Published: December 17th 2007December 17th 2007
My how life has changed since my last entry. After another brief stay in Nairobi, we left on December 9th to Nanyuki, where our trek of Mt. Kenya was to begin. We were taking the Sirimon route up (most gradual), and the Chogoria route down (most scenic). Our first matutu ride was all we expected, with two flat tires and multiple delays on the side of the highway. "This is life here," our driver told us. After a night in Nanyuki, we were to begin our trek with a 9 km dirt road walk up to 3300m. This was made a little more difficult by Will's reaction to the local cuisine the day before, but we both made it up, and started to feel mild effects of altitude sickness. We are hiking with a guide, cook, and 2 porters, all wearing clothing relative to what I would wear in the winter in Canada, while we were both sweating buckets.
The next morning we departed on a 6-7 hour hike up to Shipton's camp, at 4200m. The altitude is now affecting us in multiple ways. I can feel my lungs absorbing oxygen at a far slower rate, and my brain functioning at minimal capacity. It is also very cold even during mid-day, with night time tempuratures reaching below 0 degrees celcius. My headaches are rare, but pounding migraines when they occur. I start to feel a little ashamed at the fact that this is the easiest way up the mountain. That night was a cold one, however, the next day we had to acclimatize and do a 4 hour hike around the "Summit Circuit". Extremely steep ascents and descents taking us up as high as 4700m, this day was by far the most rewarding so far. The area around the summit is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Sharp, snow capped peaks above us, unique flora and fauna all around us, and rolling green hills and valleys below us. That night, at 3 am, we are to attempt the summit.
At 3 am we were surprisingly well rested, most likely due to the fact that falling asleep before 8 pm was routine for us these days. The trudging footsteps in the silent darkness that morning seem to last forever, but while attempting the summit, fatigue plays a much smaller part in your thoughts. By sunrise we has made it, 4985m high, at Point Lenana. Glorious views everywhere we looked. We were all smiles, and both felt a quiet sense of pride that we had done it. I couldn't help but feel that it was pride moreso then the physical desire that got me to the summit, but I made it there nonetheless. This was just the beginning of the day. We then hiked down for another 2 hours until breakfast, and then for another 4-5 to camp. The warm showers that night after almost 12 hours of hiking felt well deserved. The hike down was drastically different then the hike up. Sirimon route was enclosed, constantly hailing or raining, with the strangest looking plants I have ever seen surrounding us. Chogoria was a cloudless, green expanse with views all the way to the top of the mountain, and waterfalls and gorges all around.
So overall it was a success. Not quite the "warm up" for Kilimanjaro that we had anticipated, but a great experience. We will be climbing kili with the same guide, costing about 1000 dollars each, compared to the rates quoted at home which are as high as 10 times that. The next day we hiked another 15km down to meet a jeep, legs in pain, scorched by the sun, to some cold beers in Chogoria village. After one last night in Nairobi, we left the following day on a flight to Lamu, a laid-back muslim island on the northern coast. Yesterday we went out on a dhow (Arabic sail-boat), caught our lunch, and docked on an isolated beach for a barbeque and frisbee filled afternoon. We then proceeded to Ali Hippy's house, a local hippy who entertains locals with dinner and live music. Crab, red snapper curry, chipati, and lobster, were followed by his entire family playing us swahili and indian inspired songs in their lantern lit, furniture-free dining room. Quite a day. The next month or so will be spent on the coast, relaxing, saving money, and eating fresh seafood.
On one final note, on Dec. 27th the county of Kenya will be having only their fourth free and democratic elections. The incumbent president is currently behind in the polls. This was a shock to us at first, as all the support (which is rampant in every village and city) seemed to be behind him. After arriving on the coast, however, it is clear the muslim community is very supportive of the other challenger, with some polls having their ratings as less then 2% apart. Originally we had planned to be outside the country and this point, but the more we are ensconsed in the campaigning of a new democracy, the more intriguing it is to remain here and witness the results. Anyways, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone, I will publish a link to the flickr page for pics as soon as they are uploaded. Im an envious of the fast connections you are all enjoying right now, and if you send me your address you might get a postcard come the new year.