The plan today was to wake up at 23, have a light breakfast, and get going by 23.30. I had been feeling good everyday but as soon as I woke up I knew something was terribly wrong. I was extremely nauseous and my stomach was doing weird things. I walked to the toilet and on the way back I couldn’t find my tent. I was so disoriented that I didn’t even know what to say, where I was or who I was talking to. It was the most scary moments ever. I don’t know if it was the altitude or my nerves but there was no way I could leave like that.
My guide suggested that I took some pills, get some sleep and wake up at 5 and see how I felt then. I am not a big fan of taking medicines but this time I couldn’t do anything else but agree.
When time to wake up came I was feeling as crappy as before but so angry that I literally told myself to get it together and to start moving. I ate my porridge as angrily and as fast as I could, got dressed and just stood up. From the outside this situation might have seemed really funny because the guys were laughing and said that being angry wouldn’t help and that they instead would pray for me. I am not specially religious and I didn’t understand a world of what they said, but being in such a confused state of mind and with the mental capacity of a 3 year old, hearing them pray was one of the most spiritual moments I have ever lived. It is extremely hard to explain, but for the first time in my life I was convinced that there was something bigger out there who was going to watch over me. I almost cried of sheer happiness.
We left for the summit around 6 am, in the dark. It was just starting to get light. I had zero confidence and this voice in my head telling me ”I can’t really do this…no way I am going to make it”.
Altitude sickness is quite similar to a really bad hangover. Everyone knows how hard it is to just walk to the bathroom the day after an intense night out so walking up a mountain in that condition is thousand times harder. I couldn’t quite stop thinking that I was not going to make it, that I would only walk for ten more minutes and then we should just turn around, but somehow my body kept moving forward. It was the mind what was hard to control. I kept thinking about things that put me on a positive mood, I thought about my parents and their endless love, about my best friends and how we met, about the men I loved, about the ones who made me miserable and that they should all go to hell, I thought about pizza, my bed, a warm shower, but above all, what kept me going was thinking that the shame of not making it this time around would be greater and harder to deal with than to just tough it up and continue.
The views at this point were just breathtaking, one of the advantages of doing this in daylight. But I could not look up that much, all I could do was look down. At this altitude the pace you walk at is extremely slow, about one step per second. But I was really struggling with that simple act, every step I took felt like the last one I would take on this world.
My appetite was gone, I hadn’t eaten much breakfast so I was weak, my knees felt so fragile I could barely stand up. I had the need to take a break every ten steps. To stand up after every break felt like and achievement and all I kept telling me was that, at that point, the way forward was equally as long as the way back to the camp so provided that I had to do the effort anyway I might as well keep going.
At some point I got extremely sleepy, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I just closed them and thought that if I fall asleep while walking, someone would just pick me up.
All this went on for around 6 hours, easier said than done, as still of right now I cannot believe how I carried on.
We reached Stella Point after what felt like an eternity. From there it is only 45-60 minutes flat walking around the crater rim until you reach the summit. I really doubted, but I was going to manage that no matter what. I hadn’t had anything to eat since the night before and this was around 13. At that point I really understood how it is like to be fueled not by carbs or sugar, but by sheer determination. Realizing that changed my whole being in just one second. I could really see myself walking as if I was watching a movie, quite a strange feeling to be honest and I was encouraging myself while the real me was just telling me to stop. Thinking about this right now just gives me chills. It seemed right there that there was something larger than life which I couldn’t really see, and that there lies SO much unfulfilled potential in all of us that if we would compare us with a car we could say that we just go through life using only the first gear, not aware that we have more. But there is more and I really felt capable of everything.
The views from up the crater were out of this world. The glacier on one side and the crater on the other. Watching airplanes take off from Kilimanjaro airport was something really special, since they are so extremely close and being the highest person in an entire continent is a truly overwhelming feeling.
We reached Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro’s summit, at 14.15. This was not as glamourous as I had imagined and it is really true that it is not about the summit but about the journey to get there. I was happy and all my pain had gone away. Fulfilling dreams like this is very empowering. Though it wouldn’t have been easy to do this without the help of my guide and porters, the success depended 100% on me and my own body, and when turning around for the descent I wondered what was next in my list of goals.
The descent is a very peculiar experience and the hardest part. It is like running a marathon, crossing the finish line and only then be forced to walk back the entire distance to where you started. But in this case the descend to the base camp was very fast, it only lasted around 2 hours.
From the base camp we had to walk down to Millenium Camp which is at a lower elevation and where it is easier to sleep and get water. The last hour was in the dark, it was past 6 pm, I hadn’t eaten since the day before and I was in an extremely crappy mood. I had to apologize to Ian a hundred times for my bitchiness, but being hungry and tired makes me a monster. I didn’t feel the altitude here anymore except for my lack of appetite, I was extremely hungry but there was nothing I felt like eating so I had only a small amount of boiled rice and a cup of tea before going to sleep.