Well, as camp sites go...
Well, as camp sites go…

Bright and early the next morning (after that vital last shower) we shipped out, fortunately driving up, up, up the hill, knocking off the first few hundred metres.  About half way through the drive, we stopped for a Kili photo opportunity – when suddenly the hill lost her shroud of cloud, the sun shone – and a couple of our intrepid little group had a few tears….  Do you have any idea just how big that damn bladdy hill is????  When you drive into the park, pass through the famous peaked gate house, see all of the porters queueing up to have bags weighed, packed into waterproof sacks and divided out, hear the shouting, smell the dust, have an eye on the hill, feel the electricity and nervous crackle, it suddenly gets very real.  The seasoned guides sit quietly and wait, pass times with their kaka’s (brothers, many not seen since the last trip) while some of the porters look like they should still be in school uniform, and have the same nervous giggle and bouncy, twitchy vibe that the tourists have, big grins, carrying their just – inherited – too – big jackets and not really knowing what they had let themselves in for.  (We had three main guides, Julio, Rama and Ernest – Julio had been up so often he couldn’t count, 3 / 4 times a month for about 15 years, Rama told us this was his 141st summit and Ernest I’m sure had probably done the same.  And then, our three assistant guides, would have done it dozens of times too).

The rafiki setting off with their packs.
The rafiki setting off with their packs.

(OK, at this point, since the airline don’t have an actual meal for me (the veggie order worked for my next flight – hopefully – but not his one) they brought me an extra, double whiskey instead – please forgive me if I start to slur…..  *Hic* Maybe I should leave Fred in charge for a while….)

The final pack re-packing.
The final pack re-packing.

Finally, after fond farewell visit to the last real loo, a boot tying lesson, a pole walking (luckily not dancing) lesson, a back pack (or *uck pack) carrying lesson, another visit to the loo, a last minute poncho shopping trip, another last trip to the loo….  We eventually walked out of camp, mid-morning on a bright sunny Sunday.  Ready for our big “expotition”.  Machame gate at 1,790m through to Machame Camp at 3,010m.  The first day is walking through forest – massive old trees, really massive, trunks that must have been 8 metres around and dripping with fern, lots of blue monkeys watching the next bunch of lunatics passing through, a gentle climb, lots of trees to hide behind when you need to find a bush.    I had been told – we would be walking slowly, accept the slow, and be 100m behind the last in the group.  I have to admit, at several points that first day (well, the whole day if I am honest) the thought going through my head was what the hell had I signed up for, because if I had to walk that slowly for a week I would be ready to throw myself off the top.  Those who know me, know that when I am going somewhere, I go there.  Head down, back into it, power.  The number of times, in normal life, that I have to slow down for the person walking with me, and even then it drives me mad, so…  A friend of mine recently ran Comrades marathon in SA, which is 90 odd kilometres up and down 1,000 hills.  Insane.  She told me that she did it to learn perseverance.  I figured I would probably learn the same lesson, but what I didn’t realise, was that Lesson Number One was going to be patience.  Stop and smell the roses (or monkey poo).  Breathe.  Listen to the small talk of 22 strangers trying to figure out herd dynamics, getting a sense of who is who, all seeing which of these strange new people was going to be their person.   Dr Kate was the back stop, so I tried to stick just in front of her.  Now, the rule is, if porters come flying past, the person at the back yells RAFIKI and everyone moves to the right hand side of the path, to allow them to power past.  Those first couple of days, Kate would yell Rafiki, I would duck into the side, and then without thinking join the tail of the rafiki and start to WALK instead of tootle, and I would hear Kate – “Ashleigh – SLOW DOWN…”  Oops.

Final warnings...
Final warnings…

Camp on day one was Machame Camp.  Welcome to camp.  Now.  I do not camp.  Not under any circumstances.

(Do you like
green eggs and ham
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
Would you like them
Here or there?
I would not like them
here or there.
I would not like them
anywhere.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am)

(The effect of camping at altitude – all I could do was think in Dr Seuss… – I do not like camping here, there or anywhere, I do not like camping…)

The rangers post...
The rangers post…

It was bad enough staying in a mobile home horse truck at competitions way back in Ireland, but I DO NOT camp.  So.  Welcome to camp.  Paired up with our original room buddy (Luckily Ellie and I got along great – at least from my point of view) pick a tent.  We got number 3, so every day when we arrived in camp, we looked for tent 3 and our mountain kit bags had already found their way there – clever bags.  Again, I had been warned.  Your tent is pitched on the side of a mountain – the tent guys try to pitch it as flat as possible, but hello, you are on the edge of a cliff.  So you put your head at the high end, feet at the bottom end.  Inflate your little camping mat, spread out your sleeping bag, insert your sleeping liner and gratefully lie down….  To find the rock digging into your spine.  Wriggle.  Ahh, there is the next one in your left buttock.  Wriggle.  Yup, now it’s in your right buttock.  Wriggle, ahh, bliss its back in your spine.  (Try to get it right into the middle of that spasm – awesome) And somehow, your feet are now scrunched up against the bottom of the tent.  Wriggle back up, find your rock, slowly gloop your way down until your ankle joints have double jointed up against the tent wall.  Wriggle up, find the rock.  And so it goes.  Dinner.  I have to say, the food was exceptional all week.  Every dinner started with steaming hot soup, followed by mains, followed by fruit or (on two occasions), birthday cake.  And cupcakes, biscuits, chocolate bars.  Briefing of what is on tomorrow (more walking).    And, ahh bliss – a wet wipe wash.  Hmmm.  Did I mention, I don’t camp?  Ever.

Comments (2)

Brilliant, and such a humours look back.
I do have one issue, were is the rest, it’s like discovering the last chapters have been removed from a great book. Get “blogging”
Hope you are well and blogging from an interesting location in the world, that’s “as you like it” , i.e warm.
Take care, will be following the blog.
Jillx

Reply

Ahh, thank you Jill – I do like looking back and writing it down! The rest will appear, by magic, over the next few days. Just enough each day to keep you sitting for your coffee break…. I am currently in UK actually, in the grey and damp, I thought it would be summer!

Reply

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