As the sun started to peek above the horizon on the morning of Day 2 we realized just how far this trek was going to be from our typical backpacking trip. At promptly 6:30am our faithful waiter, Samwell, lightly shook our tent and announced that it was time for bed tea. (And yes, we had a waiter.) You might be asking yourself, “Bed tea?”…well, allow me to explain. Bed tea is this tricky way they have of making sure you do not sleep in past your designated wake up call, yet it is disguised as this very kind ritual that is nearly impossible to find fault in. Essentially, Samwell is standing at the door of our tent with a thermos of boiling hot water and hot chocolate mix (since neither of us drink coffee or tea). We must then get out of our sleeping bag and unzip the door for him to hand us two mugs. We then pour our boiling hot water into our hot chocolate mix and re-zip the tent. Let’s just say that when you have a cup of boiling water to balance in addition to being forced from your warm sleeping bag cocoon, you are not going to back to sleep anytime soon.
Samwell is back just in time to collect our empty mugs and replace them with warm wash water. (They tell us that we should be just as clean when we return as when we left which in and of itself is a far cry from any backpacking trip we have ever been on.) Then it is time for us to quick pack up our day packs and prepare our duffel for the porters before we are shuffled along to breakfast. We soon learned that the translation for breakfast, or any other meal for that matter, should in fact be “feast” seeing as there are always at least three courses of various delicacies. There must have been enough food in our dining tent (again, yes…we had a separate dining tent) to feed a family of four…and a hungry one at that. No granola bars here folks!
During breakfast, Prosper comes in to greet us. Along with him he has an oximeter. This is basicaly a device that clasps onto your finger and reads your heart rate and oxygen levels to ensure you are physically okay to go on. Ron always seemed to pass with flying colors, yet when it was my turn this trusty device would not read a thing. After many attempts and several days of this Prosper determined that I must be dead. (It is a good thing I was able to keep the pace I was in order to prove that I was in fact just fine and not going to flop over and die as it seemed everyone from our guide to our trek outfitter assumed I would prior to me actually lacing up my boots and keeping stride with Ron’s speedy pace. I blame my rippeling biceps.) Finally, it was time to start knocking off the miles for the day. To Shira Camp we go!
Up until this point we had been hiking in the rainforest. Leaving Machame Hut campground, we ventured into Moorland and up the somewhat steep trail. We bolted around all of the huge groups of 20+ people trudging along and slowly worked our way to the front of the pack. Heading up towards 12,600 feet, we were finally gaining some altitude as well. We made spectacular time again, reaching Shira in half the expected time side by side with our porters. Due to the fact that we are so accustomed to hiking anywhere from 10-12 hours per day and covering 20ish miles we certainly did have an advantage in making it first to camp again! (Although we must admit that it felt very strange to have this much down time.) This time Prosper was much happier; one might even say that he was proud.
Upon reaching camp, the post-hike routine ensues. We have our second dose of wash water to clean up from the day’s efforts before we are called to afternoon tea and snack. In a flash it is time for dinner and our briefing for the next day before an early bedtime. Falling in line with our personal camp routine, it seemed that the weather had a standard routine as well; warm in the morning and early afternoon as we hiked and settled into camp and then bone chillingly cold as the clouds and rain rolled in. We typically sat directly in a layer of clouds until the next morning when they magically cleared off again. Lucky for us, we tended to finish up our day’s miles before the weather turned.
The Machame Route is known for the excellent acclimatization it affords hikers. Day 3 is one of the most important days solely for that reason. Waking up in SHira Camp, we ran throuh our morning shedule with ease and soon set out to Barranco Camp leaving the Moorland landscape behind in exchange for Alpine Desert. While Barranco is only 100 feet higher than Shira, you must hike up to the Lava Tower at 15,200 feet before you descend back down to Barranco. Ron and I breezed past the Lava Tower with no problems at all which was very encouraging considering the altitude we were going to gain on summit day. In keeping with our record, we made Prosper proud by making it first to camp without flinching. (First or last…it really does not matter since we are all ultimately going to the same place, but there is definitely something fun about making and meeting your goals like this.)
Morning number 4 brought with it the big ascent of the Barranco Wall as well as “Desination: Kili Basecamp”. The Barranco Wall is a huge climb out of Barranco Camp up some pretty steep terrain that occasionally required use of all four limbs. This was definitely a huge highlight of the day bringing with it some excitement and adrenaline. The rest of the whizzed by in a blur as we turned the normally 8 hour hike into a 4 hour hike. Since we were at our designated lunch stop at Karanga Camp by 10am, Prosper let us make the call to continue on and have our lunch at Barafu, otherwise known as basecamp.
It took a couple of minutes to really sink in once we arrived, but when it did…wow! We made it to the base of Kilimanjaro! In mere hours we would be headed up to the roof of Africa. It was pretty surreal to say the least. We did our best to catch some shut eye for our extremely early start the next day despite the nerves and excitement coursing through our blood, but first we were rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view as the clouds dropped below us unveiling the towering peak showered in the light of the setting sun. A good omen no doubt. Right then we knew that we had to be some of the luckiest people on earth.
Check out all of the photos in the large gallery below: