A young Chicagoan's strange erotic journey around the globe
Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Day 1: Machame Gate (1,640m) to Machame Camp (2,850m) [Distance: 11km]
Up the Machame Route to Uhuru Peak and down Mweka in six days. Around 50,000 trekkers try to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro each year and the success rate is roughly 65%…according to Wikipedia.
How many Africans does it take to sell a water bottle? My brother Danny getting ripped off while assured from all angles it was being offered at a “local price.” And after he bought it for one of those dude’s monthly wages, the guy casually pocketed the change, looked around as if we weren’t still standing by him and then began walking away. Thankfully, the rest of the guys yelled at him and shamed him into returning the stolen money to the “mzungu”
As a tourist, to climb Kilimanjaro legally, you gotta be accompanied by a guide. Spoonbill is the company that we hired to make our arrangements. Our package included one guide, one assistant guide, one chef and seven porters, one of whom had also served as a waiter
I’d chow that box! Aside from this packed lunch that was given to us on Day 1, the rest of the meals were prepared fresh by our chef
This is the luggage and garbage weighing point. Porters on Kilimanjaro aren’t allowed to carry more than 15kg or 32 pounds. Note that this is a panoramic photo that I’d stitched together on my computer, comprised of three individual photos I’d taken in rapid succession to capture the line of porters in its entirety. When stitching photos together, they don’t always turn out right. A few of the mutilated bodies belonging to the porters in line are a shining example of when stichting goes wrong
Danny and our assistant guide Boblanga
What a lot of Day 1 looked like heading through the forest
Porters are exceptionally good at balancing shit on their heads
When I saw these ants, I had to stop to take some photos. As i approached, Boblanga sternly warned, “Be careful with them!” but I kinda ignored him and got super close for a higher quality shot. By the time I was done taking three photos, my shoes were covered and they were already crawling up my legs
Day 1, over and out
Inside the food tent
The tip of Uhuru Peak seen in the far distance
Day 2: Machame Camp (2,850m) to Shira Cave Camp (3,810m) [Distance: 5km]
Looking back down on Machame Camp
Our guide Norbert and Danny taking a short break
Small path cut through the dense greenery
Had to change my pants after looking out at this view
Even if we’d left camp a half-hour before the porters, those guys’d inevitably run past us to go begin setting up the next camp site and preparing the next meal
Boblanga liked a lot of music from the Caribbean, particularly that of Damien Marley. He also liked some American rap and poppy-sounding Chris Brown shit which was fine with me. The one thing I wasn’t cool with was how he played “Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre on his phone at least 50 times in a row on Day 3, ruining for my brother and I an otherwise perfectly good rap song
Norbert showcasing the beauty of Kilimanjaro
Porters busting ass. Unfortunately one of our guys busted more than just ass on the mountain and ended up having to hobble home prematurely on a broken ankle
“You’re gonna carry that weight a long time”
Stones stacked for good luck
The white-necked raven
I love what the bearded trees like the one on the left there added to the landscape on this part of the trek
SUCK IT Day 2!
View from Shira Cave Camp
Think anyone’s ever taken a dump in the suggestion box? That would pretty much say it all, wouldn’t it? Actions speak so much louder than words.
Young Daniel peacefully contemplating his celestial surroundings
The D-Man, Boblanga and Norbert inside Shira Cave
Late afternoon stroll through the area near the campsite
Chillin’ before Uhuru Peak
Heading back to Shira Cave Camp. The orange flag denotes a rescue helicopter landing site. If you look closely, to the right of the flag you can see a circle of rocks spray-painted yellow with a rocky yellow H in the middle where them shits is supposed to land
Day 3: Shira Cave Camp (3,810m) to Barranco Camp (3,976m) via Lava Tower (4,630m) [Distance: 10km]
The path from Shira Cave Camp to Lava Tower was rocky and desolate. The rolling green hills of the morning before had become a distant memory
Lava Tower in sight
Getting closer to our designated lunch spot
Up at Lava Tower Camp, my brother and I both felt like we were fuckin stoned. The elevation, before getting acclimated to it, makes you fuckin’ stupid – like you could just stare into space the whole afternoon with a trail of drool dribbling out your lips and down your face and not have any idea what’s going on around you.
Lava Tower Camp
On the left is a porter who was referred to in accordance with his ethnicity as “Maasai.” In the center is Andrew, the chef, sitting down on the bucket cooking our French toast lunch over a portable stove. On the right is Prosper, the guy who served as our porter/waiter. Even though the chef would always provide us with big hearty portions that we struggled to finish, after we’d been served but before we’d started eating, Norbert would yell, “Waiter! Waiter!” and then calmly sit at the table in the food tent awaiting the arrival of Prosper. And when Prosper would duck his tall lanky ass down under the zipper and crawl back into the tent giving heed to his being summoned, Norbert would say with a hint of disgust in his voice, “Waiter, this is NOT enough food.” And Prosper didn’t really speak English so I don’t think he even knew what Norbert was saying and certainly wouldn’t have been able to deduce it given the mountain of food piled before us but, nonetheless, Danny and I would be in steadfast contradiction to the absurdity of such a declaration. “No, no! It’s plenty of food! Please, don’t bring more. We won’t be able to finish what we already have. Please, no! Don’t bring more!” And Prosper would just kinda stare at us in confusion and Norbert wouldn’t clarify in Swahili and we’d just reassure him, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” and give him a thumbs up and an “asante sana” (thank you very much) and he’d shrug and leave the tent and we’d begin eating.
