Good Weather, More Distance

If there is one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been training for the 75km Ride for Heart — it has been that the weather is something you just have to contend with and that good weather will just mean you tackle more distance.

Don’t get me wrong — good weather doesn’t necessarily equate to more comfortable conditions. When it’s too warm or too breezy — it can actually slow me down or I end up getting sneezing fits from all the allergens in the air. Ah, spring time…

So this Victoria Day long weekend, we set forth on yet another training ride — this time while dealing with the insane amount of traffic on the Waterfront Trail in Toronto. It was as if all of Toronto decided to come outside. Particularly at the ferry over to Centre Island — good grief the line up was crazy. Granted, I can totally see why … it was sunny and warm all weekend. Not hot, just warm enough. I saw and smelled barbeque everywhere — ice cream trucks spaced out perfectly amongst the waterfront — ready for anyone’s frozen treat-craving to kick in.

We weren’t really sure how much distance we covered but upon calculating it this time around … it seems we unknowingly went over 50km. Can’t really be absolutely sure by how much but it is reassuring that we may actually have made it over 60km! My quads were feeling the pressure from the workout but they definitely could have gone for more, but since we thought we had made it over 50km — we figured it was good enough.

One more week of training before the big day arrives. Weird how it arrived so quickly.

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Quick Update (practically July 2016)

I haven’t disappeared.  Still working on writing out my experiences earlier this year — a sort of catch up.

That said, there have been some changes in my life — notably that:

  • After eight years of working at a national not-for-profit organization, I’ve moved on to a new job.  Don’t worry, still exploring life and data.
     
  • I no longer have the flexibility and the resources to tackle the remainder of the Bruce Trail at this time — so my friends are going to continue it with out me.  Part of me is saddened by this reality as I really wanted to finish it but there’s no way around this for now.  I hope to continue and finish it in the future.
     
  • With the change in resources and budget, I’m now directing more attention to exploring with the bicycle — I haven’t decided yet how to integrate that into this website yet so it currently sits on a separate website here.

Some upcoming stuff or longer-term goals:

  • I’ll be taking a few fun road trips locally and through the north-eastern US.  One of my goals is to do some hiking in Acadia National Park in August.  I know, it is tourist season but I had planned the trip when I was in my old job.
     
  • The cycling is tied to my goal of tackling the 500km Greenbelt Route here in Ontario next year.  Probably around the summer or autumn of 2017.
     
  • I really am enjoying cloudspotting so I’m probably going to delve further into that at some point but I’m not sure what to do as of yet.

Thanks again for visiting and stay tuned for more — feel free to reach out on Instagram where I’m probably the most active.

If you have questions for me, feel free to ask.

Postponing Rides due to Weather Conditions

I am typically keen on riding my bike regardless of conditions although a past wipe out incident back when I was in university curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

So when I saw the weather conditions for the Sunday — my friend and I decided that it really wasn’t worth getting wet and frozen for a 50km training ride.

Hopefully the weather will be better this upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.

Unfriendly weather conditions
Unfriendly weather conditions

So what’d I do instead?  I began reading up on touring bikes.  It is really interesting the different takes and thoughts on touring.  I have some folks telling me that it’d be hard on a mountain bike and so I should spend the money to buy a new bike — while others just suggest doing it on a modified mountain bike.

One thing that I think I’ll definitely need to assess is whether I should change up my tires from the mountain bike knobby tires to something more road friendly (and still handle some gravel).

Some good food for thought from these folks:

Some tune-ups, upgrades, and another 50km ride

The last weekend, I had enough of leaning my bicycle against everything.  I wanted a kickstand.

Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times...at propping up a bike.
Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times…at propping up a bike.

I also noticed that the bike was making some really squeaky noises as I was peddling — I figured it had to be the chain.  It needed some TLC, so I took a stroll down to the Trek store near Yonge and Eglinton and picked up the kickstand and a bottle of chain lube.

Ideally, I would have picked up stuff from MEC but it was too far out of the way for me and I didn’t have any time to spare before the weekend.  It was a busy busy week.  Have I mentioned that I was about to change jobs after nearly 8 years?  Well, now I have.

Anyhow, setting up the kickstand was a bit of a pain.  Instructions were pretty hard to interpret and it didn’t help that whoever put the price tag on the package, decided to place the sticker right on the instructions (which were on the plastic packaging of the kickstand).  It more or less felt like I was trying to piece together a puzzle but I figured it out eventually.

