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Night 1: Forest Camp

Forest Camp

Forest Camp

We arrived at the campsite to find our tents set up and the porters welcoming us. I met Kanini, who was to be the man assigned to me for the trek, and he showed me to my tent. He would set up my tent in the evening, take it down in the morning, and carry my duffel bag during the day. Kanini had a huge smile and a great personality. He would always come out to meet me at the end of each day to welcome me into camp and congratulate me.

Dining Tent

Dining Tent

After we’d put our packs in our tents we went to the dining tent where there was a light snack and warm drinks. Snacks were sometimes popcorn, cookies, or other small things and drinks were hot tea, hot chocolate, and (at higher elevations) ginger tea. Even though we were in the rain forest and near the equator, we were at 9,000 feet and it was cool at the end of the day. We shared the campsite with one other expedition which turned out to be the Mountain Madness group we’d met in the Amsterdam airport. Other than being in the same vicinity, we didn’t spend any time with them.

Before dinner, I spent time writing in my journal. That’s not a typical habit, but I learned on our trek to Machu Picchu what a great keepsake it is after the trip is over. In Peru I’d also make a sketch each night in the journal of the surroundings. On Kilimanjaro, I tried that for a couple of nights but it turned out there wasn’t time to do a decent job so I gave up the artistic attempt. I also liked spending more time in the dining tent relaxing with the rest of the group.

Each night when we called for dinner Wilbert would sit us down and we would each, in turn, put the small pulse oximeter on our index finger to measure our pulse and also our blood oxygen saturation. Wilbert would record the numbers and the rest of us would make it into a competition. Low pulse and high saturation were the goals. Our oxygen saturations started in the 90% range and would drop to the 70% range as we neared the end of the trip. As we gained altitude Wilbert would also start measuring us in the morning. At each meal, Wilbert would ask each of us how we felt and would make sure we were eating. Loss of appetite is pretty universal at high altitudes but it is also the first sign of altitude sickness.

The meals were excellent the whole trip. They reflected a high-altitude oriented diet, easy to digest, heavy on carbohydrates and light on protein.

After dinner Greg, Tony, Sean Wilbert and I, and sometimes one or two of the others, usually played cards. The game of choice was one of Greg’s…Hillbilly bridge (great game – I’d never heard of it). Wilbert taught us a game he called Tanzanian last card. He almost always won and there always seemed to be one new rule we didn’t know that was pivotal in the win. The rules for both games, as I understood them, are on a page in this blog.

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