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G's Africa Travel Journal Graham's Journey to Africa. Starting with climbing Kilimanjaro, a photo safari in Kenya, followed by a 71 day overland trip from Nairobi to Cape Town via the Gorillas in Rwanda & Hot Air Balloon safari over the Serengeti.

Kili reveals herself and First Taste of Altitude Sickness.

TANZANIA | Wednesday, 28 August 2013 | Views [410]

28thAugust Day 2, Kili reveals herself and First Taste of Altitude Sickness.


Altitude: Start at Machame Camp @ 2980m, ie 538mmHg of O2, 71% O2 available at Sea Level, My SPO2: 94%

            Finish at Shira Camp @ 3840m, ie 485mmHg of O2, 64% O2 available at Sea Level, My SPO2: 91%

            Max Altitude Reached: 3905m with my exercising SPO2: 87%

Distance walked: 6 km

Total time: 6 hrs 23 mins with stops

I had a relatively poor sleep as woke at 3am feeling slightly nauseas, but wasn’t sure if it was the altitude or the side effect of the doxycycline anti-malarials.   But the feeling passed after half an hour.  We rose at 6 am, had a wash and I had an interesting and energetic visit to the long drop. The door didn’t shut so holding it shut while squatting and the door swung backwards & forwards mid-squat made for a good quadriceps exercise first thing in the morning.  After breakfast and we set off at 08:37 – not bad for us! Only half an hour late. 

I was on doxycycline as an anti-malaria prophylactic.  There are a large number of malarial prophylactics on the market and choosing the right one for depends on a large number of factors.  The best one for my trip was Malarone, but it is approx. A$7 per tablet in Australia so prohibitively expensive.  Also in Australia it is only licensed for 30 days use so as I was going for 4 months it was not an option.  Another possibility was Larium but this has common psychotic side effects and you can’t dive whilst on it so that ruled that out.  I chose doxycycline, which is an anti-biotic, often used for acne, but is also, a malaria prophylactic.  It’s cheap and you can take it for up to 2 years.  Unfortunately it has the side effects of intestinal upset/ nausea and skin hypersensitivity to light.  Time would tell if I suffered from these.  I had wanted to take the anti-malarial I took wen I lived in Zimbabwe – Deltaprim but it is not licensed outside Southern Africa after 1 death from an overdose.  I thought to myself I may change my meds whilst in Africa but time would tell.  Some people had suggested not taking any prophylactics and just treatingthe malaria if you get it.  To me this is naïve madness! Firstly I didn’t want to ruin my holiday by catching malaria and secondly; malaria is commonly for life – you get relapses regularly.  So this was not an option for me.  NB Later I found that Malarone was radially available in Nairobi and worked out at A$3 for 12 tablets – much cheaper than Aussie.  Maybe the best option to wait to buy your anti-malarials in Kenya. If you want more info then click here.

Our climb followed a well-worn path, increasingly rocky and onwards and upwards.  Initially we were climbing through the clouds although it was relatively warm as long as we kept moving.  There were plenty of other groups on the climb and we yo-yoed past each other, all the time with porters racing past us carrying ridiculous loads. Gradually as we got higher the cloud got thinner and thinner and suddenly Kili revealed herself.  Kili is big. Very big! And although Kili is magnificent, she looked intimidating.  What had I let myself in for?

We had all carried our packed lunch and stopped at a fantastic viewpoint for lunch.  There were plenty of ravens around keen to help us with our lunch.   Lunch consisted of fried chicken, sandwiches, fruit, fruit juice and peanuts.   It was filling and full over energy for our climb.  We set off again after lunch but within 5 minutes I was feeling horrendous.  Nausea, headache and generally unwell.  Was it altitude or lunch? I felt slightly unco-ordinated too.  I dropped my camera whilst putting it away; it landed on a rock, but luckily on the battery case so survived without any damage.  I was thinking if this is how altitude sickness is and I am only at 3700m I am in for a rough ride. 

However, after half an hour the rough feeling past and I felt good! As we got higher and higher the views got better and better.  We were above the clouds and the vistas were stunning.  You could stop every minute of climbing for a better picture of another stunning landscape.  We got to our max altitude of the day at 3905m before a slight descent to our camp for the night – Shira Camp 2.  It was a beautiful location with views south to Mt Meru, which is near Arusha, South West over Mt. Shira and extinct volcano and northwards to Kili herself.  We had some time to relax but now we had stopped walking and we were at altitude we could all feel the cold, make worse by a strong wind.  After a little rest we all went for a small walk up to Shira cave for a photo and to expose us to a little more altitude.  We all washed, and toileted before an excellent dinner. Richard was feeling a little sick and didn’t eat too much.  The rest of us weren’t too bad, apart from the regular “Diamox breaks”. I took a few more sunset pics and star pics.  I tried to do a time lapse of the Milky Way, which worked out ok, but I only took 20 shots as I was worried that I would not have enough camera batteries for the trip. This was even though I had taken a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar charger to try and keep my batteries charged whilst up the mountain.  I had it fixed to the back of my rucksack so it would charge on the way.  It was a fairly early night and I was soon asleep.

Tags: altitude sickness, kili, machame, moshi, shira, tanzania


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