…Not even once did regret cross my mind when I was there!
We were a group of 16 visitors hikers. All new people in my life. We had to interact and co-live while struggling through our own “demons” that could be called personal needs, limitations and/or problems. For every three climbers we had one guide and six porters, one main guide for all, plus a chef, a waiter and an assistant. For sure a lot of people helping making our dream come true!
On the last stretch going up we left at 2AM the last camp (Barafu), where we barely had one hour sleeping. The lack of oxygen, lack of sleep, the super cold temperature and the high altitude sickness were my struggles. The guides at that point became our porters caring our backpacks while singing native songs like ‘Hakuna Matata’ throughout the night to motivate us to keep going and make it to the summit.
18,652′ ft – Stella Point
However, Stella Point unfortunately was my summit. As I got sick and very sensitive that I couldn’t stop crying like a baby. A baby that was very close to the sky, close to haven, close to my mom.
Getting there at the same day as her birthday was very emotional to me. If she was here she would be secretly proud of me and say – That’s my little crazy girl! I don’t know if anyone noticed but I was climbing and singing the song I always sang to her when she was around. Check it out if you have a chance. Really beautiful and touching.
‘Como é grande o meu amor por voce’ – Roberto Carlos.
Run away, big mistake
Coming down was another tough situation. Now thinking back, after all that I went through, I recognize that my biggest mistake was to literally run away from my group for 5.5km on the way up to the last camp, from the top of Barranco Wall 13,500’ft to Karanga Camp 15,300’ft elevation. Some crazy thing happened to me that I just couldn’t stand the ‘pole pole’ paced, so I run away following the experienced porters ahead that were passing by fast. All that I want was to get to the last camp sooner so I’d be able to rest longer. I didn’t take in consideration that by running up in a high altitude, with not enough rest to the muscles or stop for water, would bring me some consequences that I was about to experience.
On the way down from Stella Point I got in trouble. If it wasn’t for my guide I don’t think I’d be around. All that I want was to sleep. I was passing out easily on every single stop and dreaming the same thing over and over again. I dreamed that I was trapped inside of a covered pool filled with red water and I didn’t have way out of it. Creepy don’t you think?! But that’s amazing how a lot of it also has explanation on the high altitude sickness. I still don’t know how helpful was the Diamox I was taking for the last 2 days. My doctor insists that planing water should work better than Diamox. I wasn’t sure if he was right or wrong. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to take the chance to ruin my climb, so I took the medicine. But I still had problems.
My guide was almost caring me down. The snow on top of the volcanic terrain didn’t help at all. That’s when each step goes too deep inside of the ground making it muddy, and you have to dig your foot out of it. Once we reached around 16,000″ft it was way easier to breathe. And getting better every square foot down, except for the tiredness that refused to leave me alone.
15,300′ ft – Barafu Camp
We got back to Barafu Camp around 11AM, where I have just left at 2AM. So basically I hiked for 19 hours in a span of 26 hours. Each one from the group had different timing and achievement.
You might think that 7 hours should be enough time to get a decent sleep in the between the last two days hiking. Nope that’s n
ot true. That was definitely not enough! It was used to unpack get ready to eat, (I forgot to mention we had a “restaurant”! It was a big tent where we’d get together for the meals and have a briefing with the main guide to talk about the next day hiking), go to the bathroom (a torture/ another one of my struggles), hygiene, undress, pack for the next hike, put all clothes I was going to use inside of my sleeping bag so they’d get warm. Get enough water to bring (at least 2 gallons provided by the chef). Bring caloric snacks (for this last stretch we want carbohydrate with glycogen storage (the glycogen is converted to glucose for energy utilization when our body needs it) At the end, I was too busy and excited! Too much going on but sleeping.
Dreaming about a hot shower
After Barafu Camp (15,300ft) coming down was much easier. We spent the last night at Mweka Camp, and it was the best one on the Machame Trail. All that I could think about was on having a long shower, sleeping in a nice bed and having 2 hours massage that I needed so bad!!!!
By that time everybody was friendly, talkative, in a good mood and happy.
Guides, Porters, Tips
In the morning we had a big performance special for us. The guides and porters gave a speech telling how happy they were working
to make our experience as safe and pleasurable as possible. they sang and danced for about 1/2 hour. I’m so glad I was part of that
The last stop was at the gate where we (the visitors hikers) put together our tips and one person were responsible to handle each o
ne of the helpers that were called by name, based on a list provided by the main guide. This way we could make sure everybody got their part the way it was supposed to be.
At the end they dance again for us, but now way happier for the recognition of their importance on the success of our experience.
Good things out of this adventure for me:
The feeling of mission accomplished! New friends in my life! The opportunity to get to know a different culture and get closer to their people. Getting to know, winning and overcoming my own limits. Seen scenic views that not even the perfect picture or movie will be able to capture. Been in touch with the nature and surrounding. Reassure the value of simple things that are part of our day by day life (like a clean toilet, bed, home, and shower!). The opportunity to breathe and smell the pure air of nature every day. To wake up with the birds singing for us. The thankful feeling for my health, my life, my family, my opportunities, my happiness and excitement for everything I do.
If you take machame trail make sure you get 7 days hike, not lass than that. This way you will overnight in Karanga Camp, have one more day of acclimatization and much more sleeping and resting time before the summit
Bad things out of my experience:
Just so you know, this is not a technical tracking, and depending on which trail you choose it does not require you to be young and in a good shape. But you must be persistent and in a good health condition in order to be able to reach the summit.
Take in consideration to buy a can of oxygen in Moshi if the tour company you are using doesn’t provide it, like the one we used. You can regret not having it and jeopardize the whole climbing experience. Younger people have more problems with breathing.
Bring crocs or sneakers easy to put on and take off, so you can walk in the camp.
My hiking was from Jan 28th to Feb 3rd. I brought shorts but didn’t use it at all for the hiking. So I’d suggest if it’s your intention to save space and minimize weight, just don’t put it for the hiking. It will certainly be welcome for the safari.
But that’s another experience to talk about.