The good news about all of this is that despite the effort, I gained a sense of pride in figuring this out on my own.  That said, I still don’t see why they could not have improved the user experience and instructions.

Next up was to apply the chain lube.  It grabbed an old rag and started cleaning the chain by winding the pedals backward — just as I was taught in the MEC class!  Pretty amazing to see all the grime and dirt come off of the chain but I got pretty tired of dealing with it after spending 10 minutes winding the chain and still seeing tons of dirt and grime show up on the rag.  Then I applied the chain lube and wiped the excess off.

It was pretty amazing to ride my bike and immediately feel the difference.  Last week, I could hear my bike squeaking.  As my friend phrased with respect to her bike after a major tune-up, it was like butter — super smooth.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was an attempt to tackle 50km on the East Don Parkland.  Just like last time with some solid hills to climb up.

We were ready for this round but unfortunately the weather ended up surprising us.  While the weather reports were informing us that there’d be less than 1mm of rain that day (40% probability of precipitation) — my friend and I ended up in the middle of a thunderstorm and multiple showers!

Thank goodness the trail we were on run underneath bridges such as these.  They saved us numerous times from hail as well as pouring rain.

Bridges like these saved us from hail
Bridges like these saved us from hail
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge

We managed to get in about 35km despite the crazy weather and since it was Mother’s Day — there were important plans for the remainder of the day.

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 8

It felt weird waking up today on January 2nd, 2016. Not only was I now officially in the New Year (the past couple of days just felt like one very long day) — the realization that I had completed one of my goals that I had set out to tackle two years ago was just dawning on me.  I was too exhausted and tired from the summit hike to really think about it. It all felt bittersweet to me as I reminisced fondly of the days that we had spent on Kilimanjaro.  I loved waking up seeing the snow-capped summit and today would be my last day on this beautiful mountain.

It felt weird waking up today on January 2nd, 2016. Not only was I now officially in the New Year (the past couple of days just felt like one very long day) — the realization that I had completed one of my goals that I had set out to tackle two years ago was just dawning on me.  I was too exhausted and tired from the summit hike to really think about it. It all felt bittersweet to me as I reminisced fondly of the days that we had spent on Kilimanjaro.  I loved waking up seeing the snow-capped summit and today would be my last day on this beautiful mountain.

Waking up to our final view of the summit at Millennium Camp. It was nice to see green again too. Waking up to our final view of the summit at Millennium Camp. It was nice to see green again too. After breakfast and sorting out the details concerning tips -- we were privileged to a participate in a thank you ceremony with the porters and guides. After breakfast and sorting out the details concerning tips — we were privileged to a participate in a thank you ceremony with the porters and guides.

The descent back to an elevation where there were trees made for a great setting to enjoy our final breakfast of this trek.  They were also a reminder that we were breathing much easier than before.  We could move around without feeling shortness of breath — one might even notice that there was a hop and skip in between when everyone walked around now.

Breakfast was excellent as I had the opportunity to enjoy more chapati pancakes (I still have a craving for them).  All of us hikers got to sorting out our tipping for the porters and guides and once that was settled with the chief mountain guide and everything was calculated out — we stepped out of the mess tent to meet with all of our porters and guides.  Here, for full transparency — the dollar value of all the tips were announced based on the role that each person had on the team.  I was happy to see that as the tips were being declared — all of the porters and guides were all smiles.  I had read that much of the livelihood of the porters and their families are heavily dependent on tipping.  It is unfortunate that this is the case and I hope that in the future — some sort of living wage or salary is simply built into the cost of a trek.

The tipping ceremony eventually lead to the overall farewell ceremony.  Mweka camp would be the last time we would see all of the porters.  They would descend the mountain faster than us and then take a separate van home.

The ceremony started with a number of the porters and guides singing local traditional songs and eventually lead to the famous Kilimanjaro Song.  It wasn’t just our group so we’d hear voice and song across the camp.  It was pretty amazing.  Even after hearing the Kilimanjaro Song over and over again, I didn’t get sick of it.  Search for it on Google and you’ll find plenty of YouTube videos.

Jambo! Jambo bwana!
Habari gani? Mzuri sana!
Wageni, mwakaribishwa!
Kilimanjaro? Hakuna matata!

