Mount Kenya Trek: A Porter's Diary on Sirimon - Chogoria Traverse (Day 2)
by stanley gichohi
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DAY 2: OLD MOSES CAMP – SHIPTON'S CAMP
The night passed not without it’s fair share of interruptions especially from the porters' nightmares perhaps due to exhaustion or fear of a rogue Elephant that has been giving trekkers a scare on several occasions at the popular "kona mbaya"(Dangerous Corner) along the Bamboo stretch.
Back to the porters' bunkhouse. As I stretch my aching muscles hoping that it's still deep in the night and that I still have more time to sleep, our cook announces that it's already 6 A.M and that we're urgently needed at the kitchen to help with breakfast. Apparently, breakfast must be set at the dinning table by six thirty as trekkers are expected to leave camp latest seven as today is gonna be a long day.
I brave the dark chilly morning and head to the kitchen. Everybody to his own tasks. Surprisingly, we deliver breakfast in real time.
You see, today is the day no porter ever takes lightly. It's a BIG test of stamina, speed and will power. Most new porters decide today whether this job description fits them.
As we put it, it's the day that we see the Elephant.
Picture this, forty pounds of luggage on your back to be hauled for seven hours through thinning air with an eventual elevation gain of eight hundred meters. Not to mention that we have to hit camp two hours clear of the climbers! If you fancy that, WELCOME to our world!
Back to the camp's kitchen, a pandemonium ensues as porters literally scramble for a bite of whatever passes up this way to top up our stomachs. A full stomach comes in handy today.
By this time, the climbers are already done with their breakfast and Evans assembles them outside so they have an early start and off they hit the trail.
We quickly clear the utensils from the tables, clean them, pack the climbers' trail lunch, and finally consolidate and share out the luggage with the usual complaints. From here it's every man for himself!
Off we go and it's uphill for an hour to our first stop, popularly known as the junction. Evans and the climbers are already here and are enjoying their water break. To avoid extra water weight on my luggage, I drink enough from the small stream running through here as the other porters follow suit. Before we leave, we reassure climbers that all is going to be well with them and hope to see them again at the rocks for lunch.
We hit the track on a flat stretch to the Ontulili River, with a gradual climb and a long contour leading us down a steep slope to the Liki North River… another watering hole for us.
Guess what? We are now at the bottom of today's Mother of all climbing!
We hydrate as we brace ourselves for the tough gradient ahead. It's done in little parts with intermittent breaks till we conquer the whole lot. Oxygen is a rare commodity here and we on many occasions find ourselves panting and gasping for air which becomes thinner with every successive step.
At some point, I find myself asking why I'm doing this with the answer being the same…because I love it! I'm sure the same is true for the rest of the porters and that's why our final push finally sees us to the top of the hill. Panting!
We scatter ourselves on the rocks as we lie in wait of the climbers. This is where we'll serve trekkers with lunch.
As we start to freeze and wonder what's happening to the climbers, another group of porters arrive with relieving news that our climbers aren't far down from here.
After about a half hour, they eventually emerge from the mist below and it's apparent they've taken quite a beating!
Oftentimes, this is the point at which we all give a pep talk and a nudge to the climbers…a little encouragement goes a long way. Depending on the Guide's assessment of the climbers' condition, this is the point where one of us may be called upon to be left behind to accompany the group. Just in case.
After serving lunch, we quickly drop down to the spectacular Mackinders valley knowing that the hardest part of the day has been conquered. All that remains now is a speedy cruise to the Shipton's camp. Nonetheless, for the rest of the journey we keep our fingers crossed hoping that the rain Gods continues to hold back the rain.
We speed through the Lobelia plants and tussock grass as stories and gossip abound eventually climbing up the Shipton's caves from whence our next home is visible. From here we do our final stretch leading us to the Shipton's camp. Luckily without a drop of rain!
Before the other teams of porters arrive, we speedily settle at one of the best corners of the kitchen as we will be around for two nights. It's time to separate the luggage and take the climbers backpacks to their beds as we take the food to the kitchen.
Everyone is now in high spirits as we stroll around the camp and back to the kitchen. It's time to prepare the tables as we anticipate trekkers to be back from their day hike in an hour's time. At the tables, we set boiled water, pop corns and biscuits for their refreshment.
Back at the kitchen, we enjoy our cup of Tea as we review Dinner's menu.
We rush outside and spread ourselves on the rocks to catch the ever elusive rays. Nobody moves as we're all immersed in enjoying the rays beating on our bodies giving us back a sense of life…a well deserved relaxation at last!
However, this session doesn't last long as a whistle disrupts us as we were finally dozing off. On opening my eyes, it’s Evans with the climbers streaming slowly into the camp, most of them somewhat BEAT!
As Evans shows them to the dinning, we all rush to the kitchen to bring the snacks we've prepared for them but Evans interrupts us with the news that we have several cases of headache. I quickly prime the Stove and within a few minutes I have lemon Tea ready for those with headache.
As they enjoy their snacks, we rush outside to continue with our escapade of sunning ourselves…after all it's only five P.M
After moments with the climbers, Evans joins us for an update of what has been going on with the climbers. He has his stories too. I wish he'd give you a sneak preview of his experience with them too.
It's fast heading to six P.M and the Sun is going down pretty quick. We dash into the kitchen to start preparations for dinner. The Cook is now on top of his game as we gladly take his orders and within no time everything is chopped up and ready for his cooking. A task we all respect him for. The kind of stuff this guy cooks is probably served in Heaven!
Eventually everything is ready and we deliver it to the table. As they continue with dinner, we settle on preparing our local stuff, the ever popular "ugali" -made from corn flour. Very filling stuff but the taste is nothing to write home about.
I make my rounds in the kitchen showering praises to the other groups' cooks, a trick that avails me the opportunity to sample their tastes.
My visit to the table confirms that the climbers are done with dinner and I call my colleagues to clear the tables. All utensils are collected from the tables and clean up ensues. Today is my lucky day as I'm not on the duty list.
I finally wash down everything with a mug of hot tea and head to the bunkhouse to catch the latest in the dream world. Adios! "Lala Salama"- Good Nite!
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