Jan 16, 2014

Kilimanjaro - Barranco camp (day 4)

This morning is no different than the previous, that's why you know what awakens me and where I go first. Outside everything is again covered in frost, the clouds are beneath us and only Mt. Meru stands out.
Morning panorama

Cloudy blanket

Nearby, there is a sign asking people to use the toilets instead of the rocks and I line up the guys for a photo – we stand with our backs turned to the camera, behind the sign, squeezing water out of our bottle as if we pee. The few porters who are speaking on their phones on the coverage rock are having fun with our joke.
The coverage rock
Please make use of the toilets

КAt about 9 o'clock we start polepole, as we have about 6 hours of hiking. We walk towards Kibo, which looks higher and higher and more respective every day. We pass a rock onto which is scratched "4K" or 4,000m/13,100 ft. Soon there is only orange lichens left on the rocks and some misled blades of grass – we are about to enter the desert habitat. We stop at a memorial plate and D.C. tells us that the guy has passed away this year, hit by a lightning. The note on the plate ends with the words "Attitude before Altitude".
4,000 m
Orange lichens
Chewa and I

The path in front of us can be easily seen in the desert area. On the adjacent ridge we see some people, that's Machame, one of the two most popular routes, if not the most. 
Semi desert landscape
Thumbs up
Before the two routes join

On the ridge where the two routes join we stop for lunch. I eat a little, cause I'm still not very hungry. There are some mountain sparrows here as well, the little guys know very well were the mzungus stop for lunch. 
Hungry hippos
Hungry birdie

In the distance we can see a large rock, that should be Lava Tower. In front of us a marvelous sight is uncovered – the clouds break up from time to time and show Kibo, then hide it again. The screes are stained in different colors – grayish, yellow like a burnt from the sun grass or reddish-brown. Until now Kibo has always looked rather dull colored, but the sun knows its job. On the other side is Lava Tower and between them small figures walk, how insignificant we are against these grandiose mountain-desert landscapes. After 4 hours we reach Lava Tower at 4,600 m/15,100 ft. While we finish up our lunch, we have for company some whitenecked ravens and a mouse. When I am ready with my chicken wing I put it on a rock and after half a minute it is already in the beak of a raven. 
To Lava Tower
Lava Tower

After all the uphill hiking now we have to go back to 4,000 m/13,100 ft. Today's walk is not only about covering some distance to the peak, but is also important in terms of acclimatization, so that our bodies get used to the altitude and the thin air. The landscape is very desert-like.
The path
Lava Tower from another angle
Bearded rocks

Just as we go over the last uphill for the day and start going down we see in the distance some tents – Barranco camp. We pass by some small forest of Giant groundsels – green spots with grass, moss and the tree-like plants amidst the rocky desert. The more we go down, the more groundsels we encounter and the higher they get. According to internet they can reach up to 9 m/30 ft, but with my unreliable measuring eye I give the plants around no more than 6 m/20 ft. 
Barranco camp in the distance
Green spot
An unordinary forest

We reach Barranco camp located at about 3,900 m/12,800 ft, today's walk took us 5 hour, 40 minutes, of which two 30 minutes lunch breaks. We are on the line to register at the ranger's hut, there are about 80 people in front of us in the journal. D.C. mentions that 2 weeks ago there were 700 tourists and when we add their crews, who usually are in proportion 1 to 4 I can't image where all these people have gathered. 

The fatigue has accumulated and all of us have the normal for these heights slight headache, and on top of that from time to time I see stars in daylight, without being slapped. We have some popcorn and tea and go for a nap. When we go out at about 6 o'clock, the clouds that we enveloping the camp have disappeared and we are surprised by its size and the magnificent setting around. I manage to find a full coverage on an area of about 10 sq.m/33 sq.ft and talk with my dad on the phone 25-30 Euros timewise. After that I clean myself with some wet wipes, from toes to neck and now I am clean as a baby bottom or at least hope so.
Kibo gets the last sun rays

For dinner we have cucumber soup, rice with veal and vegetable stew, plus mango and watermelon for dessert. After the food I kind of feel like vomiting, but I hope that it is because I ate too much and not because of the altitude. D.C. comes for the regular briefing to ask us how we feel, whether we liked the food and to tell us what to expect tomorrow. Also he tells us how some years ago he was guiding some big shot from Nairobi. When he was served one of his first meals, the Kenyan said to him that he doesn't want mzungu food, but a real one – ugali, a popular local meal, corn flour and water prepared in a porridge- or dough-like form, and usually comes with some leafy vegetable, which is the cheapest option and main food for millions of poor Africans. 

We gather in our tent and try to play some word games, but because of the thin air and the fatigue we think rather slow and incoherently. After we stop playing I go out for some night shots and go back in the relatively warm tent.
Kibo at night

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