Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 2 – Mandara to Horombo (3720 m) – Cape fynbos and the paper trail

I shared a 4 bed hut with Sherif and Techno Dave. Techno Dave is a big dude, but after a while I had to resort to violence to try curb his snoring. I can now write this from the safety of a 300 km separation. First I tried a quick prod with my hiking pole and then pretended to be fast asleep myself – but he did not even miss a breath’s worth! Next a substantial prod. Best I could achieve was a mumble and straight back to snore city. The prods got progressively more violent, and in the end I merely raised the pole as high as could and walloped him as hard as I could. It worked! I wondered the next day whether he had any unaccounted for bruises, but did not dare ask.

We care awoken with a cup of tea and a bowl of warm water for washing. Get up, wash, dress, stuff everything into rucksack and we are good to go. I go and enjoy a great breakfast and at 08:00; and I am ready to start the day’s hike – but I’m the only one. More faffing, waiting for stragglers, umpteen team photos, and finally we are on our way.

Today’s walk is longer. We leave the rain forest after a while and start encountering typical Western Cape style fynbos – complete with abundant proteas.

It is a bit humbling to be overtaken by porters carrying huge loads on top of their heads

“You say the hill's too steep to climb?
Try climb it!
You say you'd like to see me try?
Try climb it!
You pick the place and I'll choose the time…
And I'll climb that hill in my own way.
Just wait a while, for the right day.
And as I rise above the tree line and the clouds;
I look down, hearing the sound of the things you said that day…”

Fearless; Roger Waters.

We eventually rise well above the clouds. Occasionally they clear and we are afforded a vista over the vast Tanzanian plains and hills. Some lakes; some towns; some mountains but mostly just a vast expanse of African emptiness.

LTR: 2 unidentified porters; Sherif; Peter; Charles (remember to say it Chalice); Nonto; Nettie taking a pic; Kirsty; Theuri in front. Extinct volcano and Tanzanian landscape in the background

I think this is the pic Nettie took

...or maybe it was this one...

I know Kitsry definately took this one!

Did I mention that we have been taking Diamox since before we started? Diamox was initially invented to reduce pressure in the eyes to treat glaucoma. It was then discovered that it was a great drug to get more oxygen into the blood stream and prevent altitude sickness. An unfortunate side effect is that it is a powerful diuretic (i.e. it makes you pee a lot). Therefore a full night’s sleep without having to get up is rare. (This was also the reason why I was hesitant to take a sleeping pill to escape the Techno Dave cacophony – but I did eventually and I am happy to report that my sleeping bag remained dry in case you were wondering)

What I have not mentioned up to now but has to be said, is that the Diamox has a terrible effect on the trail sustainability. Behind every rock; behind every bush, behind every tree is several 100’s of unsightly toilet paper heaps. This has to stop – in future they should make hikers bring town in a ziplock bag all the TP they use. Sadly it’s the girls that are to blame. Learn to drip dry ladies!

Higher up on the climb, as fatigue and the effect of altitude worsens it’s not even off the trail anymore.

Typical lunch scene.
Mawenzi ridge above us. Typical "todger" forest on the slope.

We cross several gorges via well constructed bridges and reach Horombo Camp a bit tired; a bit out of breath; but generally in good shape. Time for a quick cup of tea and a wash, and we are off for another walk up to the zebra rocks. It is important to get as much altitude as possible in order to acclimatise. We get up to 4000 m and turn back. It’s chilly up here. I have a bit of a headache and take a panado effervescent. It helps. I can also feel the lack of oxygen. A lot of breathing; but not that much rush.

Finally arriving at Horombo

Peter and Nonto checking in

Zebra rocks

Dilemma – now we are allocated 2 off 6 bunks dorms to share. We are 5 ladies and 7 blokes. I get reassigned as an honorary chick and stage a lucky escape from the snoring. It is not without penalty. I get subjected to the most unbelievable faffing complete with live commentary. “Where’s my liner? I can’t find my liner. Anyone seen my liner?” “Have you looked in the … and under the…and over there…? Let me help you.” And they continually unpack and repack everything. This despite that the fact they have made a package for each day in a vacuum sealed bag with a label for each day. And then one sees another unpacking and repacking and she thinks she must have forgotten something too and compulsively starts to unpack / repack. Chicks; here’s how: Just chuck everything into the bag; end of story. Try get the smelliest stuff the deepest. Simple! And then they start yakking on about their bowel habits. Oh dear…

But hey; I get a great night’s sleep. Despite being stood on a few times as they get overcome by Diamox moments.

Sunset over Kilimanjaro

Full moon rising over Mawenzi.

Read below about Day 3; or go to

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