Tembea pole pole. Hakuna matata!
Utafika salama. Hakuna matata!
Kunywa maji mengi. Hakuna matata!

Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro,
Kilimanjaro, mlima mrefu sana.

Na Mawenzi, na Mawenzi,
Na Mawenzi, mlima mrefu sana.

Ewe nyoka, ewe nyoka!
Ewe nyoka, mbona waninzunguka.

Wanizunguka, wanizunguka
Wanizunguka wataka kunila nyama

After we said our farewells to each and every porter, we parted ways and set off on the last stretch of this journey.

As we make our way down Kilimanjaro, we begin to see and enjoy views of the tree canopy of the rain forest. As we make our way down Kilimanjaro, we begin to see and enjoy views of the tree canopy of the rain forest. Another look off to the side of the trail. Another look off to the side of the trail. The trail is quite steep along the way down is covered with loose rocks and gravel. The trail is quite steep along the way down is covered with loose rocks and gravel.

The descent was long and steep.  Some parts of the trail were full of loose gravel and it made it very slippery at times.  I would highly recommend that everyone make use of trekking poles on the descent.  It saves your knees from all the impact, reduces the energy your legs consume to slow yourself down, and helps stabilize yourself on the way down — which is very important because after a very long descent, your ability to maintain stability and balance diminishes.

The important thing is not to feel rushed.  I think members of my group felt like they had to keep up with the rest of the group but it is crucial to pace yourself.  Descents often stress people out and many find it more challenging than climbing up (myself included) so moving faster doesn’t actually help.  Besides, I really enjoyed the earlier areas of the descent when we were just reaching the alpine forest area.  The trees and the greens seem to always have so much character.

Descending from the higher elevation alpine forest. Descending from the higher elevation alpine forest. Taking a break after hiking down countless steps. Taking a break after hiking down countless steps.

The trekking poles really come in handy later into the descent.  When we eventually make our way into the rain forest — the trail is actually quite nice, but unfortunately it is made up of countless number of steps.  It is literally like walking down a never-ending staircase.  At some point, I tried counting the number of steps but lost count because I eventually got bored.  I also think at this point, most people just wanted to get back to the lodge and have a shower — something we haven’t had for the past 7 days!

After we make it to the end of the stairs — we arrive at the furthest point of the trail where supply trucks or ambulances can drive up to in the rain forest before everything has to be carried up or down by porters.  Alas, we still had a ways to go.

We finally make it to the furthest point where an ambulance or truck can drive up into the rain forest area. We finally make it to the furthest point where an ambulance or truck can drive up into the rain forest area. Spotting a glimpse of civilization ahead. Spotting a glimpse of civilization ahead. Finally arriving at the site of the Mweka Gate.  This is it, we're practically finished! Finally arriving at the site of the Mweka Gate.  This is it, we’re practically finished!

I think by the time we were just walking on a dirt road towards Mweka Gate — no one was really talking anymore.  Everyone was tired.  I guess it didn’t help that with the descent, we also were returning to a warmer and more humid climate which zapped a lot of energy out of many of us.  Once we spotted the vans and buses carrying trekkers away though, it was as if everyone had a final burst of energy!  We powered our way to the end.

Of course there needs to be some token photograph of signage at the end.  This time, I definitely didn’t care enough to take a photograph with the sign so I simply just snapped a picture of it with everyone around.  It was a busy place with everyone happily (but wearily) having their photograph taken.

Where our trail finally ends.  Way too many people are trying to take photos so I just end up photographing them. Where our trail finally ends.  Way too many people are trying to take photos so I just end up photographing them. Some groups preparing to leave while others just arriving to sign into the last ranger's office.  We sat down afterwards for a last lunch. Some groups preparing to leave while others just arriving to sign into the last ranger’s office.  We sat down afterwards for a last lunch.

After taking care of that photograph, we made our way to the ranger’s station to leave our final signature.  It was a long line up and my knees were aching from the descent.  It was past noon and we had a long drive back to the lodge — but before we would depart, we’d have a last lunch with our guides.  It was good to have a hot lunch in the sun.  Some folks in the group ordered beer while others like myself just settled for a warm soda.  It felt like it had been decades since I last had a soda.

A local joint we stopped at to taste test some mbege (banana beer). A local joint we stopped at to taste test some mbege (banana beer).

