Wednesday, 21 December 2011

... Tanzania: Day 2 Machame Camp - Shira Camp

It was an early rise for breakfast, pop my pills (Diamox & my anti-malarials) and pack away my stuff before getting ready for the day's hike. After about 18km yesterday we were told that today would be about 9. I was now not foolish enough to believe that the reduced distance would mean an easier day by any means. During the night a few of us had been munched on by something likely creepy & crawly. You also quickly learn that no matter what the season you should waterproof everything, including your sleeping bag. I had woken a few times during the night and blotted off my sleeping bag each time so it was at least not soaked. Still, I had been nice & warm so I was confident that it would at least do me proud in keeping me toasty as we reached the higher elevations.

It was an hour or so climb to the top of the forest and then for a few more hours at a gentler gradient through moorland. The scenery was quite literally breath taking and it was nice to leave the heat & humidity of the cloud forest behind for wide open spaces and a bit of a breeze. Unfortunately this also meant you were more exposed to the elements and we did get briefly rained on. It was time to bring out the rain gear.

After a quick bite to eat we continued up a rocky ridge onto the Shira plateau heading west towards a river gorge. The views were alot more interesting today including one porter wearing a belt that had "I love Rock" continuously repeated along it. I kind of wanted that belt: it must have been the medication causing me to have a temporary moment of insanity. Of course seeing the spectacular Kibo and Mawenzi peaks above was far more impressive. On top of that, thee were HUGE black ravens with bits of white on them and tiny chipmunk like rodents known as four-striped mice.

This was our shortest day of trekking although the 12600ft finishing altitude was nothing to scoff at. There were several long, vertical climbs and a bit of non-technical rock climbing/scrambling too. After this, the trail continued downward until we reached Shira Camp on the rocky plateau covered in volcanic rock left over from the last time Kilimanjaro blew her top. I could definitely feel the drop in temperatures associated with climbing higher and the slight mist in the air added a bit of a chill to boot.

Just when we thought we had finished for the day we were advised that after a snack and a warm cup of tea we were off on an acclimatization hike that would take us up about another 200m although we would return back to camp for the night. It was only about a 90 minute trek but it was interesting to feel the effects of the higher altitude. For me I felt incredibly energized at the top before we made our way back down. Seeing a makeshift helicopter pad from painted rocks made me wonder if perhaps the effects of the higher altitude were affecting me more than I had thought.

Day 2 was certainly challenging, but nothing too difficult. I really enjoyed the sections of rock climbing/scrambling. The path was now something more like I had been expecting. However, I was under no illusions, this was merely the calm before the storm.

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