Thursday, July 19, 2012

Machame Camp (2834m) - Shira Camp (3749m)

Getting my sun-glare on
Although others had been up well before 6:30am, much to Kyra’s distaste, we refused to get up a minute earlier but we soon realised how unorganised we were as it was after 8:30am before we were ready to set off.

The climb was instantly very steep and involved a lot more scrambling than yesterday and we were surrounded by cloud for the majority of the beginning. Morale was kept high by speaking to one of our guides called Msechu who was very encouraging to my attempts to learn Swahilli by teaching me words and phrases. Most noticeably he taught us the word “Babkubwa!” which is a slang term that essentially means something similar to awesome as it means something huge and epic in size as well as an experience. When the chef walked past I made haste to tell him “chakula ni babkubwa!”; the food is awesome!

Chicken noodle soup AND cheesy french toast!

At our first stop we were emerging above the cloud line and we could see both great views of the valley and Kibo peak. It was also the first time I felt the sun during our climb and the need for my factor 50+ sun-cream. Onwards from there we walked through more shrub-land and along to the Shira Plateau where, ironically we had our first hands on climbing experience to earn our lunch. Lunch was most definitely worth it as the chefs had not just toast accompanying our soup but they had French toast filled with cheese, how do they do this up the mountain? Although the food was getting better and better the toilets were apparently getting worse and worse, or at least people’s aim was getting worse…

My Rock at Shira Camp
Following lunch the walk was along a rugged rock face which had some nice bouldering opportunities as well as wonderful views over the Machame route.  Shortly after our highest point of today’s walk we reached the Shira Plateau which was home to Shira Camp(3837m) set in a volcanic crater encased by jagged mountains to the West and to the East Kibo peak popping it's head through the clouds. I was quick to scout out a massive rock to go sit on to catch up with my journal, ignoring the fact it was next to; yet thankfully upwind, of a long drop, it had a nice little view of Kibo and the rest of the camp. Since the rest of the camp 
Ridiculously atmospheric long-drop
was napping two of the porters came over to talk to me called Apia and Daniel who seemed very nice and innocent to start with until Apia started asking if I had a boyfriend and where we were staying in Moshi. I was now regretting being a terrible wife and losing my fake wedding ring after two days of putting it on as it could have bypassed many awkward questions.

Makeshift Helipad
After a short rest we were all going a little wander to get to an even higher point for the day to acclimatise at a place called Shira Needle and Shira Cathedral which was a cluster of volcanic rock that spiked out of the crater and named so due to their “likeness” to a needle and cathedral respectively. The walk up took us past several other features such as the Shira Cave, a helipad made from a stone circle and another camp with a toilet with one of the best views in the world. When we reached the needle and Cathedral it wasn’t long before we were all climbing all over it, as an altitude acclimatisation walk this was definitely working. After some silhouette photos our stomachs started to talk and we wandered back down to camp to be greeted with more cucumber soup and some spicy veg and chicken curry. After dinner it had become very dark and we got our first taste of rain on the mountain and it came down with vengeance but secured an early night for us all, especially as the starts were getting earlier and earlier…
This photo never fails to crack me up so I thought I'd share...

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