Pole Pole. Man. Ain’t that the truth.
There was nothing but the feet in front of us for hours. You stop when they stop. You step when they step. And you step where they step. It was amazing how mesmerizing it was. When you can’t see anything but the next step, there is no concept of time, or distance. There is no concept of height or anything really. We were a massive precession of people, all taking one step after another, on a switchback trail, in the pitch black of night. And we were slow. So slow. Take a step, count to three, then take a step slow. I about lost my mind. Wait no, I did loose my mind. About an hour from the top, I almost quit. The slow pace was killing me. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath but more from stopping than from going. Pro tip, should I do it again, I will bring music. Anything to distract myself and give me something to focus on other than the slow, methodical pace.
I missed seeing my guide stop at one point and stepped wrong, twisting my ankle. Let me tell you, that was not the best thing that could have happened. But, in no way was that holding me back.
We started our hike at about midnight and reached the first peak at about 5 am. Lord. I have never been so happy to reach a point in my life. Just an immense amount of pride and wonder and just tons of things I can’t even put into words washed over me. What an amazing experience. Anyway, we toasted our success with a hot cup of honey, ginger tea – the most delicious cup of tea I have ever had and then decided our next steps. The sun still hadn’t come up yet, and we wanted to make it to the next goal – the highest point on Kilimanjaro – so we continued on.
It was about an hour long hike to the highest point. The top of Kilimanjaro. The last hour, after reaching our first peak, was the easiest part of the day, minus coming down. And man, was it worth it. Beyond gorgeous. The entire world feels like it is beneath you and with the sun coming up, it was truly an amazing sight. We took the pictures, a few videos, ate some granola, and stared out at what we had accomplished. All in all, we probably weren’t up there but 20 minutes or so and then we started to head down. At this point, I was coughing pretty good and was excited to get down the mountain.
You really more slide/run down the side of the mountain than walk. Because it is a volcano, the ground is made of ash and loose gravel. Gators were a lifesaver. It was so incredibly dusty and dirty and warm, such a stark contrast to the freezing morning. Halfway down, we all started shedding layers.
So we get down, I took a much needed rest to help catch my breath, get me back on my feet. Then we had lunch and began our hike down the mountain. We hiked back to Horombo that day and then to the base in record time the next day. It was quick. I think my friend and I were both extremely excited to get back for a shower and to be honest, my ankle was pretty swollen at that point. I never told my guide, not wanting to stop or go down in a car – stupid really, but I wanted to do it on my own. Anyway, we made it to the base of the trail, dirty as hell at about lunch the next day.