Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 2 – Shira Plateau

Sat. 6th July 2013

Start altitude: 2,750m
Max. altitude: 3,700m
Camp altitude: 3,550m

Its big and its beautifulI’m starting to think I could get used to this life. We’re woken this morning by the guides coming round and distributing cups of tea and then 15 minutes later they are back again with bowls of warm water for ‘washy washy’. I’m also feeling pretty good with my legs still feeling fresh (no stiffness or tiredness) and even last night’s slight (altitude) headache has gone. I even slept quite well tucked right down into my sleeping bag with the hood pulled up and over my head. I will need to add more layers to keep the cold out as we go higher. Still, one night down and six more to go. However, the Designer Monkeys are not as popular now after shrilling and screeching late into the night.

Our 'internet kiosk'!Breakfast is an even bigger treat. There’s porridge! Strangely, not everyone is as enthusiastic about porridge as me – but as there is also fruit, bread, bacon and eggs everyone is quite happy and well fed. While we’re having breakfast, the porters are taking down our tents, filling our water bottles and generally getting the campsite packed away. Of course, the ‘internet kiosk’ is amongst the last to be taken down for those in need of a quick ‘email’.

Lichen beards on the treesToday’s walk starts as a continuation of yesterday’s – climbing up through the forest. The path now though is just a (dry) mud track and the lichen (moss?) on the trees is now longer and stragglier and more beard-like than ever. Then we walk up and over a ridge and descend onto a plateau where the terrain changes markedly. It’s now much more like moorland – a Scottish moor, but on steroids. There is heather here but it is waist or shoulder high which along with the large boulders make for a rugged, spectacular landscape.

The only way is upIt is, however, just a beautiful warm cloudless day and I’m glad I stuck to t-shirt and shorts. As we stop for a break we can see our path for today stretch out ahead of us up to the ridge on the other side of the plateau. The pace (thankfully) continues to be pole pole as we are climbing up to 3,700m. Half way up, we stop again for lunch – there is soup to go with our packed lunch boxes that were issued to us this morning. Porridge for breakfast and soup for lunch and dinner. How good is that!! Nearly as good as the views that we have. Looking along the ridge we can see the corrugations along the irregular peak and the rainforest on the slope. Turning through 90o, we can see the path we followed to get down onto the plateau.

Nah! No problemWe’re climbing up Shira Ridge the rim of the old Shira volcano which is the lowest of the three peaks of Kilimanjaro. The picture that everyone thinks of as Kilimanjaro is actually Kibo peak and this has been hidden from us as we have been walking. But now as we crest the ridge, we can see across across a vast plain (caldera?) to what appears to be the base of the mountain, causing us to wonder what we have spent the last two days climbing. We now see the challenge we have set ourselves. It still looks like a big chunk of rock towering in the sky. We can also see tonight’s campsite in the distance in front of the mountain. It’s good to know that we’ve done our climbing for the day and the rest of today’s walk is quite flat.

Team photo - we made it to the end of Day 2!Down on the plain of Shira crater, the heather is much shorter and sparser and the path meanders between the clumps. We’re now over 3,500m and so in some ways it is surprising that anything grows at all. There is the odd patch of marshy, wet ground but otherwise it is all very dry and dusty. My legs are caked with a layer of dust and my shorts aren’t much better. This is only Day 2 – there are 6 more days to go until we get to a shower!

Camp overlooked by the mountainThe campsite is at the crossroads of the Shira and Lemosho trails and so there are two sets of climbers here which makes it much bigger and busier than last night – and we’re even more glad of our own private internet kiosk. Just like yesterday, our tent is ready for us by the time we arrive and water for washy washy appears shortly afterwards. It’s good to get at least some of the dirt off as well as giving feet a wash to help keep blisters away.

If only it was that easyWe try to rest and enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine. Our gaze is constantly drawn to the mountain in the background. It is going to be a constant companion for the next week and so the only thing to do is to take some silly trick-perspective photos. Anything to stay positive. (Positive mental attitude is another of Makeke’s rules to get us to the summit)

Steve can't concentrate on his bookAs the sun sets, it quickly gets cold and I need to add layers. I’m reluctant to get the down jacket out just yet though – I want to save it for when it gets really cold. We can also feel the altitude now. I have a niggly, incipient headache nagging away at the back of my head. As I try to write notes for the blog, my brain seems to be mush and I struggle to remember the details of scenery that we just saw an hour or two ago.

The food provided for us is delicious, and almost of a hotel quality, we understand now why so many porters have been employed, as we have our own mess tent fully equipped with tables and chairs. In a vain attempt to keep us going after dinner, Steve produces a pack of Brain Teaser cards that Santa left in his Christmas stocking a couple of years ago (what a clever Santa). However, whilst the spirit might be willing, through a mix of the altitude, the exertion of a full day’s walking and (for some) a poor night’s sleep everyone is tired and nobody’s brain seems to be working very well. By 8pm we’re all ready to turn in for the night – perhaps tomorrow we’ll manage more of an evening.

This entry was posted in Africa, RTW Trip, Tanzania and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *