I was relieved and rewarded by finally getting a good night of sleep. I couldn’t believe how good it felt! It was my first real solid sleep in over a week. I am sure that my body had finally given in due to mere exhaustion after a week of travel, jet lag and sleepless cold nights on the mountain.
I woke up feeling invigorated to start the day’s climb, a relatively strenuous yet short hike up and over the Barranco Wall to Karanga Camp at 13,780 feet (4,000 m). Our group set off early trying to beat the long lines of people climbing up the narrow path. The first hour of the hike was a bit frustrating. If someone in front of you stopped to rest, the entire long queue of hikers below would have to also stop and one thing is for certain when I hike, I don’t like to stop unless I absolutely have to.
I was relieved that overall it wasn’t too insanely crowded on the mountain. Every night there were perhaps a couple hundred people at each camp and summer is generally high season for Kilimanjaro climbs. The only time of year that it is worse is on New Year’s Eve when thousands of climbers attempt to summit to bring in the new year. For me, I find the experience much more peaceful and enjoyable when there are less crowds. I feel much closer to nature and its delicious solitude when I’m alone or in a small group. Unfortunately, the first hour of the hike up the narrow trail of the Barranco Wall would prove irritating but once we passed the lines of people it was nothing but wide open space.
Parts of the climb involved using fingers and hands to pull oneself up the rock. Hiking poles proved frivolous and just got in the way. I remember my friend Neha’s lovely analogy about the necessity and use of hiking poles and how it relates to life. Some days a climb requires a little support and other times you just use your own hands. This part of the climb, we were all on our own.
Once we scaled Barranco Wall, the climb was much easier, affording spectacular views of the valley below. I felt like we were resting on top of a pillowcase of clouds.
We arrived at our camp well before lunch, much earlier than usual, and had all afternoon to rest and relax. A nagging part of me wanted to continue on the next 3-4 hours to the next camp, Barafu, which is what the 6-day Machame Route follows (We were taking the 7-day Machame route meaning we would spend the night at Karanga Camp instead of the next camp, Barafu). There are pros and cons of doing the climb in six verses seven days. If you do it in six days, you are closer to getting back to a normal bed and a shower, however, it is much more exhausting. If you take the seven-day route, it is longer and you are exposed to sleeping outside for one more night but there is a greater chance of acclimatization and hence success rate at reaching the summit.
And a well-worn trail.
Then finally we saw signs of life once again. Our campsite was near.
The location could not be any less beautiful than the last. I could feel that we were in for another magical night.
The all too familiar camp life…
And my new friends…
When in Tanzania, join them!
It was a much more relaxing day than the rest. I was glad we had an entire afternoon to take it easy before the big summit push. I would soon discover that the sunset views would be equally spoiling again. I was getting used to living in the clouds.