– Update from the team –
Kilimanjaro National Park
Day 1 – Saturday January 23rd 2010
Machame Gate 1800m – Machame Camp 3000m
We left the main gate saying farewell to our trusty leader Laura and for many of us it felt like our first day at school. All this preparation and we were finally here – doing what we had talked up all year.
Our minds were put to rest (or at least just distracted) by a chorus of near on 80 porters all in 3peaks3weeks t-shirts singing to us as we began our ascent. What a great way to start – to hear those that can in fact sing and to not have to listen to those in our team who can’t (not mentioning names).
We were greeted en route with a picnic lunch. Don’t be fooled into thinking pre-made sandwhiches on the side of the road. Not for us ‘posh’ walkers. We were surprised (blown away in fact) to see a table set up (table cloth at all) with sandwhich meat, salad, bread rolls, Cheese (the crazy cow one), chocolate, muffins, poppers (Juice boxes) and heaps of fruit. We were the envy of the other walkers and some were overheard to be saying to their guides ‘why didnt we get that’ – it was a little embarrassing actually but we persevered.
We gained a lot of altitude and were able to indulge in some great animal spotting and enjoying some really beautiful rainforest-esque scenery. The walk itself was fairly pleasant though for the team that has had the 2 previous mountains to ourselves our biggest challenge was ‘sharing’ the mountain and the trails with others. Sarah and Tracie quickly made friends however and soon after near on everyone on Kili was well informed about 3peaks3weeks.
We were greeted by a band of singing porters and guides being led by Simba (the enforcer) and for those of us who had lost our ‘stage fright’ we were able to partake and show off some pretty gnarly dance moves. Still couldn’t sing in tune though and to be honest, most of us we’re making the words up.
A great dinner and the team were elated to be again reunited with Simba! We all learnt that Jeanne is in fact marrying the man of her dreams after Heather entertained us with her fortune telling skills. Niamh on the other hand may soon be living in a tree house. Apologies to her family who thought she would be returning to the London. Arusha and ‘love’ call!
Day 2 – Sunday January 24th
Machame Camp 3000m – Shira Camp 3840m
A short but challenging walk. It was half the distance but was a lot steeper and more challenging.
Not much conversation or singing on this day as none of us had any spare breath – lets blame it on the altitude….Hmmm!
The team was split on this day and it did appear that what was dividing us would never been reconciled. The song that the team learnt at SIC was loosely implanted in half the teams minds and it became somewhat of a mantra. The remaining team members (mainly disgusted in our inability to get the tune, words and pronunciation correct) described it as “nails down a chalk board” Tracie Neuhaus Jan 2010 and “I want to poke my eyes out every time I hear you not sing that” Jeanne Dear Circa 2010….Those of us ‘affected’ by the song preserved however and we did manage to learn the words, corrupt porters and guides with song and started our own secret ‘mason’ style group where greetings and interactions would be stated (not sung) to the lyrics. The song will live on – and if we could up load our rendition (for ring tones and alarm clocks etc) we would but alas, the technology fails us and so you will have to wait until our return. I promise it will be worth it! – It was overheard that the song may be a regular feature on Kili with our guides adopting it. A Rap version is also available – for release in Feb 2010. All proceeds going to SIC.
A rest in the afternoon allowed Sarah and Jess some good ‘stalking’ time – though Sarah is adamant that she is not a stalker – more a paparazzi. Jess and Harvey took some time out to give each other a wee make over. We were going for an Ema inspired dreadlock hair-do but ended up looking ridiculous in Gerry curls and in many of the photos look in fact like young boys. Not a new fashion (and not for the faint hearted).
Simba was presented with a team present, one that he surprisingly really took to. Boo presented Simba with a Lion mask (for his name sake) and he was from then on not seen without it. When it was not practical to wear it, it was attached safely and carefully to his back pack. Often he would wear it around his neck or actually on as he served us his ‘welcome soup-o’ and dinner.
Day 3 – Monday January 25th
Shira Camp 3840m – Barranco Camp 3950m
An early start up and over the ridge. Today we went high, Could have gone higher! Went to 4600m and then pack down to 3950m . All we’re feeling strong and enjoyed the challenge that the day presented. All eager, nervous and excited about pending summit. Sarah struggled with the stalking but did manage to find new victims within our own camp. The girl has got talent.
We learnt new card games and enjoyed sitting in the tent and chatting – some things at altitude seem really funny but as I write this, well…it just isn’t funny anymore. It was all in all a fairly uneventful day. We enjoyed some great scenery – some very sparse environments and some great laughs – but again, it doesn’t translate at sea level.