On the way back to the lodge, our guides who had spoken with us about the local Chaga people and the local drink mbege, took us to a local bar or restaurant to celebrate our accomplishment with a drink.  Mbege is referred to as banana beer because it is made from a type of banana and is often consumed in groups.  Apparently, everyone would share a container full of mbege (imagine a large yogurt-sized container) and each person would drink from it and pass it on to the next.  It was amusing to watch everyone’s faces as they drank it.  Some people said that it was very sweet — I thought it tasted just like beer with a hint of banana to it.  I definitely couldn’t consume much of it but I think even the hardiest of people in the group mentioned that it had gotten pretty quickly to their head a little.

It was a long drive back to the lodge and everyone carried smiles or a peaceful look on their face.  I thought it was pretty awesome that we had all made it to the summit and even more fascinating to me — how we all came together from different parts of the world to tackle Kilimanjaro, for completely different reasons. I was happy to have accomplished what I had set out to do two years ago when I started hiking the Bruce Trail — and to have had the opportunity to do this with people who were complete strangers to me in the beginning, and all of whom I consider a friend at the end.  Was it harder than I thought it’d be?  Yes.  Much of it was psychological.  I’ll discuss this in another time.

Most importantly, this whole journey would not have been possible without the mountain guides and porters.  I am forever grateful to them for their support.  Simply put, their spirit inspires me.

Trying to Bicycle 50km with Hills

I knew it would be difficult but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be.  The other weekend, my friend had to take her bike into the shop for a tune-up not realizing that it’d take more than a day to tune it up.  It had taken quite a bit of rust over time — a result of water damage.  Sometimes it’d sound as if springs were going to just explode and fly in all directions.

Anyhow, while the weekend wasn’t due for a training session — I set out to go for a test run with my bike.  Discovered that the hills did take a toll on my endurance in my attempt to tackle 50km but that also my allergies were literally destroying me.  The weather had gotten warmer … trees were starting to bud, dandelions blossoming, pollen in the air … you get the idea.  I am quite the sight… looking like I’m crying all the time.

Test Ride with the GoPro
Test Ride with the GoPro

So as I make my way on to the East Don Parkland trail in North York, starting near Leslie and Sheppard — I soon run into signs indicating that parts of the trail were closed for construction.  Really?  Now??  Suffice to say, that it was a pain turning around and having to make my way all the way around to another entrance point on to the trail.

I only made it 35km … between the hills and allergies … I was just too tired.  On the bright side, I successfully tackled a really big uphill afterwards on the way home.

I was hoping to get a successful time-lapse on my GoPro.  This was a test run after all but I soon realized once I got home and uploaded everything onto the computer that it didn’t work out.  A 10 second time-lapse just doesn’t work well so after some research, I’m going to give the 2 second time-lapse a try — fingers crossed!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 6 and 7

I’m confident that most people — if asked their favourite moment on Kilimanjaro — will indicate the time of summiting the mountain.  I would say mine is the moment we finished our early dinner and stepped out of the tent to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve encountered.  One that I’m sure I will rarely ever have the opportunity to see; and that is to see it above the clouds from my tent.  At this point, we’re told to prepare all our layers and wear them before set off for the summit tonight.  I have about 5 top layers and 3 bottom layers.

It felt somewhat surreal to be waking up on Mt. Kilimanjaro on New Year’s Eve (December 31st, 2015).  A part of me wished I was back home, and another part of me wished that my friends and family were here with me.  It was pretty cold this morning as I stepped out of my tent and greeted my fellow trekkers who were up as early as I was.  I had wanted to make the most of the morning daylight and charge up my solar powered battery pack — and I was just not feeling sleepy.

After so many days on Kilimanjaro, it was odd to become to familiar with stepping out of my tent every day to see the summit — getting closer and closer.  Today we would be hiking a short distance of about 4km to Barafu camp — also known as summit base camp for the mountain.  Apparently, there is no water up at Barafu camp so the porters help carry water for us all.  I’m feeling extremely grateful for all their help at this point — let alone what they had already done for us over the past 5 days.

This would also be a very long day for us because we’d be going to sleep after a much earlier dinner and then waking up near 11pm to begin our summit hike.

Waking up to the cold fact that we were getting much closer to the summit. Waking up to the cold fact that we were getting much closer to the summit.

A porter sets off towards the summit base camp (Barafu) early in the morning. A porter sets off towards the summit base camp (Barafu) early in the morning.

