Dear Travel Diary: How High Can You Go?

So the other day we came across an amazing thread on twitter of this adventurer who had done Mt.Kenya a week or so ago. Hiking is not one of the favorites for most of us, but pretty sure it is in all our bucket-lists. If not then, you should see the photos that @AnnitaJoe1 shared on her twitter timeline, those should be enough to change your mind.

Anyway, we asked Annita to come up with a guest post for us to be shared with all our readers…and finally, it is ready!!! We were expecting her to write a few paragraphs and just show us the photos, but she dived into it fully(Warning: You may reconsider your hiking plans after reading through..haha).We thought we had seen it all in our hikes to Ngong Hills & Elephant Hill (and those tusmall hills everyone talks about, no names please), turns out we are not even halfway there. Take a read…20160829_2366-small

I used to dream about going up Mt. Kenya as a young girl in primary school during G.H.C.R.E….wueh, that makes me sound old, it’s social studies now. Anyway, as the saying goes, if you really want something the universe conspires to give it to you. On the 24th of August 2016 the universe aligned itself for me and my dream came true.

I can’t say I actually slept that night, more of maybe resting. I was up before my alarm rang. I had packed everything all I needed, was to freshen up, bite something light and leave.20160829_2281-small

Let me take you back a bit, I started hiking on the 19th of March this year. A random invitation on a Thursday by a friend, I thank God for you. Elephant hill, the mother of hills, was it. The actual degree of hills…hahaha. Anyway from that day I have never looked back, the Mountain called and I answered.

Fast forward to Wednesday 24th at 4.49 AM. I freshened up and started calling some of my team mates to ensure that they are up and leave the house on time for pick up, especially one notorious for keeping us waiting 45 mins once during a day hike as we were preparing for Mt.Kenya.

My pick up was at 6AM along Thika Rd, we picked some more guys along the way and had breakfast in Kerugoya. Then we got to the Chogoria gate. The porters and guides came in a small matatu packed with so much by the time they unpacked you wouldn’t believe it had all fit in the 14 seater the 20 men included. Then the conductor started doing back flips and side flips and all kinds of flips as we cheered. It was just a great start the adventure.20160829_0003-small

We did some awesome zumba warm ups that we kept doing all through the 5 days on the Mountain then embarked on our walk to Lake Ellis 3300M ASL. The walk was 7 Km long and took us around 3 hrs to get to camp. Lake Ellis is beautiful. The sunset, the sunrise, just breathe taking. Neither words nor pictures can do the scenery any justice. It’s something you actually eat with your eyes and devour and take in and have…

My team was awesome. Really fun peoples those(Editor’s note: Annita’s words these..haha!). To be honest I thought we were an awkward bunch at first but these guys turned out to be cool. We actually tried to squeeze the 10 of us in a 4 pax max tent(judge us when you’ve camped at 3000M ASL) for warmth and stories. I thought the tent would burst as we laughed at ourselves trying to create room for the last 2. My Lord!

Before I started hiking, I could not for the life of me do any number in the bush. Now, lets just say there is a rumor I cannot comment on. You would go behind a bush and find evidence of someone else being there before. A side note to all the inventors, you should make special tissue for the mountains, one that decomposes as fast as your number 2 does.

In the evening we had ugali, beef and greens on day one, with fresh popcorn and some strong tea served before this. That my friends was the longest night of my life. The cold, I don’t even know how to describe it. Every time my tent mate turned I said a word(haha), they on the other hand had some sound sleep. So much for a tent mate.

Day 2 was a beautiful day.  A long scenic walk to Lake Michelson. We woke up, did our warm ups, had our breakfast then walked. Breakfast was tea, porridge, pancakes,sausages and eggs. That porridge was the truth, sigh. This is the day I started feeling the effects of the Mountain. It started with a slight headache which we were told was normal. Then I started visiting the bush. I think I left a trail like in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Serious detox!20160829_1772-small

It was so foggy at some point, though it cleared with time. Our guide told us it’s called the kifii animal. That came about when a tourist asked a guide what the fog was and the guide gave him the local name. To date that guide is called Kifii. This reminded us of a salad our bush chef baptized Kahulula salad when a client asked him about a delicious salad he had made as an experiment…tickles me all the time.

We were not ready for the beauty we found at Lake Michelson. It all looked surreal. The lake is surrounded by rocks like the Temple rock. The lake looks like it is in the middle of the Colosseum. Fog passed through and for a second we actually couldn’t see each other while standing next to each other. Now that I think of it, it would be a horror story that fog could have carried one of us. Goosebumps.

The night at Lake Michelson was better. Warmer and cozier. Let’s just say tent arrangement improved, haha. Part of the team went around the lake and took pics. We had breakfast in the morning, then warm ups by the lake and a photoshoot too. It felt sad leaving Michelson, that place is too romantic.

Day 3 was a short walk to Mintos Camp 3900M ASL. My two friends and I took a steeper shorter route, and made a stone alter somewhere on the way. I hope someone sees it one day and knows they are in the right direction and doesn’t give up. It was extra cold at Mintos. And we could see the three peaks, Lenana, Nelion and Batian. No sooner had everyone just settled in at the camp than it started raining, actually it was snow. God answered my our prayers. We had snow!

