Day 1, Saturday : Machame Gate to Machame Camp (3,010m)
I made a quick call to Iain and Rosie in the morning to say my last goodbye for a while as I didn’t know when I would be able to get signal again. 27 slightly anxious people, most of us strangers, all gathered in the reception of Weru Weru Lodge after breakfast and prepared for the transfer to Machame Gate, a forty minute drive away.
L to R: Gemma, Emma, Alisa and I in the Weru Weru Lodge reception
Getting trek ready!
We arrived at Machame Gate and tended to the National Park formalities – signing in at the main reception, packing our lunch and water and triple checking we had everything we needed.
L to R: Lisa, Bex, Gemma, Alisa, Gemma, Dan, Imran, Dave, Neil
We had our first official group photo and then got on our way.
Entering the main gate … this was it … we start our journey to reach the summit.
We made our way through lush forest up a steady incline…
We trekked for about six hours, stopping for loo breaks on the way and lunch before arriving at camp #1 – Machame Camp, 2,835m AMSL.
Arriving at camp was a relief. It had been a long day and we were all ready for a sit down and food. The team of porters were incredible. As you make your way to each camp, the porters rush past you with your heavy bags and all the equipment needed for the week on their heads and backs, so when you arrive at camp all of the tents are already set up, your bag is in your allocated tent (Emma and I were tent 12!), hot water is ready for you to have a wash, the food tents are set up with hot drinks and the cooks are starting to prepare dinner. They are truly amazing, super friendly, will do all they can to help and always have a smile on their face.
It was our first night camping. I haven’t camped since I was seven years old in New Zealand, so this was certainly a new, much colder experience. I tried to embrace it knowing it was only for a few days before I would be home in my own bed again. Being cold and uncomfortable I could live with – the heavy snoring and constant zips being undone and re-zipped by those going to the toilet throughout the night was a little more testing!
It gets dark at about 6pm and we were all in our beds by about 8pm after a sing song for the birthday boy Kev!
Despite going to bed at 8pm and waking up at 6am, my fitbit tells me I managed three hours sleep … It was going to be a long week!
Day 2, Sunday : Machame Camp to Shira Cave Camp (3,750m)
Emma and I awake at 6am by the sound of laughing, shuffling, tent zips and a porter outside of the tent whispering “hello, good morning”, before kindly asking if we want a hot drink. “COFFEE – YES PLEASE!”, I desperately reply. Every morning the porters very kindly bring a tray round and make you a tea, coffee or hot chocolate – I love this and it absolutely makes my morning!
We repack our bags (it’s only day two and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already unpacked, repacked and re-organised both my bag and day pack!), we get our gear ready and head for breakfast.
Ken or ‘Commander Ken’ as the porters start to call him – and now we all do too, is our group leader. He is a freelance adventurer working for Global Adventure Challenges, the company I’ve booked this trek through. This is his third time trekking Mount Kilimanjaro. He tells me that the week we get back he has a few days off before heading to China with another group to take on the Great Wall.
This is Ken’s job – ‘how awesome, what freedom and excitement’ I think to myself! Yet every day I start to see just how much time, effort and energy he puts into this group, how he’s keeping us safe and motivated and tending to every single person without prejudice. He takes his role incredibly seriously yet makes every minute fun. He’s amazing, kind, considerate, thoughtful, has a great sense of humour and is totally straight talking (I found this out first hand on day 3!). If you are lucky enough to join commander Ken for any adventure – you needn’t ever worry – he knows his stuff and has got your back … in fact he’s got everyone’s back. What a legend!
Anyway, we have one and a half hours each morning to get ready before leaving camp. The first hour is spent dressing, washing, personal care and bag packing followed by breakfast and then about ten minutes to brush teeth, zip up bag, make sure walking poles, water and snacks are ready and then waiting for everyone to congregate ready for Commander Ken to give us the go ahead to get on our way.
Commander Ken has golden rules for preparing for a successful summit – drink shed loads of water and eat, even when you’ve lost your appetite. For someone who never eats breakfast … ever … trying to force down a piece of cold dry toast, a cold beef sausage and a childs size pizza slice of omlete at 7am was a pretty tough challenge in itself for me. Yet Commander Ken told me it would do the job and I trusted him implicitly. I did my best.
We left Machame camp and started to make our way to Shira Cave Camp. A couple of ladies in the group are not well. One was throwing up during the start of today and as we near Shira camp a few hours later, altitude has hit another and she is being sick, feeling really dizzy and struggling. The porters are amazing and help them both out.
We’re not impressed by the long drop toilets, however it is a private wee non-the-less!
Gemma rocking it!
Today’s climb was pretty steep and finished with a bit of scrambling over rocks, but the views … OMG, the views were amazing! We’ve trekked for about 6 hours, and it rained for the first time which tried to dampen our spirits, but it didn’t work!
We arrived at camp with plenty of time to spare to unpack and repack a little more! The sun starts to set and our amazing Kilimanjaro support team want to introduce themselves to us, in song. Behind us in the distance, we can see the summit in all its majestic glory, inviting us up. What an evening, what a sight, what an experience.
My fitbit tells me I had a better 6 hours and 40 minute sleep – result! Tomorrow is Monday and we’re heading off on an acclimatisation trek to Lava Tower. Walking high, sleeping low. 3 days to go the summit attempt and I’m feeling good!