Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Friday, 4 December 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 8 of several)

Tuesday October 6
About an hour into the climb towards Stella Point, I walked ahead with Yahoo and Gerald because it appeared Notburga was having trouble keeping up with the pace. I was worried she might decide to give up and turn back, but she didn't! Before dawn, she and Ben, the assistant guide, not only caught up with us but walked ahead of us and it took us considerable effort to catch up with them.

It was time for us to reflect on the Swahili saying: "Kutangulia si kufika." (Being ahead, doesn't mean getting there). Not the best translation, but it carries the meaning. From then on, we remained within sight of each other. She eventually reached Stella Point at around 8:00 a.m., a formidable feat in itself but Yahoo, noting that she had some difficulty with her breathing, suggested she should turn back, only a short distance before reaching the peak.

About an hour after we left Barafu Camp and throughout most of the slow trek during the night we kept hearing, periodically, the sound of a harmonica played downhill behind us. That someone had the energy to play a harmonica under those conditions not only seemed incredible to us (in fact Gerald, thought it an insult), but it reminded me of reading somewhere that as the Titanic was sinking a pianist kept on playing the piano until the Titanic - and the piano - was eventually drawn under the Atlantic Ocean. The sound of the harmonica evoked that scene on the sinking Titanic, a bad omen for our attempt to reach the peak.

The name of the harmonica player was Allen, a guide from Zara Tanzania Adventures, the same company that Yahoo worked for, who was leading a Spanish couple. We could hear him from a mile away because he spoke endlessly and when he was within hearing distance he spoke at us, but particularly with Yahoo. When he stopped speaking, he played the harmonica.

Mawenzi peak, just before sunrise
Day broke before we reached Stella Point and we had made such good progress that some of the climbers who seemed miles ahead were at a shouting distance and it appeared possible, as Allen had predicted, that we would surpass those who had started earlier. In fact we did on the final stretch from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak.

At about 4:00 a.m. before reaching Stella Point I suddenly became extremely exhausted. Midway through I had consumed the contents of one of my cans of Red Bull and Gerald also asked for one, but the energy from the Red Bull ran out about 40 metres short of Stella Point. In mountain distances, 40 metres can as well be 40 kilometres.

I paused, contemplated and did what appeared to be inevitable in the circumstances. I drank my second can of Red Bull, got an extra boost of energy and 'rocketed' towards Uhuru Peak.

Next: At the rooftop of Africa

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