Thursday, June 19, 2014

Porters and Personal Details

When you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro there are a number of memories you have which might not strike someone who hasn’t experienced the challenge as noteworthy.  But for us, there were a few details we will never forget.  For instance, meals.  I am quite confident I will never eat porridge again, and I am instituting a six month ban on soup.  Of course, ginger tea is a completely different story.  Every one of us loved it and mentioned we would almost certainly go home and make it again.

Sore body parts, for better or worse, were another poignant memory though I’m sure that isn’t a surprise to anyone.  But writing this several days after coming down the mountain, and the fact that it still hurts a little to walk, highlights the fact this was not a walk in the park.

I was particularly impressed by the porters.  While we were using walking sticks and specially made boots in an effort to keep ourselves upright the porters were carrying awkward, bulky loads on their backs and balancing other loads on their heads with ease.  The porters never used walking sticks or needed to hold their arms out for balance and many wore flip flops when the temperature was warm.  But there is nothing quite like a porter traffic jam.  On day 4 we had to climb Baranco Wall which includes the Kissing Rock.  The Kissing Rock gets its name from the fact that you literately have to press your entire body against the rock in order to not plunge over the side of a cliff.  I was in a near panic attack while traversing the Kissing Rock and had to have someone carry my backpack for me because I was afraid I might tip myself over.  But, the porters crossed Baranco Wall and the Kissing Rock as if it was no different from any other part of their normal duties.  Here is a view of a porter induced traffic jam, though in all honesty they move at twice the pace any of the climbers did:
And then here is a small glimpse of the Baranco Wall (not the super scary Kissing Rock):
One thing I won’t miss, but will always remember from Kilimanjaro were the nightly medical checks.  Each night the group would have dinner together and towards the end our head guide, Safiel, would come in, brief us on what we needed to know for our climb the following day, and then he would run through a medical questionnaire with each of us- in front of the rest of the group.  So in addition to the staff knowing: your oxygen level, pulse, if you had diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headache, difficulty breathing, had peed in the last two hours, had a bowel movement in the past 24 hours, if you were taking Diamox (altitude sickness pills) and Melarone (malaria pills); all your fellow climbers were also up to speed on your bodily functions.

Ah memories.  Actually, there is one more which I can’t possibly forget.  On day 2, when I got separated from my group and wandered into camp late, I arrived to find Tom, the Israeli contingent from AF, sleeping on a rock.  I thought it was funny, so I took a picture.  Well, this started a trend, and a friendship.  After this first picture, Tom would often announce, “Ok Kelly, let’s go take some funny sleeping pictures.”  From that point forward we would select tents next to one another and often chat until we fell asleep.  The rest of the group got a big kick out of this and as Rod (the Australian AF member) said, we carried on like “twins in a bunk bed.”  I thought that was an accurate assessment because Tom reminded me of my little brother (also named Tom- Tommy actually) as they were the same age, had similar interests and were MASTERS at agitating me to no end.  Thank goodness my brother didn’t come on this trip as the two of them could have teamed up against me.  Here’s the inaugural sleeping picture.  Looks comfy, don’t you think?:


  1. OMG- it is true.
    Your brother has a twin

  2. Had lots of fun with you... and the "rock in the bag" was the best ;)

    1. The "rock in the bag" definitely was the best! HAHA