Karibu! Follow my adventures this summer with Duke Engage and the EWH Summer Institute in Tanzania!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nilipanda Mlima Meru!

Hey everybody! I climbed Mt. Meru this past weekend!
It was incredible... but I think that our whole group (12 people; 8 girls, 4 boys) is extremely sore and tired today.
My uncle here happens to be a tour guide who organizes climbs, so we planned the whole trip through him (so I ended up being the group planning leader... previously completely uncharted territory for me). All in all, we had a team of a ranger, guide, 10 porters, and a cook to help us all make it to the summit.

The whole adventure took 3 days:

Day 1
We met at 7 in the morning at our language school and then a couple of our teachers drove us and all of our equipment and crew to the park. After arriving and getting all of our fees paid, we started climbing around 11 . We stopped to rest a few times and ate lunch by a waterfall on the way, and after 5 hours of climbing we made it to Miriakamba Hut, where we were given 3 rooms with 4 bunks each. We set our bags down and then discovered how thankful we were to have a cook... there was hot tea and popcorn waiting for us in the eating hall. Such a lifesaver. Also, when dinner time came, we were all very impressed by the food. It was delicious and there was more than enough for everyone to have several servings. After dinner we all layered-up and went to bed.

Day 2
We woke up at 6 am for breakfast and started the next leg of our climb around 8. It was a very steep climb and we all tired quickly. There were wooden stairs set along the path to help us, but the spacing between them was awkward so I had to take really small steps to make sure that I didn't step up with the same leg each time... because that got really painful really fast. After a couple hours, we broke through the cloud layer and got to see views that I've only ever seen from an airplane. Being above the clouds while on foot is incredible.We all had to stop several times and take it all in. We climbed for about 4 hours total before reaching the next stop, Saddle Hut, around noon. We were pleasantly surprised that it was very warm and sunny at the hut and took the opportunity to rest and sunbathe for a while. Around 3:30 we all went to climb Little Meru, which is a peak very near the hut and not quite as tall as Socialist Peak. From the top we got an amazing view of the peak of Kilimanjaro above the clouds and everything all around us. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for too long because the guide told me that the next morning we would have to wake up at 12 am to begin our climb to the summit. Yep you read correctly...midnight.

Day 3
Easily one of the longest days of my life. But absolutely incredible. As I said we all woke up at 12 and then we started climbing at about 1 o'clock. It was pitch black and we couldn't see anything but the stars (which were amazing) and what was illuminated by our headlamps. We spend the next 5 hours trudging up hills and over ridges with sheer drops on either side and scrambling horizontally across rockfaces (they didn't exactly mention all of those things in the pamphlet... I now see why they say that Meru is a very "technical" climb). It was actually pretty scary at times. As we got closer to the top, the climb got more and more difficult because there was no vegetation, meaning that there was nothing to hold the hillsides in place. Many people got sick due to elevation (I actually never felt any of the effects, for which I am very thankful because they looked miserable). I would say that the most difficult part of the climb was the last 15 minutes just before the peak because there was no path and I just had to do whatever I could to scramble over rocks straight up to the top. I was already so exhausted that I needed a break almost every time I lifted myself up another step. But when I finally made it... it. was. so. worth. it. (Also, I was the first girl in our group to make it to the summit... Awwww yeahhh!) I made it just in time to see the sunrise over Kilimanjaro. I can't even describe how incredible it was... that image will forever be preserved in my memory. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

...I had made it to the top, but the day was literally just beginning. Our descent lasted from around 7 am to 6 pm... and today we have all come to class with aching knees and feet and shoulders and hips and pretty much everything else... also we're extremely tired. Good thing I've got a couple days of recovery time before moving to Marangu to do my hospital work. 

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