Kilimanjaro part 6 - The summit
After a midnight breakfast and a run through from Ake we turned on our head lights and walked into the night. John had already set off before us, the altitude was still affecting him so Ake wanted him to leave at 11 and take a slower walk. It was well below freezing we were all tired, nervous, and aching but pushed on up the steep dark climb. Every step up we took I could feel the air getting thinner and it was harder to catch my breath. Ake kept on pushing us to drink and eat to keep our energy up. I couldn’t stomach any food, I felt weak and hungry yet sick at the thought of eating. About three hours in it was still pitch black and it felt like we hadn’t got anywhere, we stopped for a little break but had to keep moving and stay warm. If I would have stopped and sat down would never have got up. One of the hardest things was as we were climbing up several people were walking back past us that hadn’t made it to the top, the disappointment in their eyes made me push harder to get there.
Five hours in and I was fighting off sleep, my head was literally nodding as I walked and I could feel myself drifting in and out of consciousness, I was even starting to dream. I had to wake myself up so I opened up my windcheater jacket to get some cold air in and I poured some cold water down my back as a shock tactic. It worked and I felt a sudden rush of energy.
About six or so hours in and we could see Stella point it looked so close but the last bit was very steep, Ake told us it was about 1 hour away. We stopped for a break and Jess was tired and emotional, I pointed out Stella point and told her how close it was and gave her a really big hug, supporting each other and team work was really important on this whole trip, we all helped and pushed each other, it’s crucial to be there for each other through. We set back off and Jess was like a woman possessed, I couldn’t keep up with her, her determination was inspiring and it really set the pace for us all.
We hit Stella point around 6.30am the rim of Mount Kilimanjaro and looked out to watch the sunrise, I have never seen anything quite like it. The beauty of it has been etched in my memory forever; I don’t think any photo could do it justice. The strangest thing was looking at the horizon to notice it isn’t a straight line like we normally see, it is curved! We were that high I could see the contour of the earth.
We still had some walking to do to get to the highest point Uhuru peak; it was one hour from Stella point. We gradually separated along this last leg and got to Uhuru at slightly different times. I was so happy to get there and see my best mate John Freeman there waiting for us with a smile on his face. As I reached the sign I looked around to see all 6 of us had made it to the highest point in Africa it was an amazing, emotional and very proud feeling that is really quite difficult to sum up in words.
After hanging around, taking some photos, and allowing it to sink in I suddenly realised we had a 3 hour trip back down to camp!! As the adrenalin was starting to wear off I started to notice I had the worst headache I have ever had it felt like my brain was pushing out against my skull. I wasted no time getting down, I practically skied down the dust hills and made it back to camp in less than 2 hours as soon as I arrived I hit the wall and felt true exhaustion. I had a drink and crawled into my tent, I couldn’t even muster the energy to take my boots off. Teacher (one of our porters) noticed me struggling and came over to take them off for me and give me a little foot rub.
After a 3 hour nap I woke up feeling like I had a terrible hangover, we had some lunch and hit the trail again, just a 3 hour trek to millennium camp. It was amazing how much better I started to feel when we hit the camp I felt like I had discovered Oxygen again. For the first time on the mountain I slept through for about ten hours and woke up feeling relatively fresh considering we were still above the clouds. At breakfast my neck started to feel really sore I asked Ake to have a look and to my surprise I had a 3rd degree burn across the back of my neck from the strong UV. The last descent was today and we had about 5/6 hours of downhill walking ahead of us through slippery forest floors. The guys at camp gave us an amazing send-off singing in Swahili with their A-team tops on. I gave my porter some of my clothes and we decided to leave a $200 tip from each of us for the porters to share out, they were amazing to us and deserved every cent.
After a long trek, some champagne and a long drive we got back to the hotel in the late afternoon Ake treated us to some wood fired pizzas and some burgers and chips we all arranged a massage and I enjoyed an amazing soak in the stone bath in my room with a few ice cold beers totally alone and peaceful with my thoughts.
Please take the time to check out the amazing video that Paul Gwilliams made of our trip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKAUEvfWIk
This humbling 2 week trip really makes you appreciate the smaller things in life, and how fortunate we really are in the UK.
Thank you so much to the people below for making this such an amazing and inspiring experience
Paulo De Tarso
Ake Lindstrom and his amazing team http://summits-africa.com/
Everyone at Farm Africa http://www.farmafrica.org/
Everyone who sponsored us and supported us and helped us raise over £54,000 for the Food for good campaign