• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tales from Uhuru Peak…

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It is almost 6:30am, I sit on a rock breathing heavily. I have been walking for about two hours and have not made much headway in my ascent to Uhuru Peak. My feet feel like logs of wood, I can barely breathe and I have just had a third bout of hallucinations seeing some dead friends and relatives. As my guide taps me, I say to him “Delungwe please let us go down to Kibo”.

My Kilimanjaro journey started sometime in February 2015 when I got an email from Truppr on a climb it was organising in June 2015. I quickly signed up and started training for the climb, engaging mostly in endurance and leg strengthening exercises.

I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro to mark a milestone and to remind myself of how far I have come. I used to be overweight and had began to experience some health challenges, so in 2013 I decided to work on my weight and in 2015 I had lost 24kg.

With all travel arrangements concluded I and six others (Aase Omoluabi, Yemi Emmanuel, Segun Solaja, Kathleen Ndongmo, Babasanya Craig and Simbo Olatoregun) headed for Kilimanjaro, Tanzania via Nairobi on July 5, 2015. We arrived Kilimanjaro International Airport on July 6, 2015.

The manager of our tour company picked us up at the airport and we proceeded to our hotel in Moshi Town. Later that day we got introduced to our guides and they performed an inspection of our climbing items and advised on what additional items we should get. Alphonce took us to stores where we bought or rented what we needed.

July 7, 2015 was the first day of the climb. We climbed up the mountain through the Marangu route (three days climb and two days decent). We arrived the gate of Kilimanjaro National park at noon. We registered, got our lunch packs and water bottles filled (three litres of water is recommended). Then proceed on a-five hour walk to Mandara Hut.

From the camp gate to Mandara Hut is an 8 kilometer hike. The walk began and we encountered rainfall. We walked for about two hours before arriving at the lunch spot. We have a 30 minute break, then continued to Mandara Hut.

Jimmy, Martin and Goodluck; our guides, provided encouragement and explanation to our questions on the vegetation along our route. Pole pole (slow slow) they call out constantly reminding us that speed is not required but endurance.

We arrived Mandara Hut at about 7pm. My hands were shaking terribly from the cold, I was unable to register my name at the camp office, Kathleen assisted, I barely manage to sign. When I get to my room, shared with my team mates I got gripped by muscle cramps.

I had never experienced such pain in my life. I was crying and in so much pain. My teammates quickly rallied around me. I took some pain killers and applied deep heat ointment to my legs. One of my guides Martin also provided a spray ointment. After about 45 minutes, I began to feel better and had dinner. Martin, Jimmy and Goodluck gave us a briefing on our schedule for day 2.

The next day we embarked on an 8 hour hike from Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut. The distance better Mandara Hut and Horombo Hut is 11.5 kilometer.  We moved from 2700 meters to 3720 meters above sea level.

The day started at 6:30 am with the wakeup call for tea followed by water for wash up then breakfast which consisted of Millet Pap, fried eggs, sausages and toast. (Lunch was packed).

We depart Mandara at about 8:45am.On that day our pace was slower. Our guides adviced us to make sure we drank water because it provided us with much needed oxygen. As we walked I still felt the pain from the muscles strained on the day before but I soldiered on “pole pole”.

About an hour before lunch, the sole of my left hiking boot started to come off. Jimmy and Goodluck used a shoelace and my gators to hold the boot together. I trudged along and met with the rest of the team for lunch. After lunch we continued but my pace was much slower than the rest of the group partly due to my damaged hiking boot and my leg muscles were in so much pain. I sat down to take a break and started cry asking Martin, what am I was doing here? He encouraged me saying you came to conquer the top of Africa, you are a lioness. I cried a little more, dried my eyes then carried on.

I arrived Horombo Hut at about 7pm after about 10hours hiking, tired, extremely cold with headaches and muscle pain. My appetite was gone but I managed to have some cucumber soup. Martin and Jimmy came in for a briefing on the next day’s climb. They told us we had to set out early so we can arrive Kibo Hut on time and get adequate rest before we begin the summit for Uhuru Peak at 2am Friday. They also offered us Diamux (medication for altitude sickness) to ease the effects of the altitude.

