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Climbing Kilimanjaro

This just in from my bro:
Dear Nige,

I made it to the top of the highest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!  It took 6 days of walking for 5-6 hours each day, while gradually gaining in altitude to acclimatize (in Kiswahili "poli-poli", or slowly-slowly). The only way to climb Kili is with local trekking companies which provide all the camping equipment, gear and food. For every trekker there is an average of 3 (!) staff - guides, porters, and of course a cook. Our head guide was a local rasta (we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of smoking pot at high altitudes) who had been up the mountain 40 times. All I had to do was walk, take pictures and carry a small pack. At the end of each day we would arrive at our camp site to find the tents erected, a mess-tent, chairs, and a hot meal being prepared; all very civilized even though the food became a bit monotonous after the second day (the pancakes though remained a favorite) and the out-houses were a little chilly. 
There were only three trekkers in my group, including a young honeymoon couple from Belgium, both PHD students specializing in preserving vegetables. So…conversations about carrots and broccoli in the evenings. By 7:30 each night I was ready for my sleeping bag and MP3 player (thanks to Eleanor I had over 600 tunes to listen to – my favorites – the Moldy Peaches and Johny Clegg’s "I’m Sitting on Top of Kilimanjaro"). On the 3rd day, at 3500 meters, I came down with a mild case of altitude sickness, similar to feeling slightly drunk. But thanks to a few little white pills a friend had given me just for this purpose, I was able to continue with only mild  symptoms.   
On the 4th day we reached 4500 meters and the final camp before the summit, a tent-city of a few hundred porters and trekkers, including the billionaire Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club (he didn’t make it to the top, of the league or the mountain).  In order to arrive at the top of Kilimanjaro for sunrise and the best views, we started the ascent at midnight (ouch). This is when it started to get really difficult. Besides feeling tired and nauseous from the altitude I had to stop every five meters to catch my breath and ask myself what the hell was I doing this for; and my legs felt like lead, in concrete boots. When we reached the summit at 6:30 am I wasn’t in the mood to spend much time at 5895 meters – so I took a few photos (see attached) and headed back down to the camp with a pounding head and rubbery legs. I’ve never been so exhausted in all my life.  Kilimanjaro is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (i.e. never again) and it was agony for the last few hours, but I’m glad I did it and will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and relief when I made it to the roof of Africa (and back down again).  

Now that I’ve knocked off the highest peak in Africa, I want more mountain highs! Next is Everest base camp (I didn’t make it there last time I was in Nepal).


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