Coming down from the post marathon endorphin high (aka. incurable soreness), we headed back to Arusha to prepare for the big highlight, our 7 day summit trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. Preparing and packing gear to summit one of the most climate diverse mountains in the world is no simple task. In addition you realize and accept the fact that you must put your trust in a team full of total strangers… seems reasonable! From Day 1 of our trek up the Machame Route on the south facing side of the mountain, we did not once doubt the ability of our team. And team it was, made up of 2 guides, Gasto and Iddy, 1 chef, Peter, and 9 porters! Yep, 12 peeps for two chicks… impressive!
Actually, what was impressive was how incredibly hard those guys worked without a peep of complaint from one of them. The kilos of weight they lugged at altitude, up slippery sometimes treacherous terrain, on their backs and oftentimes heads was awe-inspiring to say the least. They made the seemingly impossible happen.
Explaining the amazement that the highest freestanding mountain in the world has to offer is a seemingly impossible feat as well. Pictures can hopefully tell a little of the story. Hiking through rainforest, arid rock fields, volcanic rubble, to enormous glaciers and total alpine land at the 19,341ft summit, the route was magnificent.
On summit night we left camp promptly at 1am in the morning with electric skies behind us. Lightning lit the summit above through the blackness as thunder echoed through the atmosphere. Two hours in, as the storms started to calm, our headlamps started sparkling. It started to snow and kept snowing the driest, lightest flakes right into daylight. It was unlike any other surreal experience we have ever had. At the top, with tears and elation… we were grateful!
The experience we had that the mountain provided us, was equal in part to the experience our team gave us. When you spend 7 days and nights with a group of people, you have the opportunity to really get to bond with them, despite language barriers, and communication boundaries. At camp, day 2, we were greeted before dinner with a proper introduction and a wonderful display of song and dance. They chanted tunes they grew up singing, and ones they made up together over the kilometers climbed as a group. As we approached the end of the trek, the familial bond, the true appreciation for one another, and solemnness for the end, was tangible. On day 7, 24hrs after our team got us to the summit, just before leaving camp down to the gate, we choked back inevitable tears telling all of them how much pure gratitude we had in our hearts for what they had done for us. We group hugged, selfied the camp to death, and one of the lasting moments that still echoes in our minds today, was something that our lead guide said while taking a picture of us with some of the guys. While we were all holding hands, fingers interlocked, posing for the picture, Gasto remarked with honesty… “…two colors, one people…”. What truth he spoke!
Stay tuned for our final update next Monday on bringing a lifetime of water to people in Tanzania!