I woke to the sound of a bird calling that sounded like nothing so much as a lorry’s reversing warning. Not long afterwards though, one of the porters showed up with bowls of hot water for us to wash in and a flask full of hot water in the mess tent for morning teas and coffees.
Breakfast was a watery porridge – they’re trying to make sure we stay hydrated – and a small omelette and sausage, along with some toast and more hot water for drinks. We dived in and ate well, before packing up our personal gear and getting ready to set off on the day’s trek.
The vegetation continued to thin as we increased altitude. Yesterday we’d come through tropical forest, to pine forest, to high brush. By the time we stopped for lunch the high brush had gradually shrunk down and become quite sparse. Chris reckoned it looked like a tea plantation.
My fingers are swollen and quite stiff. I keep flexing them to make sure they don’t get too bad.
Along the way we stopped off to have a look at a small cave just off the track. From the shape of it, with a pronounced, low-arched entrance, I’d guess it was some kind of lava tube which had eroded away. Our lunch stop was by a similar, but much larger, cave which was also at the centre of ‘2nd Cave’ campsite (one of the designated camping sites where you are obliged to stay on your trek.) It was another fine lunch considering how remote we are already. Our table and chairs were set up just outside the cave and we were served there, looking back over the trail we’d just ascended.
It was a mixed blessing of a location as, while we ate the cloud came in and there was a slight drizzle, so there was a fair amount of layer-changing between courses. Chris and Lee also did a bit of singing and a percussion lesson using one of the plastic cups.
After lunch we carried on towards our camp, making one further cave stop. This one was a smaller entrance but went back much deeper. I’d left my head-torch packed in my main luggage, which was with the porters, so I didn’t venture in too far. Huw had his handy though, so he went in quite a way to explore. Also exploring the cave was a solo traveller, Ian, a Canadian we’d seen briefly on the first day when we had lunch. We chatted a bit on the route and he ended up camping near to us at the next campsite.
The site was also inhabited by a pair of white-collared ravens – large birds, who seemed quite acquisitive; one of them made off with a bar of soap we’d been given for washing with after the trek. They spent a long while flitting about the camp, so Huw spent a while stalking them with his camera.
The headache that I’d acquired sometime after lunch intensified once we stopped for the day and by dinner time I was really in quite a bad way; having difficulty breathing, a pounding headache and a feeling of nausea – all symptoms of Altitude Sickness. Lee was similarly ill and Huw was suffering from headache. Chris, who was recently in the Pyrenees at an altitude similar to ours (c. 3,200m) was the only one not affected. Both he and Huw were troopers at encouraging us to force food and drink down, despite our lack of appetite – good advice – and painkillers were handed around like after-dinner mints.
Sure enough it had the desired effect and, as dinner was digested, my zombieness cleared somewhat and, while I still had trouble catching my breath, I wasn’t feeling nearly so sick. That said, I still left a good portion of my dinner. Lee reckoned that the altitude is what makes Kili a ‘man-maker.’
As the mood improved after food, we played cards a little and, having discovered that the only musical Huw had ever seen was the film of Chicago, I recommended some shows for him to see back in London. After that we had a few rounds of ‘Just A Minute’ – something we’d first enjoyed on our Highland Trek back in May. My heart wasn’t really in it though, so I was mostly a spectator.
We headed to bed early, but I found it very difficult to sleep and seemed to spend a lot of time in an almost hallucinatory/half-dreaming state. I also had to keep getting up to pee; between the altitude and the amount of water you are encouraged to drink, you need to pee a lot.
Bob (a friend from Chorus who has done this trek himself) had given me a urine sample bottle with the comment that when you are at the top, in -10°C temperatures, you don’t want to get out of the tent to relieve yourself. As it turned out I started using it well before the top – simply because it’s so much messing about to get out of your sleeping bag, get dressed, put your boots on, fiddle with the door zip and use the toilet and then unwind it all again to go back to bed.
The only catch with the sample bottle though, is that you can only safely use it once before it needs emptying. It cut the number of late-night toilet-tent trips in half, but sadly didn’t eliminate them.
Not sure how much I slept in total that night.