While eating breakfast and pre-arranging my backpack for tonight — many porters had set off earlier towards Barafu camp.  It was pretty amazing to see the long stream of hikers against the backdrop of the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Being out here truly reshapes your perspective of the world.

Despite the fact that it was only a 4km hike to Barafu, it would end up feeling like a very long haul uphill.

I couldn’t really visualize how many people would be on Kilimanjaro for New Years Day until this part of the trail.  All the different routes and the people hiking on them would not only converge at Barranco camp — but also be hiking on this very route towards Barafu camp.  I had thoughtBarranco camp was bad in terms of traffic and temporary population — well, Barafu camp would be quite the surprise but I’ll touch on that later.

Packing up and getting ready for a very long day and night. Packing up and getting ready for a very long day and night. The long train of hikers and porters ahead of us. The long train of hikers and porters ahead of us.

The long trail ahead of us. The long trail ahead of us.

Despite the traffic on the trail, everyone was moving pretty smoothly.  It was a long slog up from Karanga camp where we had stayed last night but the trail with the exception of a couple of points were pretty straight forward and had no tricky footwork requirements.  To see the arid and stark alpine desert was quite the experience — we were so far up in altitude that there was practically nothing on this part of the mountain.  There is pretty much no flora here, just some lichen on some rocks and even that is pretty rare to see. It was nonetheless a beautiful sight to trek through.

By the time we crossed this alpine desert valley and hauled ourselves up to Barafu camp — we were all really feeling the altitude.  I hadn’t been feeling the altitude much other than some lightheadedness now and then but even at this point — I was now feeling weakened and breathing heavily.  I had hoped we’d be better acclimatized.

From a distance, it looks like a pilgrimage of tiny people slowly making their way down and up the valley towards Barafu camp, which is just over the visible area at the top of the valley. From a distance, it looks like a pilgrimage of tiny people slowly making their way down and up the valley towards Barafu camp, which is just over the visible area at the top of the valley. Silent and tired. Waiting in line for registration in a very busy area. Silent and tired. Waiting in line for registration in a very busy area. A porter reading a book on his own amidst the clouds. A porter reading a book on his own amidst the clouds. A beautiful sight but also a very inconvenient location for answering nature's call. A beautiful sight but also a very inconvenient location for answering nature’s call.

The arrival at Barafu camp was both crazy and amazing.  Never have I encountered so many people on a mountain before — and camping too.  As we lined up for registration at the ranger’s office, I spotted people looking dispirited, tired, and worn out.  I hoped that they were just returning feeling tired rather than folks just like us who had just arrived into camp.  Most of us seemed okay but were pretty tired from the climb up to Barafu and so many of us spoke very little.  Our guides were amazing as usual and acquired us a bench for all of us to sit down on.  We were relieved to have a place to rest — even for a moment and everyone smiled … even those who were really feeling the altitude.

Now as much as being in Barafu summit base camp is exciting — it is actually more of a pain.  It is practically like trekking through a metropolis with different districts of tent sites.  We groaned as we had to continue hiking from the ranger’s office back the path we came from and back down to a less central area where our porters set up camp for us.  The important thing to understand about Barafu camp is that there are very few flat areas available for camping and rocks are everywhere.  It becomes a matter of fitting tents wherever possible — the porters are practically geniuses in my eyes because they have to work this out while keeping everyone together in the vicinity.

We initially eat lunch and then spend the remainder of our time in camp resting, preparing our layers for the overnight hike and drinking water before enjoying a very early dinner.  I notice some porters reading in the distance and wonder what they are reading.  I’ve seen some reading the bible while others are reading English primers.  While watching them, I take the opportunity to rest my legs and feet while charging my headlamp with the solar powered battery pack.

I’m confident that most people — if asked their favourite moment on Kilimanjaro — will indicate the time of summiting the mountain.  I would say mine is the moment we finished our early dinner and stepped out of the tent to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve encountered.  One that I’m sure I will rarely ever have the opportunity to see; and that is to see it above the clouds from my tent.  At this point, we’re told to prepare all our layers and wear them before set off for the summit tonight.  I have about 5 top layers and 3 bottom layers.

This is it.  One of my favourite moments.  Sunset on Kilimanjaro while camping above the clouds. This is it.  One of my favourite moments.  Sunset on Kilimanjaro while camping above the clouds.

