The First Night

The first day of hiking ends with a slight rain shower, and as we walk into camp we are greeted by our tents all set up, our bathroom tent fully assembled, and the dining tent all set up.  We start to perform a few daily routine tasks:

  • sign in at the Ranger hut
  • take time to completly clean up and change into warm clothes (I usually changed into comfy sleeping pants, a long sleeve running T, and clean socks that I would wear hiking the next day).  
  • organize your gear and tent for sleeping and for changing the next morning
  • Always bring your headlamp
  • Use your downtime to write in your journal or to read a good book.

TIPS! – It is really easy if you designate a “sleeping” outfit that is also appropriate for wandering through camp.  Your sleeping outfit will stas relatively clean and you can change back into your hiking gear in the morning for the next day’s hike.  Also:  Bring camp shoes – something you can easily slip on and off.  Oh – and consider the socks you will be wearing, make sure your camp shoes fit over your thick warm hiking or sleeping socks.  

Tip – Re-fill your camelback & water bottles as soon as you get to camp.  That way you are using water in the daylight giving your porters time to refill and prepare your water.  Your porters are scrambling to the water source (usually a stream nearby) to get more water for you, but before you drink it, it is boiled and purified.  If everyone tries to re-fill camelbacks in the morning, you will be waiting on water.  

Day 1 ended up being a 2.5 mile hike that took us just over 2 hours to complete.  We went from the gate at about 7,500 ft to 9,170 ft, mostly up hill, with about 1,500 ft of elevation gain.  We got to camp and since Kerry and I really don’t camp, we bumbled around learning our new daily routine for a bit before we made it out to the dining tent.  But by 4:00 pm, we are notified that there is hot water available and so we climb out of the sleeping tent bringing our journals and books along.  “4:00 pm Snacks” becomes our favorite camp routine:  popcorn or peanuts with cookies and hot water for tea, coffee, or hot cocoa.  You don’t realize how cold you get after you have been hiking for even a couple of hours, and there is no “indoors” to escape into.  When they bring the kerosene lantern into the tent for light, you huddle around it for warmth also. We use the time to chat, read and write in our journals and drink lots of hot tea or water.

TIP: if you have a favorite kind of coffee, tea or cocoa, bring your own along.  The only herbal tea provided was peppermint, so I was glad that I brought my Yogi Tea along.  Coffee in the morning was boiled, or you could have instant “Africafe”.  I also brought Starbuck’s Via along and was very glad I did.

Eric is our chef.  For dinner he starts us with zucchini soup, then goes onto a main course of fried fish, rice and what we learn to call “vegetable sauce”.  Vegetable sauce is basically a mixture of veggies in a stock, like minestrone soup but cooked down to the consistency of spaghetti sauce.  Tonight’s sauce has potatoes, olives, red pepper, tomatoes and parsley.  Dessert is a thick crepe with banana and Nutella filling.  Kerry and I wonder if we even needed to bring trail bars… and the answer is mostly “no”.

It starts to rain again during snacks, and the rain gets more consistent throughout dinner, by the end of which it is pouring.  Felix, our camp manager, is making sure that the tents are dry and that the water is diverted away from camp. We run off to bed (with trips to the toilet tent).  I realize that I didn’t brush my teeth and then also realize that is probably going to happen more often than not after dinner.   My bag is cozy, so even though I was cold from the minute I changed until after dinner, now I am finally warm.  The wind in the trees at camp is flowing in a steady pattern which reminds me of the ocean sounds you hear when you are sleeping on the beach. I’m hopeful that it will lull me to sleep – but night #3 comes and I still cannot sleep. My pillow is a failure.  TIP:  bring your favorite pillow.  My Northface jacket, stuffed into the pocket stuff sack, actually works very well.    My cold is getting worse, and I keep coughing.   I have not started to take Diamox yet, but I’m now wondering if my lack of sleep is a reaction to the altitude, even though we are still below 10,000 ft.  I resolve to start taking it tomorrow. No, I change my mind and take one tonight.  I’ll follow up with another one tomorrow morning.    I also pop a decongestent to clear my sinus and hopefully stop the coughing.  And then try to sleep but… 11:30 and I’m wide awake.  I’m writing furiously in my journal…  

“How do you tell all your friends that you had to descend on day two?  The humiliation…  Kerry will make it without you.  You will never try this again because it is just too expensive, too far away, takes too much training.  Your dream of taking arm-chair travel to reality are de-mystified.  The truth of the dirt, the effort and the discomfort will keep you from daring to imagine another adventure jaunt.  You admit defeat.”

I actually wrote that.  And a lot more.  I actually was prepared to turn around on Night #1.  That is what 3 or 4 days without sleep will do to you.  I try for sleep again, and this time, I actually get more than 4 hours of sleep.  Day 2 of the hike dawns sunny and bright.  I am awake, but coughing up all of the congestion that came with sleep last night.  After washing my face and brushing my teeth (finally), I feel refreshed and ready to go.  

Stay tuned, I’ll keep on writing.  Upcoming is Day 2 of the Hike!

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