Friday, November 11, 2005

A beautiful noise...

The camp around us is full of activity and excited voices. It is early, before 7 a.m. but already the porters are packing up the other groups and they are nervously getting their breakfasts wolfed down and gear for the day stowed away. Their nervous energy infects me through the dappled walls of my tent. Poking my head out, the freshness of the air and lush flora shake the last of sleepiness from my body. I too am excited for today. Somehow yesterday did not seem like we were really here, it was a bit surreal ... the porters, the guards at the gate, the rough and steep drive. Today I am convinced, we are on Mt. Kilimanjaro!

I felt eyes upon me as I made my way to our toilet tent, no one else had them. I imagined them wondering who we were that we rated such extravagence. The toilet tent consisted of a small, rectangular canvas room , about 6 feet high and with enough room inside for the "seat" and toilet paper in a pocket. The toilet itself was a specially designed "chair", a wooden seat on a metal frame over a large plastic bucket (which may sound unappealing but believe me, it was much nicer than the pit toilets at the camps). It was actually fairly comfortable, usually set up with a sometimes spectacular view from the seat, however, as I was to discover, the seat is damn cold when you are camped beside a glacier!

Our breakfast was abundant and as I discovered, followed the same pattern everyday. Toast, cheese, fruit, hot cereal (alternated between oats or cream of wheat), eggs, bacon and sausage. Who can eat that much? There was also juice, instant coffee, tea and milo ( a kind of malted energy drink). This die hard, minimum two cups of coffee a day consumer had no coffee for over two weeks.

By the time our somewhat small group of eight had eaten, packed and were ready to carry on, practically all the other trekkers were long gone. It was a relief as I was feeling a bit less crowded, I silently wished for fewer people to be on the same path as us, the beauty of Kilimanjaro was marred by the ugliness of tourism in my mind. All those Wuzungu (white tourists). I know, I know... hypocrite!

Simon lead the way again and soon had his trusty transistor radio in hand. If you were close to the front, the music lead you on. The trekking was not too difficult yet, steady climbing in the rainforest, but we always were wary when the path would lead down. If you went down it always meant that you had to go up, and usually quite steeply.

The flora was amazing, the Kilimanjaro impatiens is beautiful, small and delicate. A small and very shy group of Colubus monkeys grabbed our attention along the way. Their black and white coloring was easily distinguishable with their big bushy tails, but they were high up in the trees. We stopped and exchanged curious stares with them for a while. Onward...

After about an hour on the trail, the heat is unbearable on my back. The sweat is pouring off me, I am unused to the heat and humidity, my daypack is feeling heavier and heavier, it lays flat against my back, creating a sauna. By the time we reach the lunch spot, it is filled with the other trekkers and surrounded by large, dry bushes. I am soaked, my shirt is wet and dripping. The wind is picking up and I get very cold. This is not good. Into the bushes I head to change my shirt, the bushes make do for a laundry line too, hopefully my wet shirt dries. I want to put it on when we leave, we have started to climb out of one zone into moorland and it isn't quite so hot.

After lunch, with water replenished, clothing dry, and feeling a bit restored we load up our day packs and off we go. The landscape has changed, it is less like a jungle, the lushness is beginning to give way to bush. There is dust everywhere. Red, earthy dust,clinging dust, in your eyes, nose and mouth dust. You learned to live with the dust, what choice was there, it was always with us.

It is late when we reach Shira Camp, about eight hours of slow trekking. As we wind our way on the dusty path and through the tall shrub of the moorland we hear a beautiful, harmonious noise. We come within sight of our camp, I see them. Our porters are grouped together and they are singing us into camp, proudly, joyfully. It is a special song of celebration and congratulations. They are happy for us and glad that we have made it this far. I dance to their music... it is a beautiful noise.

Another very delicious and plentiful meal is consumed, we get our oxygen and pulse checked, my numbers are great and I head outside to appreciate the southern stars. The night is clear and black like ink. The stars seem to be lit from behind, glowing with a brightness I have only seen in the northern reaches of our land. Simon points out the southern cross and to my surprise, there is one constellation I know. It is Orion in all his glory.

Tiredness creeps over me like a welcome blanket, crawling into my sleeping bag I am content. We have another day here tomorrow, the Shira Plateau beckons, as does the mountain...

The rainforest was left behind and we entered the moorland:


The beautiful noise... our wonderful singing porters:

singing porters and one trekker

porters and two trekkers


Kelvin said...

Kia Ora (Hello) from a krazy blogger down-under in New Zealand. I would never "swim in it" (hehe) You have a interesting blog - I was going to say "Dr.Livingstone", but..!!! I'll be back.

librarychik said...

Thanks Kelvin, visit anytime mate :-)

JB said...

Oh, I love this segment of the journey because I feel as though I'm climbing each step with you. Really, your use of vivid detail is stunning!

librarychik said...

Thanks JB, it is amazing how many little details come back to me as I write. I get to relive it as I write, rewarding and fun!