Over chocolate cake and warm tea, I met up with Soo and Wansie for the cold hard facts. In their 30's with no health issues, they left for Kili on Christmas and completed the trek via the Machame Route.
Soo, a 4 hr marathoner, had a throbbing headache most of the time. On day 4, she took Diamox and the headache disappeared for the summit push. Wansie, made it to the Barafu hut without any prior training - just avoiding the summit push because her heart was pounding at 120 bpms at rest.
As I made notes, my stomach churned as if I was experiencing AMS without being there.
So, wow. Start from the top, the flight?
W: At BK's airport counter, check that bags are through using your luggage tags.
Flight from BK to Nairobi – no inflight entertainment and food basic. Smelly. A lot of men who take off their shoes. Try to sleep and eat before the flight bound for Nairobi. Flight time is 10 hours with 2 meals. Plane is smallish and colours of the carpet are dark blue, very dirty looking. Bring your neck pillow, they supply one but it is small.
Nairobi airport has 2 cafes one near gate 14 and one at gate 4. It is a boring airport with alcohol and chocolate shops. Bring basic toiletries to clean and freshen in Nairobi airport. Very important that you bring Yellow Fever card. Confirm that Singaporeans don’t need visa. At Kilimanjaro airport, bag collection is fast and someone will be there to meet you.
W: Most groups get a packed lunch. Lunch is in a cardboard box, banana, fried chicken and a sad sad sandwich and maybe a muffin, sometimes nuts, cookies, juice. They had a similar packed lunch on safari again.
Dinner is a hot soup, stew and rice or stew and pasta. And some fruits, coffee. Tea, milo. Classic worst meal was a pasta with corn beef sauce.
Breakfast is bread, egg omelette and sausage. Quite oily but eat as much breakfast as you can. Bring bakwa, cup noodles, anything which agrees with you because sometimes you have no appetite.
S: Most difficult thing about the trek was that it was very long and extended. First day, it rained after lunch, shoes completely soaked. 6 hour hike took 7 hours. It was cold by the first evening. Very tired. Damp wet, all you see are many trees. Go toilet, very cold. Too cold to wear wet shoes.
Had throbbing headache by dinner. Crawled into sleeping bag and crashed. Had to go toilet many times at night.
Toilet is very smelly. Need the headlamp for the night. If you can stand the cold, the stars are nice but you can’t stand outside for long.
W: Everyday, I had 2 questions for the guide. 1) What is tomorrow's trek going to be like? 2) If i decide to quit, is there a short route down?
So, what d'you do in the evening? Don't you sing songs by the campfire?
There is no campfire and singing – nothing. Either you are in tent, meal tent or toilet.
Gosh, what were your feelings after the first day?
W: Felt regret the first night. Negative thoughts, I said to Soo: I want to get off the mountain.
S: I wanted to cry. Some tears came out.
W: Bring small plastic bags to throw things away in tent (10). Wet wipes - can get big ones called TENA from the adult diaper section (40 pack). Big, thick and good for wiping down.Wear wool socks to sleep. Keep 1 dedicated set of dry sleeping thermals for sleeping. Wear tights under pants. Don’t need to wear short sleeve t shirts. Mostly use long sleeves because it is too cold.By the 3rd day, you will need your gloves and beanie. There was frost on the tent by the 3rd morning.
How much did you drink?
S: Drank 3-4 litres a day. I used a camelback with 2 litres and had 1 litre water bottle. When I ran out of water, I drank Wansie's water.
W: I drank 2 litres. Had two 1 litre Nalgene bottles. I don't drink much. Water tastes awful, with sediments. We told the porters we had no purification tablets to ensure that they would boil the water.
Is a hydration bag useful?
S: Yes, think I drank more with a hydration tube. Recommend something to flavour the water - I used an electrolyte powder called Nuun.
What does a 7 hour trek feel like?
W: Process driven, planning each step. We kept quiet as we walked but some groups were talking. I don't know if that helps to make the trek more bearable.
Can I go up in my Tevas?
S: No, too cold. I brought 2 pairs of shoes, a trail runner and walking shoes. Used walking shoes from day 3.
S: I did a day summit, it was very good. Less tiring than a night one. The guide was not sociable, but very experienced in bringing people up the mountain. When he saw that we were not eating, he suggested to shorten the trek to 6 days and do a day summit. He was very patient. I was panting like mad but I had no headache. About 10 metres away from the summit, I wanted to stop but the guide held my hand and walked me up.
W: I paced at the base for 8 hours waiting for Soo. Some people thought I was mad. If I was well enough to pace around, then I should be making the push for the summit but it was enough for me and my heart was pounding.
S: Not the same joy as Nepal or Kinabalu. It was very foggy. Saw a lot of mist. Experienced rain, hail and snow. Porters say that the Rongai route is the easiest one.
W: Bring lots of socks - so that you get a fresh pair everyday.
S: I will never do a mountain again!