Thursday 31 October 2019

3. Kilimanjaro Challenge : Lemosho Route - Day Two - Mti Mkubwa - Shira Camp 1 3,610m

Jambo Jambo!

Thanks for joining me on my next blog documenting Day Two of my Kilimanjaro Challenge as I attempt to hike 6 days along the Lemosho Route heading out from Mti Mkubwa Camp and ascending 960 metres to Shira 1 Camp.

'Howwwlllllllll!!!!' a deep scream reverberates outside my tent. I snap my eyes open and listen hazily in the darkness, the African rain drops still softly pattering on my roof. The guttural yowls of a troop of monkeys punctuated the air of the forest outside again, causing me to groan and roll over in my sleeping bag. I wrestle around a few times and manage to squint my eyes at the light of my watch as I push it.

2am. Damn Colobus Monkeys.

Apparently when they howl like this, its 'courting' - why did they have to do it at 2am!

They didn't give us much mercy for the rest of the night hours before winding up at around 6am. I couldn't sleep much after their 2am wake up call and everyone taking Diamox would at least have to get up and pee once in the night anyway so I was already up and rummaging around at 5.30am with wet toes (the end of my sleeping bag had been lying in a pool of rainwater!) trying to elbow my rented four season sleeping bag (which took half the space up) back into my duffel by any means possible. The normal routine entailed being woken up at 6am by one of the porters and have bags ready to go by 6.30am. Not a girl who likes to rush, as my Kilimanjaro walking style would show so I liked to get up an hour earlier to figure out my 'packing system' for the first time, very difficult when everything was still wet!

But our prayers had been answered. I stuck my head out of my tent annex into the cool dim morning and was overjoyed to look upwards and see pieces of blue sky behind the fronds of the forest - was that sunshine coming?! I wave of gratitude swelled in my chest as I set to work already getting my duffel completely zipped up, which inevitably had to involve sitting forcefully and squeezing the zip together. I was out of breath.

We'd have our main duffels for the porters ready by 6.30am and generally have breakfast at 7am with health checks, no problems here and appetite was fine. One of the team who was attempting the climb again had brought a LIFESTRAW filtration bag to further filter out the water fetched from the nearby streams and treated with chloride and iodine - it had a browny mist to it so having it filtrated out more really was a luxury. I would drink 3 litres of water a day with electrolytes to increase my chances of staying hydrated at altitude, that's a 2L drinking bladder and a 1L Naglene bottle - but like I said for Day One, the trade off is when you're taking Diamox you have to pee ALOT so for hydration comes inconvenience (girls invest in a She Wee for these first couple of days) it will make life so much easier when nature calls and you're stuck for privacy.

Our lead Guide Robert giving us orders....

So I was just so pleased the rain had stopped and we weren't standing outside in it like melting sugar cubes. After breakfast, our water needed to be packed and our day packs layed out on a mat to keep off the dirt - Day Two would have us leaving the Montane Forest and entering the Heath and Moorland territory of the route scaling 960 metres over 8km to our second camp Shira 1. So far we were feeling all fine and ready to go. 

One smart move that I pride myself for is bringing two waterproof jackets. My Gore-Tex jacket was still absolutely saturated from the day before and having no dry spell to air and dry it, I'm glad I bought a dry second one to cover myself. I had no choice but to put all my saturated clothing in the plastic bag my rented sleeping bag came in and keep it at the top of the duffel. There is no guarantee of what weather you will get on Kilimanjaro and you can't always expect the sun to last - we would just have to take on what was thrown at us so just after 8am we were armed with a roll each of toilet paper and started off on the second leg of our journey. 

                                                              Day Two for Team 'Seo Cac'

Setting off! All in black today and at the back as usual. Two of my fellow climbers were Bryan and Dave from the USA who were also taking on Kilimanjaro in the name of charity. They've chosen our very own Brit J.K Rowlings NGO Lumos (which stupidly at first I confused with Lupus) helps children escape institutions and tackles child trafficking which I was told by the guys is a big problem here in Tanzania. Bryan and Dave had been putting off Kilimanjaro for years until finally biting the bullet and getting their butts on the plane from New York to Africa this year, also choosing October because it was 'the second driest month of the year'. Bryan had already conquered Everest Base Camp years earlier so had walked the lofty realms of altitude before and like me had appeared in the newspaper and radio station back in the USA to promote his climb for Lumos

My Assistant guides Abel and Edwad

Out of the forest and into the moorland where the trees and vegetation start to become shorter....not a ghost haunting the group but Edwad with a poncho.

Porters on your right! Taking over to get to the next camp. Maybe that's my bag he's carrying?

The Lemosho Route was meant to be less busy this time of year with October being the shoulder month and the end of the busy season, but a few individuals were happy to take over us which I had no temptation of doing as our groups pace slowed down quite a bit not leaving me too far behind. We were now heading eastwards across the Shira Plateau the terrain through the moorland was a undulating trail of rocky hills and steep descents.

Unfortunately, our dry weather was not going to last and the sprinkling of shifting dark rain clouds began to move on in which only meant one thing - rain covers on! Noooo!!!!! We all seemed to have Osprey backpacks and bizarrely enough all of their raincovers seem to be lime green. - so hooded over and plodding along, we changed from a band of bouncing rainbow umbrellas to a line of floating lilypads drifting slowly through the fog and drizzle over the moorland!