The toileting experience slash ordeal was relieved somewhat with the arrival of a travelling port-a-pottie. Known affectionately as the heaven box as it rivaled the ‘hell boxes’ we had previously been enduring. Now we feel posh!
Day 4 – Tuesday – AUSTRALIA DAY
Baranco Camp 3950m – Karanga Camp 3963m
What better way to wake up then to hear the lovely dolcet tones of Jess shouting
Jess: “Harvey my love, are you awake?”
Harvey: “Yes my love – are you?”
Jess: “Happy Australia Day”
Harvey: “Oh EEK – Woot”
Jess to Boo: “Boo are you awake?”
So on and so forth…..it was a glorious day to be an Aussie and the team (god bless them) got behind it all and into the spirit. Words were shorted eg Devo for devastated, Brekkie for Breakfast and Tracie even came up with her own one for anti bacterial. If you guessed she said ‘Anti-bac’ you deserve a round of app….That’s aussie for applause.
All team members and main guides were surprised to find mini koalas and tattoos at brekkie (just to test you again). Simba allowed us to put his on his forehead and wore it proudly for the day. The aussie sang for the team whilst the team politely looked on in a less then impressed way – Jeanne in particular looked bewildered. I think for the most part she couldn’t understand what was being said or was worried that her ears would bleed for the sound being made under the loose term of singing.
A reasonably short and easy day though it was in places straight up and then straight down. Testing the knees. We were lucky to have our most ‘zen like’ guide with us who assisted us with the bare handed rock climbing sections – would put Bear Grylls to shame. Those petrified of heights (Amy, Shelidan, Rachel and Did I mention Amy) managed with the task with realitive calm and were able to follow all steps and advice from God’ie with relative ease.
The team were all in great spririts (something to do with it being Aussie day I think) and sang, chatted and carried on for the most part of the day. Again the Yanks did well to pretend to understand the Aussie humour as quotes from famous Aussie movies were repeated over and over. Apparently they didn’t have sub titles for the Castle in America so many hadn’t seen it.
We had a late lunch and relaxed at camp for the afternoon. All is great spirits and managing really well with the walking. Generally, we were all just having such a great time and really enjoying the ‘challenge’
Day 5 – Wednesday 27th January
Karanga Camp 3963m – Barafu Camp 4600m
With such at effort to ready ourselves it seemed almost a little unnecessary. This was by far the easiest day of any of our days here in Africa. It was a leisurely stroll for the most part (with the exception of the rock climbing bit) and were arrived at camp about 3 hours after we left the previous.
The walk would have only taken half the time if were needing to stop every 20 or so minutes for ‘bathroom’ breaks – a hazard of all that retched magi we’ve been forced to drink and of course the altitude.
Unfortunately the walk to Barafu camp is fairly sparse and so ‘toilet privacy’ was also. A team member who shall remain nameless upon finishing her ‘break’ looked up to see 2 others immediately above her and in view of all porters coming up the main track. Would have been a great Kodak moment.
Of course our ‘welcome tea’ was ready and waiting and Simba was ready for ‘wash wash’ – The team has definitely gotten to used to the incredible service and the reality of having to get our own tea when we get home is causing some upset amongst us.
We had lunch and had the strict instructions to take it ‘easy’ but to try not to sleep. Jess, Boo, Tracie and Shelidan always wanting to be sure of what is expected wanted to clarify ‘sleep’ and asked if they were lying down but with eyes open (or just one??) is that still OK?
Harvey and Sarah following the instruction not to sleep got a little ‘restless’ –and opportunistic. As Ema our head guide was lying with one eye open (and definitely NOT sleeping) they staged an attack on his beloved Chelsea flag! – breaking camp rules and going some what faster then pole pole as they fled with the flag they narrowly escaped the full blame and gaze of Ema who looked bewildered and somewhat shattered about his prize possession having gone missing – who puts a flag on their tent anyway.
Porters and guides were ‘employed’ to assist with planting clues and a treasure hunt followed – for the final clue leading him to an Arsenal flag. The near sight of a grown man crying was too much and his flag was returned. Oh how we laughed….altitude induced false sense of hilarity is a hazard of the mountain.
Early dinner, a briefing that put the fear of god in us and off to bed for the final surge to Uhuru point. Very excited – EEK, and also a little freaked out.
Day 6 – Thursday January 28th SUMMIT NIGHT!
Barafu Camp 4600m – Uhuru Peak 5896m – Barafu Camp 4600m – Mweka Camp 3100m
We were awoken at 11pm with the strict instructions to pack for the COLD COLD COLD, pack lots of Magi (Water), snacks and be ready to hit the trail by 12. We were treated to peanut butter and Nutella on toast supplied by the crew and special supplies from Jess and Shelidan.
