The evening before we headed out to Machame gate and the start of our climb, we had a debriefing by Freddy, the head of the adventure company that would be guiding us. His estimates of times it would take us were vastly underestimated... For me at least...
We got off to a late start the first day, which helped us avoid a rainstorm but not the muddy paths it left behind. And since we ate our box lunch before setting off, we didn't have a lengthy rest period at the halfway point. For me it seemed forever and in fact we (myself, Simon and our 2 guides) only arrived at the campsite in the dark. A very disorienting situation for me as I still couldn't find my head lamps in my large pack that sat waiting for me outside the tent.
But it was wonderful to be greeted by Jeff and Yaniv who had climbed the previous day and rested there to await our arrival and to fast for the ninth of Av, and by a dining tent and a full meal of soup, fried fish, pasta, and fruit for dessert. My only problem with it, as the group already knew, was the pepper used to spice what was really a delicious soup! So after a few sips, I gave up on it and enjoyed the rest... or as much as I had an appetite for...
The night in the tent seemed endless to me as I couldn't sleep more than a few minutes at a time. Maybe an hour closer to morning and I couldn't wait for it to end and for the guide to bring us a cup of tea to wake us. I was not a happy camper but Augustine, the guide who checked each of us, twice a day for oxygen levels and pulse and a report of the other bodily functions, told me that there was an easier descent from the next campground we were staying in and so I decided to continue the climb to that point.
Simon and I trailed the group as I was learning to go slow and breathe properly. Pole Pole became the mantra of those two days as I followed close behind Augustine so he could set the rhythm that would allow us to move forward with less huffing and rest stops. Every time we would catch up to the rest... they would be finishing their breather and would head out again. The going was tougher this day as the pathway was less defined and more rocky and steep and the rainforest and larger vegetation already below us... As were the clouds... But we kept on going...after a good lunch in a hastily erected dining tent and eventually reached the Shira camp on the plateau while the sun was still in the sky.
I collapsed into my tent... Sans mat, sans bag... Just to lay down and rest. But then the music started and there was no way you couldn't dance! Bob Marley sounds pretty good at that elevation. And even some other climbers joined us, our porters and guides as we danced until sunset... and then viewed the almost full moon rising on the opposite side.
Dinner was good! Pasta and vegetable or meat sauce and those cute little bananas and some nuts and pistachios I had shlepped from Toronto. Along with another delicious but peppery soup, and then we settled in for another night.
By this time I had made the decision to descend and was in a better mood in the morning. Even though I still hadn't slept enough. And then Yoram interviewed me about the climb and my commitment to SACH before breakfast and before we took a large group photo with the wonderful banner that included the Climb Your Heart Out logo, the SACH logo as well as the logos of our fabulous sponsors.
Then I headed up the hill, with my guide Gaudin, one of Freddy's younger brothers and a porter who had fallen ill and need to descend and began the climb to Shira II camp where I was supposed to meet some other climbers who also had difficulties and needed to descend. From the path above, I watched our group finish up packing before they headed out in the other direction on the road to Baranca, officially estimated at 6 hours hike away, but Freddy thought it would take closer to 8 or 9 at the pace we had begun.
From Shira II, where I signed myself out, we headed down the hill about an hour until we met up with the roadway. And an ambulance that arrived 10 minutes later to take us down to Londoros gate and from there back to Arusha.
My oxygen levels were not quite high enough the night before I left though they had improved a bit by morning, but I didn't want to be a burden on the group and I knew my husband and my children and even Lior and Aki, would be relieved to know that I had descended safely.
My prayers and energy are with the rest of the group and I hope to see them all safely down tomorrow.