You know I mentioned the fabulous invention of the She Wee? well at one stage in the trek as we reached the top of a high incline, there was no need for me to turn my back and use it but alas, a toilet hut hidden away in the heath - one of my guides pointed it out and I couldn't resist taking an authentic peek to see what the word on the mountain was about the 'Kili toilets'...

Well....not too bad, there's at least foot guides there depending on what you wanted to do! lol!

Throughout the journey, the resilience of the porters always amazed me. We were kitted out in hiking boots, poles, professional (or so we assumed) wet weather gear and the porters were doing the same route in trainers, jogging bottoms and even jeans. I stopped to try and pick up the basket of cloth this young porter was having a break from carrying on his head and it weighed a ton - when you are surrounded by young men working hard for you in these conditions, your heart goes out to them and the effort they are putting in for your needs. The porter community is very supportive and if one is struggling the rest will help and mentor or even carry their load aswell.   

A break in the rain, seeing how far we've come over the moorland... but it was hard for us to see the peak of Shira Cathedral through the sliding clouds we were breathing in.

If you look hard, you can see other climbers at about 11'o clock on the photo following over the moorlands on the trail.

Wow! A break in the clouds! we can see something over the Shira Plateau! 

Continuing on over the rock littered trail undulating over the heathland hills to our second camp, Shira 1  - nearly covering 8km over 5-6 hours of walking.

The bold colours of the climbers ahead helped you see the route to camp through the clogging mist

Tada! We made it to our second camp Shira 1 at 3610 metres - wahooh Day Two done!

Shira, like the name of the first peak on Kilimanjaro is Swahili for 'war' the camp being the site of a great territorial war between the Kilimanjaro Chagga people and an invading Masai tribe. The Masai are not just contained to Kenya or even only Eastern Africa, they are cattle farmers and freely roam the plains of Africa but of course the Chagga won the battle and the territorial war on Kilimanjaro. 

Its funny how at each camp board you can see how many more hours and km you have to go to the summit at Uhuru Peak! Long way....

And we have the blessing of blue sky and some sun! We were all so overwhelmingly happy for the simple luxury of a dry spell and sun that before long each tent, guy rope, bush, tree, anything off the ground was draped with wet clothing, backpacks and sleeping mats, using any opportunity to desperately dry up our wet gear! 

Team 'Seo Cac' trying to dry up in the mess tent with hot drinks....

'Hold your nose!' checking out some authenticity in the camp loo's, gotta try it once.... 

See the numbers on the hut? I heard one climber over the course of the trip ask if these numbers that also appeared on the walls of the camp check in block where I was lining up to sign in were..... the Wifi code? - we're on Kilimanjaro, what are you thinking!?!!

I do hope he was joking, and if he wasn't......I'm speechless....

Porters cleaning the kitchen equipment...

My assistant guide Kotalieb and one of porters - he would be my guardian angel on the trip

When you sign up to climb Kilimanjaro, the guides and porters who will be your team for the expedition give a customary invitation ceremony, introduction themselves and singing a welcome song with traditional Tanzanian chants. You might even get asked to dance with them at the foot of Kilimanjaro!


The peaceful vibe around camp where we finally had some dry weather and everyone was well in the team. Kilimanjaro is shrouded by upswept clouds swirling around its peaks, but we always knew it was there hiding....

With each camp site, you feel the temperature dropping ever so slightly each day as you ascend higher, feeling the need to start wrapping up in warm weather clothing even at 3610 metres.

Evans my other lead guide....he had a liking to hear Londoners say 'DoyaknowwatImean?'

The sun would set around about 6.30pm in the Kilimanjaro region and with darkness descending over Shira 1 Camp with everyone else embarking on the Lemosho Route - health checks done, dinner eaten and team debriefing finished - we all seemed a little happier with some drier clothes and stared up at the clearing African night sky at the white sheen of the full moon casting soft beams of silver over the clouds shielding the mountain. We stayed for ages staring at the stationary bank of dark clouds wrapped tightly around the mountain, hoping to catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro and the three peaks of Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo.....but she wasn't shifting.. 

So, aside from our dreadfully wet start in the rainforest which left many of team 'Seo Cac' wondering what on earth they were doing here, things at the end of Day Two seemed not too physically demanding and to be looking quite dry and rosy on the mountain.... would be the days that were set to follow as we ascended higher into mountain altitude territory which would really send difficulties to test me in whether I had what it took to push through to continue the journey...

Thanks for reading folks about Day Two on my Kilimanjaro expedition to the 'Roof of Africa' and if you would like to please donate to My Just Giving page for my chosen charity 'Action For M.E' who help sufferers of M.E like my sister cope with a life suppressed by Chronic Fatigue, she and I would really appreciate your support! 

Asante Sana and tune in to Day Three.. 

'Hip! Hip! Hop! Hop!' 

Equipment and clothing I used were from Ultimate Outdoor and Cotswold Outdoors

Meindl Boots
North Face 
TYTNY Walking Poles
Regatta Outdoors 

Day Ascent Distance : 960 metres (3149 ft) 8km

Total Elevation (Day 2) 3610 metres amsl (11,843 ft)

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