The Milky Way And The Way To The Kilimanjaro Watch Point

Last night was the first night on the mountain and the first chance to test the sleeping bag at more than 3000m asml. It was quite cold outside with temperatures going below freezing point but quite frankly staying with the bag fully zipped up was more of a sauna than a comfortable sleep. There is a silver lining though as we realized just how good our sleeping bags are. Highly recommended!

Machame Hut Camp, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

The first thing we notice as we wake up was the water condense on the inside of the tent which means that the temperature difference was quite considerable. That proves to be true as we get out of the tent and get the first view of the camp. 

Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Sep 2012

Everything was frozen, most probably from the morning dew. It was not the view I (Alex) was expecting to see at this altitude. It was 7am but it was still very cold and we could see people wearing down jackets. Somehow I got the feeling that I should do the same and as a sign of support to all those people just feeling cold I decided to wear my balaclava just as we were waiting for the sun to rise from behind the Uhuru peak. Although the peak was covered by fog and it was hard to see, we could all feel the sun rising as the temperature changed in less than five minutes. The cold was now nothing but a distant memory and thoughts of today’s trek were starting to creep in my head.

 

We took our time getting ready. By far, the most annoying task was the one of getting the sleeping bag to fit in the small bag it comes with as fitting it took some gymnastics moves (while using one knee to hold down the folded part, I was using my hands and the other foot to push out the air from the unfolded part). I was already gasping for air and all I had done was to pack my stuff…how was I to resist through the rest of the day?...And I (Georgi) was dead laughing looking how Alex struggle early in the morning. 

As we learnt the previous day, the trek is a race against the clouds. The clouds were low in the morning and travelling up the mountain as the day went through so get up to late and you risk to trek in the clouds with nothing interesting to see. Despite knowing this, we were among the last groups to leave the camp.

The trek itself was probably the most difficult of all days from a physical point of view. It seemed like a continuous staircase with stairs made out of uneven rocks. If the previous day allowed for automation (there were parts where you just had to keep a steady pace and follow the leader), this day involved a lot more energy and attention to the trek. The way up to the lunch point was seldom interrupted by short breaks. The most rewarding one took us on a small hidden side-road that only the guide knew. Bored and unsuspecting we followed him on the short road that finally rewarded us with the first clear view from above the clouds… the Uhuru peak on one side and Mount Meru, watching over our climb, on the other side. Oh… there was one more reward as we passed the British guys I was mentioning in the previous post. I could only hear the girl shouting at the guide asking him to bring the lunch tent (yes… they had a tent with table and chairs to eat lunch in) as she can not climb anymore.

We spent the lunch time on a rock with a very nice viewing point of the place where everybody else was having lunch. As we were about to finish the British guys made it too. This was pretty much the only interesting thing that happened until the time we reached our next camp, Camp Shira, at about 3940m asml.

Shira Camp, 3940 asml, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

A short nap later, we woke up just in time to notice the storm that was going through the camp. It suddenly got cold and foggy. The nice feeling and the nice views disappeared instantly and we thought this was the end of the day. As it seems, it was just a small storm as the clouds were passing through there as no more than one hour later the sky was clear again.

Storm at Shira Camp, 3940 asml Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

Water Tank, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

The last part of the day was focused on immortalizing the beautiful sun set the camp location had to offer. 

Georgi @ Shira Camp, 3940asml, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

In a camp where there is not much to do, getting such a chance to photograph the sunset was clearly the highlight.

Magic Light, Shira Camp, 3940 asml, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

Sunset at Shira Camp, 3940 asml, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

Georgi carried a tripod all the way up so I guess it was mandatory to use it as often as possible. Some chances were nicer than other but the one below is made in one of those moments when you can not stop thinking: Damn, this is worth the effort!

Shira Camp at dusk, 3940 asml, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

Living in big polluted cities, the chance to see 10-20 stars on the night sky is something special. How would you feel if there were so many stars that you would not know where to start counting? Would it be an exaggeration to say that there were more stars than… sky? I think not! I think I spent half an hour just drooling and watching the Milky Way. We’ve seen some beautiful night skies in Bolivia and Argentina but this one jumps straight to number one!

The Sky Above Shira Camp, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012

The Sky Above Shira Camp, Kilimanjaro (TZ), Sep 2012