We left excited/nervous and little upset as our Chief Camp Operator Simba would not be coming up with us.
Pole Pole was more evident this climb then previously but this was more due to the hazardous traffic jam on the mountain – can you believe it! At one point we were overtaken by 2 groups on either side of us – but we made up ground and played neck and neck with many groups as we all made our gradual ascent.
We oscillated between excited/ecstatic to horrible depressed, angry, cold and bitter – Jess was overheard yelling at the ‘slower’ groups in front of us “Move off the path if you’re not walking – we’re freezing”. She was shhh’d by our head guide by encouraged by cheers and salutations by the rest of the group. Her comments were ‘translated’ into swahilli when one of the guides attempted to ‘encourage’ the queue with ‘haruka haruke (fast fast)’ and ‘chop chop’ – it was fun and scary at the same time as some of us thought that a mountain brawl was ensuing.
The first 3 hours we progressed with patience and persistence. Some of us completely unaware of where those hours went. I for one have no recollection at all but can say that I’ve made full mental preparations of some wedding presents I need to arrange. Strange things occur at altitude. We were all given a HUGE boast when a strange looking man sporting a lion mask (strangely similar to the one we had given our ‘simba’ was seen lurking on a ascent bend. It took us all a good little while to realize that this strange beast was in fact our Simba and for many of us this proved to be a huge boost and changed our ascent campaign. Simba arranged for all the porters to sing (Gregorian chant style) for most of the remaining ascent and also partook in some mountain heckling – for those taking rest breaks on the path.
The guides were phenomenal and there aren’t words to explain just how much we’ve all appreciated them and how much we are all going to miss them – Stockholm syndrome perhaps but their support and guidance has been invaluable and particularly for those among us who were affected quite harshly by the altitude.
Boo again was a shining example of the mental strength that this challenge requires as she was taking quite ill during the ascent bid. Not once did any of us hear her contemplating not making summit. For Boo it was never an option. She did make it and we were so lucky to have all 11 of us on Summit at the same time. A very incredible, overwhelming and rewarding experience to finalise a huge 14 months!
Time at the top was brief – we were all able to walk unassisted down though some others around us were not so fortunate with many of us a little dismayed by the sight of grown men being dragged by their porters for their legs not working. Some with eyes rolling around or only barely coherent. The majority of the team descended with our guide Daniel who it seems has now learnt the word ‘Haruka’ and took them on a very fast paced descent. Many of the team taking much of the journey on their derriere’s – our resident Giraffe Amy being one of those but if we were beting people we probably would have known that. Rachel had the assistance of Simba on the way down who followed closely behind – literally behind, arms stretched out either side of her in anticipation…..The bulk of the team returned to camp at 10:30 for a rest (if they could bare the blazing sweat box tents).
Heather and Sarah made the descent with God’ie at a more leisurely pace – allowing Sarah the opportunity to take photos of EVERYTHING along the way (we’re talking EVERYTHING – rocks, pebbles, rubbish en route and her favorite ‘toilet’ stops. Poor God’ie was even roped into a few and the good man that he is even appeared to be enjoying himself.
Boo, Harvey, Ema and Noah were a little later as Boo the little aussie Battler that she is struggled down the Moutain. Harvey found herself in a constant state of ‘lying’ to boo to help her with ‘its only a little further’ – technically this was true but with Boo feeling absolutely wrecked, a little further was not exactly accurate. We had many stops along the way and made friends with others who were also taken ill.
We had a quick lunch of Potato fries and roast chicken which usually would have been the highlight of our day (generally meal times tend to be the focus of much of our attention). To Simba’s dismay a lot of us hardly managed one serving for exhaustion and the reality that we no longer needed to eat ‘alitiude amounts’. Simba was too tired also for all his enthusiasm and excitement on the mountain (Did I mention that Simba also brought Hot tea up to Summit for us) to chastise us – a minor victory.
We left straight after lunch for our descent to Mweka camp. All were tired and a little sore but we made it in good time and were afforded a little nap before dinner. Boo made it down shortly after and again the team were back together – elated to have conquered our three peaks, depressed to be leaving soon and the reality that this would be our last dinner with Simba and that Tomorrow would be our last Simba ‘bed tea’ and that the HUGE journey was coming to an end. Our Giraffe is already in planning for South America next year and many of us are keen to have our reunion there – if our bank accounts allow us.
Day 7 – Friday January 29th
Mweka Camp 3100m – Mweka Camp – THE END! – GUTTED!