(Continued from Day 1)
Throughout the night my body kept rolling to the right due to the uneven ground, around 3:00AM I had a great sensation to pee begin, tree hyraxes (large fluffy rodents) made loud calls all through the night until 5:00AM, and then at 6:00AM the birds started. Once I heard the birds start, I knew it was dawn and eagerly wiggled out of my sleeping bag cocoon and promptly relieved myself behind our tent ready to be done with that awful night of sleep. Over breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, porridge, and chai, Scott told me that his night hadn’t been any better. His mind was plagued with worries of elephants the whole night and one time he thought he heard elephant footsteps and grumblings, which caused him to freeze perfectly still and scarcely breathe for a full half an hour as his sleep-deprived brain reasoned that if he moved the elephant would surely be startled and charge the tent. His worries proved to be unfounded though as the guide confirmed in the morning that no elephants had been near the camp that night.
We left camp around 10:00AM and hiked up and up through the hills of Spanish Moss draped trees, turning to bamboo forests, changing again to a bare, burned forest with rocky and soggy ground underfoot.
Farther up, the vegetation changed to tall grasslands with chest-high yellow and green grasses. We walked on and on, combing the grass between our fingers, until we finally reached the top of a steep ridge where we would have lunch.
From this lunch point until our campsite for that night we were in the clouds. The air was cold, wet, and rather miserable inside the cloud. The land we were crossing was over-saturated with water and one had to quickly jump from one small clump of tall grass to the next to avoid sinking into the wet ground.
Of course, one can only accurately hop to so many clumps of grass and eventually I took a spill and ended up knee-deep in cold, muddy water. Uggh! For the second night in a row the porters and Maina would be drying my shoes and socks around the fire.
When we reached our campsite it was raining. My body was cold and soaked from both my fall and the rain. While I’d had my brave, “tough-girl” face on for the past few hours, when we reached camp I was so thankful to see that the porters already had our tent set up that I immediately dove into it delighting in the dry, wind-free shelter. I quickly changed into fresh, warm long johns and wool socks, leaving my soggy wet pants and socks in a heap at the corner of our tent. Ahh, so much better!
Eventually, Georgie beckoned us out of our tent with “Tea is ready.” Once seated in the kitchen tent, I took off my wet shoes I had worn over to the tent and Scott brought them, and all my wet clothes apologetically over to the crew around the fire outside so my stuff could dry. The crew gamely rigged up a drying method, hanging my shoes from sticks stuck in the ground and hanging everything else on a multi-branched limb, which they stuck in the ground and occasionally took up and “roasted” over the fire like nyoma choma.
Inside the kitchen tent it was warm and the hot tea and accompanying freshly fried mandazi were quite welcome. Since I couldn’t move without my shoes, I just sat and stayed in the warm, but smoky, kitchen tent for a few hours watching Moses prepare our dinner of oxtail stew (made from a seasoning packet), ground beef and vegetables (fresh vegetables which he chopped by hand with a cutting board in his lap) with spaghetti, and fresh fruit. After a while it stopped raining and the sky cleared. Georgie gave me his sandals so I could get up and walk around. Once outside, I looked around more carefully and realized that though the place was a bit barren, it was beautiful in its own way. The fact that we were some of the very few people to ever see this place magnified its untouched beauty and lent us a feeling of being explorers on a maiden trekking expedition.
After dinner, I retrieved our now dry shoes, socks, and pants from the campfire and we retired to bed. Despite waking up several times that night shivering and having to jab my icicle fingers into my armpits, between my thighs, or inside my clothes on my warm belly, I always fell right back asleep as I was on level ground and exhausted from not sleeping well the night before. Scott on the other hand, whose sleeping bag’s zipper we could not get to work, became very cold and shivered miserably most of the night.
To be continued . . .