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  • Niki Harry

Conquering Kilimanjaro - Day 5

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Elevation: Start at 12,950 ft – end at 13,200 ft at Karanga camp

Today was insane! My favorite day so far! The challenge… the views… and the reward at the end of the day. AND the fact that I felt like a million dollars! FINALLY! Last night was the first night that I actually slept straight through. I finally got smart and put earplugs in. And my smart husband came up with the idea of putting hot water into my stainless steel drinking bottle, which created a beautiful hot water bottle for my sleeping bag. And after all that beautiful oxygen and Tylenols last night, I slept like a log! Did not even need to get up for a bathroom break. It was amazing.

I felt fabulous when I woke up. No headache! Everyone couldn’t believe how perky & peppy I was. Sleep certainly helps. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to get through the past few days. The interesting part is that my muscles are not sore at all, I’ve had no problems with my lungs nor altitude induced asthma as I thought I would have. But today everyone else was feeling like crap; sick, headaches, no energy and many didn’t sleep last night. Deb also had a second hit of oxygen last night but she didn’t respond to it as well so she still had a headache today.

And this is the first thing we saw when we unzipped our tent – talk about a room with a view!

And speaking of tent – talk about a disaster! This was the morning ritual, trying to sort through clean clothes, dry clothes, toiletries, etc

Starting to look a bit rough I think – and getting all the energy we can to fuel up for the big day ahead.

Today we had the challenge of climbing the 800 ft Barranco Wall. Same routine this morning as every other morning except we got a pep talk this time about the importance of clinging together very tightly while climbing the wall and to not let any other porters push past us. It would be a mad dash with hundreds of people trying to climb this wall as quickly as they can. There is no place to pass as its basically one path over rocks and crevices to climb up the wall. The guides really needed our cooperation today and needed us to really listen to them, and that meant doing exactly what they wanted us to. If they asked us for our hand so they can help us “jump” from one rock to the next, then we had to comply. Hmmm????

The guides were hoping to try and leave a bit earlier today to beat the rush but we didn’t manage to – it was the usual, 9AM group photo taken and then off we went.

Looking up behind us, this is what we saw already – a bit of a gridlock!

And off we went with great anticipation!

The porters pass and climb huge rocks with nothing to hold onto, meanwhile carrying huge loads on their heads and backs, and not once losing their load or falling. Quite the experts for sure.

The guides would have to assist us in some spots by helping us climb a rock and grabbing our hands. It was one of these scenarios: “Niki, put your left foot over in that crevice, reach up and grab this rock with your left hand, then give me your right hand and TRUST ME”. HOIST! Gulp. Success! It was crazy and a bit frightening but after 2 whole hours of this, everyone did it!

On the way up, Alan had his turn at being sick. Due to taking Diamox, he had no appetite all week and that is not good. While going up the wall he became extremely weak and dizzy and he needed a quick sugar hit, a protein bar and John gave him one of our (as per Alan: “nasty tasting”) electrolyte mixes. He was back to normal within 10 minutes. But most were struggling today with low energy and

Here he is drinking the “nasty” stuff.

Look way down and over – where camp was – we are literally on the edge here – taking a little break and getting another energy kick.

Almost to the top of the wall here. Deb and I on the right – we nicknamed ourselves the “Oxygen Queens”.

Finally we came to the top of the wall and took a ½ hour break there. It was surreal. We were above the beautiful white, puffy clouds with Mt. Meru peeking above them on one side, and behind us, Kilimanjaro (Kibo) peak in all its glory.

​It was beautiful and warm and we truly enjoyed every glorious moment of this and it became a huge reminder as to why we are all doing this and why we cannot give up. It was worth every headache we got!

Our awesome Tusker guides – letting lose and having a bit of fun too!

​Finally we moved on, descending into the Karanga valley which on its own was insane. Down and up, and down and up, and then a big down and a HUGE up again. It was a long haul and everyone was dragging by the end of it.

There’s our camp way over in the distance – we were very excited that we were close but then Liberaty explained that we were really not that close! We had a BIG down to go and then one of those trails to go up. The right one was shorter but very steep, the left one longer but not as bad. We chose the longer one! This was still over an hour of walking to get there.

Towards the bottom of the big down.. before heading back up.

And just when we were at the final part of the ascent and thought our bodies could barely take another step, we got the most incredible surprise. We suddenly started hearing singing and looking up, there were all our porters standing at the top of the hill, with Godlesin (our very quiet emergency medical porter who has been walking with us for five days, but always hanging at the back of the group carrying the stretcher and gamow bag) standing on top of a very huge rock, holding the Tusker flag and waving it around, singing to the top of his lungs. I noticed that he passed us a while back & thought that it was weird as he never left our group. I even asked Eliakim but he never answered me and I thought he just didn’t hear me so I dropped it. They sang two very long songs, and in one they named each of us. Later I discovered it’s a local song sang to warriors coming back from a very tough journey. It was extremely emotional and a couple of us literally had to hold back tears. They put their heart and soul into the singing and it was very entertaining. They clapped and whistled and cheered us on. It was so moving and gave us a renewed energy to make sure no one quits! These people know what they are doing.

It was about 2:15 pm and we were done for the day. Lunch was served immediately and we had the rest of the day to chill out and do what we wanted. Lunch was an incredible soup again, then thai chicken and rice – delicious! Today new porters delivered fresh food for the rest of the week – like? Really?? Every meal so far was amazing, certainly couldn’t complain.

​We relished in our lunch and cheered – only 2 more days to go and we would summit. Suddenly we were all confident that we would make it. Our guides, Eliakim, Shabani & Liberaty were amazing, caring individuals. In these five days we have all become like one big family, as if we’ve known each other all our lives. It has become personal. We all smell, we all look really rough, we are all suffering in one way or another. There are personal questions being asked daily during our medical checks re: our bodily functions. Everyone hears and knows what is going on (there are no soundproof walls here!) It’s hard to explain but now I totally get it when I read other people’s blogs explaining this same situation. But there are situations where groups don’t get along and refuse to cooperate with the guides. So they were very happy with our group and the fact that we became one happy family.

Tonight the sunset was absolutely beautiful and once the clouds cleared again, we got another fantastic view of the Moshi lights below us. The stars once more did not disappoint. It was as if you could touch them, they felt so close.

​Dinner tonight was soup of course and fajita’s – a new thing that they tried. Some of our group were still suffering tonight and Deb got oxygen again as she had a hard time with the headaches as I did. After dinner, Eliakim came into the tent and gave us an informational talk about his country, the people, different tribes and a bit about the Maasai. Then it was bedtime…by 8:30 again! And Day 5 down! Continue reading about our Day 6 Kilimanjaro hike.

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