Entry by Riana van der Merwe
As promised, here follows the conclusion of our hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Day 5 – Karanga – Barafu (4600m)
The excitement levels were running high at this point, pun intended. I did not have a very restful sleep that night, so I got up as early as possible without the threat of freezing. I was rewarded with a magical sunrise above the clouds and in the quiet of the morning it dawned on me again, this wonderful adventure we were on. Life goes by too quickly and to stop and take a breath is forgotten most of the time. Sitting at Karanga Hut I realized that I shouldn’t wait for days like these, but that everyday should have a moment like this.
Day 5 again was a short day, about 4 hours, to get to Barafu, our final camp before we made our summit attempt. I have to admit I was dragging my feet a little, because as we were getting closer I was starting to get that feeling you get just before holidays are over. The end is looming and you don’t want it to be over. AND I was nervous, to say the least.
Rest stop between Karanga and Barafu
Me and Mala
It’s was a rocky and steep walk up, but the views were just getting better.
Snowy valley just below Barafu Camp
We got to Barafu, now at 4600m, before lunch and rested up for our ascent that night. There were a whole bunch of people either coming down the mountain or people like us, all bright eyed and anxious to tackle the summit.
Mala at Barafu Camp
Our Camp at Barafu
Day 6 – Summit(5895m)
Day 6 actually starts late evening on Day 5. We had an early dinner and then tried to get a little bit more sleep in before the “big showdown”. Well, fail, I did say we TRIED! Around 23hoo we got geared up and had a spot of tea and biscuits and then we were off. Sorry, but for the hiking part there was a lack of picture taking as we were just concentrating of breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. Walking through camp you could see all the other groups getting ready and there was a general buzz of excitement. Some were having something to eat and then you could see some lights already making the ascent. I was beside myself with excitement. This is what I’ve been dreaming of for so long and now it’s finally here.
Halfway up, or so I tell myself, because as soon as you think you’re almost there you see more lights even higher up and it looks like you’ve not even started to climb, the wind picked up and was blowing over the glaciers. HOLY …., it was COLD! I have no idea how cold, but if I had to judge according to my shivering it was VERY COLD. We stopped for some tea to help heat us up and just to catch our breaths, but I think I spilled most of my tea from shivering. After Davis and Joseph helped us put our gloves back on, we were all numb thumbs, we continued. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so much for the sun to come up before. I was constantly looking to my right and then… I saw a little speck of light and I was overjoyed, but it was short lived as it was only a star, argh! Finally when the sky started to light up and then morning broke and it was the most beautiful sight.
The sunrise I prayed for
We/I was going at a super slow pace as I was having trouble breathing so we weren’t even at Stella Point (5739m) at this point, but it didn’t diminish it in any way. A couple of hours later we were at Stella Point. We were also now on the rim of the Kibo crater. Stella Point is one of the three official summits of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Stella Point 5739m
We took a quick breather and headed the last 2km to Uhuru peak (just on the right of the sign behind us). Below us we could see the glaciers. What a spectacular view that was, the saddest past is that they are getting smaller each year and soon this pictures will be archive material and a testament to human ignorance.
Glacier on Kilimanjaro with Mt.Mawenzi
Halfway there I experienced some technical difficulty, well, I passed out. This was then to be the end of the ascent for me BUMMER!!! I had to turn back to Stella Point, but Mala and Davis continued on. At 08h40 Mala reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) as did the “Mascot”. I am so very proud of my sister accomplishing her goal and making it to the summit. A bit jealous, but mostly PROUD!
Mala and "the Mascot" at Uhuru Peak
Glacier at Uhuru Peak
Going back down is a breeze, you literally run down the side of the mountain as it is all loose gravel. It took about 8 hours to summit and about 2 hours to get back down. As we were making our way down the sun was shining bright and warm and the freezing temperatures of the morning was forgotten. The mountain was quiet and peaceful. What a majestic place to have been. Almost to the camp I started walking slower, because now it was really over and we had to go home and I didn’t want to leave.
We finally got to camp and we had a bit of a rest, and we needed it because it was already the longest day we’ve had on the mountain and it wasn’t even lunch yet. After lunch we made our way to High Camp, for our final night on the mountain. And in case you couldn’t make it down on your own, there was the mountain ambulance that could take you down, but be warned, it can be a bumpy ride. Bur seriously, this is only used in emergencies.
The mountain ambulance
High Camp is at 3797m and it’s true with every step you take back down you feel better. That night we went to bed super early and for the first time since we started the hike I slept like one of the rock that I was sleeping on.
Day 7 – High Camp to Gate
Our last day. This had to be the best week of my life, I will never trade it for anything. We had our breakfast per usual and then we also got the group together to say thank you to all of the porters and to Davis and Joseph without whom we would surely never have made it.
"The Mascot" at High Camp
Me at High Camp campsite
On our decent the flora was something to behold and for a South African used to hiking in the Western Cape it was like coming home. We saw all sorts of plant life familiar to us, like “Waboom”, “Ertjiebos” and Everlastings.
We were finally back in the rain forest and true to its name there had been rain. So, needless to say the footpath became more like an obstacle course and a slip-and-slide. After a sprained ankle and having to use my walking sticks as crutches we finally made it to the gate. We had reached the end of our journey and it was both sad and happy. Sad, that it was over, but happy that we had done it and could finally take a shower
At the end of our Journey
After a well deserved shower, which we “rock-paper-scissored” for (I lost) , Davis and Joseph stopped by the hotel and gave us our certificates, showing the summits that we reached. Ans then without further a deaux we settled down at the bar for the even more deserved celebratory beer.
If you can't hike it, you drink it!
And there you have it. Now what to do next??
Kilimanjaro, mlima mrefu sana.
Na Mawenzi, na Mawenzi,
Na Mawenzi, mlima mrefu sana.
Ewe nyoka, ewe nyoka,
Ewe nyoka, mbona waninzungukaa.
Kilimanjaro, long mountain journey.
And Mawenzi, and Mawenzi,
And Mawenzi, long mountain journey.
As a snake, as a snake,
As a snake, it winds all around.”
JAMBO BWANA SONG
Jambo, Jambo Bwana (Hello, Hello Sir)
Habari gani (How are you?)
Mzuri sana (Very fine)
Wageni, mwakaribishwa (Foreigners, you’re welcome)
Kilimanjaro yetu (to Kilimanjaro)
Hakuna Matata (There is no problem)
Riana van der Merwe, winemaker, Seven Springs