Have you ever wondered how you got involved in something?
Well here I was, 11.00pm, the temperature well below zero, snow falling and the wind gusting. Like my fellow travellers I was dressed in several layers and had a cup of tea In my hand. We were waiting to hear from the group leader if we were to go. The final assent had been in question all through the previous afternoon due to the strength of the wind. This had dropped during the evening as the snow began to fall. We had slept for a few hours in preparation, for this assent would take the entire night. Then we were to return and descend back to High Camp where we currently sat sipping tea.
The decision eventually came. We would go. Any other decision would have been a major disappointment, even considering the harsh weather conditions and the degree of exhaustion many felt.
We had started the adventure six days before, entering Kilimanjaro National Park through the Lemosho Gate. Here some 22 of us were assembled with the supporting party of porters, cooks, guides and even a song master coming from locals who did this journey regularly for a living. Our party was swelled to nearly 80 people. A light lunch was served whilst introductions were made. The Africans were welcoming and very musical. Many were no more than average build but they were to prove to have an energy far beyond what their appearance would suggest.
The journey began with a four hour walk uphill, always uphill, through the rainforest. It was pleasantly warm and even though we were carrying packs of perhaps 10 kg, relatively easy. We arrived at the first campsite to be greeted by singing and dancing from the porters. What happened during the afternoon was the porters and cooks passed us on the trail, usually carrying a very large pack or an oversized object such as a portable toilet, on their backs or heads. Such would be the speed of their ascent on most days that the camp would be broken after we had left, the next camp would be erected and a meal prepared before we arrived. This gave testimony to the energy and athleticism of the Africans.
For a camp in a clearing in the jungle the food would prove more than adequate with meat, vegetables, soup and more. No complaints. Having eaten and with darkness drawing in, off to bed in preparation for our first full days walking.