KILIMANJARO: Day 5 – Evading altitude sickness

Two nights in the same camping spot almost feels like a holiday. We go for a three hour trek up into the hills that tower over our little camp this morning. But compared with our mammoth journey yesterday and the huge mountain that lies ahead of us, it’s pretty much a walk in the park.

Now we’ve got the rest of the day to just chill out here at Mawenzi Tarn, hovering at around 4,300 metres for an extra night to help us acclimatise, before we make our way to Kibo Hut for our final ascent to the summit. Scary stuff.

In the meantime, Mawenzi Tarn certainly feels like a holiday camp – it’s got sunshine, a lake, breathtaking views and some kick-ass food. Even the toilets here aren’t too bad – the long drop is clean and not overly stinky, prompting many of us to ditch our trusty portable chemical toilet in favour of the hole in the floor.

Out come the snacks, tea urns and Uno cards.

Everyone is in good spirits, but the first signs of altitude sickness have already made their presence known.

Headaches and loss of appetite have been felt across the group, but some have been hit a little harder.

At various points, Lisa, Mary and Raff are taken down by an assortment of dehydration, nausea and stomach upset as we climb higher, but each bounces back remarkably swiftly, thanks to the magical powers of sleep and the expert ability of Dr Bex.

But, their distress has been enough to make me a little fearful.

Although I feel fine now, what if I get halfway through summit night only to be hit hard by any one of those symptoms?

The others have been dosed up on diamox – a tiny little pill that helps fight the onset of altitude sickness – for a few days now, but in the absence of any problems, I’ve been resisting.

But I finally cave and pop half a pill. Better to be safe than sorry?

Only thing is, since I swallowed that tiny semicircle, I’ve been feeling a needling sensation in my fingers and toes along with a dry, dribbly mouth.

On top of that, there’s the desire to urinate – a lot.

The idea of missioning to the long drop in the freezing pitch black of night to relieve myself is a little distressing.

Fortunately, I’ve brought a shewee with me, just in case. I go to sleep, tucked up in my sleeping bag that night, with the little plastic spout and an empty plastic water bottle beside my bed.

Needless to say, in the morning the bottle is almost brimming.

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