Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Day 05 (Barafu Camp to Mweka Camp)
I woke up at 01:06, dressed for the extreme cold, and was treated to a light breakfast of chocolate creme cookies and tea. I was dismayed to see Kilimanjaro shrouded in clouds at this time, but once past a certain altitude, they were no longer in the way. Once my guide and I were ready, we set off toward Uhuru Peak at 01:50. We followed the trails up the side of the massive volcano and both my guide and I opted not to use our headlamps since the moon was giving off enough light for us to see; unfortunately, many other hikers were using their headlamps and thus damaging our night vision; actually, with all the hikers climbing up the switchbacks with their headlamps turned on, it looked like a slithering snake constellation; typing of constellations, one could see many in the night sky once past the cloud coverage (it was spectacular). At about 04:30, we reached Stella Point (5,740 meters) on the outer rim of Kibo Crater; from there, we followed the rim clockwise to Uhuru Peak; since we were early, we took two long breaks on the way to Uhuru Peak, watching dawn break across the eastern horizon, but at 05:30, just before sunrise, we reached the peak (5,896 meters, the tallest point in Africa on the world’s highest free standing mountain). I took the necessary photographs with the signs on Uhuru Peak and, as I was warming my frozen fingers under my armpits, one hiker braved the arctic temperatures and took off all his clothes to pose in front of the sign nude (somebody gonna get his dick frozen off!). After warming up for a brief period, my guide asked if I wanted to do the crater hike; before I had wanted to, but I was now suffering from the high altitude and had a headache and nausea; so I told him I would like to return to camp; however, my guide insisted I should do the hike and at most it would cost me an hour more; so I agreed and we hiked through snow to the inside of Kibo Crater, where there were actually tents set up and about twenty or so campers. Once in the crater, we walked by some large icefields (Furtwangler) and up to Reusch Crater; from Reusch Crater, I could see the inner ash pit and several steam vents emitting sulfur in to the air. My guide and I then hiked clockwise around Reusch Crater, passing by the awesome looking Northern and Eastern Icefields, before taking the trail up to Stella Point, where – now thanks to sunlight – we had a great view of Ratzel Glacier. From Stella Point, we hiked back to Barafu Camp on barely discernible, steep trails trough volcanic ash and rocks (it was slippery in many places); while hiking, some of the other guides referred to me as Jesus, just as others have done on the previous days, on account of my beard and long hair; so I started to bless them in response. Also, during the hike back down, my headache actually worsened and I was very glad once I made it back to my tent (just after 10:00). Inside my tent, I packed away all my cold weather gear and tried to catch some sleep (I think I napped a total of thirty minutes); after noon, I was served lunch (hot tea, cucumber and black pepper soup, a boiled potato, and thin pancakes) and then I packed for the second hike today (to Mweka Camp); after 13:00, my guide and I were ready; so we set off down the cloudy ridge (the clouds had moved back in since I had rested in my tent), first through rocky terrain, then alpine desert, and then through the alpine heath; during the hike, we were sprinkled with some sleet and later rain; also, because of my large and heavy backpack as well as my quick pace, my guide told me some of the other guides were saying I should be a soldier – Haha! As if I would ever be stupid enough to join the army! Anyway, we finally reached Mweka Camp at 15:30; after signing in at the ranger station, our porter arrived about fifteen minutes later; we then set up the tents and I went inside mine to relax and type out today’s journal entry. Later, I received a bowl of hot water and soap from the porter to wash up, and after today’s hike through volcanic dust, I definitely needed it. I then had a few cups of hot chocolate and coffee whilst laying inside my tent before dinner arrived at 18:00; for dinner I had an onion soup, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mango slices, green beans, and rice with a spicy sauce full of diced vegetables and kidney beans. After dinner, I refilled my camelback and then laid down to sleep.