One doesn’t really begin to appreciate the logistics of a metropolis of a mountain until you need to answer nature’s call (use the bathroom) or need to navigate your way around to the mess tent.  This is on the top of the fact that the toilet latrines are on the other side of this rock face.  Here is where I’d recommend (for convenience sake) to have chemical toilets at your camp site.  I’ll explain why:

There is no straight vector line towards your destination.  You must find the right path that leads you safely to where you need to go.  Now, imagine eliminating daylight — you are now left with a headlamp and unfamiliar rugged and steep terrain that you need to step up or down (from or to).  This is where it got tricky.  Fortunately the areas were so packed with tents that I navigated my way by knowing which tents to pass by.  There were times when I wasn’t sure if my headlamp was beaming into pitch black darkness because it was a cliff side so I just carefully followed the ground and tried to identify foot paths that had been created ahead of me.

Because I am feeling lazy at this point, I don’t even bother opening up my sleeping bag.  I just put on all the layers in preparation for tonight’s hike and lay down on my sleeping mat.  I think I got a little bit of sleep but it was hard to get to sleep so early (an I was already on a early schedule!).

By 10:30pm, we were back in the mess tent gearing up, and having a snack with tea.

By 11:00pm we were out heading up the trail to the summit.  It was funny hiking in the dark — besides seeing the feet of the person in front of me — I just saw a long stream of glowing headlamps moving slowly all the way up to the summit.  The porters joke that this makes Kilimanjaro look like a Christmas tree.  I had never thought about it that way but I loved the thought!

January 1st, 2016 – Happy New Year!

As we are moving slowly up the switchbacks that take us gradually up the rim, midnight arrives and the entire mountain erupts in cheer and song.  Above and below us on the trail as well as at the various camp sites, the guides, porters, and probably hikers who weren’t summitting were singing and shouting.  Though I was extremely tired and under the effects of altitude — it was amazing to experience this in person and something I can never forget.  I felt rejuvenated and energized despite the fact that I had hours of trekking ahead of me for the night.

It is hard to recall all the details of the night (not that there are many).  I found myself questioning whether it was safe for me to continue the summit hike.  For every step I took, I forced myself to inhale and exhale faster — I could feel that my body wanted more oxygen.  I also felt really lightheaded at times and I was concerned about my sense of balance.  When I brought this up with the mountain guides, they nodded and simply said, “don’t worry, that’s normal.”  So I kept going.

We’d stop for breaks and I felt like taking a nap at every one of them.  I felt so tired that I couldn’t even open my water bottle but fortunately the guides helped me out.  I looked at everyone else and saw that I wasn’t alone — we were all struggling with the altitude — some more than others.  I didn’t know if I could make it and I wondered if I would make it but eventually I got so tired that I was purely dedicating my energy to following the person in front of me and not slipping anywhere.

Every so often our guides would start singing a local song and I loved those moments.  It drew my attention away from everything.  I knew at that point that the comment our guides made earlier was true.  Physically — we could do it, but at this altitude it isn’t about the physical aspect anymore but the psychological driver inside us.  I set aside my thoughts around failure and focused purely on moving one step at a time.  I don’t know how long it took us but eventually we made it to Stella Point.  We had overcome the rim and the crazy number of switchbacks that took us all night to climb.

After a very long struggle, we make it to Stella Point. End of the tiresome switchbacks.  We cheered and hugged for it was a momentous occasion from each of us individually. After a very long struggle, we make it to Stella Point. End of the tiresome switchbacks.  We cheered and hugged for it was a momentous occasion from each of us individually. The sun is just beginning to light up the horizon.  It is an amazing moment, until we realize we need to keep hiking further. The sun is just beginning to light up the horizon.  It is an amazing moment, until we realize we need to keep hiking further.

I was so happy to have arrived at Stella Point, I just wanted to take some photographs with the sign but my camera didn’t seem to be cooperating — the wasn’t enough light, even with the flash on.  My guide tried to take some photographs of me with the sign but it just didn’t work.  I was too tired to curse but I did get some early photos of the light in the horizon.

Just as I thought we had made it, our guide tells us we have to keep moving forward.  I prayed that there wouldn’t be more switchbacks and was thankful that there weren’t.  At that point, I felt a surge of energy (probably from adrenaline) and found myself trekking faster towards Uhuru Peak, the summit point of Kilimanjaro.  We wouldn’t reach the peak in time to watch the sunrise but we enjoyed the sunrise nonetheless hiking on the summit itself.  I think at this point, it was approximately 6:30am.

