May the road rise up before you..
I’ve always wondered about that famous Irish blessing. It certainly was delivered in spades today. We left Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro National Park around lunchtime and wound our way up the red dusty trail through the rain forest in the foothills of the mountain. The pace was steady and the conversation good. I was puffing away like a little cart horse but occasionally whinnied or snorted a reply to my chattier colleagues. Mountains would be easy if it weren’t for the hills….
As we passed through the trees with long trailing lichens sweeping down around us, I was surprised at how like home this felt. The trees were different species and the lichen far more abundant, but the moist, mossy spell of the woodland reminded me of home; apart from the slightly narcotic scented aroma of some of the herbs that we brushed past. Another surprise was how cool it felt. I was generously basted in sun-lotion and mosquito repellent, but it felt misty and cool, like home without the midges.
The track kept winding up, with breaks for a pack lunch and visits to some of the ‘drop’ toilets along the way. Wooden huts with planked floors and a hole, where you squat and erm, ‘drop’ your waste. A little over 5 hours’ trekking brought us up 1,200 metres. I always feel a sense of relief when I see the tents. Job done for the day and no ill affects from altitude, no sickness, no headache. All is good.
Dinner followed in the mess tent and the conversation had us in stitches with quick-fire puns intended and accidental, and the almost inevitable stories about toilets and toilet malfunctions. The more experienced expeditiousness unable to contain their glee at the look of horror on the faces of the uninitiated.
Most of us shivered as we nibbled popcorn and waited for our plates of steaming hot beef and vegetables and even chips. Most of us were surprised at how cold it felt, and I realised our expedition boss, Pat Falvey, had been right as always when he advised me to pack the heavy duty down jacket that I had been tempted to leave back in the hotel. Day one on the mountain and I’m cold. I wonder what summit night will feel like. We’re also wondering how we will feel if it rains; which apparently it does a lot.
As if reading our minds, Freddie our head guide sends us off to our tents with the command to ‘sleep well and forget about the morning’. No worries, no thoughts about what to wear, or concerns about altitude. “Forget it all he said” just sleep and the day will follow.
The day will follow soon enough. It’s 10pm now. We rise at 6.30.
Night all. Xxx