8 days. No showers. Hours of high altitude hiking.

Kilimanjaro. Was. Phenomenal.

It’s futile to try and condense the experiences I’ve had in the last week into a short blog post. We just came down today, having summited yesterday on a killer hike that started at midnight and lasted until 6 am when reached the highest peak in Africa. And then we had to come all the way back down. I’ve had a shower and I think I’m a little bit high off shampoo fumes. Diek and Seanna don’t know where I am, and given my track record, that’s probably not for the best. Highlights, then.

1. I met Seanna the day before our hike started (Almost Jail Day!) and I can’t believe I’ve known her for barely a week…I guess that’s what happens when you sleep three people in a two person tent? We had two tents, and designated one the “luggage” tent. Why? Because it’s cold up there, and sleeping alone is no fun. Anyway, Seanna is awesome. I’d make some crack about Diek being not as awesome, but seeing as he’s saved my life about 20 times in the last 24 hours…I can’t. Dammit.

2. We had a fantastic team of 12 people for the 3 of us…sounds excessive, but that’s just the way it’s done. It meant we didn’t have to carry much. Actually, practically nothing at all. Our head guide, Ntese, is such a badass that he doesn’t need to drink water, and wears only track suit tops unzipped to mid-chest when the rest of us have 3 sweaters on.

3. We were force-fed insane quantities of food. INSANE. And one of the assistant guides, Haji, literally threatened to beat us with a stick if we didn’t finish our rice. He alternated between threats of bodily harm, or some of the most effictive guilt tripping I’ve ever been subject to. “Why do you break your promise to me? Why? You must eat three bowls of soup each.”

“So what have we got today, Haj?” “It’s french toast!”

…DEEP FRIED JELLY SANDWICHES ARE NOT FRENCH TOAST HAJ.

4. We played so much gin Seanna and I started dreaming about it.

5. Cheesy as it is, this has been some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Alpine moorland FTW! Rock scrambling up Lava tower!

6. Met some very cool fellow hikers and had some pretty intense rounds of bullsh*t with them, Haji, Ntese, and Matthew (another assistant guide. Who won twice! Lucky bastard).

7. We all have terribly filthy mouths.

7. And of course, summit day. When you come down from Kili, and you’re smelly, muddy, and exhausted, people ask you two things: “Did you make it?” and “How did the altitude affect you?

My answers: “Barely” and *hysterical giggles from Diek and Seanna*

You start the climb to summit at around midnight so you can catch the sunrise. It’s a challenging climb in freezing temperatures, and it’d be difficult even if you werent starting at 4650 M and finishing at 5865 M. I lost it at around 3 am, or shortly after 5100M. I was already pretty exausted at that point, and realized I was having a hard time balancing. Soon I was noticibly swaying. Ntese took my pack and poor Diek walked behind me, literally pushing me up Kili. I’d start to tip over, or stumble around like a drunk person, and he’d grab me and steady my walking. There are times when the path goes pretty close to a sheer drop off, so Diek keeping me from tipping over was pretty key to me reaching the summit, and not, you know, dying.

I also had these massive, massive mittens on that I couldn’t remove, so when we stopped to rest, Diek had to fix my balaclava, help me put my frozen clif bar in my mouth, help me hold water bottles…at one point, Matthew and NTese were fixing my gloves, and Diek was fixing my coat zippers. It’s on the list of “Times when Jane was Absolutely Pathetic.” There was also a moment when Diek grabbed my collar and made me look him in the eyes and speak Japanese to him so he could be sure my brain was ok. It could have happened to anyone!

Is there more? OF COURSE THERE’S MORE!!

I was loopy for a while, but I didn’t truly lose it until we reached Stella point, about 1 hour from Uhuru (the peak) and 100 meters lower. I don’t have particularly clear memories of the summit, but I do remember enjoying myself immensely, being hauled up through the snow by Ntese, not being able to stand up on my own, a beautiful dawn, and pretty much babbling about anything that came through my oxygen-starved mind. After a couple of photos in the blizzard (where I am either clutching the sign or being held upright by Diek and Seanna) and fog that swept through as soon as we reached the peak (the weather was actually lovely and clear for the majority of the hike–we saw a gorgeous orange crescent moon rise) I got hauled off the top of the mountain to a spot on the trail about 300 M lower. When I say hauled, I do mean literally hauled, as in Ntese grabbed my arm and the back of my coat and dragged me along in almost a dead run downhill. I then was not allowed to walk down the mountain on my own until I had recovered enough from the altitude. I said idiotic things the entire times, much to the amusement of Diek and Seanna, who were fine.

Actually, Seanna was suffering a little from the altitude. At one point, Diek had to cut the waistband of her pants off because they were making her nauseated. It was intimate.

So yeah. Kili was amazing, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and now I have to be really nice to Diek for at least 3 days.

…and I can’t f*cking see it. Why? Rainy season. The entire mountain is covered in fog. And big swirly clouds, which are kind of cool I GUESS in that they’re so close to the ground, but I think I’ll just hate them for obscuring my view of the mountain I’m climbing in two days. The past 24 hours have been divided in to camps of Awesome and Not As Awesome.

Awesome: Coming home last night from the internet cafe to my dank little hotel to get distracted by some Spanish or Latin American soap opera marathon. And watching over an hour of it with a tiny Indian woman who told me to call her Auntie Meeni. She chose to react to every overzealous plot line with her hands flying up and crying “On No! That woman is a vicious witch!” Or some variation thereof.

Not As Awesome: I left my ipod on the plane from Malawi. The tally of things I’ve lost that I really didn’t want to lose is now up to three. Although I have been consoling myself with the fact that the ipod was a year and a half old, which, in Jane Possession Time, is practically ancient. And the new ones have video! DJ had one and I lusted after it a bit. A sign?

Awesome: MY BUS LEFT ON TIME. I REPEAT, MY BUS LEFT ON TIME. HOLY SH*T.

Not As Awesome: Said bus ride was 9 hours of Tanzanian radio, played deafeningly. Somewhat mitigated by the 3 hour movie (in Swahili, but with English subtitles!!), but still. See above about missing ipod. Staying positive though! What a great way to learn about contemporary Tanzanian pop! *slightly strained smile*

Awesome: I bought a bag full of passion fruits for about 75 cents. Chinatown, you have fierce competition.

Not As Awesome. They’re all I’ve had to eat today.

I’m excited to see friends from home tomorrow though. Diek and Seanna. Get. Ready.