Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 9-10: Trekking Day 7-8 (Summit Day & descending)

Day 7: BARAFU to UHURU PEAK (19,340 ft.) to Mweka CAMP (9,550 ft.)
Summit time: 7 hrs,
Elevation change: +1300m
Estimated distance: 5km,
Final elevation: 5896m

Descent time: 5 hrs,
Elevation change: -2800m
estimated distance: 12km,
Final elevation: 3100m

"Dress warmly, because we start climbing around midnight, on the steepest and most demanding part of the mountain. The moon, if out, will provide enough light, and we will reach the crater rim by sunrise, after a 7 hour hike, to welcome a new dawn.Fromthecrater rim,rugged Mawenzi Peak is a thrilling sight, with the Kibo saddle still in darkness beneath you, and the crater’s ice-walls looming ahead. We now continue to Uhuru Peak(1-2hrs.) This is the highest point in Africa, and the world’s highest solitary peak (19,340 ft)."

At around 11.30pm, we gathered at the dining tent. Had some biscuits and hot drinks before we set off. I was nervous and worried about the altitude sickness and the freezing weather (-15 to -20 degrees celsius).

To prevent AMS, I took additional 250mg of Diamox before setting off (I am already taking the full dosage 500mg/day for the past few days).

I was so worried about the freezing weather that I wore 5 top layers (2 thermal wears, 1 pullover, 1 light down jacket, 1 fleece jacket) and packed an additional jacket in my bag, and 4 lower layers (2 thermal wear, 1 regular trekking pant & 1 fleece pant). I also wore my fleece balaclava, and a beanie. I wore 2 layers of socks (wool & polyester) and 2 layers of gloves.

It was quite a long hike (seems endless at some points). Many people were really struggling, and initially, I felt light-headed & short of breath, but I think the effects of Diamox kicked in and I felt better.  At the mid point, I felt alright and was quite confident I could reach the summit, but every movement is slow. Whenever I tried to move fast or take a big step uphill, I would be panting hard for air.

Finding a place to pee was a troublesome because a faulty zip & I was wearing 4 layers and 2 layer of gloves, and I do not know how do the gals cope with it. The water in the bottle was frozen on the top (fortunately, the guide told us to invert the water bottle). The snack bar was extremely hard. 

After 6hours, Dawn near the summit at around 6am+

Stella point (5756 m) - a hour away from the summit.

For the first time, there was frost on my eyebrows.
My porter was not with me - so no water, no sunglasses for the glaring sun & reflection.

Stella point

Dawn at the roof of Africa

Cold but happy. =)

Glacier in Equator
Perhaps, the only place on earth.


Still trekking towards the Uruhu peak.

Amazingly beautiful.
This is Africa.


Yes. I have done it.
Uhuru Peak (5895m) - the highest point in Africa & highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Yes. Everyone has done it!
100% successful rate. =)

What a Wonderful world.

At the Summit.



How do we feel? 
This picture says it all.

On the last day, it was also the most important day for the guide and the porters, because it was tipping day. We had a few discussions on how to disburse the tips to the crew - give it to them individually (will ensure that all the crews receive their tips) or pass the whole lump sum to the lead guide for disbursement ( Guide would know how to reward the hardworking person). Each method has its pros and cons. 

 It was a sensitive issue. Initially, the guide was reluctant to provide the full name list, but we were quite persistent. In fact, we have no idea on the total number of crews until the last day (somehow the guides were reluctant to share the figures with us). One of the porters secretly wrote a letter to us requesting us to tip them individually as they were afraid that the guides won't share the tips with them, at the same time, we could not let the guides know that we received this letter (as the porters future employment would be at stake if the guides found out).

Personally, I hate hierarchical structure - it was suffocating. Obviously, the guides are the top dogs as they have more face-time with the tourists and speak good english, and most porters aspire to be a guide. I also hate politics - if there is fairness and standard protocol followed, there will be less politics and arguments. 

The Crew
(Taken by SM)

After disbursing the tips, we received feedback that the chefs were unhappy as they felt they were not tipped sufficiently. I guess they forgot that these are tips, but we decided to tip them more to make them happy (as it does not cost much on our side).

So far, my "working" experience with Tanzanians has not been positive. 
I also decided that I don't need to keep touch with any guides or porters.

(It was a stark contrast with my nepal experience, where the guides and porters are genuine. We felt sad and a sense of loss when we bid farewell. In fact, I am still in touch with my wonderful Nepali guide.)


During lunch time, there was a lot of commotion going on. Apparently, a young porter lost his poles (which costed over US$3000) to someone who offered to help him to carry. In the end, the chief guide managed to retrieve the poles somewhere in Moshi town. It kind of wasted our time waiting and waiting. 

Well, I guess this is quite common in Tanzania.

Street-flighters' Hadoukens
(Taken by Chandy)

Group photos with our guides.
(Taken by Chandy)

On that evening, we arrived back at the lodge around 6pm and there were some logistical things to be settled like counting & returning the rented gears, collecting the money for safari, clarifying the accounts with the tour operator (they showed me the old invoice), discussing about the transport arrangement etc...

After 8 days of trekking, I finally took my first and second hot showers. Yes, I was so dirty that I decided to shower twice. 

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