Not long after I returned from my Kilimanjaro climb, I went to a talk by a guy who jogged the entire length of India and who makes a living giving speeches about the lessons he learns from such journeys. I was greatly impressed until it occurred to me that I also can talk about the lessons I learned from my own journey, even if I don't quite make a living from sharing my experiences.
Technically, this diary entry begins on the morning of Day six. I had left off with having come back to Barafu Camp early on September 7th after reaching the summit after a long and grueling climb the previous night, but our day wasn't nearly over by then. The longest part of it was still to come. This is Part 7 of Kilimanjaro Diaries, the last day on the mountain.
Excerpts from Eva Melusine Thieme's travel memoir "Kilimanjaro Diaries: Or, How I Spent a Week Dreaming of Toilets, Drinking Crappy Water, and Making Bad Jokes While Having the Time of My Life". Day Six: Lonely on the Roof of Africa.
Going from Karanga to Barafu is a relatively easy hike. If you do the Machame Route in six days instead of seven, you'd go all the way from Barranco to Barafu, making it absolutely imperative to get up very early so as not to be delayed at the foot of Barranco Wall, unless you don't mind dragging yourself into Barafu past sunset. But if you have the extra seventh day, you are in no rush.
By now the mornings have gotten very cold. Whatever water you've left outside the night before is frozen by morning. We are grateful once again for the warm morning sun and take our time packing up. Except we should have gotten an earlier start. When we finally get going, we find ourselves at the tail end of a very long line of hikers all waiting their turn to clamber up Barranco Wall.
Today we make sure to pack all our warm stuff in our day packs, because it is bound to get cold at Lava Tower, one of the highest points we will reach this entire week. It's already very chilly in the mornings and like yesterday we eagerly await the sunrise. No sunshine, no washing or brushing teeth, seems to have become my mantra. It is simply too cold to get anything wet.
Wake-up time is 7:15, with the sun still hiding behind the mountain, and we are greeted with bowls of hot water to start the day. What luxury! We wash and file into the mess tent, the need for which wasn't quite so apparent the previous day when it was nice and warm, but in the chilly morning it provides welcome shelter. We are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and this is Day 2.
Before you've even arrived at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, you'll have heard the worlds pole pole, meaning slowly. Apparently, nothing quite equals pole pole in contributing to your success in making it all the way to the summit. In equal measure, however, nothing equals pole pole in contributing to your impatience early on. Pole pole is the only speed things happen on and around Kili.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is something everyone should do at least once in their life. It is a personal journey that will forever be a part of you. You start out with just an idea, a bit crazy perhaps. You cannot wait to get started and at first almost race up that mountainside. And yet Uhuru Peak is so elusive that the closer you get, the farther it seems to be out of reach.
Kilimanjaro climbers start out at some nondescript hotel which then does what all Kilimanjaro base camp hotels do. Within seven days, it will magically transform itself from a dump into a 5-star luxury resort. It will entail such wonders as hot running water and, even more amazing, a toilet. Electric lights. And a bar with a cold beverage. What more can you ask for in life?