Day 3 5:30 a.m., writing from Mandara Hut
Yesterday we started our climb after a wonderful night’s, sleep, hot shower, and meal (the last for 6 days). We met our guide at the African Tulip Hotel for our climb briefing. His name was Amos. He was 27 years old, and at first glance, I was skeptical.
I have used Roy’s Safaris on other trips, and they have always been first rate. I overheard him talking to our agent in Swahili and heard “Papa” which was me and saw them both look at my stomach. I think I know what they were talking about. He then dumped our packs on the floor of the bar and inventoried our equipment. He was not satisfied so we had to rent additional things. I questioned his education, experience, medical supplies, and evacuation plans, all of which he answered to our satisfaction. He went on to talk about his testing of blood oxygen levels and he carried oxygen. The facts are that I am old, we were inexperienced, and he was doing his job. We drove to the gate picking up seven porters, a cook, and his assistant guide, Stone.
The trek started through a rain forest to an elevation of 9000 ft., where we would spend the night in the Mandara Huts. We arrived tired, wet, and already feeling the temperature and altitude change. We were in the clouds and had poor visibility. It was like walking through a green tunnel – huge moss bearing trees full of monkeys barking at us. Footing was slippery as we passed people descending to the gates. They looked like Zombies. We could tell by the look in their eyes and the filth, that they have been to the top. They gave us advice, half got sick, and they told us to keep eating and drink lots of water early because you can’t when you get above 12000 ft. Just a few minutes earlier Luke laid on his pack crushing his water bladder and lunch.
The hut is what most hikers use. It is an A-frame with four bunks; three of the four-inch foam mats on the floor in a U-shape, and one upper. It is about 12X12 with no heat and no bathroom. There is a thin wall in the middle and the same on the other side. There is a mess hall in the middle and toilets. There are about forty other hikers in this camp, but none are American and very little English is spoken. We were tired from the trip and turned in early.
The boys were making fun of my whiskers coming in gray, and Gabe said I would look like Gandalf (which I wasn’t sure if he was the guy from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings). Luke was looking a lot like Joe Dirt, and Gabe with a four-week head start was looking like a Ewok from Star Wars. We are having a blast. Luke is having issues, and I will let Gabe tell of the disgusting details, but if we don’t reach the summit, we will have turned back because Luke used half our toilet paper and wet wipes day one.
Finally able to get on the mountain and start climbing. Dad pretty much covered the climb up and all the details to go with it. We checked into our small hut, and they gave me the sleeping bag with all these brown stains on it so that was a good start. They also didn’t have regular “sit down” toilets; they just had a big oval hole in the ground. I’m not gonna go into too much detail, but I’ll just say that Luke couldn’t figure out how to successfully execute the action. I will also say after his attempt we were left with a fraction of the toilet paper and no wet wipes for the trip. Other than that incident all was pretty good. I could feel it getting harder to breathe.