“Bed tea” is the best thing about trekking! Our morning routine is to be woken up by one of the guides at 6.30am with “bed tea” served in our tents, followed by a bowl of hot washing water in our tents at 7am and breakfast in the mess tent at 7.30am. I could get used to such luxuries! The disadvantage of living on your own is that you have to make your own tea in bed. As on other treks, this ritual, aside from being very welcome, is an important part of the day as it enables the guides to check on how you’re feeling, in the privacy of your own tent.
The day’s walking wasn’t hard, although for the first half hour I felt my heart hammering and the breathlessness started. But experience has taught me how to control my breathing at altitude, and I was soon fine. Interestingly, everyone else began to struggle today — I think the altitude hit them all for the first time, and for most of them, it was their first experience of it so a little unsettling. The pace for me was perfect as it was so much slower than I’m used to walking at home, so I had no problems at all with the steep climbs, although it turned out that many of the others were finding it difficult.
Today I realised my astonishingly stupid camera mistake. After having taken only half a dozen pictures, my camera had run out of memory. How was this possible? Usually I can fit about 150 pictures on it! I finally discovered the problem — I had actually forgotten to insert the SD card before leaving home! What a complete idiot! I was crestfallen at the thought that I’d have no photos, and despite the others promising to send me theirs, I knew it was not the same, especially as photos are so personal and because I like to take quirky ones particularly. Thankfully Annie came to my rescue that evening and dug out a spare SD card to lend me.
After reaching the Shira Ridge, we turned a corner and caught our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro in all its glory. The summit was just under cloud but we could clearly see the snow-capped peak. Suddenly the realisation hit me that we were really here. This was it! Mixed emotions rolled over me for the next hour as the mountain towered in the distance. My first thought was “it doesn’s actually look that high, surely this is easily achievable?” Of course this is only semi-true: what makes it difficult is the altitude. Next came a tremor of excitement about being finally so close to our destination, closely followed by an almost anti-climactic sense of regret that I’ll never experience this moment again in my life. Even if I return, it won’t be the same as my first sighting. I’m sure this is nothing compared with the enormity of actually reaching the summit, when I am sure a mixture of emotions will flood the senses: relief, excitement, a sense of history, and of course utter exhaustion.
The campsite lay beneath the foot of the mountain, which afforded us stunning views from even within the tents. Everyone was shattered tonight, and after an early dinner we were all in bed by 8pm, which pretty much set the pattern for the rest of the trek. It was freezing in the mess tent, even with several layers of clothing on, and we debated who would be the first to crack and put their down jacket on during the trip!