Kilimanjaro Day Five: Third Cave to School Huts

“Slow and steady wins the race.

Honestly, I think that’s the kind of “everybody wins” mentality that our parents tried to instill in us as kids.

Like when people say, “Sports is about having FUN!”  Whatever.  We all know that it’s about WINNING! 🙂

But I’ll admit – Kilimanjaro is all about slow and steady…





Aaaaah, right!

During our first afternoon walking around in Arusha last week, my Dad and I were approached by a nice young man – a street artist, if you will.Let’s face it – all the people that approach you on the street in Arusha are hustlers, plain and simple. But “Sedo” didn’t try and sell us jewelry for a dollar, and he didn’t get in our face and jump and yell.

He walked with us for a full mile while we chatted about Arusha, Kilimanjaro, and of course we provided answers to his numerous questions about Canada.

Sedo had charisma and he was interesting, unlike the rest of the hustlers.

We ended up buying a few of his oil canvas drawings of Kilimanjaro, and I plan on framing one and putting it on my bedroom wall.

Sedo told us that he had a studio and he invited us to see it when we finished our trek.  I gave him my cell phone number so he could text me the address, and that night I received a message from him in which he also added, “Daved my brotha, you can to the trek. Polepole my friend.  Just polepole brotha.”

Huh?  What about poles?

Obviously, I had no clue what that meant, let alone what language it was.

But on the first day of the trek, we learned what “polepole” was all about (pronounced pole-ay pole-ay)

We were so gung-ho to start, and our guide immediately said, “PolePole, guys, slowly slowly.”

It almost felt weird how slow we were going, but our guide led us, and he went at a ridiculously mundane pace!


Slowly slowly.

You have no idea how slowly slowly we trek.

Think of an old lady with a walker who tries to cross the intersection but the light changes twice.  That’s PolePole!

You have no choice.

Its the only way to the top.

A few years ago, a friend of my Dad’s who is also a lawyer went to climb Kilimanjaro with his friend who is a marathoner.

On the first day, the marathoner was teasing the lawyer, running ahead and screaming, “What’s the matter – can’t you keep up?”

The marathoner continued his torrid pace through days two and three, and the lawyer continued to accept the ridicule.

On the fourth day, the marathoner collapsed.  He had no gas left in the tank.  He took three days to get back down to the base with several guides helping him along the way, meanwhile, the lawyer used those three days to get to the summit – PolePole the whole way.

Every day is PolePole.

You have to go slowly for three reasons:

1. The Terrain.  It’s so steep and rocky at some points that you really have to be careful or it’s game over.

2. The Physical Rigour.  Trekking for eight hours isn’t easy no matter where you are.

3. The Elevation.

This is truly what it’s all about.

It is so damn hard to breathe up here!

You have to go PolePole or you’ll lose your breath!

At 15,000 feet, if you were to run uphill for ten seconds, it would take you five full minutes to catch your breath, and you might throw up.

Case in point – last night we got some plain spaghetti for dinner, and in my excited state, I started to shovel it in my mouth!  After a few seconds of chewing, I had completely lost my breath!  I started taking deep panic breaths and I almost choked on my overly-starchy noodles!

Today was a modest hike, but I think we deserved it after our nightmare from yesterday!

We hiked 3.7 KM from Third Caves to School Hut – only about four hours and over excellent terrain.

Now comes the difficult part, however.  We’re going to sleep tonight at 5:00PM so that we can get seven hours of sleep before waking up at midnight to attack the summit.

I don’t know what is a scarier thought:
A) We start the attack at midnight and walk in the dark with head-torches; something we have never done.
B) It takes SIX HOURS to reach the summit, and there is very little oxygen at 19,000 feet!

We have a finite amount of water, which for the first time will be a bad thing…

I can’t tell you how tired I am of drinking stream water!

Here’s a scenario…

Jump in the pool – just jump in, any way you want.  Swan-dive, belly-flop, pike position – whatever you want.  Now when you come up for air, drink a litre of the water in the pool!!

That’s what the water here tastes like!  Chlorine and chemicals!

Wanna drink my hot-tub?

They fetch the water from whatever source they can find, and then they drown out the bacteria with iodine and whatever else I don’t care to think about…

It could be worse, however.  I saw one of the Germans on another team drinking water with a distinct brown tinge.  I think our team, Team Kilimanjaro, has the best water on the mountain.

But enough about water.

We’ll be starting our ascent to the summit in a matter of hours.

I don’t know how the rest of these blog posts will pan out.  They may be sporadic or there may be three in a day.

Hang on, folks!  We’re almost there…

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