Machame to Shira Camp

Jul 13

I woke up after 6 hours of sleep thinking it was 6 in the morning but it was really 4 am. Note to self – do not put on Dr Watson’s salve and got to bed in a -20 degree sleeping bag unless you want to be the next nights stew! My legs and back were on fire from the heat of the bag and the muscle salve. It was kind of like being in a crock pot.

I got up and went to pee. I had a slight headache so drank almost a liter of water and took 1/4 of a 250 diamox just to be safe. I had already talked to Sierra about taking it as a precaution because the AMS symptom of headache is also my main high blood pressure symptom and I didn’t want to get them confused. At such a low dose it really shouldn’t cause a lot of problems and I am only going to take it once a day.

I change my clothes and get ready for the day before John wakes up and tells me it is 4:30. So I go back to sleep until I hear him rustling around. I open my eyes to find him kneeling, pants down giving himself a “bath” with the bath wipes. We both get start laughing at the “one eyed-monster” wake up call!

It a bit of a challenge getting packed up inside this tiny little tent but necessary to keep everything out of the dust. I am sure we will get the hang of it before this trip is over. We have a great breakfast with hot drinks and instructions for the day before setting off. John and I get in the first group with the guide, August, Stephanie, Paula, Tina, Inez and Jeff the photographer. As we start out the trail is very steep and very dusty. We are in the Heather now and the landscape has changed quite a bit. We see white and pink flowers along the trail that look a lot like something from the aster family. There are some sort of evergreen bushes, lava boulders, and lichen. There are fat little birds and white necked Ravens circling about above us on the trail. There is heavy porter traffic on this one-lane trail which forces us to stop often to let them pace. This keeps our pace fairly slow but let noticeable since we are stopping frequently instead of walking really, really slowly. Pole Pole and Jambo we hear on the trail every time a porter passed. Pole Pole, means slowly, slowly in Swahili and Jambo means hello. We will probably say Jambo at least a thousand times before the trip is over. These porters are amazing. The loads they carry up the mountains are incredible. Some carry them on the heads with perfect posture, others carry them on their backs or the back of their necks – I wonder about the long term affects of this. I think they are only paid a few dollars a day for this back breaking work. August teaches us a little more Swahili – not sure about the spelling but Poa Kocheese common dezze means Cool like a banana.

We are going at a pretty good pace and the trail is narrow so we don’t get to talk much to each other except at the breaks. At the first break we wander off the side of the trail and I use the pee funnel. I am really liking having the ability to pee standing up like a guy. This first stop isn’t bad. At the second break we go off for a potty break and find our first “surprise”. Some of the people on the trail don’t do a very good job of covering up or leaving no trace. Its kind of gross.

Morning was sunny and hot so I stripped down to my T-shirt and zipped off my pant bottoms. We took two breaks before lunch for food, water and bathroom breaks. At the 2nd break spot clouds rolled in and it was much cooler. We stayed pretty close to some of our lunch poerters most of the way and arrived in lunch camp before they were ready. I am still amazed that they can break down the huge blue tent, pack it up and get on the trail after us. They pass us on the trail and go ahead to set it and the kitchen tent up and are already underway when we arrive. It is an admirable accomplishment that takes perfect timing and organization. These guys are very good at what they do.

We take the opportunity to rest in chairs outside the tent, use the bathroom, wash up and catch up in the journal. We are called to lunch as some of the others are arriving. By this time the sun is back out and the tent is getting hot so I don’t want to stay long. Lunch was delicious again. We had celery soup, bread and butter, fish sticks, chips and a veggie salad. We head back out on the trail as the clouds move in and out for the rest of the afternoon – alternating warm sun and cool cloud cover. Makes it a challenge to get the layers right and not have to change all the time.

The rest of the afternoon is spent scrambling up to the Shira Plateau. It is a little bit more challenging because its not a simple trail. We have to climb around some large boulders and jump from rock to rock in a few places. We arrive at Shira Camp at 3:20 to a huge group of singing porters. It is really moving to hear them signing. I ask August what he words are saying and he say “You look smart”. I would love to find the words to the songs they sing on the mountain. There is one funny guy who comes running from over where they are setting up tents. He jumps to the front the group of porters and starts dancing wildly. We will see him again at the end of our trek – he’s the one who gets everyone to dance. They sing about 4 songs before stopping to get our bags and carry them to our tents. The Shira Camp is large and tents are more spread out than at Machame. They have chairs set up by our tents so that we don’t have to manuever around in our tents – we can sit in the chairs to sort and unpack. It is very dusty on the plateau but incredibly majestic. The harshness of the barren rocky surface is dotted with a few sparse trees. Below us rest the clouds and it feels as if we are floating on them. In the distance behind our camp, the peak of Kili looms. It is beautiful and ominous, covered on one side with a glacier that is clearly melting away. Our guide says it used to snow a lot more on the mountain than it does now. Its hard to believe we will be at the top in just a few more days.

Some clouds move in as John and I are sitting outside the tent and the camp is quickly engulfed. It turns cold in an instant. We are at 12,500 feet and the weather can change in no time at all. It will definitely be colder tonight. The clouds move in and out all afternoon making it difficult to figure out clothing – too hot, too cold, too hot.

The second group arrive 30 minutes or so after us. Nan and Doug were in this group. Nan had really pushed herself and she was physically and emotionally spent coming in to camp. I walked up and gave her a hug and was overwhelmed with emotion. It really surprised me. The two of us just stood there with tears in our eyes. Its really pretty amazing this group of special people. Nan is doing amazing. She is so strong and determined. I know she will make it to the top.

Lori and her Dad, who is 79, were the last two arrive in camp with three guides at about 5:30. The guides were signing to them as they walked it and it was very emotional again. They are such an adorable pair. It makes me wish my Dad was still alive. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have done something like this but you never know. Anyway, it made me really miss him. Lori really is a special lady for organizing this trip and matching up the pairs.

About 6:00 we had tea and popcorn in the blue tent. I sat around with Connie, Ben (soon to be known as Eye Candy), Monique and Sierra. We have a meeting at 7 before dinner to talk about Acute Mountain Sickness. I guess this is the altitude where we first start to see symptoms. Eric covers the basic symptoms of AMS – nausea, headache, vomiting, disorientation, swelling. A few people have headaches now and are instructed to take Excedrin. Monique has a terrible headache and you can see it on her face. She is concerned at having a headache at this point that she’s not going to feel well enough to summit. We have another stellar dinner. Ginger soup with roll and butter, coconut rice with beef, greens and mixed veggies. A few minutes after the soup is delivered Monique’s headache improves. I can see the change in her face. I wonder if it is the ginger in the soup. Since I am a bit of a food nut I notice along the trail that they are feeding us things that should help us – greens almost every day (these boost red blood cell production), lots of ginger in various things (this helps nauseau), soup every day (gets more liquids in the body), porridge for breakfast everyday (slow burning complex carbs help with energy throughout the morning climbs), raisins in a number of the dishes (these have iron and also help blood cell production).

John and I are feeling great. Nan asked if we would walk with them tomorrow. We decide to walk with the slower group for part of the day so that we can have a chance to meet and talk to more of the group. Tomorrow is the longest day. We will walk with Lori’s group in the morning and then after a couple of breaks we will go on ahead with August. There is an optional climb up toward Lava Tower for an additional 500 feet of elevation gain which we want to do and make sure we don’t get in to camp after dark. Eric says it will be an 8-12 hour day depending on pace.

It is quite cold now and it takes a few minutes for me to get warmed up in the sleeping bag. Once I am warm though I quickly fall asleep. Day 2 comes to an end.

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