Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Kili Day 1: Up All Night To Go Pole Pole

Shortly before we went to bed after our first real day in Tanzania, Walker, my Dad and I popped our first Diamox pill. Interestingly, my dad and Walker's doctors prescribed them twice the pills and double the dose that mine did. Diamox is a drug used for a bunch of things but it has the effect of making one's blood acidic and increasing respiration, allowing the body's blood cells to take in more oxygen. It has the side effect of making one piss all the time. So that night we each took turns getting up to pee. All night long. It was the worst night of sleep I can remember having in a very long time.

I had only briefly thought about whether to use doping Diamox or not on the mountain and I decided that I would. Three reasons: One, I didn't want to get altitude sickness. Two, I knew that this trip cost a ton of money and that I probably wouldn't be in Tanzania again so I might as well give myself the best chance to summit. Three, I honestly thought everyone else was probably taking it so why not keep up with the Joneses. I have no idea how much it helped. I did find the majority of the hiking to be quite easy.

The other side effect, which is buried quite deep in the literature the pharmacist gives you, is that often parts of one's feet tingle and feel as if they are asleep. This is a bit disconcerting when hiking but if you know about it, it's fine.

Kili Day 1. Machame Gate (5,380') to Machame Camp (9,350'). 7 miles. 5.5 hours. 

We left Planet Lodge at 7a and spent the next 4 hours driving to Kili, stopping multiple times for supplies, and then waiting while the porters (as yet unseen) divied our gear. I had and still have very mixed feelings about having someone else carry my pack. On the one hand, I think it's absurd and gross to pay poor people to carry all of their crap and some of my crap in order that I can brag to my friends that I "climbed" a mountain that the porters have been up many times. On the other hand, Tanzania ranks in the bottom 20 in countries in per capita GDP. With shallow soil, deforestation, climate change, rape from colonialism, and staggering national debt, this country is literally dirt poor. Tourism is big business and porters comprise the largest number of jobs on the mountain. It's complicated but I enjoyed having them along and I guarantee they were glad for the work.

Finally, after each porter's pack had been weighed by the Park Rangers to ensure it wasn't heavier than their limit (I think it's 20 kilos), we hit the trail. When I asked our guide about the weight limit he said that in the past, too many porters died on the mountain so now they have a weight limit.

Our guide for the trip was Baraka. If we were to summit, it would be his 206th time atop the highest point in Africa. I liked Baraka immediately. He was confident without being arrogant. He made decisions and it was clear that he was in charge but he wasn't overbearing.

We started up through wonderfully lush jungle. In the distance I could see large black and white furry Colobus Monkees. They sort of look like the Shetland Ponies of the monkey
world. Initially Baraka walked incredibly slowly. He said that if anyone passed him they would have to carry his pack. He made us walk so slowly that I seriously considered it for the first mile. After the first mile he mercifully picked up the pace.  No mizungus caught us on the way to our first campsite, Machame Camp

I could spend hours talking about this but we were waited on hand and foot while on this mountain. It was a new experience and definitely a complicated one as it was both incredibly nice and at the same time very uncomfortable. Example A: After the porters carried our packs up to camp, they set up our tents and heated water for us to wash our hands. Then they served us hot popcorn while we played cards until dinner. Awfully nice but damn it felt a lot like slavery.

Day 1: Machame Gate ( 5,380') to Machame Camp (9,350'). 7 very easy miles. 


Walker Bradley said...

206th time for Baraka!

81Trucolors said...

Changed, thank you.