Day Five: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
Hike: 2 miles
Altitude: 13, 105 feet to 15, 331 feet
Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day.
Darryl gives my face the once over and I can tell from her non-reaction, I’m to back to early morning basics. Even the lungs seem to be functioning at full capacity. Or thereabouts. I emerge from our tent after Elias, our server, prompts the breakfast call, confident that everyone’s stares won’t evoke terrorized step backs. Porridge and hot sauce (which I’ve come to love), toast and peanut butter, eggs and a banana, I’m ready to bang out a bit of trail.
We’re headed to our highest sleeping camp today: Barafu. At midnight tonight, we start the 8-hour, in-the-dark push toward the summit, Stella Point. As if daytime hiking isn’t challenging enough… Everyone’s anxious and excited. The outhouses have taken their toll on our nasal passages, toilet paper supplies for wild, mid-hike bowels are drying up, and I have to admit, I’ve grown tired of missing the hole or losing my balance and wetting my pant bottoms in the port-a-potties. Not to mention dodging logs of shit which have frozen overnight in campsite corners. Modern plumbing never felt so far away.
We’re all (well, the eco-conscious ones of us and I’m with Darryl so there’s strict policy on my watch…) keeping garbage bags of our waste and it’s truly astounding how much we’ve compiled. In addition to a porcelain loo, I’m about ready for a dumpster, too.
The infirm tally of flu-like viruses number at seven (men only, mind you), much diarrhea, and the headaches are starting. I admit feeling better in my own health, but by Day 5, everyone’s wind and sunburned faces show that we’ve gotten Kili’s memo. It says she’s fully in charge. In bold and capital letters.
As we head off for the day, which will encompass the shortest hike distance, I have the added weight of my daypack again. I’ve been spoiled by illness, but as Richard mutters a solid “Cowboy Up” to the group, I readjust my straps, and we set off. We’re blessed by weather these past few days – shining sun and a clear view. We’re so close that it almost feels like you can touch her. We’re high above the clouds, looking down produces a canvas so breathtaking that even I can’t help but awe over the surroundings. Kili’s vantage point is, hands-down, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
We scale rocks, scuttle over steep inclines, pass babbling brooks, duck under caves, marvel at waterfalls that spout at this massive altitude, and squint our eyes from the potent rays of the sun. The pace times out to about 2 seconds/step, much slower than earlier days, and my clothes have started to loosen. Richard is constantly telling me “Margie, Margie,” a gentle reminder to take in water at a minimum of 3 liters per day. “Good,” he says (pronounced “goot”), as I follow his instruction, “this is peanuts, Marie.” Right, I snap back. I nearly forgot. Behind with Darryl, Dennis happily jams on her iPod. She gets more satisfaction from their listen, as opposed to her own.
When we reach Barufu camp, we’ve crossed into the alpine zone -- semi-desert, for the laymen. There’s sparse vegetation and, oddly, small chipmunk-type rodents that scurry around our tents in fury. We’ve only been with each other for five days, so the Kili-munks briefly remind us there’s a whole world out there.
Barafu is different from the other camps we’ve visited. It’s perched on a cliff, invisible from the other side. The aesthetics are stunning; Mount Mawenzi lies gracefully in the foreground, Kili’s summit in the background. Natural boulders shield the wind; porters tuck in and around the rocks, their colorful parkas create rainbows against the brown monotony of the cliff.
We sleep most of the day, for we have to be up for summit at midnight. “Hakuna Matata,” says Jackson, another one of our porters when I fret my summit climb, setting off an internal chorus of The Lion King. As Simba and Pumba dance cartoon circles in my head, I’m determined. One more climb and then it’s all downhill.
Downhill…in a good way.