Malaysian hiker goes on an unforgettable Kilimanjaro trekking expedition


By KANIKA

The writer (left) with a climbing buddy enjoying breakfast with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. — KANIKA

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Our long-awaited Kilimanjaro trekking expedition in September 2014 required four flights and around two days of travelling from Malaysia to Moshi, Tanzania, where the mountain is. The beautiful free-hanging mountain was so magnificent and gigantic, and visible from the town of Moshi.

My friends (Henry and Paige) and I got our briefing from the guide, Mcdeme, the day after we arrived. We took a van to Macheme village, the starting point of our trek. The ride there was very bumpy but the scenery was breathtaking.

We had porters with us and they carried all the necessary camping equipment, which was great because the first leg of our trek took more than five hours to complete (about 11km).

It was interesting to see the porters pitching the tents for the night, which included a portable toilet, as well as dining and cooking areas too. We felt like we were at a hotel in the middle of a forest.

We slept early that night because we were tired and had an early start in the morning. At breakfast, we had a cool dining experience – there was a butler attending to all our needs!

On the second leg of our trek, we passed through small trees that looked like bonsai, and rocky areas. It was a hot sunny day, but thankfully we reached our stop at the Shira campsite at around noon.

We met many trekkers of different nationalities at Shira, as this was a popular campsite. In the evening, we visited the former campsite nearby; it was a small cave that had collapsed.

The following day’s trek was a lot more difficult because the air was thin and the ground was tough. The terrain consisted of heath and moorland and the sun was out, though it was chilly because of the strong wind. We had to trek for about eight hours in bad weather, but we persevered and reached the third campsite safe and sound.

The next day, our trek was much shorter but not that much easier. The trail was mostly sandy, making it slippery to walk on. On top of that, the temperature was higher than 40°C.

At night, it dropped to below 0°C!

We were at the Karunga (3,800m) campsite then, and we had to go to the Barafu campsite in the morning. Barafu wasn’t too far from Karunga but the terrain was dry, and it was a steep climb.

Plus, it was still very windy. It was quite a struggle to trek against the gale, with the scorching heat from the sun.

By the time we reached Barafu we were all feeling weak and light headed.

In the final leg of our trek up the mountain, we had to wake up at about 3am, prepare our gear and eat our breakfast. It was difficult to eat at that hour, but we knew we had an arduous hike ahead so we just did it.

At 4am, we followed our guide as he lead us to the trail in the dark. We had our torches with us but it was still hard to see properly. We moved one step at a time against the strong wind.

As we were climbing above the 5,000m mark, things got a lot more tough. We started trudging through a thin film of ice on the ground and it got extremely cold. We just kept on, slowly but surely.

We reached Stella Point (5,765m) after much struggle. One trekker could not proceed any further, while another was raring to continue. I had extreme muscle aches but I still decided to go on to Uluru Peak, which stands at 5,895m.

From that point, every step I made was wobbly. I could feel my whole body giving way to the extreme fatigue and high altitude. But somehow, with the help and push of the guide, I was able to reach Uluru, the highest peak. I cried out of joy and exhaustion; I had finally achieved my dream of conquering Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in the African continent.

Unfortunately, my body almost completely shut down after that; climbing down was going to be a problem. But the guide helped me along the way and we climbed down very slowly. We couldn’t reach the camp on time but some of the porters hiked up to meet us – they practically carried me down to the campsite through the night!

Once I got into my tent I almost immediately fell asleep.

In the morning I felt refreshed and well rested. I was ready for the trek down all the way to the base camp, which would take about eight hours. I even enjoyed the view this time – there were interesting plants all around, as well as some animals too.

I particularly enjoyed the changing terrains on Kilimanjaro, as this was quite special.

By the end of the trip I felt very contented with the whole experience, and I knew that I would cherish every moment, including all the muscle aches and pains.

Hiking is my passion, but climbing this mountain required lots of endurance and perseverance as the challenge of going up and then back down is not easy and may not be for everyone. However, if you don’t explore or even go out of your comfort zone you will not be able to witness all the beauty that nature presents us, like this majestic mountain.

If you are passionate about hiking and in particular, mountaineering, Mount Kilimanjaro should be on your list.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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