Near the end of the 700 meter descent from Lava Tower Camp to Baranco Camp where we’d be spending the night
Some vegetation near Baranco
By the time we got to Baranco Camp, I had a splitting headache from our exposure to the altitude at Lava Tower that triggered all sorts of anxiety and suicidal depression problems in my mind. Six hours later, by dinner time, I still felt equally shitty and told Norbert and Boblanga that I’d already seen enough of the mountain and how I didn’t really give a fuck about summiting and was ready to go back down. After respectfully hearing me out, Norbert pretty much told me to shut the fuck up and stop being such a pussy. He told me I was more than sufficiently strong to reach the summit and that he’d once brought an 87-year-old German client all the way to the top and if he could do it, then there’s absolutely no reason I can’t and, anything short of a medical emergency, he simply wouldn’t allow me to quit. And that was that. I took some ibuprofin, popped a Diamox and woke up the next morning feeling like a new man.
Shitter tent. Some spoiled tourists who feel they are above using the wooden outhouse, hole-in-the-ground shitters found at every camp on the Machame route can opt to use one of these bad boys that house a lightweight toilet seat with legs on which you can sit while you shit/piss into a styrofoam/plastic bucket that the porters have to clean out every morning then carry on their backs or heads up the mountain all day
Uhuru Peak at sunset
Day 4: Barranco Camp (3,976m) to Barafu Camp (4,673m) [Distance: 9km]
I zoomed in on this photo and traced a yellow line over where I could see people climbing the steep path from Baranco up to Karanga Camp. Beyond the yellow line, I’m not sure exactly where it is that we made it over that rock face up there at the top
This Indian fellow here on the bottom left was having a hard time getting down these rocks. His guide insisted that he go down forward because, “You can’t see where you’re stepping if you don’t look!” But he was too scared and felt safer doing it like this. To each their own
A look back at Baranco Camp from a little more than halfway up
Ten minute break up in the clouds for a job well done
The dip down and the climb back up to Karanga Camp
Lunchtime at Karanga
The path to Barafu Camp was windy and cloudy as fuck
Not to mention rocky
Arrival at base camp. Not hurting like I had been the day before from climbing up to Lava Tower which, thankfully, proved to be a great exercise in acclimatization
A game of checkers tragically abandoned in the frigid cold of base camp
The look on Danny’s face says it all. It was fucking COLD up there! When eating dinner, it was so windy that the walls and the roof of the tent were hitting us while the air rushing through robbed us of any conserved body heat we’d been building up beneath our layers
Around 6 or 6:30, as we were getting ready for bed in anticipation of our midnight wake-up to begin the climb to the summit, the thick clouds we were in broke up and the wind gave way
Barafu Camp. How’d you like to be in that rickety old wooden shit house on the far right of the photo in the middle of a wind storm, precariously teetering over that steep drop-off? You fucking blow off and days later they find your bloody, battered corpse with your pants at your ankles and dried-up shit caked all over your ass. Best vacation ever!
View of Uhuru Peak from Barafu Camp
Day 5: Barafu Camp (4,673m) to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) to Mweka Camp (3,068m) [Distance: 5km ascending, 12km descending]
A lot of groups started walking up at midnight but Norbert said that we had a good pace and told us he’d rather that we start walking at 1. He said he didn’t want us stopping for long breaks because that’s when you get cold and start getting fixated on how shitty you’re feeling from the altitude. He just wanted us to keep going “pole pole”, or slowly, the whole way up, putting one foot in front of the other and not stopping for more than a couple minutes to piss or, in Danny’s case, blast out some diarrhea. Here’s a photo of everyone making their way up behind us.
By the time that we reached Stella Point, we’d passed up everybody else on the mountain except for one French guy and his guide who we were right behind. Most of the people that we passed were sprawled out on rocks shivering their asses off in the freezing cold and/or complaining to their guides about how nauseous they felt and asking them whether or not they should pop some Diamox. We just kept on, one foot in front of the other. But that’s not to say that we didn’t have have our share of ailments. Not too long before this photo was taken, Danny took a swig of water and almost immediately began to yak. Meanwhile, Norbert and Boblanga (who at one point had stopped to diarrhea behind some rocks, so his reassurance wasn’t the least bit hypocritical) stood by, encouraging him with phrases such as, “Aw yeah, that’s nice. Very good. Get it all out. Anything that wants to come out of your body, let it out.” And right after that, we kept going.
As dawn started to break through what’d felt like an endless night, my body was still moving forward but my brain was shutting down. It felt like my external reality was some sort of dream sequence. I wanted nothing more than to lay down and shut my eyes. But that’s how you die, so…I kept walking.
Glaciers on the home stretch. With the summit no more than a hundred yards away, I began to sob like a little bitch as I trod forward to the bitter end
We did it!
On the way down, as we again crossed all the people we’d surpassed on the way up, my brother looked at me and said something like, “You see all these people are wearing 3 Ninjas masks?” And I hadn’t seen anyone wearing a mask. And I told him so. And I became quite concerned about whether or not he could get down safely if his mind was so warped from the altitude and the lack of sleep and the excess of physical exertion and the diarrhea that he was suffering from that he was having visual distortions so intense that they made peoples’ faces look like fuckin 3 ninjas masks. I was so worried how I’d never forgive myself if something happened to him, if he tripped on a rock and hit his head and could no longer function on his own. I was so stressed the whole way down. But he ended up doing fine.
Bright as fuck going down. And hot too with all those layers on. Warmed up real quick
What we’d traversed the night before in pitch blackness
Barafu Camp in sight
We arrived at base camp around 8am and, after I’d taken a two hour nap, we continued the descent. Here we are at High Camp
View of Uhuru Peak from High Camp. Hard to believe we were up there. The night before seemed like a dream
Mweka Camp, where we spent the final night on Kili
Day 6: Mweka Camp (3,068m) to Mweka Gate (1,640m) [Distance: 10km]