Getting to sleep last night wasn’t too difficult on the Shira Plateau — it was remaining in a state of sleep that was the challenge. Drinking more than 3 to 4 litres of water wasn’t helping with this situation. I had found myself reluctantly and clumsily stumbling out of my tent in the middle of night to answer nature’s calling. Fortunately, I was still feeling pretty energetic despite the interruptions and was eager to pack up and get an early start in this morning of December 28th, 2015. To be honest, ever since I arrived in Tanzania, I’ve found myself waking up earlier — not sure if it was the time difference or the fact that the lack of electricity just forces you to go to sleep earlier. Maybe both.
It was a little unreal stepping out of the tent to finally get a glimpse of Kilimanjaro’s summit — while on … Kilimanjaro. Only a few days until the New Year. This was happening.
A quiet and tranquil morning view from my tent. With the clear sky, we can finally see Kilimanjaro from our campsite and its respective size.
As a result of the beautiful morning, we decided to move our breakfast outdoors out of the mess tent and enjoy the view. This would probably be the only time we’d eat breakfast outside the mess tent but it would be glorious. People brought out their solar panels to charge up any battery packs that required while we ate. Breakfast was often an interesting mix of fruit, chapate, toast, sausage or bacon, and some form of porridge (initially millet — if I remember correctly).
I think I was building a form of addiction to toast with jam. Something I never paid any attention to before.
Once breakfast was finished, everyone packed up and we set off further into the Shira Plateau — making our way towards Shira 2 camp. The plan today was a pretty light hike of 5km and then take the opportunity to do some short acclimatization hikes.
Making our way through the Shira plateau towards the summit. A look back at the vastness of the mountain plateau.
As we trekked through this part of Kilimanjaro — I found myself yearning to stay in this area a day or two longer. I loved how the flatness of the plateau contrasted against the sheer size of Kilimanjaro’s summit (and the remaining trek ahead of us). It just seemed like this would be a perfect place to stay on the mountain a while and just really take in the vastness of the plateau. The trail was relatively straight forward and easy to walk along with the exception of a couple of instances where we had to cross a few streams.
This is where trekking poles are invaluable — particularly if you are surefooted or find yourself challenged with it comes to balance. It’s also helpful to avoid getting your boots wet — even if your boots may be considered waterproof.
The clouds were catching up with us by the afternoon … as usual.
Similar to our experience from the previous two days, the clouds began to roll in by noon. Before the rain, we would sit down and enjoy lunch. Lunch was also an peculiar mishmash of items — everything from a banana, apple, a butter sandwich or a piece of chocolate, all the way to a tin-foiled wrapped piece of fried chicken. We all amused ourselves pondering how fried chicken came to be. Quietly, I mused to myself whether KFC or Popeye’s would ever sponsor the porters in carrying buckets of fried chicken up a mountain.
We continued to make our way through the Shira Plateau staying ahead of the clouds to some extent. Along the way, we even took a break although it wasn’t much of a break physically because our mountain guides led us off the trail to show us a cave that had some traces of use by the local people in the past.
The trek eventually brought us to interesting signs that were set up because the trail would begin to fork. Apparently, porters have in the past mistaken the direction of Shira 2 camp and would end up at a different campsite. This actually happened to one of our porters who was carrying one of our mess tent tables. The poor guy was new to the Lemosho route and ended up at a different campsite. Fortunately, a couple of our othere porters who knew the route went to fetch him.
Passing by signage. Apparently even with these signs people can easily get lost. Stopping for a break with a few senecio trees. These are rare in this part of the mountain.
As the cloud cover rolled in with the mist, we all began to don our jackets. The trail was also becoming more rugged and no longer were we in the Shira Plateau — we were gradually making our way out of it. That said we weren’t completely out yet but it was really awesome to encounter these odd looking senecio trees. It’d be the first time I had ever seen one — never even knew about them before.
Of course just as we were getting close to Shira 2 camp, the rain began and we found ourselves walking into the campsite for registration in the rain once again. It wasn’t bad and I was grateful that it didn’t rain for most of our hike — unfortunately the rain and the cloud cover made it difficult to tackle some extra acclimatization hikes so we ended up just sitting in the mess tent.
Unfortunately, the mess tent had some leaks and parts of the rain cover were pooling water — this I could see making the situation rather uncomfortable for some folks given that it was the main and only source of shelter for just hanging out and eating. It didn’t bother me much but I could see that it was bothering some of the others. We made the most of it and amused ourselves trying to move around or sit away from the leakages.
Arriving at Shira 2 camp in the rain, but after resting in the mess tent for an hour or so — the skies began to clear.
The cloud formations are pretty epic to observe as the sky begins to clear up.
Some of the others who were willing to hike in the pouring rain went off to check out the Shira Caves but I figured I didn’t want to test the waterproofing of my rain jacket if it wasn’t necessary so I stayed back. Surprisingly altitude wasn’t bothering me much and I had managed to avoid taking diamox pills so far.
Once the rain stopped and the clouds began to roll away, we were gifted with some pretty spectacular views. I love cloud formations and it was just breathtaking to see how everything looked as the sky began to clear up — and that also allowed us to take some acclimatization hikes before dinner.
The evening at Shira 2 camp was quite a bit chillier than the past two nights. On a positive note, Shira 2 camp lived up to its name based on what I had read. It had the best toilets and latrines on Kilimanjaro. Not only was there a designated large building with solar power for tourist latrines — there was ceramic tiling, and there were both western and local-type latrines. I think that cheered up the group a bit.
The night brought clear skies full of stars that we all admired but were too cold to bother trying to photograph. Instead, everyone quickly just brushed their teeth and tried to go straight to sleep. Some people were already feeling the effects of altitude but it wasn’t major. Tomorrow would be the day when we’d be pushing the threshold.
Check out Day 4 of the Kilimanjaro trek!