On the third day, after washing and having breakfast, we set out from Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut (3720meters to 4700meters) on an 8 hour hike on over 10 kilometers long. Martin gave me a new pair of hiking boots.

‘Pole pole’ we walked quietly as we had all noticed how much energy talking exerts. The trek got tougher with each step I could hardly feel from my waist to my feet. I kept trudging on telling myself “Onome you can do this and remembering all the happy moments in my life to stay positive”.

I constantly had to sit to rest and catch my breath, taking sips of water. I tried to catch a little nap but Martin dissuaded me urging me to carry on. I made it to lunch way behind the rest of the team. After lunch, I battled with my emotions; they quickly shift from happy thoughts to anger and disappointment.

I asked Martin “ are you sure Kibo Hut exists? You lied to me,” I told him, “There is no Kibo.” He laughed and told me “It’s just around the corner.” He urged me to be strong and carry on. Finally we arrive Kibo Hut at 7pm and Martin said to me “I have never arrived Kibo at this time,” I responded by saying “That means you will never forget me.”

I immediately met the team in our sleeping hut, I have a little dinner, put on more clothes because the weather was freezing, a few minutes later I was asleep.

The fourth day was Friday 10th July.  We were awoken by 3am and had tea and some biscuits. In order to shield myself from the cold, I had 4 pairs of trousers and my rain track on and 4 tops, two jackets and my rain jacket on also three pairs of socks, three hand gloves and a beany hat.

We then set out for Uhuru peak. We all have head lamps and our trekking poles. The terrain was so steep and rocky. Each step felts like lifting a 40KG barbells and the oxygen levels was thinning out. At this point I was just dragging my body upwards. After about an hour of walking I have not covered a distance two kilometres.

I told my guide Delungwe “ we have to make sure we get to Gilman Point can you make sure it happens, he concurred. I muscled every ounce of energy I had left and kept moving but I could hardly breathe, I was also feeling sleepy.

I sat for a break and then the hallucinations set in. I saw my late brother and my grandmother talking to me about exactly what, I really have no idea about. I keep walking but my muscles had caved in. I could not move or feel my body anymore and as hard as I tried I seem stuck to one spot.

After several unsuccessful attempts to climb further I decided to head back to Kibo Hut. My guide Delungwe assisted me down to Kibo Hut. I was in so much pain and freezing when I arrived Kibo, I quickly got on my bed to catch a quick nap. I slept till 11am when we began to descend to Horombo Hut.

I could not move my legs and pain had engulfed every part of my body. Aase, Segun and I began descend. I was assisted by Goodluck and two other porters, they took turns helping me hike. Goodluck, offered some encouragement to me for not getting to the peak, he said “sometimes the mountain decides whether to accept or reject you, if it rejects you, come back and it will accept you.” I arrived Horombo Hut at about 2pm, registered, get to my room and had much needed rest. Simbo and Yemi were able to make it to Gilman Point.

I did not feel any better by night and Martin had to arrange with the Park ranger for I, Segun, Yemi and Aase to use the emergency rescue car to complete the descend to the park the next day.

On the fifth day, July 11, Babs, Kathleen and Simbo with Jimmy and Goodluck set out on the hike back down to the gate of the mountain while the rest of the team and Martin waited for the rescue car to arrive at 11am.

The car arrived and we boarded with about 6 other ladies. The drive to the mountain gate lasted about 2 hours. There was so much joy and fulfilment when we got to the camp gate. The knowledge that we had embarked on such an amazing journey brought smiles. We were back to Moshi Town before 6pm and settled into the rooms. Still tired but proud of our achievement, the pleasure the first warm bath in days brought was indescribable. On Sunday we were off to the Kilimanjaro Airport for a flight to Nairobi then back to Lagos by 11am.

I was a bit disappointed I did not make it to Uhuru Peak but that does not take away the pride and joy I feel. I will definitely be back in Kilimanjaro sometime in the near future, with the ambition to get to the summit.

Onodarho Onome