If Day 1 climbing Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route had any of us thinking this trek would be easier than expected, shit got real on Day 2.
We were awoken just before dawn to what sounded like a rooster. I thought aloud, “was that a rooster?” Turned out that one of our porters, Felix, does an uncanny impersonation of a rooster. Chuckles could be heard spreading across the camp and the morning routine began.
It was a groggy start to the day. The porters came around asking us what we’d like to drink, coffee or tea, and within minutes a piping hot drink appeared at our tent entrance. Coffee in bed?! I could get used to this. We got dressed for the day, packed up our sleeping bags and main packs, and enjoyed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, toast, eggs and bacon.
From the outset we were looking at a much longer day than we previously had. We were expected to be on the trail for about 7-8hrs and we would be leaving the rainforest section of the trail and entering the heather zone. I was interested to see what this meant.
For the first couple of hours, we hiked through the rainforest. Trees grew up and over the path creating a canopy effect and many of them had long-wispy Spanish moss hanging off them. Our guides said they call them “Grampa’s beard” but from afar it looked as though someone had strung toilet paper all over the trees. The vegetation then started to thin out and reduce in size. We had now entered the heather zone. Alongside the trail, 6 to 8-foot high heathers (a type of vegetation) grew up from the trail. In fact, it seemed as though the path had been cut right into the vegetation. We were no longer protected by trees and now fully exposed to the sun.
The trail wound itself up and down along a ridge of the mountain but soon turned rocky and steep. For about 2 straight hours, we zig-zagged our way higher and higher. I could feel it in my thighs, glutes, and even my knees, and I had to rely heavily on my hiking poles to help relieve the strain on my legs. I was really mindful about where and how I was walking. I didn’t want to sprain an ankle this early in the game and I was trying not to put too much pressure on my knees and ankles. This was the Kilimanjaro I was expecting and I wasn’t enjoying it very much.
By the time our lunch break rolled around, I was sweaty and exhausted. It was a great feeling to sit down, eat some food, and relax for about 30 minutes before continuing along the trail. The view from this spot was amazing. As I looked back, all I could see was a sea of green rolling hills and a small dirt line, marking the trail we had just come across.
Thankfully, after lunch the path flattened out and even dipped down a bit! The vegetation continued to shrink in size and a thick cloud hovered overhead. With the sun gone, we all had to layer up. We descended down the ridge and made our way across a wide-open valley. The only vegetation to be seen were small ankle-height shrubs that looked particularly dry. We came across an Inukshuk site where people had built various sized Inukshuks. We all added a stone and continued on. Off in the distance we could see our camp. Hurrah! It was another 10 minutes until we reached our camp, apparently earlier than expected! We had been told that the day’s trek could take between 7-8hours but we had managed to complete it in a little over 6 hours. We were all quite stunned, especially because we didn’t feel like we were going particularly fast throughout the day.
We found our tents and got settled in. A group of us did some yoga to stretch out the muscles and we even got our first peak of our destination. Uhuru Peak could be seen way off in the distance. My first thought was “that’s still really far away”, which was quickly followed by “that’s really high!” We spent the night at Shira One Camp at an elevation of 11,900 feet (2,800 feet gain from the previous day). With no protection from the elements at this camp the wind carried right across the valley. I could immediately feel the temperature drop once the sun set.
But sleeping out in the valley had its perks. With no trees to impede the view of the sky, all above us a blanket of stars could be seen. I had never seen the sky look so magical. Just before heading to bed I brought out the camera and snapped a few long-exposure shots. It was the perfect reward to a challenging day.
Have any questions about Day 2 on Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route? Let me know in the comments below!
Come back again next week for Episode 3 of my Kilimanjaro video series!