After a pretty hairy bus journey across the border of Kenya and into Tanzania, it was with huge relief that we reached the sleepy little town of USA River and met Justice - the driver who works for Matt's dad's friends Dick and Dolores. We were to stay with them for a few days until we set for either Mount Meru or Killi or both! We have ended up staying with them for over a week now and gosh they have really looked after us amazingly :o)
We had a lovely couple of days relaxing with Dick and Dolores and after some planning we embarked on a 4 day hike up Mount Meru. This was supposed to be a bit of a warm up for the main event - something to get us going, test our new boots and help with acclimatisation. Matt's dad did this a few years ago and Matt said "well if my dad can do it and with a gammy knee - it'll be no problem for us. Plus, he said that it's a lovely scenic walk". ok so....
On the first morning, we met our fellow climbers - Gintaris from Lithuania, a wonderfully interesting
man from Lithuania who is climbing Killi after this(and has given me some great potato recipes), Karlie from Oz who is not only climbing Killi after this but also Mount Kenya (what a woman!) and Herve and Carolina from France (who are very wise and heading straight to Zanzibar after this) We also met our guide Felix and the ranger Joseph who had to accompany us with a rifle in case of wild animal attacks. The first day was a beautiful walk up through dense forest, past waterfalls and trees filled with monkeys. It took us about 6.5 hours to reach our first camp which was actually much more comfortable than I had anticipated - running water and comfy bunks in cabins. Our cook made us a lovely stew for dinner and we were all tucked by about 9 ready for a big day on day 2.
The next day, we tackled a much steeper section to saddle huts. It was only about 3.5 hours walk but all uphill. By the time we reached the camp my ankle was starting to really ache (I broke it a few years ago and it still gives me bother from time to
time, particularly in the new boots). We got there in time for lunch and after a bit of a relax, we set off to climb Little Meru which is about 3800 - this was really lovely and i think helped a lot to get used to the height. Both Matt and I had headaches but soon recovered after getting back to the huts. We had an early dinner and then in bed for 7.30 so that we could have some rest before attempting to summit.
at 12.20am we were woken up to have a hot drink and get ready to leave for the summit climb. I have to confess at this stage that i have developed an addiction for Milo!! Having lived in Australia for years now, I know of the stuff but never had it....now I'm thinking how did i live without it!! Anyway, 1am and our little band of climbers set off. The stars were absolutely amazing as we climbed. At one stage it felt like the stars were completely surrounding us above and to the sides and below....beautiful. As we continued higher one of the girls had to stop as she had been feeling unwell all
night. After that, I slowed down considerably as it got much steeper and we had to negotiate climbing some rocks. The other 3 went on ahead and me and matt continued with Felix. It was so scary scrambling over the rocks in the pitch dark not knowing what was down below (actually it was even scarier when I saw it in the light on the way back!!). As we continued further on up scree and rocks, our energy started to flag as we realised that each time we thought we had reached the summit, another higher summit appeared ...it's called a hog's back - Progressively ascending peaks. It got really freezing on the shade side that we were climbing on at the top. All of a sudden we rounded one of the peaks and the sun was rising over Kilimanjaro. It was spectacular! Eventually, after even more rock climbing and lots of near falls, we reached the top. I cried when I got to the top - half because it was such a relief and half because I was terrified of how on earth I was going to get down! We lapped up the views though - just beautiful, we
were above all of the clouds and had Killi to one side glowing in the early sunlight and vast craters and plains to the other side.
All in all it took us over 10 hours to reach to the summit and get back to our camp. We were only able to stop for a little while there for lunch before walking another 3 hours back to the first camp where we stayed for the night. What a huge day!
On day 4 we were pretty bushed and feeling a bit beat up. I had knocked my toe coming down the rocks and realised that i had damaged the toe nail so between that and my ankle, I was a right cripple coming down the mountain on the last morning! Ah well, it was a great feeling to get to the bottom and one of the other couples had some Champagne which they very generously shared with us. It felt like we had known our new friends for ages and was sad to say goodbye. We were so pleased to get back to the lovely Dick and Dolores - they had Steak and Creme Brulee for dinner for us
and we just sank into our beds that night.
So, Matt is now going on to climb Killi - he leaves tomorrow. I on the other hand have decided to stick to level ground and hold the fort until he gets back :o)
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