’t even normal sleepy – it was sleepy to a point where if I closed my eyes I would fall asleep and not just rub my eyes sleepy. I had wanted to actually wear my glasses instead of my contacts but Freddy had told me that it was going to get bright later on and it was important that I wear sunglasses later. Contacts themselves have been a mission on the mountain because just keeping your hands clean clean has been an incredible mission – you always have some sort of dirt on your hands and sticking that in your eye never goes well with it.
I know Freddy had told me to keep my snacks for the summit so I started to try and eat some and drink water to keep awake. But just to get to your snacks is a mission if its in your day pack because you have to stop and take them out and well you fall behind the group. I tried to put a few of the snacks into my jacket pocket but my gloves were pretty thick so to get them into those pockets was also a mission.
Water seemed to be the way to keep awake but to the point where I would drink and feel awake for the space of literally a minute and then be falling back asleep. One of the Germans was getting severe headaches. He had been suffering from altitude sickness for a while but then as he drank water it would go away. Alfred and Freddy started to sing – I think they were doing that to keep the morale high.
Energy was seriously starting to run low.(After about the 4th day energy was so low that even taking out your camera or saying hello seemed like a mission.) But at this point on this final climb It seemed like I would need to stop quite often because I was falling asleep but this was after like 3 hours of climbing. At one point I struggled to get the snickers bar from my jacket and after like 3 minutes of struggling and pulling it out it fell into the snow. I remember looking at it and walking on and in hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up and eat it but It may have been that it seemed like to much energy to bend down and pick it up. FYI – Snickers were pretty good for energy throughout the mountain. However on the summit it seemed like everything I ate did not even reach my stomach – it was like it was burned right there on the spot because no hunger of mine was satiated. One of the climbers started talking about giving up and asked Freddy if he should go down and that he wanted to go down. He asked freddy how much further it would be and Freddy said not to far . I laughed to myself because I had just asked Alfred and he said 2 more hours. I wondered how many times they had pulled that on me.
The climb was getting tougher and tougher. It seemed like every peak I climbed was never the Uhuru peak and as we climbed we would see another one appear. He had told me that one of the reasons we climbed at midnight was so that we would not see what we were climbing because if we did we would not want to climb it – due to its steepness. Time did not seem to be going. I was kind of grateful for the cold because it kept things fresh – in the heat we would be in a worse condition. Yet at one point the wind really started to pick up. At one point I even told Alfred “ SIwezi” I can’t – and I know that’s the worst thing to say but a little bit of letting go felt good – I think because I knew I wouldn’t give up. I knew that the only thing I would forgive myself for was if I got sick not if I was tired because everyone got tired up here. Alfred started singing a song whereby he named every camp we had been to and there was no problem – he sang “ Jambo , Jambo bana , Habari Gani Mzuri Sana, Wageni, wakaribishua, Kilimanjaro Hakuna Matata. Ukienda Machame – Hakuna Matata , Ukienda Shira Hakuna Matata, Ukienda Baranko Hakuna Matata, Ukienda Karanga Hakuna Matata, Ukienda Barafu Hakuna Matata , Ukiendad Uhuru Hakuna Matata. “ and I muttered Uhuru – Matata! And we both laughed.
At one point I think I stopped every 10 minutes for some water. After about 5 hours of climbing I saw dawn break. It was beautiful to see the sun coming out and cliché as it may sound it was like there was a ray of hope that warmed me up…that lasted about 2 minutes J.
Soon we were at Gillmans point and then at stella point. We started to see other climbers who had come down from Uhuru and at this point it was about 6am. Stella to Uhuru was relatively flat but still difficult due to the lack of oxygen. We passed by glaciers and were able to see the crater. About 5 minutes before we arrived at Uhuru – Alfred ( who stuck by me the entire climb up ) was like saara where are you going , you know theres still another hour to go ? and I replied with “twende Hakuna Matata – Let’s go – No problem !”
Getting to Uhuru was a big sense of relief. The sun was already out and we were all pretty exhausted but it all seemed like all of that pain disappeared. We all took our pictures and savored this moment. Soon we were back on the descent. It had taken us 7 hours to get to the top and estimated time of travel down the summit was 3 hours. Our pace was faster and our moods were much more jolly. We even started running down the snowy mountain. It was only then that it really dawned on us that we had come to do what we wanted. ( The german was suffering from severe headaches and dizziness though..). Even getting to Barafu and packing our stuff there was still energy but soon that died down knowing that we still had to hike down another 4 hours to Mweka and we had to do it fast before the weather got worse. We got to Mweka at about 4 pm and rested for the rest of the evening. This was the first camp that we couldn’t see the summit from but none of us really seemed to mind – that summit was probably the hardest thing most of us had ever done. I had thought it was just me and my unfitness but I met a fellow Canadian on my descent who has been boxing for 6 years straight ( which is amongst the best sports to keep fit ) and he even said it was the toughest thing he had ever done. Apparently it’s tougher for younger people too because we have less oxygen in our blood or something. Also a lot of young people give up early figuring they can come back and do this whereas the older people are more persevering.
The next day was the last hike – it was a 3 hour hike from Mweka to the end through the rainforests. Along the way we met kids who were picking up wood and grass for their homes and they asked for chocolates – like they knew we would all have chocolates.
I think the best feeling was being at the end and signing the final book stating that we reached UHuru at 6:50 am….climbing Kilimanjaro – one more thing off my bucket list :D.