Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day 1 – 2,700 Meters – Pole, Pole

We are now at the altitude where several porters died last month. They were caught in the rain and were too poor to afford the proper gear. We only encountered light rain today though, and did not have much difficulty.

Mount Kilimanjaro is an interesting climb. It is the only place in the world where you can go on a single hike that takes you through five different climate zones, from tropical rainforest to arctic tundra. As one documentary I watched put it, it's as though you are walking from the equator to the north pole in just a few days.

You feel as if you are back in all sorts of different places you've been to as you go up – none of them Africa. Today felt just like the hikes I’ve taken through Vancouver Island.
Today was a great day. I still have the painful cough, but it is already subsiding. Sarah is feeling much better too. I was getting a slight headache on the ascent, but an early rest for lunch cured it. Slow climbing is the name of the game. We say the best climber is the one who finishes last. You here the phrase “pole, pole” a lot, which means “slowly, slowly.”

My pack is so heavy. I gave Sarah such a long lecture on how important a light pack is and even made jokes about drilling holes in my toothbrush handle, but wow is it heavy. The problem is that at the extreme altitudes we will hit, your body retains huge amounts of water. Eventually it begins storing it in your lungs, and then your brain, and then you die. The way you keep this from happening is to flood your body with so much water that it thinks extreme retention is not necessary. We must drink four liters of water per day at a minimum, with seven being ideal. As the family pack mule I am responsible for hauling most of those eight liters, and as a result my daypack is much heavier than I had anticipated. I have a Nalgene bottle hanging off each side, one-liter canteens on the top and back, and two 1.5 liter bottles inside my pack.

We made it to camp at around 5 pm. Sarah and I had talked about how once we dropped off our things at camp we would do the additional one-hour round-trip hike to some geographic feature you can find up here, which is good for acclimatization (hike high, then come back down to sleep). Yeah, right. I want dinner and I want bed by 7:30.

And besides, we already ran into some monkeys in the rain forest, which was fun and helped ease the pain of having just paid the park fees of $525 per person.

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