I woke up to the sounds of the camp. Tent zipping open and closed. The sing-song sounds of Swahili and the birds crowing. I had made it through my first night on the mountain and needless to say, did not sleep well. The ground was as hard as a rock, our tent was on an angle just like the mountain itself and I was frozen cold all night long despite the low elevation. It would become a regular battle for me each and every night trying to figure out how to stay warm, how to not have to get up in the middle of the night to find the toilet tent and how to remember in the pitch black darkness which green Zara tent was mine. For me, sleeping was going to be the hardest part of the climb.
The second day climb would take us from 9,780 feet (2,980 m) to Shira Camp at 12,600 feet (3,840 m) passing through rainforest glades, the vast open moorlands and up to the Shira Plateau where the treeline ends and the vegetation becomes sparse. In total, the climb is roughly 4 miles (7 km) taking anywhere between four to six hours depending upon speed.
We ate a delicious breakfast of eggs, fruit and freshly made chapati bread (there are a lot of Indian influences in Tanzanian cuisine) and then were on our way. We set off around 8:30 am along with all the hundreds of other climbers, going up a steep, narrow path in single file line. The first hour was rather laborious and frustrating because when one person or group stopped, it set off a domino effect going down the mountain stopping us all. Thankfully the trail widened and opened up a bit later into the hike or it would have been a long, annoying day.
As you climb up out of the forest and lush tropical trees, you enter heather and moorland filled with low-lying shrubs, less vegetation and a thick coating of mist and fog hovering over the forest. It is quite beautiful and the higher you climb, the more you feel like you are floating on top of the world.
What makes the Machame Route so incredibly spectacular is the constantly changing ecosystems, cloud covered views and the amazing, unique species of trees and plants some of which are endemic to this part of the world. There truly is no place like it.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”. – Rabindranath Tagore
As I hiked, I couldn’t stop thinking about the clouds. I think years later the clouds will be what I remember most about climbing Kilimanjaro. The heavenly, serendipitous beauty of the clouds at different times of day and how they changed with the movement of light and shadows from the sun.
The hike was relatively short and easy. Just a little after one o’clock, we got our first sight of Shira Camp, which would end up being one of my favorites. I was elated to arrive so early and have some time to relax and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. My journal was packed along with a good book. I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds”. – Edward Abbey
As we approached Shira Camp, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Mero in the background. Mount Mero is another favorite peak to climb which has a lower elevation (14,987 feet) and takes about half the time as Kilimanjaro. It is one of the top ten highest peaks in Africa and is an active stratovolcano.
I learned from the porters that Kilimanjaro is believed sacred by some people. They never ever climb it but worship and treasure it instead. After spending the afternoon and watching the sun set over the clouds, I could see why. I was utterly awestruck by the view around me.
Soon we arrived at Shira Camp where I would spend the afternoon gazing at the clouds below me. It was going to be a special sunset. I could feel it.
The view is gorgeous! It’s so wonderful that you’re lucky enough to experience this in person. I’m living vicariously through your pictures and blog posts! 🙂
Thanks so much for the nice comment! I had dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro for 15 years and I’m so fortunate I was finally able to do it! Glad you are enjoying the photos and the posts. 🙂 The one nice thing of reading and not doing it is you avoid the knee pain!
hahaha yes, but in my case, with knee surgery on both knees before the age of 21, I’ve got that box checked as well! 😀
Well, what an experience!
Thanks Sue! It was quite unreal. Now over a month later it is hard to believe I even did it (except for the fact that my knees are still a bit sore!)…:)
But you did do it, and have the photographs to prove it!
Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.
It must have been magical to be there. You got some great shots.
Thanks Alison! Wait until you see the evening ones! 🙂
Love the photo of the tents with the clouds in the background Nicole. An easy day you say? I like the sounds of that!
Thanks Sue! I know you are very fit so it wouldn’t be hard for you to climb Kili! 🙂
What beautiful pictures! Looks like such a humbling experience. Congratulations on completing!
Thank you so much! It was a humbling experience in so many ways. Physically, mentally and emotionally. That is why I’m so addicted to hiking/climbing!
What wildlife lives in the highlands? What did you see? Great coverage of your climb. Thanks.
Great question John. I was surprised that there is basically not much wildlife at all in the highlands. Only little chipmunk like mammals and birds (lots of birds!). I think the sparse vegetation up high means little wildlife. In some of the plains below, there are elephants and other big mammals as Kili is near Arusha National Park. There are tons of monkeys in the rainforest. Glad you like the posts so far. I feel like I never went. Funny how that is once you get back home into the swing of life once again. That is why I blog! I love to relive my trips. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
great picts… s
Thanks! Where to next?
Beautiful photos and rendered emotions. You have all my respect, especially considering the fact that the highest I’ve ever climbed – 2.864 m, which is the height of Slovenian highest peak Triglav – you covered in Day 1. 🙂
Thanks and so glad you enjoyed! I would love to visit Slovenia someday.
Welcome! We’ve got plenty of mountains over here, just none higher than mentioned. 🙂 I’m following your climb with great interest.
I will have to get there someday!
Those cloud pictures are beautiful!
Thanks Emily! There is something about Africa that will always amaze me. It is really amazing.
I forget if you’ve done the Inca Trail … so many of the cloud photos reminded me of some of the later camps along that trail, where the clouds hovered below us all evening and the next morning. I, too, love the way the clouds nestle into the mountain crevices on a hike!
Yes I did do the Inca trail! I did it with my dad in 2001 and it was my first multi-day trek. I loved it there. I want to do some more hiking in Peru someday.
Me, too! 🙂
Such gorgeous views, Nicole. I’m so enjoying your posts of this trip. My son-in-law did it a couple of years ago, but took no photos. 😕
Thanks Sylvia! He took no photos? I couldn’t stop taking them, it was so beautiful! 🙂
Well, he’s a bit weird. 🙄
Beautiful images. And I think you said it all with ‘I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be’.
Thanks Lisa. I loved being there. Now I need to find another hike to dream about! 🙂
I’m certain you will 😀