Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 3 : Shira 2 Camp to Barranco Camp

I slept so-so last night, I woke up at 02:00 and couldn't get back to sleep for a couple of hours and I'm not sure if it was because I went to bed too early or if the altitude is starting to kick in.  I felt a bit hot so I opened the sleeping bag up and when I awoke again at 06:00 I was just a little bit cold.  The ear plugs really work wonders and I will never go camping without them again.

We had breakfast of maltabella porridge and onion omelette which tasted just great.  I'm sure that if I was in an actual hotel I would be turning my nose up at this fare but just at the moment, it is great.

By 08:30 we were off and trudging up a very long gentle slope that seemed interminable.  It wasn't long after we left that Arthur started walking slower and slower and finally stopped altogether and decided that enough was enough and that he was going down to the same exit point that Marita and Petrie had used last night.  I think that he had just run out of energy and it was very sudden, one moment he was fine  if slow the next he was heading back down so suddenly there were only five of us.  As it turned out, it was just as well because the hill only finally ended at 4600m which is a vertical ascent of 800m in a single hill.

The point of no return for Arthur.

By the time we reached the lunch spot just below Lava Tower at about 4600m Andre had a thunderous headache and Cronje was nauseous and was walking very slowly.  The rest of us were a little breathless and not feeling 100% but not quite sure how to describe it.  Dizzy is close but it didn't feel like I was going to fall down.  Shirley was very worried about Cronje so it was really nice to be able to get everyone out of the biting wind into the lunch tent and Simon playing pappa bear and making sure that everyone eats and drinks sufficiently.  Andre ate a little but not enough in my opinion whereas Cronje seemed to eat well and looked better for having a rest and some food.  He still didn't feel too well so Shirley and Cronje started straight down towards Barranco Camp while Andre, Simon and myself headed up a little bit to Lava Tower which is a relatively impressive chunk of rock.  In the picture below you can see the path leading up to Lava Tower which at low altitude would be a doddle.  At 4500m, it is a bit of an effort.

There is actually a campsite at Lava Tower which I am very happy not to be sleeping in because it is very exposed to the wind which howls through the saddle between Lava Tower and the Kilmanjaro mountain proper.

From Lava Tower it was all downhill all the way to Barranco Camp which really hurt all three of us and we finally made it into Camp at 17:30 expecting to find Shirley and Cronje already there but they were nowhere to be seen which isn't a good sign.

I solved the lack of vegetation problem for a sponge bath by temporarily evicting the toilet from the toilet tent and changing it into a shower house which worked splendidly well.  There is nothing that feels as good as being clean after a hard days slog and because Arthur hadn't arrived, there were four tents available which meant that each of us had a tent to ourselves.  What luxury!  When I opened my tent Arthurs bag was in it so I really hope that he made it off the mountain before night fall.  Spending a night up here without a sleeping bag would not be any fun at all.

Shirley and Cronje finally wandered into camp after dark, I didn't look at the time but I think that it was at about 19:00, with Cronje very much worse for wear.  The camp 'doctor' arrived to check and did a blood oxygen test and Cronje was apparently fine as far as altitude sickness was concerned.  The diagnosis was a touch of the sun as well as a bit of exhaustion so was sent to bed with a cocktail of ibuprofen, gaviscon and some diamox just in case.  We are all keeping our fingers crossed that he feels better tomorrow.  Andre also wasn't feeling too well and struggled to eat and I think he has a lighter touch of the same thing.  I am feeling quite fine as is Simon, tiny bit of a headache but nothing to speak of so I am having a disprin just for good measure.

We were sitting in the mess tent having supper listening to the party going on next door wondering where they get the energy from.  I think that the 20 years that they have on us has something to do with it but in the end they went to bed at the same time as us so maybe they were actually just as tired, just noisier.

The statistics for the day are:
Distance : 10km
Altitude : 200m climbed camp to camp.
kcal : 3300
heartrate : 110 average
walking time : 9 hours

The group is really starting to gel and the concern that Shirley is showing for Cronje is quite touching.  We were laughing a bit at lunch and a few tears came out which Shirley noticed; I said it was the wind but I'm not sure she believed me.  Andre reckons that this is the tiredest that he has ever been.  Simon is quite a star, in spite of being quite tired himself he never stops helping and making or at least trying to make them feel as good as possible.  There is lots I can learn from him.

We had an interesting discussion comparing France with South Africa and the contrast between sophistication and utilitarian and I resolved to make a French meal when I get home where everyone has to prepare something for the meal but in the same kitchen when I get back.

I have been carrying my camera over my one shoulder and it has gone into spasm which Simon sorted out with a great massage but I'm going to have to swap shoulders tomorrow.  The view from Barranco Camp which is in a gorge is quite spectacular and I spent about 30 minutes just sitting and looking out over the clouds.  Incredibly serene.

I finished the evening by taking some moonlit shots of the snow covered peaks above us.  It was a really tough day but one that I really enjoyed and at the end of the day, Prosper told us the names that the staff and porters had assigned to us.

Andre - Elephant - Tembo
Cronje - Buffalo - Nyati
Shirley - Leopard - Chui
Simon - Lion - Simba
Roland - Rhino - Kifaru

Time for bed since everyone else is asleep and even the youngsters next door are not talking anymore.

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