Total hiking distance: approximately 100km
Total time: 6 days
Tour operator: Peace Matunda Tour
Guide: Bellasix Kaaya
Hiking Time: 7h
Habitat: Montane forest
We were picked up by the Focus in Africa team at Tengeru market and drove directly to Machame Gate (1490m) in Moshi. The group consists of 9 people from all over the world.
We left Machame Gate around 1pm and had a beautiful walk up through the rain forest. On the way up I met some of our porters and had Alfonsi and Fredi teach me some Kiswahili phrases. The walk was pleasant and sunny. Jakob, our cook (by the way excellent food!! And he also cooked on my safari!!), had given us a lunch package including bananas, a muffin, donut and a samosa. At 5pm we arrived at the first camp called Machame Camp (2980m) where Jakob expected us with hot tea and popcorn. The tents were already all set up. We had fish that night and potatoes. Kind of bizarre that I had to climb Kili in order to eat some fish in Tanzania!
Despite ear plugs the night was really loud. The tent stood on a backward slope and we were sliding down all night. To make things even worse we had a strong thunderstorm with heavy rains that night. Our bags were all wet!
The destination: Shira Camp (3840m). After a wonderful breakfast consisting of porridge, toast, pineapple, eggs and pancakes (poor porters who have to carry all that) we left the camp around 8:30am. The trail was quite steep but I felt strong enough and the view was beautiful. The rain had stopped. The whole team walks together even though some of us are a bit slower. Our main guide John is first and Bellasix, our assistant guide walks last. The lunch was yummy again. Thanks to Jakob! We arrived Shira Camp at 1pm. The trail was really hard and gravelly. I felt a slight headache, my legs feel good though and I feel that I have enough energy and strength to do this. After tea and popcorn again we played cards with the porters and went to bed very early.
Hiking Time: 7h
The destination: Barranco Camp (3950m). It was the first time that we reached a higher altitude. Lava Tower is 4630m high and we had lots of snow up there and an ice-cold wind! We had not slept well the night before due to another thunderstorm. The tent felt like under water and everything feels damp and muddy. There was snow everywhere and therefore really cold. I was freezing! I could feel the altitude, each sidestep cost so much energy and I my head was killing me. We walked extremely slow, only the porters rushed by. There are many climbers at that time of the year and sometimes I felt like on a market with all the people around me. After having reached Lava Tower we climbed down to 3950m to Barranco Camp. It became really warm down there, the sun came out and I had to take off all my cloth layers. It became foggy and suddenly we could see the summit for the first time. A breathtaking view on Kili with the moon behind it was motivating and we arrived at Barranco Camp around 4pm. It rained again all night long but I was still happy since this was the first time I had a signal on my cell phone
Destination: Karanga Camp (3963m). Karenge means peanut in Kiswahili but nobody was able to tell me why the camp was called like that. We climbed Barranco Wall in pouring rain. The wall is so steep that we had to use our hands to be able to climb the rocks. I cut my fingers and just felt awful! The climb is quite dangerous and after we heard that a porter had fallen off and died a day after. Horrible! Still I was strong enough and my headache was gone. The highest point that day was at 4200m, the night we spent at 3900m again in order to acclimatize.
Talking about the staff: There are 36 people including a cook, assistant cook, waiters, porters, camp organizers etc. They all work for incredibly low wages and still seem to have lots of fun. The kitchen tent is a round thing with a hole in the middle (after a propane gas explosion the other day) and we all sit around the gas and cut vegetable or chat. Every time I get close to the tent they would all shout “karibu” (welcome) and jump up to free a chair for me. The people are so nice, it`s unbelievable. Each word or sentence that I can remember in Kiswahili makes them laugh and they appreciate my effort of trying to understand and talk to them.
We arrived camp at 1pm already. After helping out in the kitchen again we just rested a bit since the big day was coming closer. I have not had a shower for 4 days now and I sleep in the same clothes that I am wearing during the day. It is just too cold to change inside the tent and nobody really cares about body odor or clothes. Ha! The view is amazing (as far as I can tell due to the fog).
Destination: Barrafu Camp (4600m), last camp before the summit. We arrived Barrafu around 1pm after a short but tiring walk from Karenge Camp. The whole walk was snowy and windy and I was freezing and could not believe what I was doing there. I thought: Why would people pay for this pain and cold?! Why would anybody be so crazy?!
The walk was quite steep and due to the snow really tiring. I was so exhausted when we arrived the camp which was set up in a quite amazing spot in between rocks. Our tents were not set up yet. So we had to wait in the ice-cold snowstorm before we could go inside out dirty, ice-cold and damp tents. Gill and I just lay there for a few hours. John told us to relax and try to sleep since the summit climb would start at midnight. I felt ok despite a slight headache. But I had enough breath and was excited about the summit climb. Jakob cooked mashed potatoes with rice and sauce. I really wanted something else than the 24/7 carbohydrates. I still ate 2 big plates in order to fill my body with energy. We went to bed at 7pm and I fell asleep right away. This was the first night without a storm or rain and I had a sound sleep until 11pm. Fredi, the waiter, woke us all up and we prepared for the summit climb. Since I was already sleeping in my climbing gear to keep it warm, I just had to get up, brush my teeth and go to have some tea and cookies. With our headtorches on we started to climb Africas highest mountain at midnight exactly.
There was a full moon and we were lucky to see the stars since it was not raining (for the first time during this week). There were so many people that with all the torches on it looked like a long snake up the hill. It was very, very steep and I could not believe how hard it became the higher we got. Our team split into 5 groups since every one was going their own pace. 3 additional porters helped out as assistant guides. I ended up with Bellasix and Julia. We had a very quiet walk up since we had to save our breath and energy. After around 2 hours I felt so dizzy and nauseous that I thought I was not able to make it to the top. We walked very slow since Julia felt a little bit of nausea as well. It was a fight. The hardest fight ever! I saw people barfing on the way up, some crying, fainting and even many of them walking back down. It was very demotivating! We continued walking as slowly as we could and the line of people up seemed to be never-ending! I wanted to die on the spot and felt terrible all the way up. But….finally… at exactly 6am we reached Stella Point, the first summit. The sun just came out and we enjoyed a breathtaking sunrise on Kili!! I felt like crying and singing and dancing at the same time. I knew that I was going to make it to the summit now. So many people were just lying around, barfing or lying unconscious. And still, we laughed and motivated ourselves since the summit was already within the range of vision.
The next 1,5 hours were the strangest ever. I felt like on drugs, my head would not think straight and I felt high and destroyed at the same time. The view was amazing since the sun was out and we were above the clouds. The glaciers up there are incredible and I absolutely fell in love with this mountain that I was fighting against during the last 6 hours! So many people came towards us, again many of them just sick, barfing or fainting. Many would not walk alone but depended on their guides to bring them down. We walked so slowly and again I thought I was not going to make it. I did not have a headache and the nausea was almost gone. But the altitude was making me dizzy and I could not think clearly. I was so full of adrenalin and at the end of my strength. Unbelievable!
After this strenouse climb we still needed to go down to Barrafu Camp in 4 hours and after a quick lunch further down to Mweka Camp (3100m) which took another 6 hours.
Climbing down from Mweka Camp to our Gate where the bus was waiting for us to bring us home. Finally!
That day was one of the most extraordinary climbs in my life.