Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day Three- Shira Plateau to Shira Hut

Starting Point: Shira Plateau, West Side, 11,300 ft. elevation
Ending Point: Shira Hut, ~12,500 ft. elevation
Total Climbing Time: at least 6 hours

I woke up the next morning and took this photo of our final destination:

Back in my tent, I took a photo of myself to see just how sick I looked. I had made it through the night without vomiting or having an accident in my pants, so I was happy.

Once Herman had realized that I was awake, he came to check on me. I told him that I had been fine overnight but that I was tired. He made the executive decision to alter the day's route. Rather than climbing to Moir Hut, we detoured to Shira Hut. Reason? There is an emergency road an hour south of Shira Hut. If my illness continued, and if we determined to abort the climb, we would have an easy way out. I didn't want to abort the climb, but I didn't want to continue if I was going to be vomiting and shitting.

Here are photos from our trek across the Shira Plateau. We begin with my home:

The trail carries on behind me:

My fatigue caught up with me the longer we climbed. Toward the end, I had to take a break every few steps. Herman graciously carried my day pack, as well as his back pack. He was a saint.

Rumisha! (aka "Ronaldo"). Our chef. After I got sick, Rumisha started to accompany Herman and I. Rumisha has a very fatherly, gentle spirit.

We get closer to the snow...

We finally arrived at Shira Hut. I was absolutely exhausted. Rumisha said "congratulations, dada" after I reached the campsite. Yet again, I went straight to my tent and collapsed. At some point Ezekiel brought me dinner. I was still not hungry, and I tried to explain to him that I had a lack of appetite, but he just looked at me quizzically. I must have looked pretty pitiful because Ezekiel eventually said, "Dada sick." I said "yes." I might have eaten some rice, I might not have; I really don't remember. Herman gave me another Cipro, and I nodded off to sleep.

Day Two- Afternoon

For lunch Ronaldo made Herman and I "toasties" (grilled cheese sandwiches with shredded vegetables). They were actually quite delicious. Little did I know that they were going to be the death of me...

In any case, after we finished our lunch, it was time to put back on our ponchos and head out. Here's a final view from our lunch spot:

It was not but 10 minutes when my stomach began to feel real queasy. I was familiar with this feeling, but I hadn't experienced it in ten years: the feeling that you're going to throw-up. I found it strange that I was feeling this way, as I hadn't eaten anything crazy or been around sick individuals. I asked Herman, "Um, what should I do if I need to throw-up?" His response was basically to go on the side of the path. As I continued to climb, I started to send quick prayers to God: "please don't let me get sick, please don't let me get sick."

We continued to climb, my stomach pain worsened, and the porters passed us. We traveled up, up and up into the clouds:

Then it struck. Vomit #1. I was pissed. I hate vomiting, and as mentioned, it had been 10 years since I last vomited. I don't think Herman quite knew what to do. During this first time, he just looked at me. I looked at him with a sweat-stained, drool covered face. I think I said something like, "That was fun."

My joking mood quickly deteriorated as I started to have the shits. At this point I knew my illness: food poisoning. The word that kept appearing in my head was "cheese." I put two and two together and quickly realized that the delicious "toasties" had made me sick. That had been the first time on the journey that I had eaten cheese, and the effects were quickly known. Oddly enough, when I last threw-up ten years ago, it was also due to food poisoning--I had eaten mac n' cheese in Nepal. Lesson learned: do not eat cheese in foreign countries!

The rest of the day's climb was pure hell; I vomited at least six more times and had to crouch behind a bush countless times. I shat in my pants twice (once in my own pants, once in a pair of Herman's long johns that he loaned me). Luckily, Herman became increasingly sympathetic as my illness carried on; when I would stop to vomit, he would come over and rub my back. Rubbing my back provided some comfort, as it reminded me of the times when my mother would rub my back as a child. I do remember saying after one vomiting session, "I wish my mom was here!"

I slowly carried on and finally made it to our campsite where I collapsed in my tent. Herman was very adamant about me drinking liquids, especially the water + orange powder mixture he concocted (apparently the orange powder was some sort of electrolyte replenishing powder). Regrettably, Herman's mixture just made me throw-up.

Ezekiel (our waiter/porter) brought me toast. Herman was right behind him, telling me that I had to eat something. I kept on telling Herman, "I can't eat anything. I'm not hungry. I'll just throw-up again." Herman wasn't hearing it. It wasn't until I promised Herman that I would eat some of my toast that he left my tent.

I started to rip a piece of toast into small bits. Channeling my childhood, I started to make piles; my pile and Herman's pile. I would eat my pile if Herman ate his pile. My pile was smaller than Herman's. I eventually gave up trying to eat the small toast bites; they were dry, cold and bland. Herman was not happy with me when he returned, but I think he took pity on me and let me slide.

