Ziploc- I owe you my life.
Sometimes, I would be mesmerized with the beauty of the night. The zillion stars that light up the African night, like no other place I have seen. The serenity of the mountain, as it is suddenly seems to belong to me alone. Solitude was a treat in Kilimanjaro. Seeing the rounded peak against the moonlight validated my being there, in the night, all by myself, going to pee.
The morning, just when I was declaring how well I slept, I had some symptoms of altitude sickness. I felt like puking while eating breakfast. The Dawg suddenly came to my recue,’ Hold it in! Hold it in! Do not puke!’ I tried tilting my head backwards, then suddenly I ran outside the tent and emptied the contents of my bowels, Malaria pill included. What the?! How does one hold puke in?
I felt very apprehensive about the rest of the days to come. Especially since I couldn’t hold the puke in as I was supposed to. Leela told me not to let this get to me and that sometimes achieving something is just a state of mind. I nodded weakly while lying on the tent floor getting my energy back. Herment, our guide, came to my tent and told me not to worry and that this is quite common. ‘I get sick too’. Herment had this uncanny way of putting people at ease at the most grueling times and I thank him for it even though sometimes we knew he was just saying things that he really didn’t mean. He did it very nonchalantly without creating a fuss. ‘Also if you feel like throwing up again, don’t try to hold in!’ That does it! I am convinced The Dawg is has been sent to twart my plans of making it to the top!
I felt instantly better as we moved away from the camp and Kibo came to full view again. We walked though some amazing expanse of Moorland vegetation (consisting of some huge cacti) and some black volcanic boulders. The vast starkness of the landscape was mind-blowing and we continued to prod on as the air became thinner. We reached an altitude of 14,000 ft after which we would descend to 12,850 ft to camp. This is the best mantra to acclimatize- Climb High and Sleep Low.
The Dawg declared that he was developing cerebral edema and we laughed at him like good friends should. ‘Dude, that's your Gatorade spilling on your ear.'
In fact his delusions in the mountain didn’t stop there. Every time he came back from the shithouse panting and puffing, he would declare he just had childbirth. His kids surely didn’t take after the mom.
I had lunch in a hailstorm. That’s one thing I would advice you not to put in your list to check off. It was brutal till it lasted. Though it was pounding with all kinds of white substance from the skies, it didn't last long. Downhill usually doesn’t bother me and I had a wonderful time admiring the snow covered landscape and then all of a sudden the clouds parted to my left and we got the glimpse of Kibo yet again, suddenly so close and so majestic. My heart skipped a few beats as I looked up. Nothing could be so perfect and nothing could take this moment away from me. I just sat down on a rock and admired this wonderful creation on earth. I could see the Heim and Kerstein Glacier , beautiful, though receding. A few glacial streams that cascaded down as little waterfalls adorned the path. The giant cacti (Senecio Kilimanjari) surrounded the landscape rendering this picture very illusory. I wished hard for one thing. I hoped to remember this for a long time to come. We had walked for 8 hours straight and were completely exhausted when we reached Baranco Camp (12,850 ft) right under the shadow of Kibo. To the other side was the vast plains of Africa and could spot the city of Moshi way below us. We felt very high and very cold.
Pi and the Dawg staggered into camp an hour later looking completely drained off every ounce. The Dawg collapsed in his tent refusing to come out for dinner. We literally dragged him out. The Dawg suddenly realized that this was not easy and for the first time he started having self doubts. He started talking fondly of his wife (This was highly concerning). He was in pain and had slight fever. Pi had a terrible headache, which is usually associated with high altitudes. Lee’s feet were hurting from an ankle sprain. But luckily everyone could speak two words before they retired into their sleeping bags.