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The next day had us out of our sleeping bags early. We would start our walk to the summit at 2AM in the morning. I woke up with a headache at around midnight after sleeping at 8PM, but those few hours seemed so long…sigh. Altitude sickness was real. Shortness of breath, headache, nausea and actual vomiting. One guide got concerned and walked with me at a slower pace as we let the others walk on ahead of us. Mwaniki, the guide, is a real angel. First he went back to look for a hiking stick that one of us had lost then caught up with us and helped me carry my day pack to the peak. Thank you Mwaniki!

That was the second most trying time in my life, my first was during the birth of my son. During labor I kept asking myself who had sent me. During the hike again, I was asking myself who had sent me to this wilderness. It was a bittersweet walk. Before day break I had asked Mwaniki to allow me take a nap. I was exhausted from vomiting and had a heartburn-like feeling. I started shouting at the team ahead to leave me some milk along the way..haha. “Acidity, niko na acidity. Wacheni maziwa hapo”, they thought I had started hallucinating.

I had seen some milk in my tentmate’s bag. No one else knew about it and there is no way they were going to remain behind to give me the milk, such heartless people…hehe. Anyway I trudged on. Sipping some water slowly till it was daybreak and I could see the summit.

Day break was so beautiful for a moment I forgot my misery. The sun peeking from the horizon above the clouds is absolutely amazing. If I am to get engaged it would have to be with that view at that altitude. I would say yes without a second thought. When I got to the foot of the summit I couldn’t believe it. I could see my team mates on the last stretch going up. It was so near yet so far.20160829_2263-small20160829_2269-small

I had nothing in my stomach. I had excreted everything either by mouth or bum. Every time I tried taking a bite of something I would vomit, the water too. The only way I was going to finish that mountain was by taking that nap I had been begging for. And Mwaniki finally obliged. It was the soundest sleep I had in those 5days. 10 mins is all I needed to get to the summit. You know like when your phone beeps battery low and goes off at a place where you cannot charge it, and you just remove the battery for 5mins then put it back and it has charged up 10% magically, that is what I did. I woke up refreshed.

The sun was already warm, I think because of how near I was to it. My six layers of clothes that were once so warm and snugly became too heavy. I couldn’t stand them. I started peeling them off one by one. That snow tasted like the frost we used to scrape in the freezer by the way, I had to taste it. Actually it’s the only thing that actually stayed in my stomach as I finished the last leg of that ‘kanugu’ summit.

As I approached the staircase at Lenana peak and my team mates cheered me up, I felt rejuvenated again. I was too happy to see them. To see that flag I had read in Primary school that had been planted there by Munyao, it was exhilarating. I had beaten all the demons of the mountain and peaked. All the discomfort actually went away. I danced, took pictures and even brought the guys up to date with my walk up.

Mama, I made it!!!!!

Going down was tasking too. You could see the boarding house very clearly looking so near but so far. As some point going down became too hard. I was hungry. Hypoglycemic actually. Energy was on zero, nothing. I couldn’t move any more. I just sat on a rock and gave up. Then one of the ladies caught up with me and offered me some glucose water. I just took 3 gulps and went off like no one’s business. I was afraid if I stopped again or rested I would not move again for anything.

When I got to Shipton all I wanted was a bed to lay down on first. Nothing else. I asked where we were going to sleep and was told I had to eat first. I did not want anything. I just wanted to lay down. Nobody was showing me where the beds were. I was at my breaking point. I actually broke down. That’s when I was shown the beds.

After a nap I woke up very hungry. I looked for the kitchen and sat with the porters as they prepared supper and had some toast, pancakes, sweet potatoes and the first cup of milk tea on the mountain. Those items have never tasted better than on that day at that moment. Then I went back to bed.

Best tea, ever!

Nobody had seen me go out to eat. They had all been napping. One lady had really been hit by altitude sickness. Worse than I had been. She actually had to be evacuated. That’s when I realized how ninja I am, haha.

I learnt how resilient I am on that mountain. I also learnt to take a wet wipes bath, now I appreciate my showers more.  I learnt patience and to give myself time, do things at my own pace. Not to yield to what the body wants whenever it thinks it wants. I saw the beauty and splendor of God’s work. I learnt team work. Oh and that I can actually get people to laugh, though I think it was the altitude that was affecting my mountain family..haha!

I left that mountain with a clear mind and a bit wiser from interacting with some really smart and interesting people who got me thinking outside the box I thought I had been thinking outside of. Telling stories thinking we were conversing alone yet we were entertaining the whole camp. I miss posing for pictures too. We had some very amazing paparazzi.

I actually want to go back. Same route. I have unfinished business with that mountain. I want to do Nellion and Batian too and Kilimanjaro. Watch this space.

By Annita

Pretty amazing right, and terrifying too. So are you a ninja like Annita or a coward like one of us? Well, only you would know. The next time Annita is going hiking we will definitely mention it to you, you may be thanking her by this time next year for a journey you did not know you could start.20160829_2225-small

We thank Annita for the amazing piece. Follow her on twitter @AnnitaJoe1 ,she’s a regular adventurer. You will love her posts, and maybe join in her travels. She mentioned the photo credits go to Alex Macharia and Francis Mungai. Gents, those are some awesome photos you brought back, thank you.

So, Mount Kenya or Nah?

Read about other travel stories, experiences and advice from all our guest contributors HERE. Kindly add a comment below, and if you would like to guest contribute or know of someone who would love to…comment with your email address(or contact us) and we will get back to you.

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