This is it.  We've reached the top of Kilimanjaro.  Our adrenaline is pumping and we're wide awake despite an all-night hike. The view is spectacular. This is it.  We’ve reached the top of Kilimanjaro.  Our adrenaline is pumping and we’re wide awake despite an all-night hike. The view is spectacular.

The summit was absolutely stunning but also annoying.  I actually wasn’t going to take a photograph with the sign — particularly when I saw so many people crowding around the signage trying to get the perfect snapshot — so I was content standing around photographing our surroundings on the summit.  Our mountain guides knew what they were doing because they told us immediately to drop our packs and head to the signage — and they figured out a way to take our photos for us.  I’m really grateful to them for doing so.  I guess they knew we were all too tired to make a fuss over anything but that this would be something important to us in hindsight.

Taking in the view of the glaciers from the summit.  I believe this is the Rebmann Glacier but I could be wrong. Taking in the view of the glaciers from the summit.  I believe this is the Rebmann Glacier but I could be wrong. Another view of the glacier.  I was too tired to do so but if I could, I'd have walked over to touch it. Another view of the glacier.  I was too tired to do so but if I could, I’d have walked over to touch it.

After I had my photos taken with the signage, I had to just stand there and take in everything around me.  It was all so majestic.  The morning light, the glaciers, the rim of the crater and the shadows that were cast across the summit.  I wish I had the energy to touch one of those glaciers but I was much too tired for that.

Instead, one of the porters who also served as a guide on summit night helped take some photographs of me with the glaciers.  What a way to spend the morning of New Years 2016.

Returning back the way we came. Returning back the way we came. None of this would have been possible without our amazing guides and porters who supported us all the way.  Thank you Fred! None of this would have been possible without our amazing guides and porters who supported us all the way.  Thank you Fred!

After spending about 20 to 30 minutes on the summit, our guides led us down from the summit and back towards our camp in Barafu.  I guess they knew that staying up here too long would have implications — which it did.  As we made our way back, I was feeling really nauseous and unwell — the only solution to this was to descend faster and so I did.

I didn’t take any photographs (nor did I feel like it by that point) but the descent was quite an experience in itself.  Descents normally concern me because of my sense of balance and knees but this was actually okay.  I initially thought that we’d be going back the same way we came via the switchbacks but the route was actually very different.  The entire way down is like stepping on rock scree (loose gravel and sand).  It takes a little getting used to — but once familiar, it is like skiing down all the way down with trekking poles.  I thought it was a lot of fun — despite wiping out a couple of times.

The rock scree doesn’t last forever and eventually we make our way on to a sandy path that takes us through another part of Kilimanjaro.  We get to see other parts of Barafu camp and it is seriously like a metropolis with some wild terrain to hike through.  Along the way, we are met by our porters who greet us with cheer and smiles — congratulating us and treating us to some refreshing juice.  A few of them offer to even take our packs for us to relieve us of our loads.  As we trek through Barafu camp (it is a long way), I chat with some of the guides and porters, I had the opportunity to learn about their favourite routes and other areas that are interesting to hike.  We soon find that our camp has moved further down the mountain and my tent is funnily enough, lodged between a number of rocks.  I guess that is some good security from the wind!  We all retire into our tents, clean up and take a nap while waiting for others in the group to return.

As much as our guides wanted everyone to stay together — some people were more affected by the altitude than others so it took them longer.  I am pleased that everyone managed to summit despite all the obstacles and hurdles we were confronted with.  A couple in my group even got engaged on the mountain — how exciting!

Once everyone returned and we had brunch — we recuperated for a bit before setting off for Millennium Camp.  Everyone was in good spirits (albeit, tired) and prepared to descend the mountain from Barafu.  Normally, many groups descend to Mweka camp but given time, distance, and the tired state of the group — the guides agreed that it wasn’t a good idea and that it’d be a better option to stay at a closer camp despite the fact that we’d have a longer hike on our last day.  True to the weather on Kilimanjaro, the clouds set in and it rained on us as we made our way to our next campsite.  What was really surprising was that it poured!

At that point, I didn’t care anymore.  Hey, at least we had accomplished what we set out to do.

Check out the final day 8!