As sunset approached, I got up to use my tented throne; I was able to take a few photos during this time. Here's our campsite:

The ranger huts:

Back in my tent, staring at the ceiling, I wondered when I would get better:

I still didn't feel like eating anything when dinner rolled around, although Ronaldo made me rice. Herman strongly encouraged me to eat it. I ate some.

That night Herman gave me a Cipro pill (Cipro is used to fight bacteria in the body); I closed my eyes and prayed to God that it would help. I tucked myself into my sleeping bag, grabbed one of the Nalgene bottles Ronaldo had filled for me with hot water and shut my eyes, hoping to sleep.

It was quite rainy and windy that night. Listen to the video below for proof:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day Two- Mti Mkubwa to Shira Plateau

Starting Point: Mti Mkubwa, 10,000 ft. elevation
Ending Point: Shira Plateau, West Side, 11,300 ft. elevation
Total Climbing Time: at least 6 hours

We continued our climb through the montane forest. As stated before, I loved the greenery; there were various kinds of trees and bushes. Where's the path? More importantly, where's Herman?

There was one plant I DID NOT like in the montane forest: the stinging nettle! Why? Check out the photo of my back, below.

Yeah, I slipped on the mud and fell on my derriere (and a patch of stinging nettles). That was fun. Little did I know that things were going to get much worse...

We took a water and bathroom break mid-morning. This is also where our speedy porters happened to pass us:

We carried on a path like this until we finally broke free of our first equatorial zone (the Montane Forest) and entered our second equatorial zone (the Hagenia Zone). For those wanting to know anything about the Hagenia Zone, this is all I could find, courtesy of the Kilimanjaro National Park: "The subalpine southern and southeastern slopes between 2,800-3,100 m have forest of Hagenia abyssinica with Podocarpus latifolius and Prunus Africana; and on the north slopes Juniperus procera - Podocarpus latifolius forest with Hagenia abyssinica." Perhaps it's just better to look at my photos...

Finally, open space! I definitely felt less claustrophobic once we entered this second zone:

At one point along our path, Herman showed me this ant home. Check out the video to watch ant life at its finest! (Granted, Herman pissed the ants off by knocking on their home and putting an "intruder" in their space- a leaf).

There were other interesting plants and flowers along the way, including this skeleton of a protea and St. John's Wort (which some of my clients take for their depression!):

 We eventually reached a point where we could faintly see our porters and our approximate lunch spot. The pink circle is around our porters. We were eating on top of the ridge. After lunch, we would start climbing north in the direction of the arrow:

I zoomed in on our porters. They are the little orange dots:

We finally made it to our lunch spot. Unfortunately, it was pretty rainy. The porters are resting in their kitchen/bedroom. I'm hanging out in our dining tent.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day Two- Morning

I woke up the next morning after a fairly restful sleep. I love my camouflage 0 degrees sleeping bag:

My tent quickly became my bedroom, laundry room and den. Here's to quick-dry clothing which dries quickly!

I began to feel more alert after my morning cup of chai:

When I finally got myself out of the tent, I took some photos of our campsite (we had been the only ones there, save for the few men in the ranger hut). Here was my home away from home:

This was our dining tent:

The small tent is Herman's, the large tent was the kitchen and the "home" for the chef and six of the porters:

When I first saw this bird, I was like, "Oooo, how cool, an exotic African bird!" Herman then told me it was just a raven looking for scraps ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day One- Starting Point to Mti Mkubwa (big tree) campsite

Starting Point: some place in the woods, approximately 5,000 ft. elevation
Ending Point: Mti Mkubwa, 10,000 ft. elevation
Total climbing time: 4.5 hours

My team and I took the Lemosho route. The Lemosho route is described as, "an unspoilt, remote, less-used and beautiful way up to the Shira Plateau. Trekkers sometimes use it to ascend the Western Breach route" (which I did).

I basically took the yellow route:

It was pretty rainy during the day's hike, so I got good use out of my poncho. I was very glad that I had water proofed my hiking boots before I left. Herman and I commented on how strange it was to be trekking through the rain but still sweating.

Views from the day's trek:


We start to head deep into the rainforest (this is looking downhill)...

The rainforest is home to many species including these colobus monkeys:

According to Herman, there are two flower species that only grow on Mt. Kilimanjaro; this violet is one of them:

We continue to trudge through the mud, but I absolutely adore the greenery...

We finally arrive at the Big Tree Campsite and are treated to popcorn and hot tea. Yum!

The view from our dining tent, looking out at my toilet tent (aka "my throne"):

It was a good day of walking, so I was ready to hit the sack. Here are the notes I took prior to going to sleep, though:
"-traveled through rain forest
-2 species that are native to Kilimanjaro mountain (violet and elephant trunk)
-saw Colobus monkeys
-go slow on steep parts
-knee kills when placed in particular way
-3 ants bit me! found their way into my pants. Oww!
-spoke with Herman about HIV/AIDS

-lala salama- sleep well
-Mambo- what's up