I wake up fearing the worst – I’m expected to have a headache, loss of appetite, nausea – but I’m feeling fine. My plan – to wake up at two-hourly intervals throughout the night, and to sit up, and take a few deep breaths, and drink some water, before returning to sleep – seems to have worked. In fact I think I might even be a little brighter and more collected this morning than my acetazolamide-imbibing companions.
We’re lucky to have a relatively clear morning. From our campsite we have a view of the snowy upper slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. It looks lofty and distant, and not at all connected to out movements.
Today we must face the Wall, also known as Great Barranco Wall, a steep climb that involves scrambling over boulders, shimmying up precipitous and severely eroded track, and even a few sections of rock-climbing. It’s slow going as there are many bottlenecks, and it’s generally accepted that hikers should give way to porters on this part of the track, which means you might be left clinging to a boulder for ten minutes or more while a long conga-line of porters clambers past.
By chance we are climbing on the day of the Tanzanian national election (25th October 2015), and there is much excitement in the air with the prospect of the incumbent government being ousted in favour of a new coalition of people’s parties.
As we climb the Wall we are treated to the sound of hundreds of voices singing in harmony. It’s the porters, those still in Barranco camp – now a hundred vertical metres of more below us. Their loud, rousing, heart-warming song is carried on the wind, picked up by the porters on the trail, and spread up and down the mountainside.
‘What are they singing?’ I ask Herman, our lead guide (the porters are singing in Kiswahili).
‘They are singing for change. It is time for change. That is what they are saying.’
At the top of Barranco Wall (4,100 metres elevation) is a large rocky platform known as Top of Barranco Wall. Most tours will stop here for a late morning snack before pushing on.
From Top of Barranco Wall it is an easy descent into Karanga Valley, a discordantly fertile gully fed by the ice melt of the Heim, Decken, and Kersten Glaciers.
Karanga Camp (4,000m)
There is a short steep climb to Karanga Camp which sits at roughly 4,000 metres elevation. Those on expedited hikes will skip this stop and continue on to Barafu, which means the camp site at Karanga is small and peaceful.