In the morning, while I fight with the need of my bladder to get emptied and my unwillingness to go out of the cozy sleeping bag, I hear three laser-like sounds from the near tent and later Sasho claims the fame. The first night in my life in a tent and a sleeping bag is successful and most probably I will repeat it this night (do I have a choice).
|The beautiful flora|
During our first breakfast, we are introduced with the unpleasant porridge, which has to take us to the top of the mountain. In the same time our crew is taking down the tents and when we are done with the food, we go on our way, this time with both of our guides. However, I have a problem with my hiking boots – they are still sweaty wet from yesterday's walk. Because of the violent impregnation with the magical Jig-a-loo spray, which I did in Bulgaria, they are so waterproof that a single drop cannot penetrate inside, but cannot go out as well. That's why today I am wearing my trainers that I use while we are at the camps, and the hiking boots are hanging from my daypack to dry. Naturally, the guys being good friends don't miss the opportunity to have a laugh at my troubles and point out a few areas where I can also use the impregnator on. I knew I can rely on their support in difficult moments.
Today's hike is expected to take 5-6 hours, 8 km distance and 1,000 m/ 3,300 ft displacement as there will be ups and downs. The first hour we move through the tropical forest and stop for a break at a fallen tree, while around us are hanging long lichens from the trees.
|Still in the forest|
|In the lichen kingdom 1|
|In the lichen kingdom 2|
Soon we go out of the forest and the vegetation decreases to 2-3 m/6-10 ft height. We are already at the third habitat, the moorland, with its heathers and grasses.
|Our path through the moorland|
|I guess somebody has cut one loose|
|View towards the start|
We reach some rocks with a nice vista and I insist to stop to rest and to take some photos.
|The wonderful vista|
|Part of today's route|
|Time for the signature jump|
|Bird of prey or is it 1|
|Bird of prey or is it 2|
Stan being semi-local (as he spends quite a long time in Kenya due to business) engages in a conversation with the guides about the African politicians, manners and unions (the East African community, which includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda). I don't remember the specific comment he made about some politician, but it makes Washington laugh. And the laugh of this guy is spectacular, so pleasant and warm, it's a delight for the ears. Soon we decide to split up, the machines go with Chua and I stay with the man with the warm laugh. I take it easy, stop to take photos, to drink as much water as I can. I have taken the water recommendation very seriously. Only that it makes you pee a lot.
|Under the clouds|
|Qualitative alterations of the flora|
We stop next to some large rocks, because there should be mobile coverage around and D.C. needs to call Thomas (one of the owners) to bring Ivan and Stan sleeping bags. After 10 minutes Washington tells me to proceed on my own as he hasn't succeeded yet to call and it's getting cold. Soon I catch up with the guys, not that I've been running, but they just waited for me. The last km we are walking on the Shira plateau, where the vegetation has lowered even more and rarely goes beyond 1 m/3 ft. From here we have the possibility to see Kibo, one of the three volcanoes that formed the mountain and where Uhuru is located. If there were no clouds.
|The Shira plateau|
We reach the Shira 1 camp located at about 3,500 m/11,500 ft for 4 hours 30 minutes. The place is very dusty because of the erosion caused by the many hikers. If the wind blows and it blows quite constantly, a lot of dust is sent into your face. We leave our tent open for 10-20 minutes and everything inside gets covered with the nasty dust. Many people on the forums and web-sites warns you for what not, including to bring a special pee bottle to use during the night in the tent, so you don't have to go out, but nobody says anything about the annoying dust.
We go to a couple of rocks at the end of the camp and lay down, while the lunch is getting ready. During the high season, which ended two weeks ago, there were 300 hikers using this camp, probably that's why there are 12 wooden long-drop toilets. Sasho explains us that since he started hiking and sleeping in tents he became inured and the dirt doesn't bother him much anymore. I guess we have to learn from his example. I go to the ranger's hut to register us in the big ledger and write some funny non-existent profession. Afterwards we go for a nap in the tents.
|Some of the 12 camp toilets|
|Waiting for the lunch 1|
|Waiting for the lunch 2 (one step closer)|
We go out of the tents extremely dirty, but what do we care, we are inured (thanks to Sasho). My fingers are so dirty that when I put some disinfection gel on them it only smudges the dirt, not to mention the black under the nails. And just an hour and half ago I cleaned my hands and face with warm water, and my body with wet wipes. We go for a walk around to have a look at the camp and the Shira ridge.
|Shira 1 camp|
|Somewhere there is Kibo|
We return to the camp and I go to the mess-tent to write in my diary and uncover one of the tent's windows not to miss the opportunity if the clouds disappear. After a while, the guys tell me to come out to see how the sun has painted the clouds over Shira ridge. In the next 5-10 minutes part of Kibo comes out of the clouds and we can see its glaciers as well. For half an hour I constantly turn at 90 degrees around my camera and tripod to capture the beauty of Shira and Kibo. The soup is served, but I continue to shoot, the food can wait. But Sasho and Ivan can't, as they like the soup very much and I have to save some for me and go out again. Soon the clouds decide that it is time for me to go to eat and pull their curtains down on the peaks.
|At last we can see Kibo|
|A close up|
|The amazing show around Shira|
We go out after dinner, it is already dark, the Moon is high, and Kibo has finally freed itself from the clouds. I decide to entertain the guys with some light painting. For the first try they choose to write something stupid, as we all don't have one in our pants. Next, I offer something more patriotic – to write Bulgaria, we are four and everyone has two letters to paint. At the second or third try we get it quite well.
|Kibo and its cloudy skirt|
|This is … BULGARIA|
Washington brings two sleeping bags for Ivan and Stan and with his cool laugh tells us that tomorrow will reveal whose bags are these. For sure they belong to somebody from the crew. Ivan's bag only goes a little below his shoulders, I have to even zip it up, as he cannot do it by himself or his hands will be left outside. During the night I get cold and put another pair of socks and my shell jacket. While I struggle to put the socks on without coming out of the bag I notice that Ivan has slipped a bit toward the tent entrance/exit. The zipper is open and his legs as they are in the sleeping bag are out of the tent (into the covered but open entry) to the lower part of his calf. I wake him up for second consecutive night, but this time it's for his own good.
Later I wake up again and for some time I can't find my place, as I need to go to pee. I persuade myself that I have to do it, put some clothes on and go out. The moon is below the horizon, it is pitch black and there are countless stars. I have never seen so many and so bright stars before. From some of tents I can hear rather strange and tortured moans, which in this ungodly time and in my sleepy condition make me think that there something is stalking me and wants to bite my dirty fingers off, so I relieve myself as quickly as possible and go back to my sleeping back.
You can find more photos from this day and the trip here.